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I've always wanted to build my own bike and I figured that a fixie has the least number of parts.

Please post one part per answer. Please explain what I should be looking for in the part. Also please recommend a make/model and give approximate cost.

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Are you looking for what it will take to convert a bike to a fixie, or are you looking to build one from the ground up? –  Jack M. Oct 1 '10 at 17:23
    
@Jack : Want to build one from the ground up. This way it would give me insight into all the parts that go into a bike. –  milesmeow Oct 1 '10 at 20:11
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A big pile of coal, iron ore, bauxite, petroleum. A smattering of copper and zinc. And some natural gas and a bunch of electricity. And of course the components for paint. (Or did you want to start a little higher off the ground?) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 6 '12 at 19:25
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8 Answers

I know you asked for a single part answers but since the parts work together and one choice influences another, I don't really see how that can be accomplished in a useful manner. So I'm going to outline it all.

I'll start with the items that you need for any build.

  1. Frame and fork. Preferably one with horizontal dropouts - more on that later.
  2. Headset to attach the frame and fork.
  3. Stem - note: the fork, stem, and the headset work together. They can be threaded or threadless. They must match.
  4. Handlebars
  5. Seatpost. The seatpost must fit snugly in the seat tube.
  6. Seatpost clamp (Maybe. This is built into some frames.)
  7. Seat
  8. Front wheel. No specific requirements other than it fit into your fork without the tire rubbing. If you're using a front brake (and you should), you'll want the size for which the fork was intended. There are ways to make the brakes work on a wrong-sized wheel, but it's more hassle than it's worth.
  9. Crankset
  10. Bottom bracket. The crankset and bottom bracket must be the compatible with one another. The bottom bracket also be the same size and have the same thread type as the bottom bracket shell on your frame.
  11. Pedals. As others have mentioned, you want your feet attached to the pedals. Whether you use toe clips or clipless is totally up to your personal preference.
  12. Chain
  13. Tires
  14. Rear Wheel. This is where we start to get fixie specific. The rear wheel must have a hub that is designed to accommodate a fixed gear cog and a lock ring.
  15. Fixed gear cog
  16. Lock ring.

You need to make sure of two things: your chain line must be ramrod straight and you must have some way of making sure that there's tension on the chain.

Let's talk about tensioning the chain first. There are three basic ways to tension a chain on a fixie. You can use an eccentric hub, an eccentric bottom bracket, or horizontal dropouts. Horizontal dropouts are by far the cheapest, easiest and most common. An eccentric bottom bracket requires a frame that is designed for one and thus, is less common and more expensive. An eccentric hub works just fine if you have to use a frame with vertical dropouts, but it's easy enough (and significantly cheaper) to find an older frame with horizontal semi-horizontal dropouts.

Now, for making sure that chainline is stright. The only way I know of to do it is trial and error. Build the bike up, and then sight along the chainline. You'll be able to see whether or not it's straight much the same way you can sight along a pool cue and see a curve in it. If it's not, you can sometimes move the front chain ring from the inside to the outside of the spider. Spacers on the rear hub may get you somewhere too, but you can't go too far with those. If none of that works, you'll have to try a bottom bracket with a different spindle length.

Optionally: a front brake is highly recommended. In some places, at least one brake is required by law. If you have rear facing dropouts, a bmx style chain tensioner is really nice to have.

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Why does the chainline have to be perfectly straight. I have a fixie and the chainline isn't straight. Unless you are using a chainring meant for gears with ramps and pins, then the chain should have very little chance of coming off, even with the chainline not being perfectly straight. Is there some other reason it needs to be straight? –  Kibbee Oct 7 '12 at 14:24
    
On 8, a front rim brake is legally required if you're going to take it off the track in some jurisdictions, and is just a good idea safety-wise. –  Mike Samuel Oct 8 '12 at 6:25
    
@MikeSamuel Yup. Where I live, you're required to have at least one working brake, the law doesn't specify which one. Some places actually require both. –  jimirings Oct 8 '12 at 14:40
    
@Kibbee The further from straight your chainline is, the more likely it is to come off. A little might not be a problem, but a lot definitely is. And having had a chain come off while barreling down a hill on my fixie, I'd rather not risk it ever happening again. It sucks. Bad. Also, a chainline that isn't straight wears the chain out faster. And a chain breaking on a fixie is even worse than one that just falls off. –  jimirings Oct 8 '12 at 14:40
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A frame with horizontal dropouts is preferable. If you do end up with a frame that has Vertical Dropouts you might need to add a Chain Tensioner.

For anyone not sure what dropouts are see this pic: http://www.howtobuildafixie.com/lesson-1-dropouts/

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You can not use a chain tensioner on a fixie because of the way that the stress reverses on the chain when slowing down. You must have either horizontal dropouts, an eccentric bottom bracket, or an eccentric hub. –  jimirings Oct 6 '12 at 23:44
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A rear wheel is a good start for a fixie: the front is the same as any other bike, but the rear needs to be built especially for fixed-gear riding. It will have space for only one cog on each side, typically one for a freewheel cog and one for a fixed-gear cog. The free side will only have one set of threads, while the fixed side will have two sets of threads. One of those is for the cog itself, and one is for the lockring used to secure the cog. The cog needs to be secured because when you pedal backward you loosen the cog, but the lockring is threaded in reverse and will tighten, keeping the cog on.

