Monthly Archives: March 2013

Converting a Road Bike to Single Speed Cyclocross Bike

No doubt about it. Cyclocross is fun! So is tinkering with bikes using cutting edge hillbilly engineering. Combine the two, and you have a project to convert an old road bike into a single speed ‘crosser!

The cost of this project may range from $50 to around $200, depended upon what you have laying around in your garage. My personal project cost me about $40. I started with a ’70’s Raleigh frame that someone gave to someone, and it kinda got handed down to me. I used old wheels and narrow cyclocross tires I had laying around. My only costs were new handle bar tape, the single cog with spacers, and a new saddle (I wanted a white one for bling). I also purchased a decal as I repainted my frame.

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How my frame started life

First, as a base for your Frankenstein creation, it’s best to get an old frame with the following characteristics.

  • 27″ inch wheels
  • horizontal or semi-horizontal dropouts
  • center pull brakes
  • Drivetrain doesn’t really matter since you will be ripping all of that off (and potentially selling it on eBay to recoup some costs if it’s anything retro grouches will buy).

    A bike designed around 27″ wheels will have more room for ‘cross tires on 700c wheels since 700c wheels are smaller than 27″. This is a way to get the extra clearance needed for a ‘cross bike. If you are lucky, the center pull brakes will be able to be adjusted down enough to work on the 700c rim.
    As shown in the picture, there is plenty of room for muddy 30mm wide ‘cross tires. Semi-horizontal drop outs allow you to easily take up the slack in the chain once installed.

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    Here is an example of stuff to buy in case your garage is empty of parts.

    Frame
    Craigslist frame $75

    Wheels
    Cool looking aero wheels
    You can also get by with used wheels, but these wheels on an old frame would be as cool as this:

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    Cross tires:
    eBay–look for something on the narrow side

    Single speed kit
    From pricepoint.com

    The first recommended step is to strip all parts off the frame. When stripped, clean everything. At this point, you can get out that can of primer grey left over from the ’87 Camero (or any other color you may prefer, even camo) if your frame is rusty, or you want to change the color. It was at this point I realized my stem was stuck (even a torch was useless), and I wouldn’t be able to remove the cranks because the bolt cover was stripped. No biggie. Many of the parts will not be going back on.

    I kept the chrome accents on the fork and rear triangle, but painted the frame stealth flat black and used a gold decal.

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    Next step is to convert the crank to a single ring. Take off the big ring. This may or may not require shorter bolts. You can also try to rig it up using washers to take up the slack caused by the absence of the big chain ring.

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    After that, you can install the single speed conversion kit, using the combination of spacers to get a straight chainline to the crank. You can reuse your chain and take out excess links, after a good greasing of course. Because you obtained a frame with semi-horizontal drop outs, you can simply pull the chain tight and tighten the quick release. If you started with a vertical dropout frame, you would need some sort of chain tensioning device.

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    When installing the components you removed from the frame to clean, remember you no longer need shifters or either derailleur. Most center pull brakes will be able to be adjusted for your 700c wheels.

    (Summer yellow road tire are on the bike in many of these pictures).

    You are basically done with your single speed cyclocross conversion! If you are a city type of folk, you can use this doohicky to fetch groceries or meet your cardigan wearing friends at the coffee shop. If you are a racin’ type of folk, you can use this as a pit bike, or race the beginner or single speed class for fun. If you a a country living folk like myself, you can use your contraption for fetching the mail down your dirt driveway, or riding to the outhouse after Tuesday Wing Night at the Dew Drop Inn.

    Yeeeehawwww!

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    Cobbled Classics Season

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    Another excerpt from the fine rag calledpeloton to get you stoked for the cobbled classics of Northern Europe.

    Rocks have always been revered by sane humans. Skip them, throw them, stack them into walls, build houses out of them, drop them into cannons and roll them down hills. Build pyramids out of them, decorate them, chew on them if you are bad. Paint them, chisel them, put the ones shaped like hearts into your pocket as a gift for someone you love. Ride on them.

    The best rocks are the ones found in Belgium and France that shake bikes and bodies and turn riders into children for a few hours, then transforms them into superheroes.

    They will rattle us into submission, humble us and push us through to better times.

    Note: Photo is of rock wall built by the hands of blog owner, taking away hours of running/riding time.

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    Litespeed Catalyst

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    Image sourced from eBay

    The Litespeed Catalyst was a handmade 3AL/2.5V titanium tube bicycle frame made in Litespeed’s Tennessee facility from 1994-1997. It was the lowest road frame in Litespeed’s line until the introduction of the Natchez in 1996. Litespeed described the geometry as “aggressive but stable”, with middle sized frames having parallel 73 degree head and seat tubes.

    Key Features

  • 3AL/2.5V Ti aircraft quality tubes
  • satin grey finish
  • 68mm bottom bracket shell made from 6AL/4V Ti
  • 27.2 seatpost
  • The first model year was 1994. The derailleur hanger used a 1.25 inch clamp. Marketing materials list a Kestrel carbon fork or aluminum fork as available, but not included. I can only assume the bike was available as frameset only. There were known updates in 1995. In 1996, the tubes were butted and tapered and the seatpost increased in diameter to 1.375 inches. It is listed as available with Record, Chorus, Ultegra, or DuraAce components. 1997 was the last model year, when it was available with 105, Ultegra, DuraAce, Record, or Chorus.

    The bikes often pop up on eBay or Craigslist. A fair price for a complete bike is generally in the $500-$750 range. The frame and fork alone are usually worth only slightly less. Of course, prices can be higher if components are new and upgraded.

    Decals on used Ti bikes are often scratched or non-existent. New decal sets can be purchased directly from Litespeed using this link.

    Vintage Litespeed Catalogs

    My Litespeed Catalyst
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    I purchased my Litespeed Catalyst from a Craigslist ad for $500. It came with DuraAce/600 mix, Ritchey cockpit, and Mavic Open SUP wheelset. The double crank and 11-23 cassette was way too over geared for my fitness level, riding style, and local terrain. The old 8 speed DA stuff has a different pull ratio than newer Shimano parts, so swapping parts to make the bike more hill friendly would not be easy.

    I stripped the bike down to frame and fork and rebuilt it with parts from other bikes. The Ritchey handlebars were like wet noodles, so I swapped in a threaded headset converter and installed my beloved 3T Ergonova stem and bars. I also put on a FSA carbon seatpost to smooth the already smooth ride. For the main drivetrain, I am using 9 speed Ultegra with compact crank, with a Deore rear derailleur to shift through the 11-32 cassette, all sourced from a mountain bike. Mavic Aksiums are a budget friendly set of wheels, mounted up with Continental GP 4000’s.

    When I purchased the bike, most of the decals were removed and the head badge was gone. I found a modern head badge on eBay as well as generic Litespeed decals in black block letters.

    My purchase and subsequent upgrades were an economical way to get on a quality titanium frame. My Catalyst is
    a classic, but doesn’t look too much unlike the current pricey frames you would buy new from Litespeed. I can guarantee there will never be another bike exactly like mine at any group rides, and I have the satisfaction of hand picking parts and building my own bike. It doesn’t perform too badly either with the smooth riding frameset, relatively light components, and the low gearing!

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