Monday, September 16, 2013

Single Speed Fixed Gear Conversion

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Bicycle Before
I am currently working on a vintage, very desirable frame and bicycle restoration.  That frame needs a new paint job and I am still searching for a few more original components.  At the same time that I am stripping and painting that frame i am stripping and painting three other frames.  This saves clean up time and prep time, basically getting all the dirty work done at once.  This post is not that desirable frames story, this is one of the other three, but all will eventually be posted.

This summer i have gotten a lot of requests for converting less then desirable bicycles into single speed and fixed gears or requests for repair or just plain getting the bike working repairs on single speeds that where purchased for way to much on Craigslist.  These Craigslist conversions where usually very poorly done.

I do want it to be known that i also have turned down a lot of single speed conversions to bicycles that where just to nice to convert, I do not believe these nice bicycles should be converted, rather unwanted poor condition bicycles should be to bring them new life.  I turned down a gentleman that wanted a single speed conversion done to a Raleigh International, I also turned down a gentleman that wanted a Falcon San Remo that was is very nice condition.  I am sure someone ended up converting these bicycles, but it was not me.

I recently came across a very beat up Schwinn World that the components where very poor quality and damaged, paint was chipped and rusted but the frame was solid and straight.  This Schwinn World is a single speed / fixed gear candidate.  I also want to show how a good conversion should be done.

I started by stripping the frame off all components and then stripping the frame of paint.  The components that will be reused are the frame, fork, headset, stem and bottom bracket.  These components are actually fairly descent quality and can be easily restored I am also considering the brake calipers as they are descent quality but I will have to see how well they restore before deciding.

I will be adding a quality flip/flop rear wheel, a quality front wheel, a true track crank, pedals, true track handle bars, and cross brake levers.  I am adding brakes because I do not know who will purchase this bicycle and they can decide if they want single speed or fixed gear and brakes or no brakes.

The paint scheme will be red with a cream colored head tube.  I have always liked this combination of bright color and cream head tube, it is a little bit of a classic throw back look.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Bicycle Before
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Bicycle Before - Front View
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Rear View
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Frame Before
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Fork Before

With the frame stripped of components it is time to strip the paint.  I do not have a media blasting cabinet yet, it is a winter project, the shop has just been to busy this summer to devout time to it.  I used spray on paint stripper and laid out tarps to capture as much as the mess as I could.  It is very important to wear eye, skin protection and a breathing respirator while stripping the paint.  The paint stripper burns skin and if not careful, burns badly.  The paint stripper does do a good job at removing the paint.  The paint peels away like a snake skin and a Brillo pads cleans the rest.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Paint Stripper at Work
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Paint Stripper at Work
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Paint Stripper at Work on Fork
With the paint stripped from the frame I use a wire wheel in a high speed drill to remove any last specs of paint and to give the frame a good cleaning.  Below is a photo of the frame and fork stripped of paint and cleaned with the wire wheel.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Frame Stripped
& Cleaned
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Fork Stripped & Cleaned
Next I am going to remove the rear derailleur cable stop and the down tube stops.  I do this with a cutting wheel and then smooth it out with a hand file and sand paper.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Down Tube Cable Stops
Poor Brazing Clean Up
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - One Cable Stop
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Down Tube Cable Stops Removed
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Rear Derailleur Cable Stop
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Rear Derailleur Stop Removed
With the cable stops removed I sprayed as much of the inside of the frame tubes that I could get to with a a rust inhibitor.  It is a little bit of a messy thing to do because it does drip out of the tubes but it is well worth it because for a $3 can I can spray five or six frames and it does help protect the frame from the inside.  Also to toot my horn so to speak, it is part of quality work and and easy thing to do when the frame is stripped, but most do not think to do this.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Rust Inhibitor Sprayed on Inside
of Frame Tubes
After the rust inhibitor drys I then clean the frame very well with alcohol and it this point i will only touch the frame with gloved hands to prevent oil from my skin preventing primer and paint from sticking well.

That is where the fixed gear conversion is as of today, check back later.

I have had a lot of full paint restorations recently so I have been painting the fixed gear conversion as I go.

I left of with the frame ready for primer.  I am paint the frame kind of a slightly darker throw back red so I primed the frame in a sandlable red primer and then baked the primer for a short time in my small heat box.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Frame Primed
Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Fork Primed
The primed frame needed only a little wet sand to smooth out a few spots.  I sprayed the frame and fork with the the cream color on the head tube in my paint booth.  My paint booth is made with 2x2 wood strips and 4 mm clear plastic and a very strong fan and duct work out a window.  Its not perfect but very effective for maybe $100 in materials.  The booth is about 6 feet by 6 feet, enough space to hang a frame and fork and move around.

My heat booth or box consists of a brick wall and a movable sheet metal and insulation 3 sided box that I can slide over the frame against the brick wall with a fan blowing fumes out the window and a heater.  It is very effective and does not cost much.  It really does not take much to bake paint hard.  Great paint jobs does not come from fancy expensive equipment but rather knowledge and preparation, it all in the preparation from wet sanding to proper dry times to polishing.

Taking time in taping or masking is part of a great paint job.  I masked out the area for the cream colored paint. I have seen people say that this is not a real necessity for the first color going down but I do it because I don't want the lug lines to get thick and have other paint lines to sand out.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Masked for Cream Colored White

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Cream Colored Headtube
Today I sprayed the red, one light cote and bake to make sure all was smooth and then the second coat and bake.  The red looks fantastic but I will still wet sand some area for best finish.  Next will be clear coats and final wet sand and polish. The photos below are right out of the heat box and moved with gloves.  The white fork in the red fork photo below is a fork I heated at the same time as the red fork and frame and is for another project.

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Red Out of Heat Box

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion - Red Paint Bottom Bracket
Fresh Baked

Schwinn World Fixed Gear Conversion
Red Paint - Fork - Fresh Baked
The photo above of the frame bottom bracket, it looks like the threads of the bottom bracket have been painted, technically they have but I layer a thick coat of grease over them before paint and easily wipes off when all is final and cured.  Its a lot easier then masking the threads off.  The masking is tricky on the threads to get a good paint line and never sticks well.  So tip of the day!

Next comes the clear coat, wet sand and polish.  I have some fantastic wheels on order for a good price. They will have a flip flop hub.  I also have true Soma track drop handlebars with a true track geometry. Should be a beautiful bike!!


  1. Any Updates on this bike restoration? Can't wait to see how it turns out.

  2. This looks pretty awesome, I have been thinking about going in to a recycling service center, here in Portland, OR and looking for anything that I can make an instrument out of. I think that I want to make an electric bass, even though I play guitar. I think that it would be pretty fun to try.

  3. 10oxen If you want to know that what is fixed gear bike? Then first answer for it is, a fixie or fixed-gear bike is a type of bike that doesn’t allow the rider to coast and is a type of single speed bicycle.