I’ve embarked on a foolish quest to build a single speed commuting bike; i.e, a bike with only a single gear and no complicated derailleur mechanisms. Mostly I like the simplicity of the concept, but partly I want to get a bit more exercise out of my cycle to work and back without making things artificially difficult by using offroad tyres or, I dunno, carrying lead weights.

Here follows an in-depth and massively tedious list of parts, prices and tenuous rationales for buying them. I’ll update this (you lucky people) as I get new bits and put it all together.

  • Frame: Dirty Jo F-Creme. £100 plus £5 shipping. These are made by the same factory in Taiwan that makes Giant frames, so with any luck I’m getting a decent frame for a sensible price*. I looked around for a frame with track ends that would have made a more natural starting point for a single speed bike, but obvious choices like the On-One Inbred and Identiti 666X start at around £250.
  • Forks: secondhand, rigid MTB forks from a helpful chap at Edinburgh Cycle Co-op costing a very reasonable £10. They’re heavy-ish (i.e., they feel almost as heavy as the frame) but they certainly won’t break any time soon. I think this is probably the first candidate for an upgrade come Christmas time…
  • Bars: FSA FR-330 freeride bars, borrowed from Bobby. These look to be pretty reasonable – they have a 40mm rise which may be a little much for the sort of urban bike I’m building, but we’ll see how they work in combination with the rest of the frame components.
  • Stem: FSA FR-230 freeride stem, again borrowed from Bobby. This particular stem is only 60mm long, and this may have to be temporary until I can lay my hands on a longer one. Again, a few test rides will make this evident.
  • Rear wheel: DMR Revolver single speed hub (£36 including shipping) and Mavic XM317 rim (£20 or so). I plan to have the rear wheel built by either Alpine Bikes or Edinburgh Cycle Co-op – Alpine quoted £15 to build a wheel. The choice of the hub was restricted to either DMR or On-One really, mostly through price and availability. I’d have liked a hub with a cassette as opposed to a threaded freewheel mount, but I’ll survive. The choice of the rim is mostly to match up with the…
  • Front wheel: Shimano Deore LX/Mavic XM317 combo built by Edinburgh Cycle Co-op. This looks to be the cheapest branded wheel combo I could find. I don’t really want to buy branded stuff for the whole bike if I can avoid it, but the whole point of the bike is to be a lightweight commuting bike, so spending a bit extra on the largest, heaviest components is the best use of my cash.
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore V-brake kit, at £30. These were chosen mostly to get a complete brake kit at a reasonable price – levers, calipers and cables are all included.
  • Headset: M:Part Aheadset Sport for £7.95. Not much to say about this, other than it was the cheapest compatible headset Edinburgh Cycle Co-op had. And it’s black, so it rocks that bit harder.
  • Crank/chainset: the snappily named SunTour CW-SCSP42-PBG costing a reasonable £15. Again, not much to say other than it’s cheap, black and has a 42 tooth chainring. This’ll give me a gear ratio of about 2.65:1 with a 16-tooth sprocket. Speaking of which…
  • Sprocket: Dicta 16 tooth freewheel for £8 including shipping, from eBay**.
  • Chain: SRAM PC1 at £9, but if memory serves I actually paid less than this. Another workaday part – a single-speed specific 1/8″ chain. I’ve seen some (possibly bogus) internet musings that indicate that 3/32″ MTB chains are a better bet for single-speed bikes than BMX-style 1/8″ chains because that’s where all the R&D dollars go, but we’ll see how it holds up.
  • Pedals: DMR V8s for £22. Seems a lot to spend on pedals, but they look bombproof*** and may well graduate to my mountain bike. Also, given that I initially thought it was £22 per pedal, £22 for both is a bargain :)
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Silento IIs. These are the road/trekking tyres I fitted to my Diamondback for use in town, and which I replaced with the original off-road tyres for my first mountain biking trip on it. They’re not as slick (in terms of tread and also general grooviness) as I’d like, but they’ll do fine for the first little while.
  • Seat and post: I’m going to use the seat and post from my current bike – the post looks to fit exactly into the seat tube, and the saddle has plenty of adjustment available. I’m using a non-quick release clamp which may turn out to be a hassle if I end up doing as much mountain biking over the summer as I’d like to, but it’s another free component donated by Bobby so I can’t really complain.

This leaves the bottom bracket and inner tubes. If this all totals less than £300, I’ll have come out with a moderately spiffy single-speed bike for perhaps £200 less than a ready built one. If.

* Since I started writing this entry the frame has arrived – it’s incredibly light and pretty well finished. The geometry is notably different from my venerable, secondhand Diamondback Apex, so it’ll be interesting to see how the finished bike feels in comparison.

** This arrived from eBay the other day and I’m not impressed. It’s shoddily cast, with a fair amount of flashing and generally unimpressive quality. Next candidate for an upgrade, I think – maybe something like this instead.

*** The DMR rear hub has also arrived, and looks to be pretty much indestructible. My mountain biking fanatic boss is très gushy about DMR stuff, and so I’m quite happy dropping some more cash on DMR pedals.

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