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Building a Single Speed Bike with a 183rd Street Frame

As we’re getting ready to gear up for summer, my wife was looking for a new bike.  I wanted to get her something cool and unique, and (selfishly) use the opportunity to indulge myself in a bike building project.  I heard building a bike was a pretty straightforward process, and in a worse case scenario I’ll just bring the parts to a bike shop and have them finish it up.  We knew we wanted to go with a single speed- a friend has a Trek Soho S which I fell in love with.  A single speed is perfect for jetting around the city- really light and nimble.  The acceleration is surprisingly easy and you hit a nice cruising speed quickly.  I’m anxiously awaiting to compare this custom build with other commercial bikes.

The Bike

We headed over to the good folks at Ride Brooklyn for a recommendation on what to buy.  It’s a great bike shop with a really friendly and helpful staff.  My wife wanted something light and we both wanted to keep the cost down.  They had two frames handy for comparison: An Origin-8 track frame and a slightly more expensive 183rd Street track frame.  The 183rd Street frame was a lot lighter than the Origin-8 (surprisingly so) and has a nice powder coat paint job in black which gives it a cool matte finish.  The owner built a bike using the same frame, so we figured it was the way to go.  My wife is 5’4″ and we got the 51cm frame and fork.

Half the parts ready to go. My boss says only in NYC do you build a bike in the kitchen.

We also got a pair of Velocity Deep V rims in lime green with Formula hubs and a purple Origin-8 crank.  Once I saw everything together this bike is definitely getting a nickname: “The Joker”.

The Build: Bottom Bracket

With parts in hand, it’s time to get building!  I started with the bottom bracket, which is an Origin-8 cartridge style bracket with a length of 107mm.  It turns out I should have gotten the 103mm, but the 107 will work just fine.  Check the specifications of your crank to find out for sure (I thought it would have to do with the frame, but it’s sized for the crank).  I followed this video from Bicycle Tutor to find out what to do.  It’s pretty straightforward.  Honestly, the hardest part was figuring out how to get the lock cup off the bottom bracket.  Hint: You just pull it off!  I kept turning it and was afraid to pull too hard.  Turns out, not a big deal.  I borrowed a bottom bracket tool, but didn’t have a torque wrench to find the right resistance.  Using some polylube 1000 to grease the threads,  I just screwed the bracket until it was pretty tight and checked the turn on the spindle.  Seemed alright.  I couldn’t get the lock cup flush with the frame on the non drive side, but it turns out this isn’t a big deal.

The Headset

The 183rd Street frame has a threadless 1 18″ headtube.  I picked up a Crane Creek threadless headset, and, funny enough, used their great video on how to install a threadless headset.  I didn’t have a threadless headset press, and tried using a 2×4 and a hammer to get the bottom and top cups on.  It didn’t work.  Lesson learned: Don’t try using a hammer to bang your threadless headset on the frame.

Headset fully pressed on frame, but text is off center
Fork with crown race installed. You can see the sticky tabs I used to true the wheel.

You need the right tool for the job.  I didn’t want to buy a tool, so I brought the headset and frame back to Ride Brooklyn (I should start a side bet to see how many times I need to go back there!) and they pressed the cups on the frame, and used a crown race setter to put the crown race on the fork.  I did mess up a little bit, because I forgot to center the logo on the cups when I put them on the frame. I already had them half on when I went to the store and didn’t want to deal with taking them off again.

Next Steps

Lacing and truing the wheel was a fun but tedious process.  I’ll write about that next as well as putting the other parts together, so check out the BikeBuild tag to follow on the progress.