How to fix a folder

little_deuce_coupe.jpg Of all the bikes in my stable my Fixed Folder is the bike I get the most questions about. She’s also the bike I take the most pride in, having built her up from just a frame and some rims. It’s actually not terribly hard, despite requiring some cold setting. Amazingly, these bikes can still be had new on ebay for less than $200 bucks. So if you like to tinker and want a unique-ish ride, my recipe follows.

Props to Rain City Fix for the updated photo.

Here’s the answer to a question I get from time to time: How’d you make your fixed folder?

  1. Find a suitable frame.
  2. I got a Dahon Boardwalk S1. You can find them on ebay for $180 or so fully assembled. This is Dahon’s cheapie,¬†singlespeed, all steel bike with Horizontal Dropouts and coaster brakes.

  3. Buy some parts:
  4. Mandatory:Rear track hub, spokes, sprocket, rim and tires

    Optional:

    1. Front Rear hub, spokes, rim and tires
    2. Front Rim brakes
    3. New cranks, chainrings, pedals, chain
    4. Handlebar post and handlebars
    5. Saddle

    I’ll go into each of these below, read to the finish before heading to your local bike store.

  5. Take all that crap off it.
  6. The rear wheel must go. It’s asingle speed coaster brake, not suitable for fixing.

    If you’re going to do the wheels, might as well get rid of the front as well. I’d also suggest dropping the cranks and pedals (but hang on to those pedals!), handlepost, handlebars and saddle.

  7. Start Building: Wheels
  8. Hubs: get the best you can, but remember you’re not going to win any races on this little beast. Also: Match hub holes to rim holes for spokes (or some fraction there of).

    Rims: Small wheels are strong wheels, so you could afford to go with cheaper rims. BUT: If you’re big like me (200+) go with good rims. Velocity makes good strong rims, see if you can find them in the right size (406mm). Peter White sells them, so does gearlan. I also bought 36 hole rims so I could use 18 spoke crows foot lacing. Fewer holes is fine, just make sure you match the hub holes to the rim holes.

    Spokes: Here’s where it gets tricky. Most shops don’t stock double butted spokes in a size that can be trimmed short enough for your wheels. Ask for the size you need, a good shop will be able to trim down straight gauge spokes to the right size (figure out the size you need based on the hubs and rims you select, using your wheel building manual or the SpokeAndWheel site). Downhill Zone in Seattle came through for me several times in a row, even when other LBS’s claimed a short spoke was impossible.

    Building: Don’t be scared, building wheels (esp. small wheels) is pretty easy. I used Roger Munson’s excellent book on wheel building. There are several other tutorials on the web. Notably:

    Crows Foot lacing and general wheel info at Robert Torre’s SpokeAndWheel site.

  9. Cold setting the frame:
  10. You may have already noticed that the old hubs you had were narrow. Many folders use narrow width hubs so the bike can fold more compactly, and the Boardwalks no exception. Fortunately, since it’s steel it’s pretty easy to change.

    Rear Triangle: You need to apply steady, even pressure to both dropouts, and a substantial amount.

    Go out to your car and find your tire jack. Place the moving ends of the jack between the dropouts, where the chain and seat stays join – be sure to shield the paint from the jack feet with a cloth.

    Screw the jack open until the dropouts are past the size of the hub you need (120mm for a track hub), probably about 6-8mm past. Let the frame sit for a minute then unscrew the jack and see what distance you got the dropouts too. Steel is pretty flexible and forgiving, if it doesn’t turn out just right at first try, try again.

    The front fork is close enough to just muscle it, as I recall. If not, try the jack again, but go gently.

  11. The hard part’s finished — now add:
  12. Brakes — a front V-brake is what I use, Shimano Dx and an Avid lever. NOTE: Leave lots of extra cable housing between the lever and brake. When the handlepost folds you’ll need the extra to keep the whole setup from pulling itself apart.

    Cranks, chainring,and pedals — The stock cranks and pedals are pretty crappy. New cranks will improve your enjoyment quite a bit. I hesitate on pedals because the existing (plastic, in my case) pedals fold up. This is nice if you have to fit your bike into a very small space, but it takes extra time to screw around with them. I ditched mine, but you may want to keep yours.

    I’m running a 53 tooth chain ring, and a 17 tooth rear sprocket. Keep in mind the old 2:1 thing doesn’t apply with your new, tiny wheels.

    Saddle — the stock saddle is uncomfortable after just a few miles. I eventually ended up with a Brooks sprung Champion Flyer carried by Wallbike. I got mine at a local bike store where they did the initial saddle dressing for free and much better than I could have.

    Handlepost — The handlepost that came on my Boardwalk was not suitable for fixed riding by a large guy. Flexy, squeaky, generally unsafe feeling.

    I upgraded to a 2005+ handlepost from Gaerlan, whichis the single best improvement I’ve made on the bike.

    Note:This is a tricky upgrade. The handlepost only works on bikes which have forks threaded on the INSIDE. The handlepost attaches to the fork by a huge threaded bolt with a 10mm hex driver hole in the top. Check to make sure your Dahon has this type of fork before ordering the 2005+ stem.

    Stem and Handlebars:

    • I also upgraded to the Revolve Stem (from the gaerlan site again). The Revolve stem is designed to use with the new handlepost, and fits it very snugly.
    • I had hoped to use the bike with moustache bars, but the revolve stem can’t hold them tight enough to resist slipping when I yank on them. Instead I’ve switched to some riser bars, which seem to work fine.
    • Tighten the quick releases on Handlepost and stem TIGHT. Otherwise you may have some upexpected air-travel.
  13. Finishing touches
  14. You’re very close. Add a chain, and some tires and I think you’re good to go.

    I used Schwalbe Marathon Slicks (which do come in a 406 size) for my tires, and I can’t be happier with them.

That’s it!



3 Comments

Slick.

Walter from Bike Friday has a fixed Friday that’s pretty nice.

would love a folding bike…... they look weird but great at the same time.  On my commute there is a guy that flies on his literally he romps around at 40kph plus easy

I got a 2008 Boardwalk S1 and the fixed folding handle bars suck!  I wanted to change them out with the adjustable but Dahon told me that it wouldn’t work.  I was wondering what year your Boardwalk is?  I too am trying to trick it out but I might have to cut the handle post and attach a stem.

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