Ill Pro-ghetto: IT lives…

Got change of 10?

There's not too much you can buy with $8 these days. A coffee and cake. A tube. Maybe a trashy tabloid magazine (certainly not the likes of Rouleur, Bike or Spoke…) How about a complete bike? For eight bucks? Are you kidding me?

It can be done, and yes, I've done it. It helps no end that I have access to a bike shop, with a workshop, which is festooned with discarded parts (my own and other donors) overflowing from buckets, stuffed onto shelves, laying under benches and crammed into boxes in every dark recess and corner. Most of the bits are old, worn and greasy. Wheels are buckled, missing spokes and have braking surfaces grooved from years of brake pads mixing with road grime to form a nasty grinding paste that could be used for industrial applications. There is an odd frame here or there, but usually they have been stripped bare and are just waiting for Nathan's Hacksaw of Death to read their final rites, rendering them scrap metal and helping to boost the shop beer fund.

But, occasionally, some make it out alive.

I'd been commuting on an old Peugeot hybrid that I had deemed too flogged-out for its owner to ride, and who had wondered about getting the drivetrain replaced. She left with a shiny new steed, and the Pug was banished to the back of the workshop, hanging forlornly with the other sad, rejected bikes, some already being picked of their organs and looking like shadows of their former selves. Weeks later, I dragged the old Pug of its hook and risked life and limb by riding it the 5km between home and work a couple of times a week. It felt like the fork was about to seperate from the frame, and the imminent slipping of the chain over cogs was always in the back of my mind, putting my nether regions at risk of top-tube trauma. But her time had come, and when Nathan decided it was time to clean out the workshop, I spotted the perfect replacement.

Why hadn't I seen this before?

Well, maybe because it had lain under piles of broken frames, forgotten. And now, here it was, about to be clamped into the vise and cut into small bits of alloy and mixed in with the empty Coke cans and broken rims. It was that close. I asked of its condition, and why, if there were no cracks, was it going to scrap? It had become an inconvenience, just taking up more space and not having any kind of future to be used in its intended state. I saw potential in it though, and the chance to give it a new life as my commuter/rain bike.

There was a matching carbon fork, Nath told me. Cool, well while you're sorting through the thousands of bits and pieces, can you look for a headset, seat-clamp and derailleur hanger? Within minutes these vital organs were procured, and Ill Pro-Ghetto was underway.

And now, it has life… and I love it. (Is 'it' too harsh a term? Should I refer to 'it' as 'she'? No, I think of it as a kind of Frankenstein bike, and 'it' is simply IT!)

I love the fact that its parts are all mismatched. A Shimano R560 front wheel with an Alex shitter rear. A Tiagra RH crank (with single 39t ring) sits opposite an old 105 lefty. At least they are the same length. An XT Rapidfire shifter moving a SRAM chain across 9 cassette cogs all from different parents, mixed and matched to form an 11-26 block. The riser bars, saddle and grips all came from Josh's 29er, and cost me a beer. So where did the eight bucks come into the equation? A couple of brake inners and a gear inner… I even patched some old tubes from the pile regularly pilfered by Uni students for making some weird project or holding their pants halfway around their asses.

And you know what? IT has made me want to ride to work again, to ride more, on it and also my other bikes.IT has given me a new lease on life. I guess it's just returning the favour.

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39 Replies to “Ill Pro-ghetto: IT lives…”

  1. Damn. Looks great. The mongrel/mixed breed factor enhances rather than detracts.
    For eight bucks, I’ll take a dozen.

  2. Tres bien, Brett! Love it; love breathing life into frankensteins!

    My garage (well, currently amicable ex garage) sounds like a smaller version of your bike shop, due to amicable ex’s penchant for owning/building/fiddling with as many bikes (road, mtb, cyclox) as possible – great for me, i get the leftovers and awesome tech support.

    There’s a green plastic laundry basket that’s semi-infamous in town (phone rings, “hello?” “hey k, this is gary. i was supposed to come by and see if pete had a stem in the magic green basket…”); never know what you’ll find in there.

    I gave my first racing bike (one of Trek’s first aluminums) to a dance student of mine who was sequeing from triathalete to roadie. She eventually got a new road bike of her own, but mr. trek (the ONLY inanimate object in my life i ever anthropomorphised with name – except i didn’t really think of it as a “he,” it was just “mr trek”) lives on as her daily ride – what a great feeling to know it’s still out there leading a happy life!

    her comment: “My first road bike (previously owned by the fabulous K). Pat’s worked some magic on this bike and it is now a kick a$$ commuter!

