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There’s a lot of debate around whether or not you can use a road bike frame for a fixie. Some people swear by it, while others say that it’s a recipe for disaster.
Road bike frames are made of high-quality materials, yet when the bike's gears are ruined, the frame seems to be destined for scrap. It is reasonable to ask if there is a way to prevent wasting a good road bike frame?
You can use a road bike frame for a fixie though adjustments need to be made in order to tension the chain and decrease the weight of the road bike. The bike frame should have horizontal dropouts before it can facilitate fixed-speed pedal-contingent cycling.
In this article, you'll discover how a fixie frame differs from a traditional road bike frame. This can give you clarity regarding the adjustments you need to make to use an old road bike frame to build a fixed-speed bike. Among other things, you'll learn what needs to be removed from the frame and what should be added to it. But first, let's go over the essentials of a fixie frame.
Fixies have frames very similar to many road bikes though converting a road bike to a fixie requires you to make some adjustments. First of all, the frame must be sturdy enough to still function on a road bike. It seems like the best thing to do with any crashed multi-gear bike is to simply convert it to a single-speed bike. But sometimes, the frame is completely damaged and cannot be used for any bike without reinforcement.
Fixie Frames: A Primer
After the proper alignment and integrity check, the most important thing for a fixie frame is a tensioning mechanism. In its absence, you cannot use the frame for a fixie. The fixed speed bike is directly correlated with the pedal movement because there is a tensioning mechanism, usually the horizontal drop out, that keeps the chain from getting a pedal-free circulation.
With your road bike, you might have noticed that even if your feet are on the pedals, the chain keeps moving, as does your bike. In contrast, a fixie can be braked by freezing the pedals with your feet. If you move your feet off the pedals and the chain is already moving because of the bike's momentum, the pedals will keep spinning. This shows that the chain is tensioned and dependent (and effective) on each revolution of the pedals.
Since the fixie does not need anything else, you can start converting the road bike frame after checking its integrity and dropouts. As long as the bike frame has horizontal dropouts, it can be used for a fixie. Frame lightness is desirable but is not mandatory. Given that you have to keep pedaling to keep the fixie moving, it is smart to choose a lighter road bike frame.
Fixie Frame vs. Road Bike Frame
The frames of both these bikes are pretty close to each other, but the conversion can move in only one direction. Look at the table below to understand why your road bike, once turned into a fixie, cannot be converted back.
A fixie can be made from a road bike frame because a bulk of the differences can be subtracted. For the opposite conversion, the gears need to be installed alongside an additional chainring. This process can be quite impractical for most DIY bike modifiers and is usually more expensive than getting a used road bike.
How to Prepare a Road Bike Frame for a Fixie
With the compatibility check out of the way, let's look at the specific adjustments you need to make to an old road bike frame for a fixie.
Examine the Frame
In the beginning, you need to pinpoint what you need to remove from the frame. Are the wheels in the right condition? Does the seat need to be changed? Is the chain healthy? This can help with the bike-stripping stage down the line. You should also see what needs to be added. In some cases, this is the horizontal dropouts.
Strip the Frame
The next stage involves removing all the extra weight on the bike frame. The lighter the frame, the easier it is to pedal at a fixed speed. You need to remove the wheels or the freewheel within the tire mechanism. You also need to remove shifters and cables, as they are gear-guiding accessories. Since the fixie does not need gears, the cables and shifters are redundant.
The derailers are not necessary and should be removed to make the frameless complicated. The chain also needs to be removed in most cases where the bike is old. A fresh chain can be more fitting and tension-friendly for a fixie. The road bike has two chainrings, and the one you won't use has to be removed.
Add Essential Parts
Next, you need to add horizontal dropouts (if they are missing) and a read sprocket to act as the primary cog for the fixie. With these two additions, the road bike frame is ready to be used for a fixie. Of course, the actual conversion process is longer and includes replacing the chain and using short stack bolts with a single chainring. But that's a matter for another post.
Should You Use a Road Bike Frame for a Fixie?
Now that we have established that you can technically convert a road bike to a fixie let's address the question of whether doing this is worth it. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of a fixie.
Pros of a Fixie
- More exercise - Because a fixie needs to be pedaled constantly, it gives you more of a workout per minute of cycling. It is excellent for those looking to lose weight or maintain their stamina as it doesn't give you the illusion of exercising while allowing you to coast.
- Safer - With a fixie, you're closer to the ground and have more control over the "brakes." Where road bikes can fail with their gear shifts and wired breaks, a fixie simply can be stopped by freezing the pedals with one's feet.
- Off-road performance - Road bikes don't do well on off-road trails, but a fixie, while giving a bumpy experience, can perform just as well off-road as it does on a smooth road.
- Easy to maintain - Finally, fixies are inexpensive to fix because they don't feature as many small parts that can get damaged. Fixing the issues costs less money as well because the bare necessities of a fixie are easily replaceable.
Cons of a Fixie
- Lack of suspension - A fixie is minimalistic and doesn't have suspension. So on a bumpy trail, you're likely to experience every up and down. This can keep you from biking offroad despite the fixed-speed cycle's trail performance capabilities.
- Steep Climbs - Being a minimalist bike, a fixie doesn't have any gear assistance on steep climbs. It can be a lot harder to bike uphill with the bike. The downward ride can also be hard to manage because the pedals move automatically.
What to Do With a Road Bike Frame?
In case you've decided against using the road bike frame for a fixie, you can do one of the following to still make use of it.
- Scrap it - You can sell the frame as scrap material and make a few dollars. This is more of a free garbage-disposal solution than an actual money-making possibility.
- Resell the frame - To make decent money from your bike frame, you can resell it online.
- Upcycle it as decor - By replacing the seat of the bike with a flower pot and adding another flower pot to the steering, you can create an interesting garden decor installation. Vines can be wrapped around the wheels for improved aesthetics.
If your road bike's gears are damaged irreparably, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that its frame is not useless. You can use it to make a gear-free bike. A road bike frame can be used for a fixie as long as you're willing to make the necessary adjustments.