Trek 820 – Now Single Speed!

I came into possession recently of an old Trek 820. (Actually, it was too big for Niki and when she upgraded bicycles she never got rid of it, so I annexed it.) I decided I would try and have some fun with this bicycle. It will turn into my winter beater.

I decided I would make it a single speed. The old 21 speeds never did work too well, and single speed just sounded fun.

I went to Performance Bicycle off of Colorado as the last time I was in there I saw a fancy conversion kit.

The Forte Single Speed Conversion Kit comes with all you need to single speed goodness. Includes some cogs, spacers, chain tensioner and a lock ring.

Forte SS Kit - From °Florians Flickr account
Forte SS Kit - From °Florian's Flickr account

The kit is cheap too, got it for $25.

Also needed a new chain, got a nice SRAM single speed chain – $10.

After examining the front triple crankset, determining the rings are riveted on and won’t come apart. So, I just left ’em there. Decided on using the 34T middle ring with the 18T cog from the kit.

For about $35, the Trek went from being 21 speeds to a single speed. Took it for a brief spin. My impressions are great. Single speed is significantly different that multi-geared. The urge to shift is a hoot. I kept trying to reach for some shifters, but none were there. The big wide knobby tires though must go!

Now the bike just needs some fenders and possible studded tires and it’ll be ready to cruise down the streets of Denver in snow!

Thousand Mile Report

Sometime last week, I reached one thousand miles on my bicycle since I purchased it in May. I must say, I am rather proud of my accomplishment.

What I have noticed about riding:

  • Short trips are quicker via bicycle than car or feet. (Less than 3 miles)
  • My endurance and stamina has increased dramatically.
  • My resting heart rate went from 75-80bpm to 60-65bpm.
  • I drink lots of water.
  • My coworkers think I don’t own a car.
  • While I used to think 20 miles was crazy via bicycle, I now realize its not that hard at all.

I have also upgraded a few components of my bicycle from stock form and added new things to it. I’ve probably spent way more on my bicycle than I originally intended, but it was well worth it.

Wanna start riding a bicycle more? I highly suggest doing it. You don’t even need to purchase a new bike. Use whatever you got.  Find something used at a garage sale, or on craigslist. Really, just about any bike will work for city riding.

Start by riding once or twice a week on a regular basis. Live within 10 miles to work? Start there. Trip to work too long? Try taking a portion of it via public transit. In Denver, all buses and the light rail have provisions for bicycles.

After a bit it becomes just another part of your daily routine. I now find myself drooling over new fancy bicycles and keep looking at new components to upgrade to.

In Colorado, bicycles have a right to share the road with motor vehicles.

Share The RoadSome resources:

  1. Bicycle Colorado – Statewide bicycle advocacy group
  2. Bike Denver – Citywide bicycle advocacy group
  3. CDOT Bicycle Manual – A great overview of rules and safety tips for riding bicycles in Colorado

The Drop Bar Conversion

Walk into a bicycle store today, and what do you see most of? So-called “Hybrid” bicycles.

These hybrid bicycle have become extremely popular amongst those new to cycling and those more casual riders. They offer a mix between mountain bicycles and road bicycles. They also tend to fall into the category, jack of all trades, master of none.

I gave into the hybrid hype and purchased a 2009 Specialized Sirrus a bit ago. Overall, I like the bicycle. Got it for a steal. I think Wheatridge Cyclery just wanted it out their doors. The largest complaint I’ve had with it is numbness in my hands. This stems from me placing too much of my body weight on my hands, as well as a lack of positions on flat-bar hybrids.

I decided to solve the latter problem with drop bars. For those not familiar, drop bars are those bars you typically see on road bikes (like the racers use). The curved ends, also known as “drops”, are designed to give a rider a more aerodynamic position on the bicycle. The bars also have an advantage of having multiple hand positions.

I went and purchased the parts online. I tried pricing the parts out at some of the local bike stores in Denver, and it would have been very cost prohibitive. I purchased the following parts:

  • 42cm wide drop bars
  • +/- 7 deg 100mm stem
  • Shimano 8-speed bar end shifters (includes cable and housing)
  • Tektro RL520 Brake levers
  • Some blue synthetic-cork bar tape.
  • Brake cable and housing kit

Total parts racked up to ~$180. Not for those on a minimal budget. You can probably reduce costs by going used on some parts.

One important consideration: Most hybrids use mountain bike style brakes. If you have the linear/direct pull canteliver brakes, you can’t just use standard road brake levers. You have a few options:

  1. Use a pulley device often called “travel agents” to adjust the amount of cable pull.
  2. Purchase some traditional center-pull cantilever brakes.
  3. Purchase brake levers designed for direct-pull brakes such as the Tektro RL520 (my choice)

If you want to use integrated brake/shifting levers, you’ll probably want to use option #2 and get some center pull brakes that work just fine.

After you sort the brakes thing out, its pretty much just assembling parts. Not having much experience with bicycle mechanics myself, I looked up a lot of procedures on Sheldon Brown’s website as well as Park Tool’s website.



Now that I’ve ridden a few miles on the finished product, I am much happier with drop bars than flat bars.

Fighting Bicycle Ninjas

Having ridden my bicycle at night, I’m constantly amazed at how many cyclists don’t have lights. I call them bicycle ninjas.

Albuquerque has a great program fighting bicycle ninjas: It appears they are giving out warnings for improper equipment with free lights!

This would be a great idea in Denver. I’ve already sent an e-mail to the Denver Mayor in hopes that he might establish a program like this.

On this day in history, 1973

Every individual in the United States right now knows of 9/11 as infamous day in history. A great tragedy befell our country. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, and not just American citizens. Excluding the 19 perpetrators, 329 foreign national lost their lives [1].

It is important to remember this tragedy and honor the lives that were lost.


But, how many of you know of another infamous day in United States history? The 1973 Chilean coup d’état in which a milita in Chile overthrew a democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. While a direct link between U.S. involvement and the coup has never been established, subsequent U.S. senate inquiries have established that the U.S. did exert its influence upon the Chilean economy in such a way as to create conditions supportive of a coup [2].

The day of the coup (sept 11) was relatively bloodless. Fewer than sixty died as a direct result of the fighting. What makes this worth remembering is the nearly 2,700 people that died and/or disappeared during the seventeen years in which Augusto Pinochet’s military regime was in power. The Valech Report, released in 2004, is the result of a 6 month investigation into the aftermath of the coup. In the report, apart from the nearly 2,700 casualties, they detail some 400,000 torture victims under the regime. [3]

The most unsettling part is the United States continued involvement with the Pinochet regime after the coup. In a 2000 report released by the CIA, it is explained that the U.S. provided material support to the Pinochet regime, despite suspicions of human rights abuse. [4]

So in addition to remembering the lives lost on September 11th, 2001, let us take a lesson from 1973 history and learn that things don’t always work out for the better when we overthrow governments.

[2] United States Senate Report (1975) “Covert Action in Chile, 1963-1973” U.S. Government Printing Office Washington. D.C.