Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Formula One Bicycle Madness

Most people I talk to have no idea what a Formula One bicycle is. I know that they never caught on, but it seems to me that anyone who walked into a bike shop in the late 1980's had to see them. I guess, though, if you were homing in on the new-fangled MTB's on the showroom floor, you might have missed the bastard-child-of-BMX section in the far corner.

F1 was an offshoot of BMX, which combined that sport and autocross racing. The bikes were essentially 7-speed BMX frames, with high bottom brackets and flat bars, and they were raced around a course outlined by cones in a parking lot. In retrospect, it looks like a lot of fun, to me, but it went over like a lead balloon at the time.
It's almost impossible to find any info on F1 racing on the interweb. If you have any that you would like to share, please do so.

The bikes are relatively rare on the used market. I have had one come to me, in the past 15 years, and it was missing its fork. I ended up building it with a Manitou suspension fork, PitBull brakes (the front modified to run on the 26" wheel fork while reaching a 20" wheel), old-school Dura-Ace cranks and Shimano bar-end shifters on a drop bar.

My friend Shawn ended up with this one.
I have looked for another F1 since then, with no luck. Then, I happened across this site: Willie Nichols is a bike builder in Virginia who produces new F1 frames and sells either framesets or full bikes. I contacted him, and he was cool enough to sell me an unfinished frame, with no braze-ons or paint, along with a rigid fork. And, he gave me a very decent price on it.

Here is the frame, as received, with some random parts stuck on to make it look like a bike.

The seat tube needed to be reamed, and there was no slot at the collar, plus there was surface rust on the tubes from storage. It was exactly what I wanted. I had originally planned on building an ENO-hubbed wheel so that I could adjust chain tension, but I decided to go ahead and put my new torch to some productive use and braze in track ends.

Of course, the frame is welded, rather than brazed, so I had to cut the vertical drops off, then slot the stays to accept the plate-steel track ends.

Once the track ends were in place, I used my Campy "H-tools" to align them.

I found that the Primo tires I was using hit the brake bridge and chainstay bridge unless the axle was at the rear edge of the slot in the track end. So, I busted out the angle grinder and the files and cut the bridges down to a minimal size, and erased the weld bead from the seat stays. I decided that the bead on the chainstays didn't look too bad, so I left it.

With that, the bike was ready to build and ride. I sprayed a temporary coat of Krylon Safety Orange rattle-can supreme on it, and let it dry overnight. I plan on powdercoating it, later, but I just couldn't wait to ride it.

It sports some generic black BMX wheels, Primo Comet 2.1" slicks, an old Super Maxy crank (42x12 gearing), a steel mountain bike riser stem and black bullhorn bar I picked up somewhere. The brake lever is a cyclocross "interruptor" lever which pulls a funky old Lee Chi "Sine Power" center-pull toggle brake from a Ross mountain bike I built up as a "Cafe" fixie for a customer.

This is one of the pictures I sent to the FGG.

I took the bike on a short shake-down cruise, this afternoon, between rain showers. It steers very quickly, but rides otherwise pretty normal. Unlike a modified BMX bike, the seat-to-handlebar relationship is pretty much the same as what I used to run on my mountain bikes back when I was racing.

The bullhorn lets me ride in a pretty relaxed manner (on the tops) or get down and aero (on the horns), so it was a good choice. I had considered a mountain bike riser bar, and I may still experiment with that. I'll put a few dozen miles on these, first, so that I have something to compare to.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.


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At 4:48 PM , Blogger katina said...

oh, the formula one...what a funny bastard bike it is.

At 6:35 PM , Blogger LittlePixelâ„¢ said...

Sweet F1. Thanks for the link to the Rockfish. Interesting (And tempting!).

FYI I'm a 406 wheel freak myself - check my bike a Raleigh Twenty somewhat updated...

Couple of questions (or suggestions - depends how you read them! :)

Would 451 sized wheels fit a Rockfish (bmx are 406 but 451 are a bit taller, a bit skinnier and a bit more 'roady fast'.

How come you got those big-ass tyres (tires) on it?
You need some skinny Stelvios!

Sweet bike. Jealous over here in the UK.
F1s are *non existant* here.

Safe riding etc.
Littlepixel (at)

At 11:05 PM , Blogger Jon said...

I would assume 451's would fit, with a smaller tire.

The big tires serve a few purposes: The first being that they allow you to go up to a month between airing-ups (for the lazy amongst us).

Secondly, they just look good to me.

Thirdly, they allow one to bash through potholes, expansion joints, small mammals, etc. on the road without upset. For the local urban conditions, that is of paramount importance.

Did I mention that I like how they look?

At 6:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi there, great article on the F1 bicycles. I have one question, why or how did it came to 20inch wheelsizes? was it due to steering response? is there anyone out there with an answer? is there a possibility to run 24/26inchers or 700cc?

thanks by the way!

At 8:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article and nice bikest. Thanks.


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