Building a customised fixed gear in 12 hours
Click on images for larger versions
After spending many hours and Dollars building my last bike, I
wondered what sort of result could be obtained by quickly throwing
together a simple bike that has no gears or other 'extras', while
spending as little dosh as possible. Say, buy an old bike on TradeMe
(the New Zealand equivalent of eBay), pull all the gears and brakes
off, convert it to fixed gear, and maybe give it a quick coat of
paint. Quick, simple, cheap.
Some lurking in the cycling area of TradeMe revealed the somewhat
disfunctional mens bike that you see on the right. I placed a bid of
$1, and much to my surprise actually won the auction.
After picking the bike up from the seller, I discovered it to be an
old Raleigh Royale.
Inspection of the
frame revealed that a re-paint would be necessary. I had planned on
an eight hour rebuild, perhaps during a long sunny Saturday, but the
necessity of a re-paint (and associated drying of said paint) would
mean the build would take longer than one day. I decided that eight
hours, but not all at once might be more realistic.
I started by first lubricating all the parts on the bike, then leaving
it to sit for a few days until I had more time. It was then easy to
remove all the gears, seat post, brakes, brake levers etc. In very
little time I had it down to the bare frame plus bottom bracket and
cranks. At this point things came unstuck and I spent some 2.5 hours
removing the cottered cranks and the seriously seized bottom bracket.
At the end of this I'm ashamed to say the bottom bracket was toast.
About this time I found out that Raleigh have a different standard for
threads, and nothing locally available today would fit the now
somewhat mangled bottom bracket shell. Doh!
Not being one to give up, I went to the
local bike shop, who for a
fee re-threaded the bottom bracket shell to ISO standard. At the same
time I bought a cheap cartridge bottom bracket to give me a 42mm
chain-line, the standard for track bikes.
With a $20 angle grinder (bought from
Bunnings no less), I removed all
of the extra frame braze-ons, giving a much cleaner look. The front
brake would be all that would be going back on this baby.
Next I used a 3M sanding wheel fitted to an electric drill to remove
most of the paint, and all of the surface rust. After a wipe down, I
painted the drop-outs, seat post binder area, and front brake mount
area with POR-15 paint. This
paint is supposedly very tough and I wanted to improve on my previous
attempts where wheel axle nuts and other frame mounted parts bite into
the paint and look awful. Time will tell if the POR-15 is all it is
cracked up to be.
For cosmetic reasons I used auto body filler to cover up the rear
brake mounting hole, as well as other areas where I had been a little
over enthusiastic with the grinder. After curing then sanding, I put
a coat of bare metal etch paint
over the entire frame.
Some sanding and one can of
enamel paint later, we see
things starting to take shape.
This paint was the cheapest I could find; $5 a can from Bunnings. I
expect it will flake off if I look at it sideways. Still, this is
supposed to be a budget conversion after all.
It did not take long to see that it was going to take more than the
two cans of paint I bought from the shop to cover the frame properly.
So a quick trip was made to pick up another two cans. After three and
a half cans, the frame was starting to look pretty well covered.
Yellow is not the best colour to paint something if you don't want
whatever is underneath to show through. A darker colour is better in
this regard, but darker colours don't work well with laser-printed
decals - the next item on my agenda.
I used water slide decal paper in a black and white laser printer and
created some nice decals promoting the fixedgear website. Printing
the decals in black worked pretty well. This gave quite a lot of
contrast against the yellow frame. Apparantly black and yellow are
the two colours that the human eye perceives as having the most
contrast. It is worth noting something pretty obvious here; it's not
possible to print white with a laser printer. This means white decals
on a dark coloured frame is out of the question unless you print them
by some other means than a laser printer.
As the last stage in the painting I wanted to apply a clear coat over
the top of the decals. For this I bought Glisten-PC, another product
in the POR-15 range. It was just a matter of waiting for some fine
weather to apply the clear coat.
In order to test the effectiveness of the clear coat I first painted a
dummy tube with the same Fiddly Bits yellow paint and put a
few decals on it. I decided I'd like to highlight the lug-work on the
frame, and thought an ideal way to do this would be to used a
permanent marker to draw around the lugs before applying the clear
coat. So using all the markers at my disposal I wrote a bit of test
text from each on the test tube.
A fine day eventually arrived and I mixed up the two-part clear coat.
I applied the clear coat over the test tube and much to my
the yellow paint and the permenent markers
When I had asked about the compatibility of the clear coat over enamel
the sales person at the shop didn't know. I guess this answers the
question. So now I've made a mental note to only use POR-15 products
with other POR-15 products!
With time speeding by, and wanting to get the job done in a reasonable
amount of time, I decided to wing it and use whatever I
could find in the paint box.
Rummaging around, I found a new can of
Dulux Clear Plastic enamel
and a partial can of
Plasti-kote hi-performance classic lacquer.
The lacquer warned against possible adhesion issues so I decided to
put that on the forks; if they dissolved I could always paint them
black as a last resort. The frame would get the clear plastic that
had no such warning.
The plastic lacquer went on well without any bad effects and I put the
forks aside to dry.
Next, I put the clear plastic on the frame. On the head tube I
was just a little bit too heavy handed and all the paint started to dissolve
and run. Egads! Murphy was definietly having fun with me today!
A close inspection of the entire frame revealed that just the
head tube was affected.
I waited for the coat to dry, masked up the decals and put down some
more yellow. After that dried, I removed the masking and put on, very
carefully, some of the clear plastic. A light dusting seemed to go on
OK. At this point I decided to stand back and not to try anything
more, lest it end in complete disaster.
While waiting a few days for the paint to dry on the frame, I decided
to clean up what parts I would be re-using. The Raleigh cranks and
chain-ring could not be re-used because they would only fit on the old
Raleigh bottom bracket. I found some old Sakae cranks and 52 tooth
chain-ring in my parts box. These cleaned up quite well.
The old Raleigh headset, stem and handlebars also came up well after
being cleaned with abrasive metal polish. I decided to paint the old
Raleigh front brake, so now it's POR-15 black.
Wheels I happened to have lying around. They're old 36 spoke clincher
rims. The rear one had to be re-dished to get the chain-line right
for the new crank.
I decided to stop at 12 hours; this is the bike you see at the top of
the page. I still want to make a few small changes. The handle bars
are to be chopped and flopped. I also used whatever rear
sprocket I had handy. This turned out to be a 16 tooth, giving a gear
size of 87 inches. That's far too large for general use in the city, even a
flat city like Christchurch. With the 19 and 20 tooth
sprockets that I have ordered from Harris Cyclery, the bike should have a
much lower gear - 73 or 70 inches.
Update: 13 October 2007. My latest order from Harris Cyclery turned
up in just under two weeks. Now the bike has a 20 tooth rear
sprocket, which translates to a gear of about 70 inches. I have also
flopped and chopped the bars; cut down wine bottle corks make great
Questions and comments regarding this bike can be sent to
More fixed-gear content at
Martin van den Nieuwelaar,
Last updated 17 Apr 2008