Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Flatland Commuter Project: Converting an Interex Rebel Contender for Fixed Gear Commuting

I present: the starting point for the Flatland Commuter project bike

I like riding my fixed gear enough that I have often thought of a fixed gear commuter for spinning through my dead flat commute from A to B and back to A (ABA riding). But, as a fairly inexpensive product of the popularity of fixies, the one I currently own has several characteristics which eliminate it from my consideration for a commuter, and which would have to be resolved by any alternate candidates: it's got a track-like geometry which is pretty silly for riding long flat and straight, it has the stupid-tight tire clearance of almost all current road bikes which means no sensible tires and no fenders will fit, and it feels like I would have to do a bunch of other stuff to it that I don't want to think about to make it into a commuter instead of a fun canal bike, if that makes any sense, which it may not, except as further justification or rationalization for pushing forward with a ten speed fixie conversion.

Conceptually at least, and for me personally on my commute route, a fixie makes a lot of sense, as long as its advantages are maintained as adjuncts to my basic commuter requirements around reliability, convenience, comfort, and so on. So far this is only in concept, though, actual experience matters much more to me, so we'll see how it goes when I actually do it for a while.

A relative offered this ten speed to me for free, and after a quick review, I accepted it. What I saw in it that made it appear to be a good starting point for the Flatland Commuter (FLC) project: a nice lugged steel frame with horizontal dropouts and a non-hanger derailleur, an attractive chrome fork, a good crankset, pretty good handlebars, and brake calipers that somewhat miraculously appear to have enough room to adjust down to 700c wheels from the current 27" wheels. On the negative side for this bike are 27" steel wheels, a strange-looking saddle that nonetheless feels OK matched to a heavy seatpost, and good, but old, components. 

I realized all the negatives I just listed will be easily overcome in the fixed gear commuter conversion, which will include new 700c wheels, a new saddle, and a rear rack. This strange agglomeration of good and not-so-good pieces and parts seems sometimes typical of the bicycles that were manufactured during the bicycle boom of those oil-panic early 70s, sometimes strange combinations of what was available to a particular brand and manufacturer at a particular time to match what they thought the not-very-mature but extremely eager market wanted. As bike shops sprang up to meet the rapidly rising demand, manufacturers responded with fascinating good/bad/ugly hodgepodges. My overall approach will be to strip off as much bad/ugly as possible to end up with a good/useful fixed gear commuter. 

The bicycle is an "Interex Inc. Rebel Contender" ten speed apparently from about 1974, about which I can find nothing, nada, zilch on the Internet. Possibly after this post is indexed, the Contender ten speed road bike will take its rightful place in cyberspace searches. It has Shimano Tourney brakes, Shimano Titlist front and rear derailleurs, and SR cranks, handlebars, and stem. It also has some interesting MKS #11 pedals, which seem simple, sturdy, and good. One of my only unknowns about fixie commuting centers on the pedal/shoe dilemma. I am firmly attached to my clipless pedals on all but my current commuter, Yasuko, where I opted for platforms because my commute is only a medium distance, and that way I don't have to mess with a second pair of (non-cycling) shoes for work. But with a fixie I'm not sure platforms are a good idea, and clips and straps seem like they would mar any shoes I would wear. Still thinking through that one.

If anyone knows more about this brand or model, I would love to hear about it.

I just like the way these lugs and fork look

The brakes: maybe room to fit 700c wheels. We'll see...

I found a "Rebel Contender" bicycle on the interwebz, but it's a BMX, unlike this one

37 years later, and the temporary peel-off plastic protective covering is still on the head badge

Horizontal dropout ready for fixed gear operations

Beefy! I may not stick with these over time, but will probably start out with them
And just look at those Weinmann brake pads, ah the memories

ROAD CHAMPION, that's me

I'll probably be working on this for a while, as I'm not in any hurry, have somewhat limited bike tweaking time, and want to think through what I'm doing. At this point, though, I think I'm NOT going to paint it, not only because I'm not very confident of producing a better result, but also because I like this yellow color with its signs of age and character, right down to the far-out 70s logo. I haven't 100% ruled out keeping it a ten speed, but for the reasons I've already listed above, I'm pretty confident the FLC project is a GO. Get up. Go ride.


  1. That is all you need.

  2. This should be a fun project. Looking at the photo, I think your brakes will be able to make the switch over to 700c.

  3. Wonderful colour (especially for the desert!) and wonderful choice of fonts on the "middle bottom tube thingy". I know these are not the reasons you thought important when scoping out its possibilities for your conversion project..... but, they "spoke" to me, no pun intended!

  4. The combination of the temporary peel-off plastic protective covering AND the rivets within same should NOT pass without comment!

    PS: I think that 700c wheels would fit with no brake changes at all, should you find that sort of change desirable.

  5. All: it is stacking up to be a fun project. Regarding the color, I am terrible at color-matching, and am not sure how to get touch-up paint to match--any advice on that?

    Steve, the riveted/protected head badge is part of that cur-razy 70s bike boom I mentioned, so I like it. And those brakes fit 700c wheels perfectly.

  6. Hello there,

    I have a Rebel myself. I do thank you for posting your pics up as I have been trying to figure a better color for my ride. I have not seen a yellow one before and I wanted to make mine more visible. Having yellow as a factory color maybe I'll go with that even thought I will contrast a diffrent color on the lugs to accent there lovelyness. If intrerested here is a link to pics of my Rebel...

  7. Walk the Wheel, thanks for the Rebel Contender pix! I kind of like the blue color of yours though. Mine is from 1973 I believe. Do you know anything else about yours, where it was made, etc?

  8. I know very little about the rebel. I do like mine it's my commuter. If I find more info on it I'll patch it over to you.

  9. Wow! Interex, Inc.

    Interex Industries, Vancouver B.C. - maybe the same company.

    In Canada the Chimo brand of bicycle was imported/distributed by Interex in the 1970s. I think most of the bicycles were Japanese imports.

    The rivets on the headbadge look identical.

    I am interested to know the serial number, to try and identify the Japanese manufacturer.

    1. Someone did send me an email regarding this bike: Interex Inc.was a bike company based in Burnaby,BC. a suburb of Vancouver.They produced a line of bicycles called "Chimo",which where in production from 1968 through 1982.
      They sourced their frames from Sekine and Kuwahara,they also made bikes for the Eatons's department store under various brand names.

      The serial number on mine is DS32218 , if that helps.

  10. I had a red Rebel Contender for commuting from Springfield VA into Georgetown Washington DC (12 miles each way) 1976 - 1978, in DC and then Baltimore 1981-2. Was stolen two weeks before moving back to Guam. It was my horse, with front and back racks for shopping and camping trips. Steel, sturdy and at $100 used, a great value. Only changed tires to IRC 27 x 1 1/4 and brake pads and repacked the bearings myself. Good to go!


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