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.
First, as a base for your Frankenstein creation, it’s best to get an old frame with the following characteristics.
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.
Here is an example of stuff to buy in case your garage is empty of parts.
Craigslist frame $75
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:
eBay–look for something on the narrow side
Single speed kit
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.
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.
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.
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.