Lots of fixie riders consider the building of the rear wheel to be part of the process of building a fixed gear. It's the easiest wheel to build, but they are available for purchase, and usually for less money than buying the components to build your own wheel.

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Your hub choice depends on whether your frame has vertical or horizontal dropouts.

I converted my old mountain bike (with vertical dropouts) into a single speed building a wheel I built myself using an eccentric Eno hub. I happen to have the wheel flipped such that it's a free wheel, but I could flip it and use it as a fixie.

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The most fixie-specific bits are the hub, cog, and lock ring. I know it's supposed to be one part per post, but these really go together. You can't use a regular-old free-wheel hub for your fixie (at least without some modifications). You'll need a fixed-specific hub which has threads for a lock ring, and a cog to match. The lock ring is what keeps the cog from loosening when you use the drive train to stop.

Surly offers each of these parts.

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A nice old road frame (80s-vintage w/ horizontal dropout) will get you going in fine bike messenger style.

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What's the benefit of the horizontal dropout? Is it safety? Is it just a style? Is it ease of maintenance? –  milesmeow Oct 1 '10 at 17:32
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@milesmeow: the horizontal dropout makes it possible to adjust the tension on the chain without adding an extra component –  freiheit Oct 1 '10 at 17:37
    
To expand on freiheit's comment. A fixed gear chain has no play in it. It has to be fitted exactly to the gears and the only way to adjust that is to move the rear wheel forward or backward. Most recent bikes have mostly vertical dropouts with maybe less than a link of play (you'd need to get lucky to use one). 80's bikes frequently had vaguely horizontal dropouts. If you look at a track bike, the dropout will be straight to the back (instead of to the front and downward on a normal bike). –  LanceH Oct 9 '10 at 17:08
    
It's also worth considering getting a new frame, since getting parts that fit on old frames can sometimes be a real pain. Also, getting a new frame ensures you get the right size. Also, many old frames are of unknown provenance, and who knows if it's been in an accident. As long as you stay away from the fancy name brands, you can get a frame for under $150. –  Kibbee Oct 7 '12 at 10:57
    
Moving the rear wheel isn't actually the only way to adjust chain tension, you could also use an eccentric bottom bracket, either with a frame designed for one or an adaptor like problemsolversbike.com/products/eccentric_46_bottom_bracket (But a chain tensioner designed for a single-speed with freewheel won't work well, since it will still let the chain go slack when braking.) –  armb Oct 9 '12 at 8:50
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I know that some will disagree, but I would advocate using cleats.

One of the major reasons for riding a fixed is to feel your connection to the effort required to move you - and introducing a disconnect in your foot/pedal takes away from that.

Additionally, braking with your legs is easier if you're not worrying about your foot coming away.

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I was also warned/told by people years ago not to use clipless pedals for a fixie. I didn't really understand the issue. In any case, I like the clipless setup with the fixie though I also have a setup with no clips and standard pedals. –  Tim Oct 1 '10 at 20:00
    
If you're planning to go brakeless, you really need some form of foot retention. Otherwise if your feet come off the pedals (and good luck getting them back on as you gather speed downhill) you have no way of stopping short of jamming a shoe against your tyre. I'd prefer clipless, but toe clips can work too. –  Useless Oct 6 '12 at 20:20
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Planning to go brakeless is stupid regardless of foot retention (except for a bike used only at the track). –  amcnabb Oct 6 '12 at 21:28
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I agree with @amcnabb Brakeless is stupid. If the chain skips off, you are unable to stop. You can go around using the drivetrain to brake all you want, you'll save quite a bit on brakepads, especially if you just use it for slowing yourself downhills, but ensure you have a secondary brake that works well in the event of an emergency. Having only 1 brake, whichever the mechanism is just a bad idea. –  Kibbee Oct 7 '12 at 11:01
    
@useless this answer does not mention being brakeless; it introduces braking as a parting comment. I would not advocate relying solely on using the fixed drivetrain as your brake. I do run without a rear brake, but I've had a couple of incidents where the rear cog has come loose (I didn't use to use a lock ring - I certainly do now) and I've needed to rely on the front brake. I wouldn't go as far as to say that you need two rim/pad brakes if you're running fixed, three braking systems is generally overkill, but I'm not going to call someone stupid if they do have both wheels with brakes. –  Unsliced Oct 8 '12 at 7:54
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The same as a normal bike, minus gear derailleurs (brakes can be handy, although not completely necessary).

Get a flipflop hub, it enables you to freewheel by switching the wheel around.

Btw, you expect people to come here and list every single part for a bicycle, tis a bit weird if you ask me ...

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I'm trying a format that I've seen work on other stackexchanges, where each answer is only part of the whole solution. So for your answer, you would focus on the hub, someone else might answer about the frame, or the pedals. –  milesmeow Oct 1 '10 at 14:56
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In some locales (the UK for example), brakes are mandatory for all bikes using the roads. –  Unsliced Oct 1 '10 at 15:31
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