Steam Rebirth Roller
Happy New Years y’all. I hope you guys had a great holiday.
For the first blog post of 2024, I thought I’d do a little bike check of my very own bike that I’ve been riding almost everyday for six straight months.
But first, let’s go back in time to June 2023.
I had the opportunity to sit and chat with the Ultraromance and Ultratradtion.
I had such a great time hearing these guys talk about their experience in bike trips and their love for bicycle tires. One thing that stood out for me the most was when they were talking about what bikes they would ride, if they were a Tokyo local. (The conversation begins around 25:00 in the vid)
The two mentioned that they would ride a 650B track bike. I wanted to ask the reason why the two felt that way, but I couldn’t since I was very nervous surrounded by all these cameras (what a looser!)
Ever since two of the most influential cyclists mentioned a 650B track bike for their choice ride if they were to live in Tokyo, I just couldn’t help but to think about the reason behind that choice.
“Was it because Tokyo has less hills?”
“How fun could it be to ride a 650B track bike?”
“Why am I so intrigued to this 650B track bike?”
All these questions were going through my head for a week despite I had never ridden a fixed gear bike before, or never was that interested in riding one.
I had to try and figure out how a 650B track bike would feel to an actual Tokyo resident.
“Fuck it, let’s get a new bike. Trying out many bikes is also part of my job anyways.” I told myself to justify getting a fifth bike.
Hmm, which frame should I get…there aren’t too many options for this much of a specific build…
Japan has very strict rules of brakeless bicycles, so I couldn’t just build a 650B wheel and put it onto a single speed frame. It would have to have the right geometry to be able to put brakes on both front and rear that would fit the 650B wheels.
The first 650B compatible single speed frame that came to my mind was the Crust Bikes Break Away Lightning Bolt/Single Speed Lightning Bolt, that my college Asahi was riding. (can be found at 3:04 in the video below)
I remembered how sick his build looked when he had the Bullmoose bars and the Velocity Cliffhanger wheels + Ultradynamico Rose tires. But the Break Away Lightning Bolt no longer exists and they don’t offer a frame size that I can ride for the Single Speed Lightning bolt.
Alright then, I’ll go with the Crust Bikes Florida Man. I was eyeing that bike for a while and Patrick (Ultratradition) was saying that would be his choice as well in the interview. But I soon found out that my college/friend Ming had already built up his own fixed gear Florida Man. I didn’t want to do something that had already been done by a friend…
And his build looks super clean, which I was kinda jealous about.
After a few days of digging through multiple single speed frames alone in the backyard of the Hatagaya store after work, I heard a voice saying “You haven’t forgotten about me haven’t you?” so I went over to the workshop and found a Surly Steamroller frame covered in dust, looking this way…
All jokes. but yeah, I realized that the Steamroller was the frame I was looking for.
The Surly Steamroller was the first bike I got when I joined the Blue Lug team. Funnily, I didn’t know anything about bikes when I joined, but I chose this frame because it looked like a fun bike to ride for some reason.
The smallest frame size, 49 with 700C wheels were a tidy bit too big for a short king like myself. I wasn’t feeling so comfy on this bike, so I decided to take the bike apart to recycle all the parts to a different single speed frame that suites my height and pbh.
My Steamroller ended up hanging from the sealing of the workshop of the Hatagaya store for four years and now it was time to wake her up.
Converting the Steamroller into a 650B build is not that new, especially in other countries that allow brakeless bikes.
Like I said before, The Japanese law requires both brakes on all bikes, so the 650B conversion was impossible, until Kaneyan a.k.a. the Surly mad scientist found out that the *DIA-COMPE* BRS202 super long reach brake works with 650B wheels on a Steamroller.
Just like that, I got myself a 650B fixie.
Shoutout to my college Dunk for building this one up.
And this was how the bike looked like for a while.
These wheels actually belonged to Asahi, the college who had the sick Lightning Bolt build. We had swapped to 700C wheels so I bought the 650B Velocity Cliffhanger wheels off from him. You don’t see it in the picture, but its got a Paul hub.
The tires I have right now are *WTB* horizon road+ tire.
I originally had the *ULTRADYNAMICO* cava JFF tire , but…
Yeah, it didn’t work out very nice.
It does in fact have the slightest clearance and the rear tire doesn’t touch the chain stay when I’m riding seated, but it starts to rub when I pedal out of my saddle, so I had to change the tires. I wish I could have kept to the Cava tires. I think I could have kept them if I had thinner rims, but oh well. I like the WTB tires too. They roll well and it’s pretty good for skidding.
*MKS×CRUST* sylvan gordito pedal
I had these laying around my home and they happened to be able to put pedal straps on, so I just used these. Lovely pedals with lots of space for your feet. I like em’.
As you can see, there’s a ridiculous amount stickers on the frame. All the stickers were gifted by a friend or lovely guests from overseas who I met last year.
I have been riding this bike for six months. In fact, I haven’t been riding my other bikes because this one is too fun to ride.
I still haven’t figured out why Ronnie and Pat thought the 650B fixed gear would be fun, but I want to write how I felt riding this thing.
In Tokyo, you may come across a road with weird cracks and rough concrete that haven’t been worked on for ages. I felt pretty sketchy riding on thin 700c tires when I originally had the Steamroller built up with 700c x 28 tires. I like to ride bikes with a relaxed mind, in stead of worrying about eating shit by getting my tires caught in a crack on the road. But when you are riding with 650B x 47 tires, you can pretty much tank through the rough asphalt and I just like the plushiness of 650B tires.
I had been avoiding fixed gear bikes since I always thought they were too aggressive of a bike, but this build made me understand the joy of riding fixed while riding with a relaxed mind. I’d describe this build as a “mellow track build”.
Another thing I’d like to share is that riding gravel is super fun. I enjoy it so much, I went to ride the Tamagawa river gravel twice while I was on my five day holiday break.
Shoutout to my homie Hiroaki for the sick 35mm shots🤜🤛
I’m probably gonna go ride the same route on my next day off.
I got hooked to this weird contradicting feeling that the combination of the sketchiness of riding fixed gear on gravel and the sense of security of riding wide tires create.
(Here’s what the bike looks like now）
I know I’m not making any sense with my terrible grammar and all, but I just wanted to share this new joy I felt by trying something new on a bicycle. Honestly speaking, I was thinking of selling this frame, but I’m so glad I didn’t make that decision. It’s crazy how changing a few things on a bike can do so much!
Lastly, I would like to thank Ultraromance and Ultratradition for inspiring me to try out the 650B track bike. Y’all mad my life with bikes twice as fun!!