Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finished Fixie

A few weeks back, I did a post about a "fixie" that I had purchased at Walmart with plans to tear it apart, repaint, and upgrade some of the components.  Since then, I've put a lot of work into the bike.  This was a great way to learn a little more about bicycles and get a peek at some of the moving pieces to see how they work.  And while I didn't get into some of the more technical parts of the bike like the wheel hubs, or the bottom bracket, I did get to do a fair amount of tinkering (and a lot more sanding!) to get the bike ready.  Along the way I decided to add some different parts to the bike as well.  I was able to get a lot accomplished, but in the end, I wound up taking it to the LBS for a few final repairs and a brief inspection, just to make sure that I'd done everything right!  This evening I was finally able to pick it up from the shop and bring it home.  The next chance I get to ride to the store or to school, I'll be able to take my fixie.  Here's a final  rundown of the project:
The beginning:  I purchased this bike from the local Walmart for a mere $100.  Originally, it had a black frame, yellow handlebars, a red wheel with a yellow tire, and . . . wait for it . . . a yellow wheel with a red tire!  Those folks at Walmart sure do know how to make a bike fun.  Even more exciting, the bike came with a plastic chain guard that was attached to the bike by a steel tab that was welded just above the right side of the bottom bracket.  In short, this bike was fifty shades of UGLY!
One word: Quirky
Getting started: After disassembling various bike parts and removing the snazzy decals, I got down to the nitty and very gritty business of sanding.  Originally I started with some steel wool, but  wound up using  a palm sander with regular sandpaper that I had laying around.  This worked quite well on the larger surfaces of the bike, so I only really needed the steel wool for some of the harder to reach places and for the finishing touches.  The sanding took several sessions, and as I worked on it further, I eventually wound up removing the fork, the cranks, and the chain from the bike.
Painting:  Despite my efforts to get some community input into the color of my bike, I wound up choosing a yellow and black scheme for the bike.  In truth, the colors are not very flashy, but I really didn't want something that stood out (If that was the case, I would have kept the original color scheme).  I settled on a pale yellow hue, that contrasted nicely with the black handlebars, wheels, and tires on the bike.  I finished it with a clear coat to protect the new paint job.
Upgraded parts:  I made a few minor upgrades to the bike as well.  First, I added a set of bullhorn handlebars to replace the standard bars that came with the bike.  When these arrived, I discovered that the original stem would not work, but I was able to find a replacement at a fairly low cost.  I also invested in a new set of black tires to replace the red/yellow scheme from the bike.  Finally I wound up buying a new chain, a rear tube,  and a new brake lever since I jacked those up when putting the bike.
The finished bike

Total cost (Bike, parts, steel wool and paints, etc): approximately $275.00
Total hours spent: approximately 12 hours
Final thoughts:
1) This is probably not the cheapest, nor the best way to get a fixie bike.  There are plenty of outfits online that will sell you a customized fixie bike for about the same out of money that I wound up spending. You might spend just a little more, but you will likely get a better bike with nicer components.  If your desire is just to have a cool fixie to ride around, then purchasing a "turnkey" bike is probably the way to go.  If however, you are more of a "hobbyist" looking for something to do, and you don't care if the final product is perfect, then doing this as a project is a good way to go.  Because the costs were so low, I didn't have to worry about jacking the bike up or breaking any of the parts.  And even if I did, I was certain that I could replace them at a low cost, and any significant damage to the bike, wouldn't leave me out several hundred dollars.  Plus, I now get to bask in that sense of pride and accomplishment that only comes from "doing it yourself."
2) It's a good idea to read books, watch videos, and seek out other resources when working on a bike.  I had previously purchased a copy of Zinn and the art of Road Bike Maintenance  and this was my "go to" resource when taking the bike apart, and putting it back together.  This was especially helpful when taking the cranks off of the bike, as I don't know that I'd ever understood how to do that without reading something.  I also watched a few "You-Tube" videos, and even used an app on my Smartphone to better understand how the bike worked.  Reading through some bike forums was another way to pick up some ideas about working on bikes from others.
3) Sanding and painting a bike only looks fun.  In truth, sanding the bike down, applying a couple of primer coats, painting the bike, and then applying additional clear coat, was a hassle.  I spent many hours in the garage going over the bike with a fresh coat of paint, only to find after it had dried, that there was still a patch here or there that had been missed.
4) Unless you're experienced, it's a good idea to take the bike to a shop and get it looked over once you're finished.  Once I had finally reassembled the bike, I was having some trouble with the chain jumping all over the place.  I then decided to remove a link or two from the chain, and while this fixed that problem, it created another.  I tried to put a link back into the chain, and failed miserably.  I was also unhappy with the brake set-up on the bike.  I liked it even less when I snapped the brake lever bracket in half while trying to get it onto the handlebars.  After wrestling with different pieces of the bike for about an hour, I decided that I was no longer having fun,  and so, although it hurt my pride slightly, I decided that I'd had enough maintenance for this project.  I took it to the bike shop for a couple of small repairs, and asked them to check it once.  A wounded ego is much less painful than what would happen if the handle bars came off of the bike in mid-ride!
So that was my fixie project, and I look forward to having a bike that I can take for short trips around town.  I may add a rear rack for panniers or a plastic crate to make grocery shopping easier at some point, but for now, this bike is done!

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