  3. Scrubbed upalright ay! Damn should have taken that frame when Nath offered it…

  4. Nice post, Brett. Got me fired up to make some headway with my own progetto (not ‘proghetto’ – my street credentials don’t stack). I must pay more attention next time I stick my head into the workshop. (Also, nice to see so many photos of nothing but bike…)

  5. Good work Bretto!
    Although I’d love to know where I can get an $8 tube in welly these days…
    Out of interest, what are those fenders?

    Can we at least see some shots of the frame bro?

  6. Awesome work, Brett!

    Eight bucks is completely crazy. I don’t envy bike shop employees who have to answer stupid questions from people with sippie coffee cups who have no intention of buying anything, just in to kill time; I do envy being able to build up a full bike for $8.

    That’s one sweet ride! I’d love to have it in my stable. Ride on!

    CJ – I’m guessing those are either Planet Bike SpeedEZ fenders or SKS Race Blades. If I had to put money on the line, I’d say SKS.

  7. Nice stuff, Brett! My winter progetto involved putting together the following. I wish I could claim an $8 bill, but I came in under $200 (including V decal). I’m enjoying the singlespeed and will need to go fixie in the near future.

    And you know what? IT has made me want to ride to work again, to ride more, on it and also my other bikes. IT has given me a new lease on life. I guess it’s just returning the favour.

    And I can totally relate to this. It’s been a treat getting out on what is easily the most beater bike in the garage on a regular basis””reinforcing the fact: I just like to ride bikes…

  8. Sorry””accidentally submitted post without the vital info: a mid-1980s Raleigh Olympus (Tange 5) frame. I sanded the frame down (to avoid chemicals), and repainted. Crank and BB were acquired from LBS mechanic from his old ride; seatpost from my son’s discarded bike; wheels online. The saddle and bar tape were both acquired from friends and don’t match as close as I’d hoped. My local coffee shop sells OCTTO tape, which looks pretty nice and they have a nice brown, which is a much closer match, so that will be switched in soon.

  9. Nice one Brett.

    Don’t think even I could scrub up that sweet for 8 bucks!

  10. Yeah, I think the fenders are ‘Blades. That thing is rollin’ dirty – AWESOME. I’m in dire need of an around-town commuter, as my commuter/rainbike recently got it’s bits back and became way to nice for beating around town and went back to being a working machine only.

    I’m afraid, though, of investing more than $8 because I’ll inevitably want it to be perfect. Stupid brain. Ah well.

    Fantastic tale; I love the fact that there are different cranks on the left and right, which goes against all sense of symmetry and balance. “At least they’re the same length.” SOLID GOLD. Like it’s an option. Love it.

    Conjures up memories of the time I change my brother’s crankset around so his cranks were at 90 degrees to eachother. His body language as he worked through what was different was classic. You must try this on someone if you haven’t already.

  11. Just got the pun, “ILL PRO GHETTO”. Slow, I know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to appreciate the joke a little extra.

  12. I was at the shop the other day and “Mutton Chop” Dave walks in with a circa 1980’s steel Eddy Merckx frameset in Moltini colors slung over his shoulders. He said he got it from some guy in Germany that restores old steel frames. The thing looked like it just came out of the doors at the factory. Even though I just dropped $6k on my new LOOK I was very jealous. I really want an old steel bike with modern drivetrain.

    N +1 right?

  13. @Cyclops
    Dude! You have to read up on some of the 1980s Raleigh innovations. Not sure why this never caught on. Actually, it’s just a bad pic: the children’s scooters are in the background and account for two of the extra seat stays.

  14. Great post! And I like the pix of the cobbled commuters. Gives me inspiration. :-)

  15. Nice bike Brett! I so love an urban commuter like this; tough, already a little beat up, simple, good looking in a monster mash kind of way. And if stolen in front of pub you may be pissed off but not out a lot of money. The front wheel looks like it is worth a lot more than $8.
    This might be one of the best reasons to ever work in a bike shop, this and in-house discount down on things. It is not the hourly wage.

    I like to blue frame color.

