Thursday, September 27, 2012

My "Cheap" Steel Single-Speed Cyclocross Bike

 I had originally intended to write a post covering how to put together a single-speed 'cross bike on the cheap. They're great bikes for running errands; riding with your family; and of course - racing if you wish. They can give you a great change of pace from the regular ol' road bike to if you should happen to need one.

Then I realized that my bike isn't a great example of doing it on the "cheap" - except that it didn't cost me too much since a lot of it was from parts I already had... However; you may still get some ideas from this, and I'm proud of it - so I'm posting it anyway... :)

First in any bike build is the frame - and this one; well - this is what made the whole project possible.

 Because, while I already had a lot of the parts; this was a "find" that really cut the price tag down. And it was literally a "find". A co-worker came across it while filling in at another location as a customer had decided to get rid of it and get a new bike.  He salvaged the parts off the complete bike that he wanted and knowing of my desire to build something - thought of me. It's a little small (about a cm in each direction), but it works fine and I was still able to set it up to nearly match my Waterford's fit dimensions. (The saddle is a little low in the photo above as I'd set it up for someone else recently...)

The frame is Japanese steel of some sort - but the original brand and model we don't know as it lost all identifying marks long ago. Perhaps a reader can help me out here... Here's what we know: The tubing decal (photo: right) reads: "1020 Ishiwata Carbon Steel Butted Tubes, Forks, & Stays". The best I can narrow it down to is maybe late 1970's and possibly a low-end Trek or Motobecane...but it's possible it is something else entirely Click the photos for a closer look at some of the lugs if that helps.

It is still in pretty decent shape, the frame is straight and rides nicely. The geometry is a little relaxed for my liking, but for riding around the neighborhood and the occasional short road ride that's probably better. I'd have to wrestle it a little more than I'd like if I were to race it - which I haven't ruled out yet.

Following the frame: wheels - where another find: a salvaged Rolf Prima Vector Comp for the front also made this a little more doable. The wheel needed some work and got some replacement silver spokes in some key areas (which only adds to the character...) but it is now nice and straight after I gave it some TLC.  The rear is a wheel I built myself from a Quando hub I saved years ago, DT Swiss double-butted spokes, and an Alex AT400 32 hole double wall rim. (The sharp-eyed readers may notice a mistake I made in the lacing...)

The drive train is all Dura Ace! Another area where this bike isn't necessarily cheap - but didn't cost me very much because I built it from parts I already had. These parts became available when I built my Trek XO-1 Cyclocross bike with the original 9-speed group from my Waterford and put a Bontrager (TruVativ) compact crankset on it. The crank is an FC-7700 with the outer ring taken off and the inner, 39 tooth ring moved to the outside. A CN-7701 chain and the 19t cog from the CS-7700 cassette round out the transmission.

Finally, the saddle came from my arsenal of Selle Italia Flight Gel Flow models I have amassed over the years (before I switched to the Specialized Phenom Expert). It has done time on my Waterford, Trek XO-1 and now on this bike. The handlebars were gifted to me by a client who found them too narrow and are 44cm Bontrager Sport. Similarly, the stem came from a client's Orbea Orca and is a 120mm, -6 degree Zeus Cat II. Tires are the Ritchey 'cross tires I've used forever on any bike that gets more pavement use than not.

The last interesting parts are the brakes. The frame was originally designed for 27" wheels - which is the only reason I have the frame clearance for the 'cross tires. Of course this creates a problem for braking since the brake bridges are placed for larger diameter rims. You also may have noticed that I'm using caliper brakes instead of cantilever since there's no canti-posts on this frame. I thought about having them brazed on; but decided I did not want to put that money into it and then deal with trying to match paint around the new posts as I really like the original color. Enter the Tektro long-reach R556 caliper: the perfect length for the job. Some careful measuring determined that with the pad holders near the very top of the brake arm the pads would line up beautifully with the brake track of a 700c rim where other calipers wouldn't even come close. Just the ticket! They stop well and have a good feel when coupled with the Tektro Campy-copy levers I chose because I like the large perch on the hoods.

Otherwise it's pretty utilitarian; but I really like it. It's the first bike I grab when going to ride with my 6-year-old since I know it's always ready to go with the exception of occasional topping-off of the tires.

Other notables: I adapted the threaded headset for the threadless stem with a Profile Quill Adapter and managed to squeeze a 2.5mm carbon fiber headset spacer under the nut just for fun. The red/black striped cog-spacers are more because of the collection of spacers I'd amassed at the shop than actual planning; but I think that worked out well and adds an element of "quirk" that is necessary on a single-speed. Taillight placement is just because I felt like doing something different and the PRO chainstay guard is because it is; well, "PRO" (and just for fun...).  

Questions or comments - leave them below.  Otherwise, enjoy the remaining photos.

 Profile quill stem adapter and carbon fiber headset spacer.

The well-worn Flite Gel-Flow

 Quando hubs are some of the smoothest loose-ball hubs you've never heard of.  The PRO sticker on the hub is covering up a Fuji logo.

One thing I like about the smaller diameter steel tubes: more options for light placement!

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