I’ve been asked by several friends to post up some advise regarding the care and feeding of a fixed gear bike.
Basically the chain should be tight enough to engage the sprockets without binding (too tight) , or skipping (too loose).
For maximum forward and reverse pressure control, you want the chain to have a slight ‘pre-load’ against the teeth. You can guestimate this very easily by checking the slack at the center of the chain . It should be about 10 – 15mm.
Now this is only part of the task. Because chances are, neither your rear cog or front chainring are perfectly round and centered. So, you will generally have a tight point and a loose point in the chain. So, the next step is to center the chainring. We can do this by un-tightening the chainring bolts just so they are lightly snug, then we rotate the crank slowly until you have the tightest point. Then what I do is take my handy peanut butter wrench and tap the chain in the middle a few times. If there is enough slack in the chainring bolts, you should be able to get an ever-so-slight reduction in chain tension. Then tighten the bolts back up following a star pattern (imagine you are drawing a star in a single stroke – that’s the order you should tighten your chainring bolts).
Then repeat the above process a couple times. This will get you very close to a perfectly centered chainring and consistent chain tension as possible.
After you’ve done this, then go back and check the overall chain tension again. For longest wear and least stress on the bearings, its best to run just a little on the loose side. But for best fixie control and pedal response, its best to run it just a bit on the tight side. I typically run my chain tighter on the track than I do on the road – but its a very slight difference.
One tip when tightening chain is to hold the wheel firm and slightly offset from center – maybe 2-4mm, then snug the axle nut. Then push the wheel to center and tighten the opposite axle nut. This will let you ‘rock’ the chain into a slightly tighter tension easily. Especially if you are not using chain tugs (recommended), or have worn dropouts that make it hard to get an exact placement for chain tension.
That’s it for now! I’ll be posting some more basic maintenance tips as we go along. During this exercise I found that my KMC NJS chain was stretched irregularly resulting in more tension variance than I prefer. So, I swapped my chain back to they trusty Izumi Super Toughness and all is good!
The weather has been a bit chilly lately so I took some time to update the site a bit. I add a ‘Shop’ Section so I can put up some various bits and pieces for sale as well. Our Titanium projects are moving along and if anyone wants a custom Ti frameset, then just let me know! Currently we have 3 primary frame types to build from:
1) The ‘Toge’ – which is my original concept fixed gear / SS. This is based on classic track geometry but slightly relaxed for the serious road fixie rider. It also has useful accessories like water bottle bosses and S&S Couplers for quick bail-outs onto a train.
2) The ‘Kyoso’ – which is an all-purpose road bike based on some of the early Tri bikes I built back in the late 80′s. Yes, it seems dated, but those designs were very functional and nice riding. Aggressive seatpost position (74-75 degrees), short, beefy chainstays and generally a low and long position makes it a great cross over bike for Triathlete training and fast touring. It’s custom, of course, so the final spec is up to you – but this is one very nice, ride-fast-all-day bike. Also available with S&S Couplers.
3) The ‘HENRO’ which is our new project. This will be the ultimate pilgrim’s bike. Whether you are riding across town or on a 3mo sojourn , the HENRO is the perfect bike. More upright and comfortable position combined with internal gear hub (Alfine, SRAM or Rohloff) and a belt drive gives this bike a very clean, ‘ride forever’ approach. Combined with S&S Couplers, custom Ti rack and disc brakes puts this bike into a touring class of its own. Sorry no pictures yet ! But if you’re looking for the bike to go round the world in 800 days or the 88 temples of Shikoku, then this is it!
Thanks to our good friend, Hiroshi san of C-Speed, we were able to visit again to the Kawasaki Keirin Velodrome for a day of training and riding on the famous track! It’s very hard to get to ride casually on a Japanese velodrome – and especially on one that is used for professional Keirin events. Hiroshi san is well connected to the Keiring and Japan Cycling associations, so with his special favor, we could enjoy this amazing facility.
Today was a lucky day for two of my friends who got the chance to ride for the first time on a Velodrome! It’s kinda tradition for a little ‘hazing’ - so Andy should wear the ‘Learner’s Permit’ on his Jersey. This is really intended for motorist-in-training, but it works for the track, too!
Inside the Velodrome you can see the ready room for bike preparation and impound. There is also machines for testing the bikes, and of course the rollers for warmup and training.
On the track – we ride some casual pacelines with other riders. Since this is a training day, it’s not uncommon to ride with Keirin pros. You can get a feel for the power and precision these Japanese professional riders have.
Then finally we run some tests of our own. Nothing beats the track for determining your real power and technique. We tried the 1000m TT and also some 200m sprints. By the end of the day I was completely tapped out!
Can’t wait for another day at the track! It should be said that we were allowed to ride non-NJS bikes, but most people who participated brought an NJS approved bike. Track rules are very strict in Japan and there is alot of attention paid to using the most appropriate and professional equipment.