Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Start to finish in pictures: My new Singlespeed bike. It's a keeper.

In early June, I jumped on what I thought was going to be a three-speed bike. I planned to buy it and fix it up in time for Society of Three-Speeds' fall event. I bought it for ten bucks. I it needed a lot of work, including a rebuild on the rear wheel; but it was all there.

As the summer wore on and I got busy with fixing bikes for other folks and preparing to lead High Holy Days services, the bike inched along in progress. I'd remove a wheel or clean something and then set it aside. Finally, I was able to to take some time in late August and just hang out with this vintage Roadmaster for a few days.
This actually included putting it in the stand, sitting across from it and sipping coffee while I started at it.
The bike definitely had issues. The frame was faded and a bit rusty inside, and the wheels were rusted to the point of corrosion, especially the rear rim.



I realized that, because of how far gone both wheels were, it would actually cost me more time and money than I cared to spend to bring it back as a three-speed. I also realized that, between having to support a third wheel/tire size in my stable and not being all fired up about three-speeds, I knew I'd have to move this along or turn it into something else.

So I began to re-vision this as a singlespeed townie bike.

I had most of the parts already except for a better fork. I decided to get a 26 x 1 3/8" fork with better dropouts, and use 26"/559 mountain bike wheels with street tires. When a pair of red tires fell into my lap for ten bucks, I suddenly realized what kind of Singlespeed it would be, and that if it worked out I'd keep it for myself.

After swapping in the smaller wheels:

 At this point, I had a coaster-brake rear wheel that was easy to swap in. I rode the bike around the block to see how it felt and realized two things:

a. the coaster brake wasn't enough to stop someone my size safely and quickly by itself, so I'd have to add a hand brake for the front wheel.
b. The cottered crank had slippage in the left-size crank arm, which meant I'd have to open it up and either overhaul it or replace it. Ugh.
I have the tool to remove crank cotter pins, ad it works great; but the system itself is klunky and really heavy. So if I opened it up, I sort of didn't want to simply clean it up and put it back together.

Since the frame had been made in the US, swapping in a cartridge bottom bracket and modern singlespeed crankset wouldn't be a problem. So in the end that's what I did.

Finally, I set about replacing the original fork with its cheesy, pressed metal dropouts with a chrome stock fork with real dropouts, stronger and better for the quick-release wheels going on.
And I found a better handlebar/stem combo from my parts pile that would allow me to ride slightly more upright and comfortably, and finished off the bike with a pair of caliper hand brakes.

The current gearing is 44 x 22, much lower than the bmx standard of 44 x 16 but still a tiny bit high for my aging knees. I'll live with it until I can find a 40t or 38t chainring, not a huge rush right now since I'm not riding very far on the bike. I'll probably also look to eventually swap in a lighter seatpost and saddle (though for now what I've got works fine).

I added a small saddle bag to hold tools and a lock, fenders for the rainy season, and platform pedals with plenty of grip, and took it for a ride today. Once I'd dialed in a few final adjustments, it was delightful and I can't wait to take it on longer rides around the city.

The finished bike.


Dave said...

A great restoration / refurbishment, it looks great. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your projects, so thanks. All the best for the next eye op.

bikelovejones said...

Thanks, Dave! Happy riding!

Steve said...

Love this. Problem presented, solution implemented. In a cost effective way. Your shop experience shows. Those old three speed wheels have very cheesy hubs, and the steel rims really are not a good thing. Thanks for the post.

bikelovejones said...

Hey Steve -- thanks so much! I've since swapped out the coaster wheel for a singlespeed freewheel and it works really well. The caliper brakes are still a little sketchy, but I'm hoping to resolve that with a little more toe-in because switching to a full-on BMX caliper would make to too much flex and shudder. (Plus, I like the look of these brakes.)
Happy riding!