Fixing the Beacon Coronet Fixie

by Danny Zawacki

On my bike ride into work each day, there’s this corner where I cut through a parking lot. It’s easier to swing the corner this way because it is at the bottom of the hill and I pick up too much speed to slow down comfortably and I don’t want to fly out into traffic since it’s a very busy road. So the parking lot shortcut it is. But, unlike the slope down to the corner, this shortcut actually has a bit of an incline. And it scares me.

My bike has, for the past 7 years, been a fixie (for those of you who don’t know, a fixie or fixed gear bike is a bike that has only one gear and as long as the wheels are moving, so are the pedals. This type of bike is a favorite among the hipster crowd). Something about it in college just seemed to make sense and after the first time being thrown over the bars, I learned to respect the bike and in turn love it. I learned to ride with the machine as an extension of my body. 

I loved that the bike was easy to build and maintain. It demanded the bare minimum from a bike. A frame, handlebars, pedals, and two wheels were all I needed. I built my fixie mostly out of parts I pulled out of the trash. I pulled the frame and a wheel out of a pile of frames and wheels on the side of the road. The handlebars I picked up for free from craigslist. The flipflop hub (which allows for a cog on either side of the rear wheel) I pulled out of the dumpster behind a bike shop. The only things I actually bought for my fixie build were the spokes and rim to build a rear wheel, and a cog to go on it. I’ve also replaced the handlebar tape a few times over the years and the tires as well since I ride so much they eventually wear down. But for the most part, it is and will be the cheapest bike I’ve ever owned.

Back to that shortcut that scares me. It scares me because it’s a turn and on an incline and my pedals don’t stop moving unless the bike stops moving. I’m always afraid my pedal is going to be down at the wrong moment on the wrong side and it’s going to catch the pavement, transferring all the weight of me and the bike from the wheel to the pedal. That is probably an exaggeration but it runs through my mind every time I take that turn.  A couple times I’ve come close to doing it; I’ve felt the pedal scrape but never catch. Thank God.

It’s those few scrapes, however, that have me in my current predicament. I took one too many, it seems, and it busted up the pedal. For a bike that can throw you over the bars if you don’t respect it, having a faulty pedal to only increase those odds does not help. I noticed that the pedal started seizing at random while riding and it would throw my foot off. Not a pleasant feeling and it caused me to need to buy new pedals. I was okay with this because for years and years I wanted to switch from my mismatch, basic pedals to something a little more in line with my bike. I wanted cages, as I know them to be called. Cages are pedals that have a cage which you put your foot in. They keep your feet in place and give you more lift resistance while riding a fixie–that translates to better braking. So after riding around with a busted pedal for a few weeks, I finally decided to get a new set.

Then I discovered a problem. I didn’t have the tools to remove a pedal which had been on my crank for far longer than I could have known. The busted one was corroded on and even if I put all my weight on it, I couldn’t get it to budge. So I took it to the do-it-yourself shop on campus. They had the right tools and an extension for them to get better leverage over the pedal. But, as luck has it, that pedal didn’t come off without a fight and ended up braking off still partially in the crank, rendering my crank useless. 

The solution seemed simple, I needed a new crank set. But as I thought about it, if I was going to replace the crank, I might as well replace the bottom bracket so everything thing in the drive-train is tip top shape. But, as you might be noticing is the trend of this story, not everything goes as easily as planned.

That frame I pulled out of a pile on the side of the road was labeled with “Beacon” and “Coronet”. Beacon is the brand and Coronet is the model. And after a long internet search I found out that the internet knows very little about these bikes. They might have been from a company in Milwaukee, if I understood correctly, and the bikes came with a 10,000 mile or one-year warranty.  They were department store bikes, so nothing high end. But what I really needed to know was what kind of bottom bracket I would need. For a lot of frames you can easily look this up but for the Beacon, you can’t. I did find a way to measure and that gave me enough information to make an educated guess on what I’d need (for those of you in search of an answer, the best I can do at the time of writing is tell you that the bottom bracket shell on Beacon Coronet bikes is 70mm and you’ll likely need an Italian thread as this is the common combination for this size). In my initial search for a replacement part, it seemed like I wouldn’t find one for a reasonable price. I toyed with the idea of scrapping the whole bike and finding a new frame to rebuild from scratch, but I love that Beacon too much to part with it. It looks like a junker, but it feels like an extension of me.

I ordered the new parts which I think will work for my Beacon last night. I hope they fit without any issue because I it’s only been two days but I really miss riding my bike every day. I’ll keep you updated if anything interesting comes up.