Category: Raleigh “Predator” – c.1981 – Fixed Gear Conversion

MBK Trainer – Fixed Gear Version 2

I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this before but the 80’s Raleigh frame that I used on the first fixed gear is now “dead”. What happened? Well I’m not quite sure. It’s viewable in one of my Cyclist POV videos, where you can see I’m riding along and all of a sudden the rear wheel locks up and I come to a stop. It’s happened before but never that violently and never just riding along. I realigned the wheel and rode on, but after getting to my destination I realised the wheel no longer looked straight… The rear triangle looked bent. A few second opinions later and I had concluded it must be the end of that frame.

Note: At no point have I actually checked the frame alignment with the available tools.

A few weeks have gone by and now I have version 2 up and running. Version 2 was found on eBay for the small sum of £15. Naturally the colours caught my attention and I had to have it. As luck would have it, nobody else was interested in it and I won the auction for the starting bid. I have to say the seller of this frame has been an absolute pleasure to deal with – possibly the best seller I’ve dealt with. He emailed me as soon as the auction ended and asked if I wanted some further postage quotes and after looking around found one for £4 cheaper than quoted. Unfortunately he hadn’t checked the PayPal transaction and booked the delivery for the wrong address. Nevermind, he got straight onto the courier and had it changed. The courier didn’t even come and collect it and instead it had to be dropped off at the post office and sent from there. I was updated on the whole process and never left out. I wish all sellers were like that!

Anyway, the new build! The frame is a two tone, pink and purple, MBK trainer. I haven’t been able to accurately date it however I’m leaning towards an early 90’s date. Lugless, oval tubing and CRMO – I really like the frame. It has its fair signs of wear and it the colour apparently disgusts come people but I love it. It’s just my size and it’s so light.

Straight away I removed the headset from the old build and fitted that to the MBK frame. The old Halo wheelset went in perfectly, as did my old black stem. This is where things change. Instead of the flat bars I wanted to fit a set of drop bars in black with some all black brakes. I’m only running one brake, yet still decided to fit two levers. Why? Because I like the riding position! Finding the all black bars took a lot of searching on eBay as most 25.4mm clamping bars are for silver in colour for old road bikes! It was worth it though, the black bars and brakes make the pink stand out even more.

When it came to the bottom bracket and crank I had to get something new. The Raleigh uses 26tpi thread and a cottered axle, where as the MBK frame uses a standard 24tpi thread. I have a few spare cartridge bottom brackets that I could have used but something new was more appealing. I decided to head to VeloSolo and take a look at their collection. I opted for the 107mm Stronglight bottom bracket and crank set. It looks amazing and threaded straight into the frame. The Raleigh used a 42 tooth chain ring (I believe) where as the Stronglight uses a 48 tooth. Combined with the 14 tooth sprocket I’ll be getting more top end but hill starts will become a bit tougher. I’ll see how I get on with it and if it’s too tough I’ll swap out the sprocket to a 16 or 18.

The tyre clearances are close but I’m going to swap those out for some Michelin Krylion Carbon when I get some spare cash! (Those tyres are brilliant – I’m using them on the British Eagle in the wet). Apart from that I’m 100% happy with the outcome. The bike feels like a perfect fit and everytime I look at it I find a massive grin creeps across my face. It’s definitely not everyones style. What do you think?


Raleigh “Predator” – Fixed Gear Facelift

I was getting all ready to write out a nice post about my plans to change the design of my fixie. It’s coming close to the 1000 mile mark so I thought it’s only right to spruce the old girl up a bit. In the first few hundred miles the bike got beat up quite a bit, trying to fine tune the chain tension etc. A respray is long overdue but I also wanted to change the style of all the components.

I wanted to flip things around. The light frame would go dark and the dark components would go light. Essentially I was going for a black and chrome look. It would look a little more “period” than it does currently. This, of course, meant buying a Brooks saddle and a chrome seat post to start with. I opted for a B17 model in black. I got it for a good price and it’s in pretty good condition. I rode with it on Friday and I can safely say it’s just as comfy and supportive as all the other Brooks saddles I’ve ridden.

