Launch Project Carbon Fixie! Code name Black Vandura! I’ve wanted to build a fixie for years, particularly a fixie because I’m in love with the stripped back minimalistic look to it. Few components but maximum satisfaction. I had a choice to go old school refurbished classic or futuristic clean and modern. The latter was a better fit for my OCD, so futuristic clean and modern it had to be. I started planning it about two years ago and with a little help this year from my 10 year anniversary at work, I decided to finally just go for it.
My original idea came from an image I found online of the A-Team van. The plan was to style the fixie around that famous 1983 GMC Vandura Cargo, starting with a matt black frame and red rims. Matt black being my favourite colour btw – yes, I probably should’ve been a goth! As the build progressed I didn’t like the red wheels against the matt black frame but without them the look kind of fell apart, so the initial idea was scrapped. I’m now planning to use the same colour scheme instead. A couple of coffee’s into my research I came across a Chinese company on Alibaba specialising in carbon frame sets. A risk, absolutely, but nice and cheap and worth the risk in my opinion so I went for it. The frame, front fork and the seatpost in matt black carbon – 320 bucks. Cha-ching! Add a cheeky Chinese carbon rear wheel rim into the mix and you have the best part of your carbon fixie for just under $600. Except, it didn’t quite work out like that…
I made the mistake of taking the frame set into a specialist dealer in Basel. My plan was to collect all the bits and bobs and perhaps (perhaps!) try out different wheel sets to get an I idea what I was after. I ended up falling in love with the first rim I mounted on those pretty matt black forks. Carbon (obviously) and the most expensive in the shop (obviously). A ridiculous $750, just for the front wheel! I know, it was stupid, but if you fall in love with something you fall in love. The carbon fetish didn’t stop there either. I received a top notch, brand-less carbon, bull horn bar from China for just $30 and then from another Chinese company a “full-carbon” stem to complete the set, which amusingly turned out to be a solid piece of aluminium with the carbon weave painted on it, badly. You win some, you lose some I guess.
For the remaining parts I wanted quality. Not Phil Wood level quality, although I did end up putting on a Phil Wood sprocket on the back which cost me $90 (new sprockets can be got as low as $5!). Components I didn’t mind paying above the average for were: the rear wheel hub, the sprocket, the crank-set and the chain. Basically all components under a lot or stress and prone to wear. I went for a PAUL rear hub in the end, mainly because I chose an atypical spoke count for the back wheel of 24, because it’s sexy (structural integrity is overrated anyway!). It’s one of the few quality hubs I could find with this hole count, bar getting a custom drilled Phil Wood. I completed the family with a BLB crank-set and the legendary Izumi “V” super durable and super smooth track chain. This is the same chain they use in the velodrome so it’s fairly high-end. If it’s good enough for Chris Hoy, then it’s definitely good enough for me. Full price it’s $100, but I got it for $50. It should remain in top quality for as long as the bike is on the road…for the sort of mileage and forces I’ll be exerting on it anyway. My philosophy in life has always been to try and get quality products first time around, even if it means waiting an extra month or two. Firstly because I appreciate them more and subsequently take better care of them (genuinely!) and secondly to avoid paying more than once for something. Research the hell out of it and get it right first time around. If it’s high-end materials and beautiful craftsmanship you’re into, look no further than what Phil Wood and Chris King have to offer. Insanely expensive though, mind. I plan to upgrade my bottom bracket to a Phil Wood in the future (hopefully second-hand), but I want to keep the cost down for now and see how my stock bottom bracket runs for a while.
The only thing out of the build I’ve had a professional look at was the hub placement of the rear wheel. Because the wheel needed a complete relacing of the spokes and new spokes, I thought it best to have someone who knows what they’re doing there. The wheel is a carbon clincher (700C) brand-less Chinese special. Because I’m only braking on the front, I’m perfectly fine with using this wheel without fearing for my life. This is where I find most of your money goes when you buy those high end carbon clinchers in excess of $1k. They’re making sure enough technology and R&D has gone into the design that they can guarantee the rim won’t collapse on you under heavy braking and excessive heat cycles. Please bear this in mind if you’re considering doing this yourself.
