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Building the Single Speed

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I always liked fixed gears bikes. They are so “rad”! It was time for me to have my very own. Buying one already made remove all the fun to build your own. Since I love dismantling bikes it was a good lesson to actually build something for once. So there I was looking for a frame my size I could use for this purpose.

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I was looking for a older frame that had beautiful classic lines and not too many decals or colors so I could make it sleek looking. I didn’t had far to go to find it. I already had a sad looking 12 speed silver with black accents Norco Monterrey sitting in my pile with a crappy drivetrain that was rusty and in bad shape but the frame was in very good condition. I then stripped the Norco apart to leave just the bare frame. It was relatively easy to do. Most of older frame gets seized parts on them and they are very hard to remove. I didn’t even had to use the torch on this guy. Once all the parts were removed I hung the frame and fork in my shower stall in the basement and cleaned it all up with Dawn dish soap. I find that soap to be very good for that purpose. Then it was left to dry.

I then had to pick my color scheme. I debated for days until I re-discovered an old dusty rose suede Turbo saddle while looking for parts. I knew I wanted to stick with that color. I also found a vintage Nitto black quill to go along. Then I payed a visit to my friend at Cafe Roubaix in Cochrane (www.caferoubaix.ca) and he showed me a nice set of Suzue classic deep dish aluminum wheel he got. That was love at first sight! Those wheels have a 10 speeds freewheel. I had to get a spacer kit to convert to a single speed. He also showed me a few options for square taper cranks that were available. Pake makes those great single speed cranks and they made the one I like in a dusty rose color. A perfect fit for my Turbo saddle. I ordered the parts and took my new set of wheels home. My build was going very well.

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One week end I decided to pay a visit to my friends at Good Life Community Bike Shop (www.goodlifebikes.ca) in Calgary. If you don’t know these guys and you love vintage or rad bikes, they are the ones to go see. I like to go there to find odd ball parts for my bike builds. That day I left with a set of Soma track bars and a matching dusty rose seat post. That was a lucky day.

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I started assembling the bike together and I realized I needed some brakes. I picked a set of cross bike brakes to go on the flat portion of the bar. They fit very well and are not too bulky looking.

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The build was a process. The thing with building a older frame with new parts is that things don’t always fit. They often don’t fit. You got to use some tinkering to make things work but they can work.

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So here I am with the my single speed bike that I can’t call a fixie because its got brakes and a freewheel. I like it anyways.

 

Bicycle comparaison

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A thing I have been wanting to do since a while is to show the difference between 2 bicycles of the same brand. When I say difference I mean quality difference. This might help to be able to shop with more confidence and get a better value for your money. Yesterday I happened to pick up another Bianchi road bike. I already had my Bianchi Squadra road and my Bianchi Ocelot “mountain”. Now having 2 roadie of the reputed italian maker I was able to bring this comparison to life.

Our rivals are a ¬†white 1980’s Bianchi with no model name and a pink Bianchi Squadra from the early 1990’s. The white bike is a level entry and the pink a mid quality one.

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ImageThey both have 12 speeds and steel frame. The only notable difference is that the white one is on 27″ wheels and the pink one on 700c wheels. This will not affect the comparison. ¬†First I’m looking at is the lug work. Some bikes are very basic where some others are more elaborate. The basic ones do not mean it’s of lesser quality. In this case they are pretty similar.
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There’s some slight differences but they might just be because of the age difference.

Then let’s look at the headsets.
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The white bike’s headset is made of chrome plated steel. They tend to peal with time and pit. I couldn’t identify the brand of it. Those type of headset are common on 10″ speeds bike of the period. On the pink one the chrome is nice and polished and made differently. We can read Ofmega on it which is a Bianchi home brand for their components.

Now the brakes.
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Both bikes feature a side pull caliper brake made by Dia-Compe. The white one got the 500 series and the pink the 5000 series. The 5000 is of better quality. The 500 got a mat finish to its metal it also doesn’t offer a “release” lever to make it easier when you remove the wheel. The quality of the brake pads is also different. The white one’s got average quality ones where the pink one’s got a longer breaking surface and better quality surface which makes it easier to stop your bike. This is a little detail as break pads are inexpensive to replace for better or lesser quality.

