FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Where did you find economical parts?

Our local university surplus has been a rich but erratic source. The heyday was the winter of 2008-2009, when they had a graveyard of about 80 carcasses mostly buried under snowdrifts. At that time the bikes were $5 each, plus tax. Sadly, they've since recycled all that fabulous scrap.

I thought fixies don't need brakes. Why does your bike have a front brake?

It's not strictly speaking necessary, but better safe than sorry. I've only ever used it twice, once after slipping off a pedal while going downhill on one of my very first rides; the second time was when a motor scooterist came at me while looking another way. BTW, Sheldon Brown goes so far as to suggest that resistive braking with your legs is bad for you, so he's not only a proponent of a front brake, but he advocates regular, non-emergency use of it: Scroll down to Braking on his fixed gear page.

Do you need special bike tools?

Ordinary wrenches go a long way, but it's impractical to build a bike without bike tools. Examples: spoke wrenches, pedal wrench, crank puller, cone wrenches, bottom bracket tools, freewheel removers, chain rivet tool, and so forth. If you don't have them consider borrowing them.

OTOH, if you insist on doing without, check out the extreme approach -- 6 videos posted by santaspuppet -- of building a fixie with no bike tools whatsoever. Here's one of them:

Any regrets? Is there anything you'd do differently?

If I had the time I'd rebuild the rear wheel with a sturdier rim. The rim I chose had a couple of herniated spoke holes, which allowed the spoke nipples to pass right through them. I had to place washers over the holes to narrow them enough to grab the spoke nipples:

Other holes in this rim look rupture-prone if subjected to excessive spoke tension so the wheel, while structurally sound and likely to last a lifetime, is not amenable to really fine truing and rounding.

What happens to all the leftover parts and frames?

It looks like there'll be enough to build another complete (non-fixie) bike. Some of what's left after that -- tires, tubes, brake shoes, cables -- will get salvaged and set aside for the future. Anything remaining will eventually be sold on Craigslist or Freecycled or recycled.