James Black's fixed-gear Swift Folder bicycle

page created April 2004

March 2013 update: the following four photos added to the page.


September 2007 update: the following six photos added to the page.


James Black's fixed-gear Swift Folder bicycle

page created April 2004

I made up my mind to procure a folding bike after one unfortunate day three people plus my full-size bike tried to ride in a Saab fastback, which was very comfortable for two of us.  A fixed gear was a natural choice because it could replace my full-size fixie, and running a fixed gear would simplify a folding bike by making it lighter and not requiring a rear brake (and I can therefore detach the handlebar completely by releasing the front brake cable through its split hanger stop).

I had seen Alex Wetmore's Swift Folder pagehttp://www.phred.org/~alex/bikes/swift.html and decided the Swift would be a better option than a Raleigh Twenty in the long run.  I ordered the frame, fork, bottom bracket, seatpost, stem extension, and headset (installed) from Peter Reich at Swift Folder http://www.swiftfolders.com , for a total of something like $400.  Altogether, I probably put something like $700 into building this bike.

I've put a few miles on it now and I deem it a success: it feels like a real bike and as fast as a full-size bike.  There are only a few attributes that make me aware I am on a small-wheeled bike, for example: I notice the short wheelbase when the rear wheel hits a bump because it pushes up more directly on the seat; the steering feels a little different when I pedal standing up; and the small wheels sink relatively farther into a large pothole.  At first, the stem seemed flexible, but after a few miles I don't notice that any more and I'm not sure it was true.  The fat slick tires roll very nicely and silently.  I wouldn't mind a little longer top tube (it's about 21" and I'm about 6' tall), but it's okay, and it's great to be able to get my bars as high as I want and adjust the height without messing with the headset.  The bottom bracket with the fat tires is a little higher than my old sport-touring bike and lower than my cyclocross bike, and right where I would want it.  It is very easy to trackstand on this bike.

August 2005 update: I've ridden a few thousand miles on this bike for a couple years now, and I like everything about it, the way it handles, etc. The steering is very quick, I believe because the fork's rake yields relatively low geometric trail, but I'm quite accustomed to it and have no complaints.

The bike is easy to fold and I think it is going to be my main commuter ride, and will probably go for quite a few rides in my housemates' cars.

Biggest drawbacks:

*    this bike has no water bottle cage, fenders or racks, because light weight and svelte portability were chosen instead, although I'll still have my Nishiki with rack, fenders, and better lights when I need it;

*    with so many quick release fittings, it is difficult to lock it up and leave it outside (especially the seat and handlebars)

*    if I traveled a lot, the bulky drop bar would probably annoy, and I would probably want a stem with removable face plate

Thanks for your interest,

James Black jamesjamesblack at yahoo.com


Components: it weighs about 23 pounds as shown.

Frame and Fork: Swift Folder, with dual eyelets on fork and no eyelets rear (on rear-facing fork ends)

Rear hub: Suzue basic flip-flop track hub with chromoly Wheels Mfg. hollow axle respaced to 130mm (axle had to be ground down because of thinner-than-usual fork ends) and 1989 or so Shimano 105 skewer

Front hub: NOS Sansin cartridge bearing with 1989 Shimano 105 skewer

Rims: Sun CR18, 36 holes, satin finish (preferable to polished in my opinion)

Tires: Avocet Fasgrip Freestyle slicks 20x1.75

Spokes: DT 14/15 stainless, butted (these were 14/15/14 DB spokes cut in the narrow part of the spoke to proper length on a Phil Wood Spoke Cutter by Rich Powers, so the elbow is thicker than the threaded end)

Track Cog: Dura Ace 14t 3/32" steel ( I will put the Dura Ace lockring on one of these days)

Chain: SRAM PC-48

Bottom Bracket: Shimano cartridge, provided with frame

Crankset: Sugino GT 110BCD 170mm (with the 110mm or so bottom bracket, the Q factor is a low 134mm with perfect track chainline)

Chainring: 52t 3/32" (52x14 gives a 70" gear)

Pedals: MKS AR-2 quick-release pedals (use a quick-release fitting like a pneumatic tool) with NJS-certified alloy MKS toe clips and ALE leather toe straps and buttons

Seatpost: provided with frame, uses an aluminum seat post cut off short and inserted into nickel-plated steel pipe, pinned and epoxied

Saddle: Selle San Marco Titanio 200 (Strada shape)

Front Brake: Suntour XC cantilever with Kool Stop salmon-compound Eagle II brake pads

Headset: 1" Aheadset with steel cups, installed by Peter at Swift Folder at my request

Stem Extension: provided with frame, a nickel-plated steel tube with 1" inner diameter and 1.125" outer diameter slotted with a quick release at base to clamp onto extended fork steerer tube and pinned and slotted so that it lines up straight when you replace it

Stem: Voodoo TIG-welded steel 140mm

Handlebar: Nitto Grand Randonneur 45cm

Brake levers: Shimano 105 aero levers; I applied hot glue to the inside of the unused right lever to keep it from rattling (works like a charm)

Tape: Cateye cotton with Velox rubber end plugs

Drivetrain with rear-facing fork ends and track hub with quick-release axle swapped in

Takes about 45 seconds to reduce bike thus.

Nitto Grand Randonneur 45cm handlebars.

MKS quick release pedals are a luxury.

August 2005 update: I have obtained another steel stem, a Nitto Promenade handlebar B-601, a long, old Deore brake lever, and genuine Keirin track grips. I then mounted the Promenade bar backwards from how you're supposed to mount it, so it points forward like unto a flattened out bullhorn bar. The great extension of this arrangement compensates for the Swift's relatively short top tube. I like this arrangement a lot, and it folds more compactly than the drop bar, if I loose the bar clamp on the stem. I also kept the randonneur bar on its stem and with its brake cable, so that all I have to do to swap between these two handlebars is unclamp the stem from the stem extension.