If you followed me on dionridesbikes.com, you know I love single speeds. They really do just suit me and my riding style very well. After messing around with my old KHE MTB (trying to convert it to a fixed gear road bike) and realizing how much of a chore it was to ride, I decided to just plunge in and buy a cheap'ish SS/Fixed frame to build up. I found this frame on eBay for $99.99.
I know I wanted steel - 4130 or better. For most of the build, I was able to use what I had in my garage, but going SS as opposed to fixed gear, I needed to buy a few things like brakes, levers and a freewheel. I chose not to go budget entirely - and purchased a White Industries 16T freewheel to go on this bike (the BEST thread-on freewheel on the market).
The Vilano frameset arrived and it was as I expected any Chinese frame to look like. Great paint and mediocre welds; a headset and BB were included. I tossed the headset in the parts bin and opted for a Mojo Fixed sealed one instead. The BB, though heavy and cheap, was your run-of-the-mill square taper - which I didn't mind since my old 175mm Deore cranks were to go on this build. The frame requires a 25.4mm seat post which threw me off - I was expecting a 27.2mm (which I had in my parts bin). For the first ride, I had to use an old BMX seat post while waiting for the generic silver aluminum one to arrive (as shown).
There are two water bottle mounts and rear rack screws, as well. This lends to being a great base for a commuter bike.
I've read on other blogs that the stock bike was heavy, so I actually weighed the frame before I built it. While it may be 4130 (which I have no way of knowing this is true) - I think the weight comes from the lack of butting the tubes. So, what we have here are solid, heavy steel tubes with no treatment. The frame (only) weighed 6.58lbs. I can't expect much from a cheap Chinese frame, but if you're reading this with the intent to purchase one of these - and you're a weight weenie - be advised. The fork was heavy, as well.
As I said, it's been awhile since I've ridden SS, and it definitely showed on this ride. I purposefully geared this bike a little lower at 40X16 - which is about 66 gear inches; I intend to do big rides on this bike. I also went with my preferential wide bar (30in wide). I kept the wheelbase short, as well, by using a half link in my KMC chain and moving the rear wheel as far forward in the dropouts as possible.
I did the local climb and got a little beat. Not "walking hills" beat, but I truly did feel it. I was a little disappointed in myself to be honest - but I had to take in account that I haven't been riding straight-chain for some time. I spun out on the descents, and kept a steady pace on the flats. Because of the shorter gear inches, I didn't get up to the flat-out speed I wanted, but the gearing did help when I was faced with 12 miles of headwind on my way home. So, I am happy with my chosen gearing. When I am ready to do those big rides (like a century) I know that the gearing will suit me just fine.
The frame felt stiff during the climb and sprints from stoplights. and isn't that much of a pig as I thought it would be - my complete build (without the saddle pack, pump and water bottle) is only 24.6lbs. Not too shabby for a somewhat budget build.
Overall, I am happy with it. I'm a little concerned with the rear triangle strength over time - but then again - this frame set was only $100. So, if this lasts me 5-10 years, I really did get my money's worth. Weight can be an issue for some, however my build is only 24lbs. It isn't light, but it isn't very heavy, either. I could probably drop a lb. with lighter folding tires when these are ready to be replaced. When the time comes for replacement, I will actually spend the money on a solid, quality American-made frame and fork.
Is the Vilano 4130 frame set a boutique weekend racer build? No. Is it a cool and fun bike to get your SS kicks? Sure. #vilanofixedgear