How To Build Vintage BMX Bikes

So you want to learn how to build a vintage BMX bike and we all know why. A vintage BMX bike is just like your first real girlfriend. You learned a lot of new tricks, experimented, rode it hard, and then bragged about it to your friends. Well, your first girlfriend has since been married but luckily a vintage BMX bike is easily attainable. Fully built vintage BMX bikes can sell in the thousands of dollars and with a little bit of patience and common tools you can avoid breaking the bank.

To build your vintage BMX bike you will need:

  • Socket Wrench Set
  • Vise Grips
  • Hammer
  • Allen Keys
  • 2×4 Piece of Wood
  • A Mad Desire to Catch Air
  1. Frame and Fork Prepping – The frame on modern and vintage BMX bikes has not changed much. Add your bearing cups to the head tube and the crank housing. Use the hammer and 2×4 piece of wood to ensure an even strike setting the bearing cups flush.
  2. Forks and Handlebars – Slide one set of bearings onto the forks and slide into the frame. Add the second set of bearings and screw down the coupling. Make sure the forks are snug and move smoothly. Screw down the large locking nut. Insert stem into the top of the forks align straight and tighten center bolt. Most vintage BMX bike stems hold the handlebars with Allen bolts. Remove and add handlebars and tighten. 
  3. Seat and Seat Post – Most vintage BMX bike seats were horribly designed. The hard plastic was cut around the seat bracket bolts. This means you have to pry the sides away to get the wrench in there. Grab your vise grips, pull one side away and attach them to one bolt. Insert seat post and tighten opposite bolt with your adjustable wrench. Slide seat and seat post into the rear vertical tube of the BMX bike and tighten your seat post clamp with your Allen key. Now the whole vintage BMX sike flip upside-down. This will act as your work stand for the rest of the project.
  4. Cranks – We have had arguments with vintage BMX purists about cranks that came just short of throwing blows. A lot of the vintage BMX bikes that are being built today originally came with one-piece cranks. If you are building it for show then by all means rebuild it how it may have been available in a local bike shop. If you plan on taking your vintage BMX out for action go with three-piece cranks. Insert your crank shaft through your sealed bearing cups. Slide the chain ring on and attach to crank arm with the single Allen bolt. Tighten cranks to the shaft with your socket wrench. Attach pedals but remember they screw on counter-clockwise.
  5. Wheels – Front wheel is a piece of cake. Front forks are already up in the air. Slide wheel on and tighten. Some vintage BMX bikes used 3/8" nuts but the majority are 5/8". Both sizes should be in your socket set. Slide the rear wheel on and secure chain to rear sprocket and front chain ring. Pull rear wheel towards you to tighten the chain. Use your foot against the seat post for leverage. Tighten the bolts and flip right side up.
  6. Brakes and Final Adjustments – Sit on the bike and adjust the seat height and handlebar position to your liking. Attach your brake lever to your handlebars. On vintage BMX bikes attach your vise grips to the nut and use the screwdriver to tighten. Attach brake calipers above the rear wheel in the pre-drilled hole. Run the brake line starting at the lever and attach to caliper. Squeeze caliper until brake pads are nearly touching rim and tighten down the brake cable.

Your are now ready to catch air and rule the dirt in style with a freshly built vintage BMX bike. It's like having your first girlfriend back but you wont get arrested if you keep it locked in your shed.

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