Old Bike Refresh

Bikes Fun & Games
Old Bike Refresh

There are a lot of old, broken down bikes out there — we have at least one in our garage. It’s a good bike. It’s a little beaten and bruised, a little rusty, but a quick strip-down, a few fresh coats of paint, some lubrication, new tires, maybe a new seat, and it’d be back and beautiful. A project like this is very manageable in scope and complexity, even for a bike newbie. And you’ll gain a more intimate knowledge of your bike, and you’ll ride with the pride of knowing you revitalized something that would have likely ended up in the trash.

This type of bike refresh is the exact process that Jake Spurlock put this svelte little “fixie” through. What’s a fixie? Jake explains:

A fixie is a bike that has a fixed hub. What this means is that with every turn of the wheel, there is a turn of the pedals. This also means that there is no coasting, as the hub of the wheel is locked in place.

He bought the bike for $35, a new seat and stem for $20, $12.50 for some used pedals, and then some paint, some time, and lots of lovin’ Now it’s time for some custom emblems. Jake’s brother has a vinyl cutter. May we suggest something suitably “Makey?” Jake is actually about to come on-board as our new Web Producer guy, moving from Utah. As much as we like his new bike, we hope he’s not riding it to Sebastopol.

The Fixie Bike Build


Last year, Brookelynn Morris did a project on CRAFT on repainting a bike. You can see the MAKE post here, and you can grab a PDF of the project instructions here [3.3MB PDF]. BTW: That’s our multi-talented Sales Associate Project Manager, Sheena Stevens, piloting the revamped “Space Cruiser.”

24 thoughts on “Old Bike Refresh

  1. Xander Ashwell says:

    “What this means is that with every turn of the wheel, there is a turn of the pedals.”

    Doesn’t this imply that “fixies” (urgh) have a 1:1 gearing ratio?

    1. Mike Preston says:

      No, but the ratio is fixed…

      1. Jesse says:

        Yes but so is the ratio of a single speed.

        The “fix” part of fixie refers to the hub gear being fixed, and that it cannot coast, so as long as the wheel is turning the pedals will as well (assuming everything is connected). You can have different ratios on the same bike even (I have two chainrings and two hub gears) you just need to change them manually.

        @John Keller, the same can be said of anything that moves a person faster than a person normally moves, even including running! There is really nothing inherently more dangerous about a fixie than any other bike.

        @Dino, most fixies that aren’t track specific come with at least one brake installed (many cities have laws stating bikes meant for road use must have a brake along with reflectors etc.). Some people can get by without a brake no problem, some people prefer to have a brake. In some circles it is indeed “hip” to ride brakeless, although this is not specific to fixie riders(I used to ride BMX brakeless). It’s a good idea to have a front brake in case your chain breaks, but many riders can stop their bikes just as fast without a brake, but some people do bite off more than they can chew.

        @Todd, Indeed riding brakeless specifically can jack up your knees. I got my fixie after my BMX was stolen because a friend offered his extra bike for cheap(though not $30!) which did not have any brakes. I have since gotten used to it (previously riding BMX brakeless helped I think) and I have begun to notice that when I backpedal (is that the proper term?) certain ways my knees become fatigued, but others they don’t suffer at all. I ride about 10.5mi a day 5 days a week and really notice a difference in technique.

    2. Darren Embry says:

      As I posted elsewhere, that wording is horrible.

  2. Dino Segovis says:

    A “fixie” also means no brakes which I find utterly stupid!! I love bikes and their simplicity. Why not just put a simple single hand brake on the thing???? Oh yeah, because then you wouldn’t be hip.
    Have fun riding your “fixie”. I just hope you don’t end up like a few people I know that couldn’t make a panic stop in time and face planted on the hood of a car.

    1. Xander Ashwell says:

      Fixed gear bikes can certainly have brakes. A fixed gear on the rear wheel does negate the need for a rear brake, however, as you can effectively brake by applying resistance to the pedals. This, of course, requires more effort the higher the gear ratio, and is only really viable with adequate foot retention.

      Most track bikes (AFAIK) don’t have brakes, as braking sharply on a track with other competitors in close proximity would be dangerous. Brakes also add weight and increase drag.

  3. Roy Christopher says:

    I did one of these a few years ago. It’s upgraded a lot since (and I’ve built four other bikes in the meantime). Here’s my first fixed gear: http://roychristopher.com/fixed-gear-bicycle

  4. Todd Morris says:

    Physical therapists everywhere have rejoiced in the fixie fad. So bad for the knees. For those who want the aesthetic without the pain, try a coastie. Swap out the hub for a coaster brake, relace and blammo! All that changes is one additional piece of hardware on the back hub, the reaction arm. Most of thats hidden by the rear dropouts depending on the hub model you choose. Oh one more change, now you can actually stop.

  5. John Keller says:

    fixies are dangerous to the rider as well as those around a rider. They sould not be allowed on the streets.

  6. Darren Embry says:

    “What this means is that with every turn of the wheel, there is a turn of the pedals.”

    That is actually a terrible explanation that some might construe to imply that there is a one-to-one gear ratio. “fixie” does not imply any specific ratio. It simply implies that there is only one.

    1. Roy Christopher says:


  7. Darren Embry says:

    On an unrelated note, that is some of the most AMAZING hair I’ve ever seen in my life, Sheena. It’s like a halo in the form of hair. You win. :D

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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