The next buys were a new set of bars and a new stem. I didn’t want flat bars anymore and I didn’t want the tradition drop bar, although I would have gone for the sleek sloping style that are on the France Sport if I could have afforded a pair… Instead I went for a set of “North” bars (or at least that’s what I’ve seen them called). I think they’re meant to be used as riser bars for town bikes but instead I’m mounting them upside down so there is a very slight drop. They’ll be wrapped in a black cloth tape and fitted with a matching period brake lever. Stem wise, I wanted to go back to chrome or polished alloy. I still have the original SR stem from the bike but it only has a 60mm reach and I feel comfortable with a bit more. My searches on eBay threw up lot of choices, too many choices, but I found myself leaning towards the alloy stems with a “sleek” design. On my watch list was a renovated “Biba” stem which was beautifully polished, however as £40 it was quite pricey. I kept looking and to my surprise another “Biba” stem popped up under the title “Unusual British Made Stem”. The seller had noted the two cyclists in the logo but hadn’t seen they also spelt “biba”. It was only £10 so I bought it without waiting. It’s needs a slight polish but it’s exactly what I was looking for.

As for the next steps I’m hoping to get my hands on a “Rudge” crank set because I love the hand design and possibly some new pedals. The frame will be stripped and repainted a gloss black and the bike will be good for another 1000 miles.

Well… actually that’s all just a “wish” at the moment. I had a slight accident on Friday riding to work. While trying to flip my non drive side pedal, without hitting any form of pot hole, my chain jumped off the sprocket, wrapped itself around the hub, locking and pulling the rear wheel out of alignment in the drop outs. This was at around 20mph, possibly more and was quite a violent motion. I skidded to a stop, realigned the wheel and tensioned the chain and rode on. Something didn’t feel right though. When I got to work I checked the bike over and noticed something that concerned me. Looking at the bike from the rear, aligning my sight down the seat tube and head tube, shows the rear wheel has a lean to the non drive side and it also seems the rear triangle is now bent slightly too.

The chain has slipped off and locked up before but never this violently. I asked my work mates to have a look too and they said the same thing. The rear triangle looks bent… I’m going to try and find a frame alignment tool and check it out so fingers crossed. It would be great if I could just bend it back but the more I bend the steel, the more it stresses and eventually the more likely it is to fail…

Fixed (Again)

It seems like every post I make about my fixed gear build is one saying I’ve fixed it again after something went wrong. Hopefully, this will be the last one!

It’s fixed!

On its last outing, after the last fix of bending the chain ring back into shape, I had constant problems with the chain popping off and flexing. I figured it was down to the damage caused before, but also that I’m using the smaller chain ring of the original double set so it’ll never be as strong as the solid outer ring. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do until I started buying a few bikes to do up.

A solution presented itself when looking over the new bikes. They’re all old three speed bikes, with one single speed ring up front and the three gears inside the Sturmey Archer hub. A single speed chain ring up front… with a cotter pin crank… Putting two and two together told me I should take one of these chain rings and put it on the fixie with a new, stronger chain and that’s exactly what I’ve done!

I had chose to take the chain ring off a very rusty Raleigh Wayfarer but my original technique of removing the cotter pins failed drastically and now I had two mushroomed pins holding the cranks to that bike. I found this guy on YouTube who has a channel dedicated to fixing bikes and watching a few of his videos gave me some ideas on how to remove the cranks. Low and behold, on another bike, I left the nut on the cotter pin, used a big punch on top of the nut and with one swing of a hammer the pin was free and I could swap the cranks over!

However, as with every simple job, something went a tad wrong. When I put the new crank on the fixie I found the BB was very stiff and then found the shell was unwinding itself from the frame so I ended up stripping all that down, cleaning everything off and regreasing it. The “new” crank and single speed chainring went on fine then. It’s sightly bigger than the old one but that just means more speed 🙂

As for the chain, I decided to ditch the cheap Clarks chain I bought after only using it for 180 miles. It felt so weak and it’s been nothing but trouble so I went for a Izumi chain this time. I saw it had good reviews on Chain Reaction Cycles and my first impression is it has a more sturdy appearance and feel than the Clarks chain. It looks solid, feels heavy duty and seems well made. I had a slight problem with it being a bit big for one of my chain tools but it went on smoothly and rides well!

When it was all back together I took it for a test ride and I’m happy to say there were no issues whatsoever. I even managed to set a couple of PBs on some local climbs. Hopefully, this will be the bike fixed completely now and it’ll last a good while! It’s always a learning process but now I think I know the best way to go about doing a fixed gear conversion on an old Raleigh! I’ll get it right first time with the other builds 😉

New Edit

Here we go, another edit. I’ve already seen some more things I want to try and recreate for the next “episode” but for now it’s more of what I tried out last week, as well as trying out the video in video part.

The first few clips, on the fixie… well that bike needs work again. I hit a drain cover and it knocked the back wheel out of alignment in the drop outs and jammed the chain and wheel. It didn’t stop me for too long but as I rode on I could hear some clunking and then the chain started to drop off again. It really does need a new chain ring… I went exploring on it though, following some back routes into fields, that was fun.

