Bike Buildup Showdown With Jameson

March 6, 2015

Posted in: Bike Blog, Staff

Building My Own Bike, Was It Worth It ???

Hello, bike friends. Today I thought I would write up a review to compare the cost of  a store bought single speed bike, and a custom built single speed, with your current bike that you might be riding, or a build up from a frame.

First we will look at the store bought bike.

Felt bikes 2014 Brougham fixed / free wheel, MSRP: $539.99

  • Frame:Felt single speed custom butted 4130 TIG-welded Cr-Mo tubes, butted tapered seatstays w/ horizontal machined Cr-Mo dropouts, horizontal top tube
  • Fork:Felt Urban design, 100% Cr-Mo, 1.125″ threadless steerer & oversized straight fork blades, 43mm offset
  • Crank:Forged aluminum, w/ 144mm B.C.D, 47T x 3/32 inch
  • Freewheel/Fixed Cog:17T x 3/32 inch
  • Brake:Tektro dual pivot caliper front & rear, stainless hardware
  • Brake Levers:Tektro aluminum front & rear
  • Bottom Bracket:Euro sealed bearing, 68mm
  • Stem:Felt aluminum forged, 4-bolt clamp
  • Handlebar:Felt Urban riser bar
  • Pedals:Aluminum pedal, steel toe clips, leather toe straps
  • Seatpost:Aluminum micro-adjust, 27.2 x 300mm
  • Saddle:Felt Urban classic road saddle w/ riveted custom cover & steel rails
  • Wheelset:Alex DA30 double wall aluminum, 30mm deep V-section aero rims, Alloy 32H hubs (Fixed/Free Rear) Vittoria Randonneur tires 700 x 28
  • Sizes: 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm

Jameson’s Brougham in all its winter livery

All in all, it’s a great bike to own. You can set it up to be a fixed gear, or a single speed. The bike can handle a fairly wide tire, like most 35c tires and it’s at a remarkable price point for what you get out of the box.

As it is set up this is a bike you can just fill the tires and go.  This bike has a nice ride and feel to it, the handling is not twitchy, yet nice and responsive. The Vittoria Randonneur tires that come on the bike are a great tire, they are a long lasting, and have double shielding puncture protection.

For the winter I have equipped mine with a pair of 700 x 35 Continental winter contact tires, (which is a tight fit), SKS Xtra-dry fenders, and FSA Metropolis handlebars. I have aftermarket rims as well (There’s nothing wrong with the stock rims, I just wanted gold.) One of the downfalls of this bike is that there are NO fender or rack mounts, which means no full wrap fenders, and no frame mounted rear rack for the Brougham.

Custom Building A Bicycle From A Frame Up

Ok. lets say your friend gives you a cool frame and fork, or you have your dad’s old 10 speed and you want to update some of the parts and pieces. This is what I came up with, to help you make your decision..

  • Frame: My Dad’s Old 10 Speed Bike, single speed Cr-Mo tubes horizontal dropouts, horizontal top tube: n/c
  • Fork: Cr-Mo, 1″ threaded steerer: n/c
  • Crank: Forged pink aluminum, w/ 130mm B.C.D, 48T x 1/8 inch: $69.99
  • Freewheel & Fixed Cog: Free wheel ACS 16T x 1/8 inch: $24.99
  • Brake :Tektro dual pivot caliper front & rear, Pink anodized…2@34.99: $74.98
  • Brake Levers:Tektro aluminum front & rear: $29.99
  • Bottom Bracket:Euro sealed bearing, 68mm x 110mm: $29.99
  • Stem: Origin 8 aluminum forged, 4-bolt clamp: $29.99
  • Headset: Origin 8: $34.99
  • Handlebar: Woodman pink anodized Urban riser bar: $49.99
  • Pedals: Aluminum pedal: $19.99
  • Seatpost: Aluminum micro-adjust, 26.8 x 300mm: $24.99
  • Saddle: Soma Urban Ensho saddle Bassboat pink: $59.99
  • Wheel Set: Weinnmann DP-18 30mm deep V-section pink (Fixed/Free Rear): $199.99
  • Tires: Thick Slicks: 2@34.99: $74.98
  • Grips: Oury pink grips: $14.99
  • Tubes / Rim strips: $17.98
  • Chain: KMC Pink: $12.99
  • Cables & Housing: $11.98


So, you’re going to spend a bit more up front building a bike from a frame up, but when you do it this way, you’re building the bike with the parts you want, the way you want. A build up like this one can run you in the ballpark of $800 – $1000.  That price can vary quite a bit, based on the components that you chose, where you get your parts, and who builds the bike, .  

However, I’d highly recommend that before you build a bike up from scratch, you make sure to stop by your local bike shop and talk to a mechanic. They can help you decide on certain parts that will and will NOT work on the frame that you have.  That way you won’t end up with bike components that are not compatible with your frame.

