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Is there any way to convert a steel framed single speed vintage track bike to a geared bike? I have a track bike with only the rails for the wheel but I've moved out of the city and there are more hills where I am now living so would like to convert to gears if possible and rather than buy a new bike, save some cash.

this is actually the bike. Apologies for the butchering of its style in this form. sorry don't have a closer pic at the moment. I don't have the bike at my home and cant get to it due to lockdown :(

enter image description here

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    That picture misses out the main thing we need to see. The rear drop out. Also, if you could find out what the rear spacing of the bike is, possibly 128mm I would say, that would help. – abdnChap Nov 16 '20 at 12:53
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    That bike looks like it might have been geared in the past, and someone's cut off a derailleur hanger or removed a bolt-on hanger. – Criggie Nov 16 '20 at 18:45
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    If its about cost, probably cheaper to buy a used bike and sell the one you have. – mattnz Nov 16 '20 at 18:49
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    This is a classic vintage frame and a milestone in bicycle history. It's worth putting effort into. If you sell make sure you know what you are selling. classiccycleus.com/home/horace-bates-b-a-r-path-racer – David D Nov 16 '20 at 20:38
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    @DavidD good catch. Such a frame might sell for enough get a basic geared bike that rides at least as well as the present one. Andrew you might want to put a few pounds aside for proper brakes and brake pads, they look as old as the frame. Not a good thing on hilly rides! – gschenk Nov 17 '20 at 1:03
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The bike in the question is not what is considered as "track drop outs".

For that bike, depending on the rear wheel spacing, it should be relatively easy to convert back to geared.

I would suggest, leaving the front as a 1x system. This is subjective, but I would just get a relatively moderate ring on the frontm between 40t to 46t depending on how hilly the area is.

If the rear dropout is 126mm, then you could either get a wheel to suit, this is an old standard, or you could get a newer 130mm wheel, although how well this works, depends on a few factors.

You could get get a mech hanger such as this

enter image description here

Which sits at the rear of the dropout.

Alternatively, you could go down the internal geared route.

Both options have their own pros and cons.

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  • thanks, yes not sure the tubing would support a front mech, but I'm sure that previously my dad had a front mech on it. Not planning on putting one there. – Andrew Welch Nov 16 '20 at 13:06
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    You can get all sorts of adapters for front mechs, but if you were good with single speed before, and just want some gears, then single ring in front makes total sense. – abdnChap Nov 16 '20 at 16:09
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Yes. Absolutely. Simply install an internal gear hub.

Prices for internal gear hubs are basically what you want to spend: You can buy decent second hand IGHs (SRAM 7 speed, 300% gear spread, super reliable) for as low as 25 Euros, or you can invest roughly a thousand euros into a new top-of-the-list IGH (Rohloff, 14 gears, 500% gear spread, super reliable, no-delay switching, losses similar to a chain-shift bike), and there are quite a few models in between these extremes.

In any case, with an IGH you get much more robust gear shifting than with a chain-shift bike, and you won't need to dish the rear wheel or widen the stays of your frame(*). It's really the worry free solution.


*) Unless the frame was built for axles shorter than the standard 135mm that is common for single speed and IGH bikes. But even if that's the case, you won't need to widen the stays nearly as much as you would need for a large cassette. You'll most likely be able to do it with your hands alone.

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    Having installed a Shimano 8 speed hub onto a singlespeed frame, I can tell you that its very likely the stays will need to be widened. Luckily since the frame is steel it can just be forced without worrying about weakening it. I managed to do it with arm strength alone. – Turksarama Nov 16 '20 at 22:08
  • @Turksarama I don't know that particular IGH, but I assume that it has the usual 135mm width? I guess it's well possible to construct a single speed bike with a shorter axle, and in that case, you do need to widen the stays a bit. But you won't need nearly as much widening as for a 10x cassette, so the advantage of going IGH remains. I'll add the disclaimer to my answer, though. – cmaster - reinstate monica Nov 16 '20 at 22:21
  • Yeah, 135mm. I don't know how wide the hub was on the original singlespeed axle but clearly less than that. I'll have a look when I get home (if I remember). EDIT: Its a flip-flop hub and it seems they are normally 110-120mm. – Turksarama Nov 17 '20 at 0:13
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Looks like this frame might designed for derailleur cable setup, probably with down tube shifters. It looks like there is a cable housing stop on the chain stay, and the dropouts do not allow for chain tension adjustment. Even if the frame isn’t set up for derailleur cabling, there are bolt on cable housing stops available.

The rear dropout spacing magic be 120mm or 126mm. Current standard dropout spacing for derailleur hubs is 130mm. If you have a narrower spacing you can try to find a wheel with a appropriate hub, which will probably allow you to run a up to 7 speeds, likely with a freewheel (opposed to freehub/cassette). With a steel frame you can expand the rear dropouts to accept a modern wheel which will allow you to go to 11 speed drivetrains. RJ The Bike Guy has a great comprehensive video on his channel.

The other difficulty is how to mount a derailleur, without detail on the rear dropouts we can’t give specific advice, but if there is no dedicated derailleur mounting hole, there are hangers that fit in the dropout and a retained by the quick-release or axle nuts.

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  • actually you are right it does have a mount for down tube shifters. – Andrew Welch Nov 16 '20 at 14:35
  • @AndrewWelch: Double-sided L-R or just right side i.e. rear. If you want to use a FD, you can use either a collared FD or a brazed-on type FD with a separate mounting collar. Seat tubes had a pretty much standardized diameter and collars are going to fit. – Carel Nov 17 '20 at 18:03

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