What’s that fat tire bike? My 650B Convert

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way.

Here are some details on the bike I am currently riding around town (the one seen on my header pic). The 650B wheel size has a bit of history going back to the Porteurs of Paris in the 50’s and 60’s – work bikes hauling stacks of newspapers and such around town. A slightly smaller wheel size with lower pressure (50PSI) and wider girth for a nice cushy ride. It’s smaller than 700C (typical Road bike/hybrid) but larger than the 26″ mountain type wheel. Plus the tire offerings are far more agreeable than 26″ knobbies.


Rene Herse Porteur from 1960

Of late tweakers have been converting old 80’s steel frame roadies (japanese bikes of this period are perfect) because they work. With the smaller wheel, you can clear the chain stays and fork for the fat (PHAT!) tires — 38-44MM! There are a few web pages dedicated to this bike type like 650B Wheeled Bicycles.

Takara Drive Side

Takara Drive Side

I was lucky to fall into a set of 650B rims, mounted to serviceable hubs, with some okay Kenda tires – for $40! New builds are usually 150-200 bucks or more. I then scored a good Takara Medalist frame for not much more. To manage the longer reach to the smaller wheels, I bought some long reach Tektro R556 caliper brakes, a new chain, and I was off. I added some Planet Bike Cascadia fenders, old bar-end shifters, a Nitto Technomics (tall!) stem I had in my bin, an old Blackburn rack, a water bottle cage, one of my reserve Brooks B-17 saddles, and some drop bars. I didn’t care for the drop bars, so I mounted some Velo-Orange porteur-like upright bars for a more… upright ride (and they were a bargain to boot!). Most of the bits were just kicking around the shop.


Velo-Orange Porteur Handle Bars

Currently I’m using a Brooks B68 sprung saddle, but it’s just a bit too bouncy and squeaky, so I’m going back to the 17. The Carradice Pendle bag adds a bit of class, eh? got it used too at Bike forums


Carradice Pendle Bag and Brooks b.17 saddle

Overall, it’s a comfy bike, not as fast as my 700C bike, but speed is over-rated. It takes the buzz out of the road bumps, is a bit grippy-er around corners and plows through leaves nicely. It feels very civilized. I like being more upright as the years go by – being able to see more is a comfort.

Now all I need to do is tune up my snow bike and I’ll be ready for winter. Onward Biking soldiers!

Would love to hear about other riders who have done 650B conversion and have the bikes in an everyday rotation.

UPDATE: I’ve replaced the Kenda tires with some Panaracer Col de La Vie’s. Very nice and a nice price! I’ve also pulled my Cetma porteur rack out of retirement and mounted it out front (stabilizes the bike a bit). She’s a steady roller.

UPDATE:  Well, I decided I’m more of a pannier guy, so the Carradice came off. Also, the CETMA Rack, as cool as it is, is more suited for messengering, so I’m presenting it to Dylan, the one true crazy messenger I know (plying the
Chicago Loop!). I’ll find some other smallish front rack to hold the odd lunch or bottle of beer.


2 responses to “What’s that fat tire bike? My 650B Convert

  1. You build bikes! This stuff is cool and WAY over my head.

  2. Well I don’t weld and braze on the steel bits and pieces. I just took a worthy old steel road frame and munged a few bits on (brakes, wheels, rack, bars, etc). The bit with this is the wheel size. As noted, they allow for some fatter tires. I’ve been riding drop bars so long that it’s a REAL kick to be upright… man, that few inches allows for some great visibility – both by others and me the rider. I can see clear over the hoods of cars!

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