Most of the times when I build a bike, I have a pretty good idea of what I want the end result to look like before I even start. Sometimes, however, the bike will tell me what it wants to be instead. This vintage Bottecchia used to be a pretty boring city bike that I wanted to convert to single speed and drop bars. I was actually almost done with the conversion when I realized that the drop bars didn’t really mesh with the ’90s disco esthetic that this bike seemed to demand. So I ended up installing a set of nice flat bars instead, and luckily I also had a matching pair of Dia-Compe brake levers in my parts bin that worked perfectly. The bar tape I’d already ordered didn’t go to waste either; I used half of it to fashion a set of matching grips.
A particular challenge when converting a freewheel bike to single speed is maintaining proper chainline. Unlike a cassette freehub, which can easily be set up using a conversion kit, a freewheel or fixed cog can’t be moved left and right along the freehub body. I didn’t want to change the rear hub, so instead I moved 15mm worth of spacers from one side of the hub axle to the other, then re-dished the wheel. This is a cool technique that I stole from RJ, but it does require that you get a bit lucky with the spoke lengths, which thankfully I did.