2. Some Considerations
2.2 Gear Ratios
The best gear ratio is a balanced one that gives you enough speed on the flats, allows you to climb a gentle to medium gradient without cardiac arrest and means you can decend on a medium gradient without having your knee joints going up in smoke. This being my first fixie, I had to take an educated guess at the ratio that best suited my daily commute. The most common gear ratio seems to be something like 44:16 (2.75) or 46:16 (2.875) for leisurely cruising. I wanted something that I could cruise on but also train a bit on too, so I finally decided on a 48:16 (3:1) ratio.The acceleration and speed on the flats is pretty decent for this ratio. With a 700c (622mm) wheel set and a cadence of say 70 (i.e. 70 pedal revolutions per minute), which is fairly steady I’d say, you’re looking at almost 27kmph on the flats (26.84kph to be exact). Not bad. Add a bit more gas and you’re up into the thirties fairly quickly.
2.3 Skid Patches
Skid patches represent the number of wear points you get on the rear tire when skid-braking. Not something I initially plan to do, but definitely worth some consideration. Whole number gear ratios are bad. For example, I’ve gone for a 3:1 ratio which is pretty much the worst you can have (see graph). For every single rotation of the crank arm you get 3 rotations of the rear wheel. If you brake with you right leg only, that gives you a grand total of 1 skid patch, meaning you’d be stopping the wheel at the same point, every time. So why did I choose that ratio? Because I don’t care about skid patches. A decent rear tire with an anti-puncture belt cost 90 bucks and is way more important to me than skid braking is. I could just go up one more tooth, to 49 on the crank arm, and increased the skid patches by 1 order of magnitude, which is obviously something I’ll do if I start skid braking, but for now I’ll use the thigh muscles and some old fashioned front brake to get the job done.
3. Tools (no hammers!)
There are surprisingly few tools needed for the entire build. The only tools I had to buy were: a chain breaker, a pipe cutter, a sprocket for the bottom bracket and a crankset puller. The crankset puller was a funny one (not at the time though). I didn’t know this tool existed, and when it came to removing the crankset to tighten the bottom bracket, I came to realise after a lot of sweat and nearly tears, that a hammer wasn’t the best job for this particular job. Luckily Mrs. Edge came to my rescue and started googling while I was gargling profanities and attacking my crankset with a hammer (a rubber one!). She just came up behind me and calm as a cucumber said “erm babe, I think there’s a tool for that”.
Here’s a pic of pretty much my complete toolkit for the build. I don’t have the tool for fitting the rear sprocket because I had that fitted professionally. The funny tool you see there is a tool for the front wheel nuts. They are specially cut security nuts which can only be opened with their partner tool.
4. Parts List
Here’s a list of components together the weight and cost of each. Total tally doesn’t include shipping. I was a little surprised to find the total had risen to that, but you don’t notice when it’s spread out over the course of a year. Imagine how much you spend on beer every year! Overall though that’s not bad for a full-carbon bike weighing in at 7.0kg’s. I reckon it could’ve easily been done for about 1.5k, but then it’d be nowhere near the same standard. Total weight is almost spot on too, which is really surprising given each component has a specified and an actual weight. Pretty cool though. It’s clear to see where most of the weight comes from and also where up-to 1.5-2kg’s could be saved, but not without significant investment.
Flyx22 Bike Store
Flyx22 Bike Store
Race Pro Black Prince
4000SII Grand Prix
4000SII Grand Prix
57cm – UD-matt
With brake hole
1-1/8” to 1-1/2”
1 1/8 Gold/Black
700c T700 UD Carbon
700c 88mm 3K-matt
NOTE: If you’re after a C&P of the content, click show and you’ll get the coded table. Best viewed on desktop or phone in landscape though.
This is probably what you came for. The images. Let’s kick this off then with an image of the rear wheel set. The HED branding you see there is placed by myself. Replacement stickers purchased on the official HED web-page. Cheeky yes. Sexy, hell yes. That’s the same wheel btw. The white balance is just a bit off if you’re thinking they look a tad different.
6. Links to lots of cool sh…tuff
Weight Weenies – Cool site full of various information on all bike components. Weights, sizes, etc.
Sheldon Brown – The godfather of bike building. Literally anything you need to know about building a bike.
Surly Bikes – My starting point for helping me choose my gear ratio.
Brick Lane Bikes – Lot’s of gear. Own brands are top quality.
Fixie Shop – The go to place for pixie parts in Switzerland. Located in Basel.
Chain Reaction Cycles – Gear again. Lots of stuff on here.