To Flip or to Flop, That Is the Question

I’ve had this frame sitting around my bedroom, in various states of completion, since May, 2019. I finally got it together this week.

The bike, a 1986, Steel Grey/Silver Trek Elance 310, made from tri-butted Ishiwata EX tubing, is 23″ as specified in the catalog, measured center to top. It’s roughly 22.5″ or approximately 57cm measured center to center.

It’s my first true single-speed bike. I’m running 27″ wheels as Trek intended for this frame, and chose Velomine’s Sun CR18 offering, with 36 spokes and cartridge bearing Formula hubs. I’ve used the same wheels many times before on other bikes. They’re solid and economical.

In 27″, there’s really not much else (off the shelf) to choose from. I’m glad they’re still made. The front wheel is quick release, the rear is a flip-flop, 120mm, bolt on track wheel. I added 3mm of spacers under the lock nuts on each side of the axle to fit my 126mm spaced frame.

As it happens, I didn’t have the necessary 17mm cone wrench to loosen the lock nuts. I did have the also required 16mm cone wrench. I tried in vain to reach a nearby bike shop. It was 3 PM on a Tuesday and they all seemed to be closed or not answering their phones.

Sometimes you need a 17mm cone wrench, right now, and nothing else will do.

Having first tried Arnold’s, among a few others, I decided to reach out to the often maligned Mr. C’s, just a few blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn. They answered the phone and said Park Tool 17mm cone wrenches were in stock for $9.99 but they were technically closed. I said I was two blocks away. They said if I wanted it now, I needed to be there in 5 minutes, because they were leaving for food. I hopped on a different bike and was there in 5 minutes. I purchased the wrench and soon after added the spacers to my wheel.

I’d have preferred a Sugino 17mm cone wrench, but the Park Tool handled the job.

A friend of mine speaks illy of Mr. C’s for not loaning her tools. I understand the sentiment but find the notion they should loan tools debatable. I’ve had my own issue with Mr. C’s.

When I needed a pair of tires, also right now, for a pending bike sale, the cheapest available at Mr. C’s were, as I recall, upwards of $60 a pair, for, to put it charitably, less than desirable rubber.

In the case of the cone wrench however, they came through.

On the bike’s maiden voyage, I didn’t yet have the 22T Euro-Asia Imports cog, so I rode flop side with a NOS 22T Suntour 8.8.8. free wheel.

My first impression wasn’t great. It was fun, but maybe I wasn’t used to the gearing.

A 53T chainring is big, but so is a 22T freewheel. The combo, with 27 x 1-1/8″ tires, makes for an approximately 65.09 gear inch ride. Apparently that’s pretty low. Nonetheless, it felt a bit sluggish.

Today I installed the 22T Euro-Asia Imports cog (with Sugino lock ring), flip side, and went, pretty much, on my first ever fixed gear bike ride.

Pedaling around my neighborhood and through Sunset Park was a revelation.

Getting on was a challenge. It felt foreign for the crank to continually spin forward, not to mention, the inability to easily pedal backwards.

Like most new and unusual things however, I liked the experience quite a lot. The bike felt alive, perhaps more like a horse, than on its maiden voyage (with the single speed freewheel), where it felt more like, well, a bike.

  • 1986 23″ Trek Elance 310 frameset
  • 27″ Sun CR18 wheels (with Formula cartridge bearing hubs)
  • Panaracer Urban Max tires
  • All-City 612 170mm Crankset (perhaps should have considered 165mm?)
  • Tange-Seiki LN 3922 JIS cartridge bottom bracket (110mm)
  • NOS 22T Suntour 8.8.8. Free Wheel
  • 22T Euro-Asia Imports Deluxe Track Cog (with Sugino lock ring)
  • KMC K710 chain (I like this chain style a lot. I tried an Izumi first, but the quick link failed. Perhaps I had it on backwards? With the KMC link, there is no backwards.)
  • NOS Suntour Cyclone brakes (I need to stop with calipers until I have the hang of it.)
  • NOS Cane Creek SCR-5 lizard brake levers
  • KMC Sylvan Track Pedals
  • KMC stainless steel cage toe clips
  • NOS leather Schwinn Sprint toe straps
  • Nitto Randonneur drop handlebars
  • SRAM black foam bar tape
  • Nitto Young quill stem
  • Crane Suzu copper bell
  • Selle Italia Turbo suede saddle
  • NOS Sakae TCO seat post
  • King Cage Iris water bottle cage (I have a love/hate relationship with it. Love because it looks great. Hate because it holds a very limited array of water bottles. It’s designed with the stainless steel Klean Kanteen in mind, not a great choice in the summer. Perhaps I’ll try another of their models, but the Iris looks the best.)

To flip, or to flop, that was the question. I think the answer, is, unless you’re dead tired, flip!

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