After that is a bunch of clips from Cannock. I did another two laps of Follow the Dog and set a load more PBs but on the first lap I encountered major issues with my gears. I couldn’t really select anything mid range on the rear and kept on having to change up and down before it eventually just skipped constantly. Stopping to try and retension the cable on the trails did nothing so I stopped off in the car park after the first lap to check everything over. The hanger looked a bit bent so I “fixed” that and I retensioned the cable but it still didn’t work. I ended up doing that lap with either 9th or 1st on the rear. It really was go fast or go home!

Fixing the Fixie.

I’ve lost track of time with this. I don’t remember how long it’s been sitting in my living room waiting to get fixed but now it’s done. Well, fixed should be used loosely. Everything is back together and working but it wasn’t the most ideal solution. Some may remember but on the last outing for the fixie, the chain slipped off, got caught on the chain ring and bent it (partly down to a bolt being missing from one of the mounting points?!). I had to walk the bike home, it chewed up a load of paint work and I was royally pissed off. The aim was to buy a new Bottom Bracket and crank set but finding a match for the old Raleigh threading is difficult and I never have the money to spare so I decided to “bodge” the fix.

The old chain ring is steel so although it’s bent I thought it should bend back into shape with some careful persuasion. I had to strip the crank off, and with the cotter pin coming out really easily the job was done quicker than I thought. The old chain ring was persuaded back into shape with my trusty hammer and after fitting and giving it a few spins it all seemed straight. A few little tweaks were needed with some mole grips but it seems to be back to normal… I replaced the bolts with some fresh ones, trimmed them down and added lock nuts so I don’t have to worry about them coming loose again. The chain went back on really easily too. I replaced a few links and the job was done. Everything span as it should…

I’ve taken it for a quick test ride and nothing went bang so I think it should be good for a while… I’m looking forward to some more fixie cruising!

I broke it… again.

Just as I’m getting to love this bike, something, possibly me, has broken it. It’s a really nice bike to ride and I was loving riding to work and having a detour home but now it’s officially out of action. Dead. Until I can source some more part that is.

So here’s what I think happened. I’m riding to work earlier this week in my work gear. I’ve never had a problem with trousers flapping around but as I’m cruising along I got a horrible snag as part of my trousers got pulled into the chainring and luckily it came straight back out. It didn’t sound or feel good but everything seemed fine.

Then on one of my detours home wile playing “the filtering game” I heard a couple of clangs/ bangs/ noises… I don’t know how to describe it but it sounded like something had popped under tension. The bike still rode though so I got it home, decided to clean the chain and in the process found one link had bent and was about to dislodge from the pin holding it in place. So that was what the sound was…or was it.

That link was replaced straight away with a new link and spinning the wheel / crank by hand it seemed fine. On the way to work the next day though it was pretty rough to start with but it did settle. Again though, it started making a weird clunk every now and again while out on a ride with a friend before eventually disaster happened. She doesn’t like to ride on the road so it meant hopping up and down curbs and on one of these instances my chain popped off. It then got caught in the rear cog and locked up the rear wheel. No bother, I’ll just feed it back on and be on my way. Unfortunately I found that it had chewed the master link on the chain but it had also bent the chainring. Weirdly a bolt was missing from that spot too but even with it pinched up to where the bolt should be it was still bent. So bent it was catching on the frame and chucking the chain straight off. I had to walk the bike all the way across town to get it back home.

I’m sad to say, for now at least, the fixie is dead. I can fix it, and I will, I just don’t have the cash at the moment. I’m going to have to break out the Holdsworth for the daily commute now and get used to those damn clipless clip pedals… Hopefully I’ll find some cash soon. I don’t want to be without the fixed life for long…

Fixed love.

I think I understand now why people like to ride fixed gear. Once I remembered I couldn’t actually stop pedalling and sorted out any chain tension issues the fear that was always in the back of my mind seems to have disappeared. I love riding fixed. I use the bike every day now, riding to work and the long way home through town and it hasn’t thrown up any issues. I’ve got used to only riding with the front brake and the constant spin of the pedals. I’m relying on the brake less and less too. I’ve been riding it so much when I got back on my mountain bike at the weekend it felt wrong to stop pedalling and coast…

There is one thing I’ve taken to doing while riding on the roads though and that’s wearing my GoPro. Last week I almost ended up under the wheels of some idiot women after she tried to turn left, from the right hand lane, through me. The lanes were clearly marked (left to turn left and continue straight and right for a right turn) but she seemed to have thought her little Citroen could beat me off the line and complete a turn in front of me all within 20 meters. It was such a close call that now I’m not going out without the camera. Essentially it’s not going to stop anyone from being a dick and hitting me but it might provide vital evidence…

Here’s a “little” video from my ride home one evening last week. I have a GoPro HD Hero attached via a “Chesty” mount and while you can’t see where my head is looking it gives a good idea of what’s going on.

