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  1. #1
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    Single-speed commuting in San Francisco?

    My old bike got jacked a couple months ago so I've been taking the train to work, but I'm itching to get a new bike to commute again. My semi-hipster friend (cause you can only be so hipster as a corporate lawyer) is trying to convince me to get a single-speed bike to replace it, saying they're lighter, faster, and much more fun to ride. On that note, I've got a couple questions:

    - Is it a good idea to buy a single-speed in a city as hilly as San Francisco? (My commute path is pretty flat, but I hope to ride around the city generally.)
    - Can anyone recommend a good single-speed bike for <$500? I've heard great things about the Redline 925, but there are so many bike brands out there, it's hard to choose!

    Much thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Senior Member wharfrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wowoah View Post
    My old bike got jacked a couple months ago so I've been taking the train to work, but I'm itching to get a new bike to commute again. My semi-hipster friend (cause you can only be so hipster as a corporate lawyer) is trying to convince me to get a single-speed bike to replace it, saying they're lighter, faster, and much more fun to ride. On that note, I've got a couple questions:

    - Is it a good idea to buy a single-speed in a city as hilly as San Francisco? (My commute path is pretty flat, but I hope to ride around the city generally.)
    - Can anyone recommend a good single-speed bike for <$500? I've heard great things about the Redline 925, but there are so many bike brands out there, it's hard to choose!

    Much thanks in advance!
    With all the up and down hills, you have to look for alternative routes there that might take you a little out of the way but, you can generally stay flat. The 925 is a cool bike. However, you might scrub craigslist for a conversion for sale.

  3. #3
    Hill Climber Spider's Avatar
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    I get around the city pretty well on a single speed. I usually don't have reason to ride any of the real steep hills anyway, single speed or not.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BigDaddyPete's Avatar
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    I love the 925, but I ended up with a 72 Schwinn Super Sport that I converted. Much more fun, and far cheaper. Just had to find the right one for me. Good luck!



  5. #5
    god Judge_Posner's Avatar
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    I commute every day on a singlespeed, and my office is on the exact opposite side of nob hill from me. Since its fairly easy to get around the hill (skirting it to the south past union square), I have no problems. If I lived at the top of a hill, it would be a different story.

    That said, I'm building an IGH wheel b/c I want more access to parts of the city that are off-limits on a SS.

  6. #6
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I'm a strong rider, so I don't have to shift often. I sometimes challenge myself to take a whole hilly ride in one gear. I can manage.

    But I am not taking the gears off my bike. When I want them, they're there.

    And I do not see the appeal of single-speed freewheeling bikes. I don't know if I ever will. They look nice, sure. They're lighter, but their light weight does not make climbing hills as easy as it is with a heavy bike with low gears, so forget that.

    It's a fad.

    San Francisco is insanely hilly. I am astonished that people thought it would be a good idea to build a city there.

    If you ride San Francisco up those crazy hills without shifting gears, you'll get strong. Then one day, you'll be dead tired and will curse your decision which may have been based on machismo more than anything else.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
    Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

  7. #7
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    I did messenger work in SF. And I use a singlespeed for interval training on hills. But I don't agree with your friend!

    Riding the city without gears means either going miles out of your way to avoid the steeper hills - and accepting some addresses as being unobtainable - or messing up your knees. Option 1 is pure fakenger - opting for reduced functionality for "style". Option 2 is just stupid - although I suppose your friend at least has good medical benefits. (I suppose there is an option 3 as well, which is having a SS geared to climb hills and be useless on the flats.)

    For $500 the best bike you could get for riding SF would be something like an early 90's rigid fork cromolly Kona or Specialized, fitted with 1.5 slicks. The longer top tubes of this generation of MTBs gives them excellent speed, they can winch themselves up mountains, the slicks laugh at tram tracks and combine with the high power brakes to give excellent stopping power, and the frames are as good or better than modern $2000 boutique hardtails. $250 would buy the bike with $250 in reserve for fixing up the bike. Buy on ebay with paypal and get condition stipulated in detail - ebay sides heavily with buyers in disputes these days. Or to be really funky, convert the bike to a 26'' crosser with drops.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Judge_Posner View Post
    I commute every day on a singlespeed, and my office is on the exact opposite side of nob hill from me. Since its fairly easy to get around the hill (skirting it to the south past union square), I have no problems. If I lived at the top of a hill, it would be a different story.
    I should say so, your honor. The Seventh Circuit is way on the other side of Nob Hill. That's a big commute, even for you.


  9. #9
    Senior Member BianchiDave's Avatar
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    I can't help you much on this one, i'm also trying to decide (gears or no gears). I don't have the hills you have (Madison WI) but it might be nice to have the option just in case.

    Less then $500 you might want to keep an eye on craigslist (look for a bianchi) heck buy something cheap geard and play around with it. Ride in one gear for a couple weeks and if you think that is your calling then buy a conversion kit to single speed.
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