  16. While I love a high-end race machine as much as anyone, I also have love for a trusty, loved lock-up/rain/winter/beater/whatever bike. Everyone needs one. I can’t understand people who will ride for five hours on their road bike, but then jump into a car to head down the block. Bikes have many uses! If you can put $8000 into a rain bike, you can surely put $8 into the IL PRO GHETTO whip.

    Frank – awesome to fuck with your bro by changing the cranks like that! I’m waiting to pull that trick on a friend. And once I get ’em with that one, I’m like to try and mix up the cogs on the cassette so the shifting is all weird. (I think this can be done, right?)

  17. Brett this Progetto is really cool, I also like the Steampunk progetto,
    then I saw the Cyclops gif…

  18. I am thoroughly confused as to why this bike has a front derailleur. To keep the chain from coming off?

  19. @CJ



    The fenders are Topeak Road DeFenders. The rear has a clip that is supposed to fix to the brake mount, but there was no clearance at all for some reason, so I mounted it behind the brake. It sort of floats there.

    I am thoroughly confused as to why this bike has a front derailleur. To keep the chain from coming off?


  20. (wanders into shop, drinking coffee from a sippy cup, pokes in the 50%-off bin…)

    Hey Brett, that really is a nice set-up, particularly the color and the sleek lines. Is the front derailleur needed for a single ring when there is a multi-cog set in back (as opposed to Steampunk’s SS)? I’d like the same configuration for my commuter.

    (nods, takes a free bike map, walks out…)

  21. two people, on what I assume are two different continents, typing the same question simultaneously.

  22. I forgot that you’re not from the States as you’ve spelled favour properly and not favor. Anyhow, you lucky lucky bastaad. The fact that you can build a bike at all is something. It’s taken me nearly two hours of brute strength and ignorance to remove my old cranks! I salute you.

  23. @Steampunk

    +1 and +1 for V decals.




    Guess what! I can build a bike! I wrenched at and/or managed two bikeshops in and out of early days of cycling. I didn’t happen to build the commuter I posted about above, but thought (besides the emotional connection, which seemed like people here might appreciate… my old noobie racing bike, that I sold my CAR at the time in order to buy, is still out there, happily spinning it’s wheels!!) it was a brilliant job – the chain guard is kick ass.

    It was actually transformed by the long time BF of the current owner (the GF I gave it to, as HER first roadie); Jonathan Patrick McCarty (not to be confused with Jason McCartney), currently a US Domestic Pro; was on Slipstream/Garmin in Europe I believe in ’08-’09.

    I will repost so I can look at it again and smile, along with admiring Brett’s work of art.

  24. i made my BF a Raleigh about a year ago. i found the frame dumped in a park. and managed to build it up old school quality shimano 600&700. it cost about $50AUD for new cables, brake pads, and a chain. i had pedals, wheels, and bar tape donated. the rest was on the frame, cleaned, and fixed. youtube was awesome to learn how to fix a bike!

  25. You know the old Pug I mentioned in the article? Well, I couldn’t send it to the abattoir either, so it got the treatment too… know how much it cost? I donated it to my flatmate, it’s a bit big for her but she’s pretty stoked just to have a bike.

  26. @Oli
    I guess all the rear ones crap out and die, leaving the fronts widowed, to fend for themselves, left on a shelf until someone desperate enough comes along…

  27. @ Brett
    @ anyboby

    Deep respect and envy. My current ride (example pictured)is so dire I would swap a limb for what you have built for $8 (£5 Sterling).

    I remember my first 2 wheeled bike was built from parts stolen from the local rubbish tip. I was 9 years old and my big brother helped me to build it. We called them bomb bikes. They had no brakes unless you count school shoes which any self respecting boy used for braking at the time.


  28. @rnseltz

    Do The Rules apply to commuters? (Rule’s 29 and 74 come to mind)

    Yes, though the Keepers really have the final say. I just got a sticker for my car that says; This Machine Eats Hipsters.

  29. I thought that I would chip in on 8 dollar bikes. Working in a shop for many years has rendered a wealth of parts that sit in my garage awaiting my whim. Out of pocket costs on this bike at the time I built it were laid down only for 2 cables and a BB cable guide. I call it Frankentrek.


  30. Now that I’ve got some tools – enough so that I can do damage– err, minor repairs to a drivetrain, I’ve been thinking a LOT about building a project bike. Seriously inspiring, folks.

    @JamesYou got another copy of that photo sir?

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