Fixed wheel bike culture is so hot right now. Justin Newcombe demonstrates how to make your own out of an old bike frame found at the dump
A friend of mine returned from Milan sporting an impossibly impractical but beautiful set of high heels. She complained about her sore feet but refused to take them off, insisting they were worth it. "But is suffering just for fashion worth it?" I asked her. The reply was a stern "absolutely".
In the same vein, I've had my eye on a fixed wheel or "fixie" bike build for some time. This is a bike which cannot coast, as its pedals are always in motion when it is moving.
Fixed wheel bike culture is as much about creating an individual statement (fashion) as it is about getting around town: they are not easy or comfortable to ride. But DIY is a big part of the fixie "culture", so I was game to try.
An old road bike is the easiest to convert to a fixie, and the lack of their availability is testament to the growing cult popularity of fixed wheel riding. I picked up an old late-80s Avanti from the dump for free - an old, well-built bike frame, even if it is beaten up and rusty, will last longer than a cheap new one.
The most important thing is to have horizontal or semi-horizontal rear drop-outs (that's where the rear wheel hub fits the frame), as moving the wheel backward and forward is the only means of adjusting the chain. Vertical drop-outs move only up and down, so there's no way to adjust the chain.
You need specialist tools to remove some of the parts around the crank (the round, spiky bit that includes the pedals that the chain is attached to) and handlebars properly, so my next stop was a bike shop.
Avanti is New Zealand's oldest bike brand so there are plenty of AvantiPlus stores around. I dropped in on Del Woodford, who owns the Waipuna Rd branch. This turned out to be a good choice because Del is an ex-pro rider and his sidekick, Richard McLachlan, is a champion BMX rider.
Once the boys told me what I needed and removed some of the parts requiring specialty tools, it was back to the workshop. I stripped the paint off the frame using a small Makita drill with a wire brush attachment.
To get a good finish I painted in an enclosed area, which meant the ventilation was poor, so a proper mask was imperative.
I stripped the bike back to bare metal, then sprayed it with etch primer, followed by four thin coats of paint. In this weather, it was crucial to allow each coat four hours to dry. Check at Bunnings to find the right paint and, while you're at it, pick up some protective gear.
In a project like this you always forget something and this time it was the seat, so I ripped the covering and foam off the old one. I will probably have to change it later but right now who cares if it's like sitting on a lump of concrete because it's fashionable ... right?
Go to a decent bike store and talk to them about what you need. Take in your old bike or better still, ask them what to look for when you hunt for a bike to do up.
Ask the shop to remove handlebars, head set, cranks and bottom bracket. This costs around $20.
Cut off any unnecessary fittings, such as cable ports and brake mounts. You want as clean a frame as possible.
Strip the paint. I took the whole thing back to bare metal. Hang the frame up and paint with an etch primer. Safety, safety, safety: make sure you use an adequate mask and goggles. Paint three to five coats of paint.
Go back to the bike shop to get the bottom bracket, head set and chain installed (another $20), then reassemble the wheels, pedals (I used glow-in-the-dark) and handlebars.
Thanks to Del and Richard at AvantiPlus, Waipuna for their expertise and tools.
Be in to win
Weekend Life and AvantiPlus have a $300 AvantiPlus giftcard to give away so you can accessorise your current bike or start your own DIY project. The AvantiPlus giftcard is redeemable at any of over 30 AvantiPlus stores nationwide .
Email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org with "AvantiPlus voucher" on the subject line by Thursday August 18.