Monday, June 16, 2014

A fixation, a fixie, a flirtation with fashion,, a folly?

I am, as many of you will know, one of those folk who seem to always need a project.

Over the last year or two I've been intermittently fixing, modifying, rustically pimping and mechanically restructuring my Series 3 Land Rover and despite my best endeavours it's now currently running smoothly and my list of things to resolve has 98% of its boxes ticked.

The joy of a Land Rover is that it won't stay fixed for long. But, O best beloveds, "a project" is a very different thing than fixing. There are always demands at the barn for my dubious repair skills, some triggered by chickens, foxes or bees. Some by garden activity, trees falling down, the occasional exercise in electrical, the inevitable plumbing challenge.


I always have a few bike maintenance jobs on hand but again that's not a project, bikes break and I fix them, that's just the circle of life.

So, a project...

For no good reason I found myself looking wistfully at an old bike I've had hanging around for a bit and deciding that what it needed was everything extraneous or superfluous stripped off, cleaned, painted and rebuilt as a single speed or fixie bike. Fixies are very much the 'now' thing in cycling in our cities, single speed, (no complex heavy gears) lightweight, minimalist bikes built to cut through heavy traffic and designed to go quickly along flat city streets rather than up and down hills with much puffing and panting. As I live miles from the city, with plenty of ups and downs not only an impractical but a downright silly idea.

I started browsing the web for inspiration and ideas and was checking out prices of various components on Ebay when I came across a listing for a single speed bike, the right sized frame but with a number of mechanical problems, mostly around buggered up (technical term) wheel, bracket and hub bearings, damaged wheels and defective brakes.


There was little bidding activity on this bike which I put down to this terrible photograph used to portray it but the text did mention that the builder was a chap called Alf Webb, a name I knew. He's a bit of a bike maintenance legend and a little research on various cycling forums identified a number of comments, criticisms and photos of similar bikes, apparently Alf specced and commissioned 250 track bikes a few years ago as "a project" and to promote his wheel building service. So, the original plan paused and I put in a very low offer in to try and win this bike.

No sooner bid than done, the bidding never really heated up and I won the auction for £60. An apologetic mumble to Mrs Stuffy that I'd 'accidentally' bought yet another bike, a quick drive to delightful Didcot and I was delighted (relieved) to finally see what I'd bought and discover that it was pretty much what I'd hoped for. Result!



I bought the bike back home and stripped everything off it. An exchange of emails and conversations with Alf and with support from the twin resources of Wiggle and the helpful gents at my Local Bike Shop, (Wellington Trek in Sunningdale) I spent a couple of evenings, rebuilding the bearings and wheels.

Then it was  back onto Ebay to find cheap replacements for the pedals, handlebars and brake system. It's a flip-flop hub so I can either run it with a freewheel or fixed, (fixed means using backward pressure on the pedals to make the back wheel skid and hopefully stop before impact). I've not tried it fixed yet but I shall.

The frame cleaned up really well, has little damage and is a lurid dark blue/purplish/black effect, it looks a little as if it was painted by dipping it into an oil bath but I quite like the effect and decided to try and stick with a blue theme for handlebar tape, pedals and chain.

The saddle was well past it so (thanks Ebay) I sourced a replacement and I really didn't want drop or straight handlebars, the bike originally had some nice Deda drops but I'd decided I definitely wanted bullhorns.
Again Ebay was my friend and I managed to find some really nice ones (Deda again) for a tenner including postage.

I've added some additional touches, some tensioners designed for BMX bikes to help keep the chain working effectively and I like the blue mountain bike pedals, this velo doesn't need clips, I'm not racing it and I do want to be able to hop on it in a pair of ordinary shoes and pop to the pub or pick up the papers without all the lycra/lubrication and gear that invariably accompanies the annual Tuxedo Team tour (this year watch out Corsica) or the weekly road or off-road exploits of the group of my chums collectively known as the Breakfast Bike Buddies (motto, "it's not about the bike, or the ride, it's all about the breakfast").



So that's the Alf Webb fixie project, pretty much done, I'm happy with the result and thought I'd share it with you, the only question now is, what's the next project?

Well I've still got that original bike hanging around, I wonder ...






























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