Evolution is natural, especially when it comes to bicycles. For track riders (read: Fixed Gear Enthusiasts) this means the gradual change towards something entirely set up for city riding and a completely different animal for weekend rides and competitions. Chances are if you live in Shanghai and hopped onto the track bike craze within the last few years that you’re now looking for a way to change up your ride and get more life out of it in the long run. The speed machine you once started with maybe doesn’t gel with your current lifestyle, and instead of night riding and city slamming you just want to cruise.
How can I change the riding position on my bike? How can I convert what I’ve got into something made for cruising? Do I need to buy a whole new bike? At Factory Five we’re faced with questions like this every week, and the answers are usually quite straightforwards. Having been through this evolution ourselves we’re here to help convert your track bike (should you want to) into something you just might want to spend more time riding.
Pictured below is a track frame formerly used for criterium racing, alleycat competitions and has been ridden across China and back. Like all of our fixed gear framesets (F550, F550s, F5 Pista, F5 Stream) this custom Columbus Keirin Spirit frame has incredibly tight geometry and was designed purely for fixed gear riding. But, with just a few changes it has been converted into a single speed cruiser that’s perfect for Shanghai commuting. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Changing the riding position is easy.
If you’ve been riding drop bars or bullhorn bars (the Shanghai fixed gear rider’s bar of choice) then you might want to consider switching to something that will allow you to be a bit more upright. Riser bars, high tower riser bars, swept back bars like the Fyxation Alterra Cafe or Nitto Moustache bar or even big wing-bat cruiser bars will drastically change how you sit on your bike. The higher the bar rise, the more chance you have of achieving the ultimate ‘cruiser’ position – where you feel like you’re sitting in a chair. Grips can also be quite important depending on what style of bar you’re riding. The high polish drop bar looks great on fixed gear rides, but you’ll need to add something with a bit more cushion if you want your hands to take a bit of a break while cruising.
(Pictured above: Wing Bat Swept back Bar, 150RMB)
2. Adding cushion to your ride requires changing your tyres.
Tired of feeling every single bump in the road? This can be a great feeling depending on the riding occasion, but if cruising is the goal then you’re going to need something with a bit more air capacity. The standard 23c tyres used on track bikes can be swapped out for something like a 28c or even 32c tyre, depending on your frame clearance. Yes, these will be heavier by a few hundred grams, but you will notice a big difference in how your bike rolls over city surfaces. CST, Continental, Fyxation and SchwalbeÂ all make quite a few models designed for this type of riding and will range from 50RMB to 450RMB per tyre. Some models are also kevlar reinforced so that you don’t have to worry about every single piece of litter might shred your tyre to pieces.
(Pictured above: Fyxation Sesson 28c tyre, 250RMB – this one is now 2 years old)
3. If your knees hurt, add a brake.
The love of riding a brakeless fixed gear bike is something that can only be expressed through that big ass smile on your face when you’re flying down city streets without a care in the world. The problem is that the older you get, the more likely it is that your knees might not be able to do all the braking for you. Don’t worry, a simple front brake solution can fix that. If you’ve got an undrilled front fork then mounts will be required to add a brake but it is doable. There’s no shame in riding with a brake, it is both safe and relieves unwanted stress from your knees (hey, everyone needs a ‘break’ now and then, right?).
(Pictured above: Dia Compe track brake mount, 700RMB)
4. You might want to consider switching to single speed.
Â Most track hubs are threaded on one side for a lockring and cog, and on the other for a single speed freewheel. Yes, we love riding fixed just as much as the next guy but we can also appreciate the effortless pleasure of a single speed set up. Unbranded single speed freewheels start at 100RMB and will usually last for about a year. Brands like Token and White Industries make versions with better bearings and seals that will last more than 5 years. If you’re unsure about what to pick we’ve got everything in stock for you to compare first hand. Ultimately the feeling of riding fixed vs single speed is night and day, and for a lot of people might be the biggest change needed.
(Pictured above: White Industries freewheel, 720RMB)
5. Make sure your pedal set up is convenient and comfortable for all kinds of footwear.
One of the key factors for most commuters is what kind of footwear is going to be required. Carrying an extra set of shoes can sometimes be annoying, or you just might not have enough space in your bag. Sometimes steel toe cages can damage the tips of your shoes, and clipless pedals just feel weird when you’re not wearing your cycling shoes. An easy fix is to ride a pedal with a larger footprint (MKS Sylvan Track, Fyxation Gates, BMX, etc) coupled with a comfortable set of straps (YNOT, Restrap, etc). This will allow you to wear everything from dress shoes to flip flops without having to think about it.
(Pictured above: MKS Sylvan Track pedals with Restrap Horizontal straps, 520RMB for the full set up)
6. Having the right accessories will make commuting easier.
Lights, mud guards, racks; these are all things that you might want to consider if you’ve been thinking of converting your fixed gear bike into a commuting machine. It’s really going to depend on the environment you live in, when you plan to ride your bike and how far you need to travel. For a city like Shanghai there’s a good chance you’ll need something to protect your butt from the rain, and lights are a safety must for riding downtown. There are all kinds of brands that make things from integrated accessories to quick-release options depending on where your bike will be locked. Spend some time doing a bit of research on what might be best for you, or if you’re unsure just drop by the shop and we’re happy to help.
Once all’s said and done your bike is going to not only look different, but feel completely different too. With the right choices you’ll be able to get that second life out of a bike that you may have grown tired of riding. If you’re still unsure about what can be done to your bikeÂ then just shoot us an e-mail (email@example.com) or roll through our Changhua Lu workshop and we can help point you in the right direction. Happy commuting!