Touch wood, nothing, or should I say nobody will try and hit me again but you ever know…

On another note, I learnt something new about the Raleigh frame I’d used for the bike earlier. After upgrading the few parts last week I wanted to try and find a suitable modern BB and crank combination. The measurement for the BB shell on the Raleigh is 71mm but all I could find on VeloSolo were 68mm or 73mm Bottom Brackets. I was going to make the assumption I could just “bodge” one of those sizes on but I decided to do a little research first.

On one of the best cycling websites out there (Sheldon Brown) I found all the information I needed. It turns out, back in the good old days there were so many different variations for threading and BB size that it all got a bit confusing and “standard” sizes were slowly phased in. Unfortunately Raleigh, being such a big company, decided against changing all their patterns and kept using their own sizes. That now means instead of having a 68mm shell with 24 TPI, I have a 71mm shell with a finer 26 TPI thread. Apparently there are ways out there of converting the Raleigh specifications but it’s a lot of hassle and sticking at the current specs I don’t have much choice but to stay with the original gear.

It’s not too much of an issue as the old gear is still working well but it would have been nice to fit a shiny new modern external bearing BB. If you’re using an old Raleigh frame for a fixed gear conversion, be warned the BB isn’t the only Raleigh specific item. The headset also uses the same threading which probably explains why my new headset was a little awkward to thread on….

Have a read of the differences here.

A bit of love for the Fixie

I’ll be honest. The first few times I rode this bike I didn’t like it at all. It felt weird, I always felt on edge and well I just didn’t feel safe. That being said, I did a handful of miles on it and then put it to one side.

Now though, I like it. I seem to have stopped the problem with the chain wanting to slip off and try and kill me and I’ve got the hang of the riding style a bit more. I’m riding it more and more and as my confidence grows so does my speed. It feels good! It feels that good and I like it that much that I decided to buy a few more parts for it. The bike still has the majority of the original gear attached to it and although it does do its job… I didn’t like the chrome.

Back when I was searching for the Token Cogs I wanted to use I came across this website. Velo Solo. It’s full of fixed gear, single speed and track orientated goodies and although I didn’t buy anything from them first time round I booked them for later use. What they had in store was ideal for replacing all the chrome parts I wanted to get rid of. I could have easily spent a lot more than I did but I limited myself to a new headset, stem, grips and some pedal straps. After ordering late in the evening on Thursday, I had a polite message on Friday saying thanks for the order and the parts would be shipped today, then amazingly on Saturday morning I had them in my hands. Amazingly quick turnaround!

So, with the parts in hand I got to work fitting them. I’d never changed a headset before but did some research before hand to find out how. The long and the short of it is; they’re press fit. All the “How To’s” I found said you could remove a headset without buying a special tool but refitting would need a special press. Nah, no way. A vice is all I needed.

I found once the front forks were removed the old headset could be tapped out with a long flat bladed screwdriver and a hammer. It wasn’t even that hard! Resting the screwdriver on the lip of the headset and lightly tapping with the hammer, working round in quarters and the headset was out in no time. The old one isn’t even damaged! I gave the frame a quick clean and put some grease around the internal surface before going to the vice for the next part. With the top and bottom sections rested in the vice and the frame supported I managed to slowly wind the vice in and squeeze the new headset in place. No troubles at all and no damage to the headset. Special tools? Pfft.

Now the section that slips over the forks… that was another story. Oh the old one came off easy enough with a few light taps of the hammer. I tried to fit the new one by using the old ring as a bit of a buffer and tapping it into place but it just wouldn’t fit. No matter which way I tried to tap it into place it refused to lock on. It looked like the lip (red paint) around the base of the steerer was getting in the way so I had to spend a while carefully filing that down, trying the new ring for a fit every so often. Eventually it did go on when I’d removed enough material and…persuaded it…with a hammer. The way I ended up fitting it was by flipping the fork upside down with the new ring in place and the old ring as a buffer, before “tapping” the underside of the forks into the ring. The fork may need a bit of retouching now…

Anyway, with that out of the way I could assemble everything. Following the guide in the instructions for stacking the layers I greased everything up and bolted it all together. What’s good about this new headset is that the ball bearings stay in their races! No more fiddling about with loose balls! The lock nuts on top were a bit difficult to thread on (maybe the threads were a bit dirty?!) but they all clamped up nicely with the help of my big adjustable spanner. The observant of you may notice the top lock ring isn’t entirely in place in one picture… I found I hadn’t quite managed to measure the stack height accurately enough so a trip to Halfords was needed for a spacer. It’s on now, clamped down nicely, I just don’t have a picture.