Let’s have a look at the derailleurs.

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The white bike is equipped with Suntour AR which is quite bottom of the line. I’m not saying they are not good but they are less expensive. The pink one is equipped with a Bianchi Premier rear and a Bianchi Ofmega front. Both bikes have similar looking derailleurs but the difference might be the quality of the material. Perhaps the Bianchi derailleurs might be lighter in weight than the Suntours.

The cranks and chainrings.

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The white bike chain rings and crank arms are Custom-A brand. The rings have a kind of chain guard and are made of a metal blend. The rings can’t be removed. The pink one got the Bianchi home brand. The rings re made of good steel and can be changed if needed. The arms are made of aluminum (I believe).

The brake levers.

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First thing I notice is the hoods present on the pink one and none on the white. It’s basically just the metal. There’s worst! The Dia-Compe levers are good but the fact that they don’t have hoods to ride on makes it less comfortable and eliminate a riding position. On the pink bike the levers are Shimano 105 which is a good starter lever. The hoods are made of flexible rubber that are comfortable to ride in. The rubber hoods can’t be put on the Dia-Compe as the levers model is not made to accommodate it.

The wheels.

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The 2 first pictures belong to the white bike and the last one to the pink (both wheels are the same). On the first picture we can read Ambrosio which is a good name to have on wheels. They are made of hardened metal (maybe alloy) and are quite durable. To find this on a 27″ wheel is great. The front wheel on the other hand is a basic chromed 27″ steel. They are easier to bend and require more straightening than the Ambrosio wheel. In this case the Ambrosio was fairly straight and the chromed one wobbly to the point where I’m not sure I can bring it back. The pink bike’s got nice Ambrosio Elite Durex. A good quality wheel made of alloy. I’ve owned and rode this bike for a while and they don’t seem to want to go out of true. Quite durable. Both Ambrosio wheels are made in Italy which is a good sign of quality. The chrome one is probably a china one.

The quills or stems.

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Here both quills have a similar shape both are also made of alloy. The difference lay in the finish the quality of the material. The white bike quill doesn’t show any brand but still seems to be of an ok quality. On the pink bike you can read Cinelli and you can note the nice satin finish. Knowing Cinelli it’s a brand you can trust. This quill is a 2013 one bought to replace the old Nito (another good brand) that had some previous owner issues.

The bars

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The white bike got a KUSUKI (Japan) brand drop bars. The drop is qualified of “vintage” and is made of chromed steel. Not a bad bar but can be heavy. The pink one got a Deda Elementi Piege (Italian) alloy bar with a ergo drop. Again this bar date from 2013 as I needed a wider bar. Note that both the quills and bars are replaceable. In my case I had to invest about $100 to replace the ones that were not fitting me right.

And the last part is a comparison between the two bikes head badges.

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They are the same, only the color change. Some brands have different badges depending on the quality. A good example would be Sekine.

More things you can note to find out about a bike’s quality.
The decals for the Columbus tubing is good to see. Note that sometimes the Colombus decals can be located on the frame, on the fork or both. On the fork means only the fork is Columbus steel, on the frame read the label to know if it’s only the middle frame (top tube, down tube and seat tube) or the whole frame set. There’s also many levels of Colombus tubing quality. It can be confusing but either way Columbus steel is good. Look for the bird.
For an example the pink bike got a nice fork and a lesser quality for the frame (Tri-Tubi).

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Some undesirable things in my opinion would be rust where it can cause problems long term. I’m thinking about the seat post area. You don’t want it to snap one day. Rust is not desirable anyways. It shows a bike that have been in the elements and not well maintained. You can check the chain and other components for signs. A bike that is not well maintain will have the tendency to break often and will cost you more money on the long run than a little bit more expensive bike that have been babied.

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I hope this post was informative.

Cheers!