Tiny Track
November 14, 2011 4:43 PM   Subscribe

TINY TRACK. I want to know every single option for a short girl building a fixed-gear bike. What manufacturers make frames smaller than 47cm?

BRANDS THAT MAKE FIXED GEAR/SINGLESPEED COMPLETE BIKES, FRAMESETS, OR FRAMES 47CM OR SMALLER This is not an endorsement of quality: Jamis, Gunnar, Mercier, Fuji, Milwaukee Bicycle Company (FGFS bike, not track), All-City (FGFS bike, not track), Surly, Swobo. POST MORE OF THESE
BRANDS THAT MAKE FIXED GEAR BIKES BUT ONLY IN LARGER SIZES They may or may not make smaller geared bikes: Trek, Torelli, Cinelli, Euro-Asia Imports (manufactures keirin bikes under multiple brand names), State Bicycle Co, Leader, Masi, Soma, Felt, Brooklyn Machine Works. IF YOU POST ANYTHING BY THESE BRANDS, YOU DIDN'T READ THE QUESTION.

I'm a five-foot-one female with a 27" inseam. The tallest bikes I feel comfortable on have 47cm seattubes; I know it's all vague measures that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but I'm tiny enough that I know anything 48cm+ is way too tall. Once I narrow my options down by size, I know enough about my own preferences to figure out what my best option is; but I need to know every option available in order to make an informed decision.

MORE INFORMATION FOR BIKE NERDS: This will be built up as an all-around fixed gear street bike/commuter with a front brake. I'm looking for a frameset only (my lovely custom frame died in a car accident, I still have the rest of the parts) though I have enough connections that I might be able to find someone willing to part out something that's usually sold as a complete bike. If a frame is sold without a fork, that's fine, I can get a fork. I need a fork that's drilled for brakes or a fork that can be drilled for brakes. I'm looking for a sort of relaxed track geometry, the FGFS bikes mentioned above were only mentioned for sake of completeness. 

I'd prefer steel. I'm pretty heart set on a respected manufacturer; something made in the country where the company is based, not in Taiwan, is a huge bonus. Preference given for 700c, though I'd consider reluctantly 650s, points deducted for any sort of unnecessary braze-ons. I'm looking to spend about $400-$700, so, like, I'm not going to buy a Mercier Kilo TT, but I also can't afford a custom Panasonic NJS frame, you know?

PLEASE DO NOT POST: custom bike makers (I'm painfully aware of them, believe me, it's out of my budget right now), frames built to be geared bikes, frames where the seat tube is over 47cm
posted by Juliet Banana to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Salsa and SE (plus a couple cheaper road single speeds).

I would go Surly (especially if you like the ability to run fat tires) or Fuji. I like my 2009 Fuji Track a lot, and a lot of their current models come with threaded forks standard, which I dig.
posted by supercres at 4:58 PM on November 14, 2011

One US-built steel track frame that I know of is the Rodriguez Shiftless. It comes in 47cm but is a bit north of your price range - still below a bespoke frame, however.

The IRO "50cm" framesets are actually 46cm C-C, but they may still be too long in the top tube. They also formerly (?) made the 46cm Mark V HD (Heidi) with a 42cm C-C s/t.
posted by lantius at 5:07 PM on November 14, 2011

You're in Chicago, right? Have you talked to Yojimbo's Garage? They seem excited about helping smaller folks get on track bikes.

Also, pake goes down to 47 cm on this frame, but check the measurements, of course.
posted by pullayup at 5:37 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

OH SHOOT. That's not a fixed gear frame, when did they start doing that???
posted by pullayup at 5:39 PM on November 14, 2011

The IRO "50cm" framesets are actually 46cm C-C, but they may still be too long in the top tube. They also formerly (?) made the 46cm Mark V HD (Heidi) with a 42cm C-C s/t.