That was the “big” job out of the way. The rest of the new parts slotted straight into place after that. I bolted on the new quill stem, slid on the new grips and fitted the pedal straps. The stem is purely cosmetic but the grips were more of a comfort thing. They’re a bit chunkier than the “old” grips and so, a bit softer to ride with. Now the straps… I’ll have to ride with those for a bit longer before I cast my opinion on them. They’re made up in Yorkshire and are actually made out of recycled seatbelts which is cool but after the first ride with them I found them a little awkward to use… Give it time though, I’m sure I’ll get used to them!

And that’s that. Some new parts and more love for the fixie. Thanks to Velo Solo for supplying the parts so quickly and hassle free, hopefully I’ll be returning to buy a lot more parts in the future (BB, Cranks, Front Brake to name a few).

Parts fitted today:
Re-Strap Pedal Straps
Tange Passage 1″ Threaded Headset
Zenith Forged Quill Stem
Token Lock On Mountain Bike Grips

Project 80’s – Now With Matching Wheels

A bit of an unexpected early Christmas present arrived about thirty minutes ago. I say unexpected because when I placed the order I was told the item was out of stock and wouldn’t be back in until the 10th January. This was after having the website (in my opinion) indicate the item was in stock by saying “Usually despatched within 1-3 days”. The order was placed on the 10th December so the 10th January was going to be a 32 day wait! Either my complaint sped things up or they suddenly found some more stock but my order has arrived “early”!

I ordered this Halo AeroRage front wheel to match the Halo rear wheel I have. It fits perfectly and almost finishes the bike. I’ve changed from 27″ to 700C so the brakes needed adjusting slightly. The pads needed to be moved down a fraction and the caliper needed a bit more movement to make contact with the rim but it’s all on and working. I’d just like to replace the caliper with a modern unit and replace the stem with a black item and then I’ll call the bike finished!

So to finish off this post; Thanks Mum for the Christmas Present 🙂 It’s really improved the bike!

Project 80’s – Snapped Chain Already

Second ride in and I’ve managed to snap the chain although I’m lucky it wasn’t more.

This morning I decided to take the fixie for a spin to work. It’s only a short trip so I thought it would make good practice. There are a couple of moderate descents on the way there but I was confident if I just took it steady I’d be fine. Unfortunately as I was riding down the second hill I felt the chain start to skip and then all of a sudden I had no gear. The chain was flapping around and then there was a horrible clunk before I could come to a stop. I turned around to find my chain back up the road and a fair few gauges in my fresh paint work. With it being such a simple bike I hadn’t packed my tool kit so I had to walk the bike the rest of the way to work.

Apologies for the iPhone photo!

I had remembered to charge my GoPro’s battery and set it running looking behind me before the ride though. It caught the moment as the chain went flying, and what I didn’t realise at the time was the car following me. If the chain had caught in my wheel I may not have made it into work… I’m glad it just snapped and chewed the paint!

(As always, switch to HD – the chain flies off at around the 5 minute mark)

I got to work a couple of minutes late with a broken bike and the prospect of a “long” walk home. Not really how I wanted to start the day! Fortunately though, later in the day I had a bit of a brain wave. When the chain had snapped I’d lost two pins and one of the “outer” links. I was left with two inner links to join but they didn’t look too damaged. I figured if I managed to remove the pin from one I could join the chain together and hopefully it would still fit on the bike. I’d made the chain as long as I could when fitting it so the wheel had plenty of room to move forward in the drop outs. It was all down to coming up with a way to remove and install the one pin…

I work in a test laboratory so luckily we have a lot of tools. I managed to carefully combine a M6 nut (to push the pin into) and a small nail (to push the pin out) and used a vice to provide the force. It got the pin out just enough that I could use a set of mole grips to wiggle it free. Rejoining the chain was simple. I tapped the pin in as far as I could with a hammer before using the nail, bolt and vice again to position the pin fully. I’m quite glad I have a quick link on the chain so I didn’t have to do that procedure on the bike. The pin was a bit stiff but a bit of wiggling around freed it up and after trying it on the bike I found it had just enough length left to fit.

Apologies for the iPhone photo!

I rode the bike home without any issues. I took a more gentle route to avoid the steeper hills and used the brake more but I’m glad to say the chain held up. I won’t be riding without some spare links and a chain tool now though! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the damage to the paint. It shouldn’t be too hard to respray that small area but I’m worried about the colour match. We’ll see what happens on the next ride!