Building Up A Single Speed With The Bike You Have, Can It Be Done?

The majority of the time the answer is yes, but this set up can come with some hidden costs, so let me help you to decide what might be best suited for you. The first thing we want to do is look at the dropout on the bike.  The dropout is the opening for the rear wheel’s axle.

A bike with vertical dropouts.


So the drop out above (A.)  isn’t the most Ideal drop out to used for a single speed conversion, but it can still be done with a chain tensioner, (B.) which serves in place of a derailleur to help keep tension on the chain so it doesn’t fall off the chain ring or freewheel.  You may not get the clean aesthetic of a single speed setup like in picture (C.) but it works.

A bike with vertical dropouts and a chain tensioner.


Rearward facing “track” dropouts.


What you’re looking for in an ideal frame to do your build up are slotted horizontal dropouts like in pictures (C,D, or E.)

In pictures (D. & E.) these bikes have a derailleur or a derailleur hanger that can be removed from the frame. In both cases the drop outs are slotted, and once we’ve removed the derailleur and hanger we will be able to put a wheel in and pull it back to hold the proper tension on the chain like in picture (F.)  

A bike with, slotted horizontal dropouts and a Derailleur w/hanger

Another style of horizontal dropout.

Note the slack in the chain. After we snapped the photo, we removed a link to get better chain tension.


Besides the frame we will need to look at the current wheel and determine whether it is a Freewheel or a Cassette.

Freewheel: Gears thread directly onto the hub itself. (G.)

A freewheel hub


Cassette: Gears slide onto a pre installed cassette body then uses a lock ring to keep it in place. (H.)

A cassette hub, cassette and lockring.


The freewheel, like in picture (G, and I), you will probably need to use an eighth inch chain to make up for a less than perfect chainline. Some people will respace the hub to achieve a better chainline, however,  it’s not recommended, because it can put the wheel too far to one side of the frame. In some cases it’s just best to buy a single speed wheel.

Both styles of wheel can be used for single speed applications. If the wheel is a freewheel you can unthread the old gears and then thread on a single speed freewheel like in picture. (I.) or If the wheel is a cassette you will have to buy a cassette spacer kit, cog and lockring (J.)

A freewheel hub with a single speed freewheel installed


A cassette hub with a hub spacer, single cog and lockring installed.


Now we are going to look at different crank sets that are out there.  If you have a crank set that is pop riveted together and looks like this crankset below (K.) the rings are not removable or replaceable.  It is possible to use one of the existing rings, but it’s far from ideal.  You may want to look at getting a new crankset, and possibly a new bottom bracket (L.) (The Bottom Bracket is the bearing unit that allows the cranks to spin.) In some cases the bottom bracket spindle will be too long to run a single speed crankset and will need to be replaced with something shorter.

A riveted crankset. The chainrings cannot be removed or replaced.


A single speed crankset and bottom bracket


A road double crankset. The rings on this crank are fixed in place with a nut and bolt and can be removed with proper tools and know how.

In other cases like the cranks in this picture, the chain rings  can be removed from the crank arm and a single ring can be installed with a set of single speed chain ring bolts.

Single chainring bolts.

A single chainring installed on a set of cranks.

Last but not least you will need a new chain.  Chains come in a couple common sizes for a single speed setup.  An ⅛ inch chain is generally recommended for anything single speed or fixed.  ⅛ Inch chains are a little heavier duty than the common 3/32 chains that are used on most geared bikes. Most single speeds will work with a 3/32 chain, but if either your chainring in front or the cog in back are ⅛ inch you will need to use an ⅛ chain.    

A flawlessly set up and maintained single speed drivetrain. Whoever owns this bike must be awesome.

So lets recap and price out some of the things that we have talked about. You won’t need all the stuff in the list below, you will need different things based on your individual conversion. Some of the prices will vary from shop to shop I got these prices at Varsity Bike & Transit.


Single Speed tensioner: 29.99

Cassette Spacer kit: 29.99

Lock Ring: 4.99

Cassette Cog: 9.99

Single Speed Freewheel: 11.99

Chain Ring: 19.99

Single Speed Chain Ring Bolts: 6.99

Cranks: 69.99

Bottom Bracket: 29.99

Single Speed Wheel: 69.99

It seems that single speed bikes have been consistently growing in popularity as the desire for something both affordable and easy to use becomes more prevalent.  If you’re considering going the single speed route, it might be in your best interest to start out purchasing an out of the box stock build first, to see if you enjoy this type of riding.  If you’re certain one gear is the choice for you, it can be very rewarding to pick out just what you want your bike to be.  Regardless of the direction you choose to go, it’s always a good idea to pop by your local shop and ask as many questions as you need to, in order to make the best decision for you.