Would you be comfortable on a nominally larger bike with a sloping toptube?
posted by pullayup at 5:54 PM on November 14, 2011

Would you be comfortable on a nominally larger bike with a sloping toptube?

I'm riding a borrowed 50cm SE Draft frame with a sloping top tube right now. It's doable, but not ideal; I'm definitely not quite as effortlessly fast as I was on my tiny 46.5cm super light and nimble custom frame, and I'm a lot clumsier getting on and off it.

So, yes, I'm comfortable enough riding larger frames with sloping top tubes, but unless they're a crazy steal I'm not comfortable spending money on them.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:57 PM on November 14, 2011

You can order an "off the peg" Bob Jackson Vigorelli as small as 18.5" CTT, but at £413.63 ($657.30, plus probably shipping from England) it's at the top end of your price range. A long time ago, I owned (a much larger) one, and it was a nice bike--sometimes people talk shit about Bob Jacksons, but it never gave me any trouble.
posted by pullayup at 6:23 PM on November 14, 2011

Why are you anti-Taiwan? You may find this article relevant. In case it changes your mind, I'd go for the Gunnar or Surly.
posted by loriginedumonde at 7:25 PM on November 14, 2011

I'd second the IRO HD if you are not a super snob about build quality. AFAIK they're still making them? For everyday riding, my partner (similar size to you) loves it. There are higher-quality bikes out there in terms of the steel craftsmanship, that's one thing I've heard about IRO's. But they're great for everyday riding, they're not super track-geometry, and they fall within your price range. And as we found out when looking for hers, there are NOT many options out there in that range.

The other option that you might want to consider is to stalking Ebay or your local used bike shops for one of those rare, mint 70's-80's era junior track bikes. Or a junior road bike... you can always file the braze-ons off? Upside is that it will be a much higher-quality frame build for the money, as opposed to what your price range will get you in new frames. Maybe you've considered it already.
posted by 100kb at 8:32 PM on November 14, 2011

Or a junior road bike... you can always file the braze-ons off?

Another angle to consider: I'm not speaking from experience here, but it's possible to have a framebuilder replace a steel road bike's dropouts with track ends and respace the rear triangle to accept track hubs. It would run (I'm pretty much entirely making this figure up) $150-$200, and then you have the perfect excuse to paint/powdercoat her in whatever ridiculous color(s) your heart desires. So, if you find a super-sweetheart deal on a nice older road frame (which is totally possible and would be much, much easier than finding a vintage junior track frame), it might be worth the additional investment. Also, once you get back to the mid-80s, the braze-on overgrowth really starts to thin; cable guides, derailler bosses etc tended to clamp on.
posted by pullayup at 8:52 PM on November 14, 2011

Ms. Banana, forgive me if you already considered & rejected this option, but you imply your damaged custom frame was steel. Have you looked into having it repaired? It may be you can resurrect that bike within budget.

Failing that, perhaps you'd like to make your own using the geometry of the dearly departed bike as a template?
posted by richyoung at 8:53 PM on November 14, 2011

Here's a 46cm Leader frame on eBay--opening bid is $149.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:58 PM on November 14, 2011

Asking because you didn't state a preferred TT measurement in your post— did you have a fitting when your custom frame was built? That would definitely help narrow down some of your options. IRO and Surly tend to run long in the top tube for a particular ST size, as does Swobo and Jamis if my memory serves.

You may have success buying a used keirin frameset. Many are in the 46-48cm range, especially for juniors. No braze-ons, typically a relaxed head angle, almost always 700c. Might have to deal with a 110mm rear spacing and/or 9mm axles, but that can be cheaply remedied either at home or by a reputable shop. Of course all NJS frames are made in Japan, usually by hand.

njs-export and track supermarket don't seem to have anything below 48 currently, but these frames are out there... I turned up a bunch when I was searching for the elusive 54cm square Stratos that I ride.

Good luck!
posted by a halcyon day at 1:49 AM on November 15, 2011

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