Monday, August 11, 2008

An age old debate: Conversion or Track?

I received an email from a reader asking for advice on either buying a $600 track bike from his LBS or doing a conversion on an 80's Schwinn. This is def is a tough one now with all the new parts out there. I would compare this debate to the topic of abortion. It's an iffy subject and people can get pretty heated on both sides...

Conversions work if you're either trying to have a go at it on the cheap or are not wanting to invest too much into something you're unsure you'll end up liking. Other than that fact, do yourself a favor and don't bother wasting your time, money, and effort with one. Unless of course you're like myself and already know the ins and outs of bike building. Though despite that fact it's still a bitch putting a conversion together AND have it be reliable. This of course pertains to older 27" road bikes. Newer 700c conversions are def easier and more reliable.. But it's still a conversion...

A stock bike like a Bianchi Pista or Specialized Langster is good if you want something easy with a warranty that can be repaired at little to no cost by your LBS. But you'll also be riding a stock. bike.. Eventually you're going to want to swap some parts out so it doesn't look like you're riding around on a photo from a fucking catalog...

In my opinion the best thing to do is a proper DIY build. Find an old 10 speed at a thrift store or garage sale for like $20-$30 bucks and use it for scrap parts (depending on it's age). Then, go ahead and find yourself a used track frame and fork (drilled) somewhere for cheap. Something like an IRO is perfect. Then gather up your wheels and other essential parts I have listed in the next graph...

The main things you'll need to complete a build is a Frame, Fork, Wheels, Tires, Tubes, Rim Strips, Cranks, Bottom Bracket, Cog, Lockring, and Chain. Other parts such as bars, headset, grips or wrap, front brake caliper, brake lever, seat post, saddle, pedals straps and toe clips can be crap take off parts from old bikes or used gear from friends. They can be replaced later on when more funds become available. Your best bet is to spend the money on the first list of items...

If you're handy and looking to make a DIY project out of this, prepare to spend some money on tools as well. Unless of course you have a buddy who can help or loan you tools. Work share type shops are also great for this. The main tools you'll need are a set of metric Allen keys (mainly 4, 5, & 6), Pedal wrench, Chain whip, lockring tool, chain breaker tool, philips / flat head screwdrivers, and the Bottom Bracket tool that corresponds to the BB you have. Some of the tool kits around on the sites are good but most do not include track bike specific tools unless you get the expensive pro kits. If you've already have a roadie or other bikes lying around then a kit + the other track specific tools would be good...

A word on tolerances: Bike parts don't always fit together perfectly. All it takes for something to go wrong is a fraction of a millimeter. Though with the proper adapter/shim (or cut up coke can ((which I DO NOT reccomend)) ) you can make things work. For instance, you can make a 1 1/8" threadless stem work on a 1" threaded headset with the right adapters. Do your research and check over the forums. Make sure you know what sizes you're working with before you begin. If you look hard enough, most all bike parts have their size stamped on it somewhere...

Here's some links to help you start out with. Also, be sure and check the newbie's sidebar section of this blog:

Frames:

IRO

Again, looking around on the forums and ebay are the best places to get a decent affordable frame...

Wheels:

Cheapies and the next step up would be a set of deep v's laced to some formula hubs. You can easily find these on ebay for around $200 ish...

Tools:

Nashbar or Ben's Cycle

Shimano lockring/chain whip combo tool

With my suggestion on a DIY build, you might end up spending about the same cash money as a new fixer at your local bike shop. BUT you'll come out of the experience with the tools and know how you'll need for maintenance, when ready to start your next project or one for a friend. Not to mention the satisfaction in knowing you built it your fucking self!

Finally, for those of you with any lingering questions, edits, links, concerns or thoughts, please feel free to comment on this post. I have now opened my blog for any and all to post comments on it...


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! I appreciate all the advice and the different sides you presented. As for me, I think I am going to go the route of getting the Pista now and use it to build my knowledge in regards to changing out components. Hopefully after a year or two I will feel comfortable to begin a conversion.

-Tom from the email