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  1. #1
    Senior Member GFish's Avatar
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    Singlespeed - good or bad idea?

    Do you ride a singlespeed bike? If you do, what do you like or don't like about it?

    I saw the comment (on the singlespeed forum. ), that geared bikes are for people over 45. Guess that means for anyone over 50, they shouldn't be riding singlespeed bikes. I'm certain nobody here will agree with that comment.

    My story..... started commuting more seriously since August. The bike is an older Diamondback MTB with a triple chainring, 6 speed cassette and 26 x 1.5 road tires. The bike has never fit well, it's tall with a short top tube, kinda strange by today's standards.

    This got me thinking about N+1 and a possible replacement. I automatically assumed, a new bike, would be geared with a 10 speed cassette and drop bars. Now after reading more about fixed and singlespeed bikes, I'm wondering if this type of bike would work for me.

    My commute is 29 miles round trip over mostly flat roads. The roads are open, which means the winds can get intense. The other day, I had to ride in 32 mph gust, leaning the bike into the wind to stay upright.

    On the current bike, I'm in the 48 tooth chainring and either a 17 or 20 tooth cog 99% of the time. I don't have cadence on the MTB, but would guess I usually ride at 80 - 95 rpm's.

    A singlespeed would cost less, reduce cost of replacement parts and requires less maintenance.

    What do you think, is this a good or bad idea?

  2. #2
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I like my single speed (sometimes fixed) bike. It is one of my four frequently ridden bikes, along with my road bike, my dirt road bike and my mountain bike. Adding a single speed bike to the stable is a good idea.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    That's a question that only you can answer.

    Try commuting for a week or so without ever shifting gears. If that appeals to you - there's your answer.

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    My 29'r is a single speed. The best way I can describe it is; sublime. I find it very freeing to not be able able to shift. And much more in tune with the bike, and terrain. Of course you have to decide and put the right gear on the bike before you ride, but that is just put of the challenge.
    It's not for everybody, but I say give it a try.
    If you don't know the way, you shouldn't be going there.

  5. #5
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    I have a single speed (fixed gear) bike I enjoy a great deal -- even rode a century on it earlier this year. But then again, it's not particularly hilly in this area. BTW, that quote on the SSFG forum is from Henri Desgrange, the first organizer of the Tour de France. It's interesting to recall that derailleurs were not even allowed in the TdF until 1936.

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    There is a problem with a fixed gear bike for commuting or any road riding. The bike is a direct drive. Your speed will force your feet around. In order to keep your feet from rotating, you have to be at a complete stop. If you are one of those people who does about 12 pedal revolutions and then coasts for a second or two, a fixed gear bike is not a good idea. Now I am not saying that a fixed gear bike is not a decent thing to use for certain riders. But the fixed gear is not for everyone. The advantage of a fixed gear bike is that you dispense with the rear cluster, the shifters, and the two deraillers resulting in a cost and weight savings. Also, a fixed gear bike being much more mechanically simple is more reliable than a multigear bike.

  7. #7
    Senior Member GFish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Try commuting for a week or so without ever shifting gears. If that appeals to you - there's your answer.
    Pretty close to riding without shifting now, this would be an easy test.

    Quote Originally Posted by PatW View Post
    There is a problem with a fixed gear bike for commuting or any road riding. The bike is a direct drive. Your speed will force your feet around. In order to keep your feet from rotating, you have to be at a complete stop. If you are one of those people who does about 12 pedal revolutions and then coasts for a second or two, a fixed gear bike is not a good idea. Now I am not saying that a fixed gear bike is not a decent thing to use for certain riders. But the fixed gear is not for everyone. The advantage of a fixed gear bike is that you dispense with the rear cluster, the shifters, and the two deraillers resulting in a cost and weight savings. Also, a fixed gear bike being much more mechanically simple is more reliable than a multigear bike.
    I've already decided against fixed gear, would rather have a singlespeed freewheel hub. One of the joys in riding hard is the ability to coast afterwards. Plus, I don't want to be glued to the rotation.

    Thanks everyone for your insight, much appreciated.

    Honestly, I don't know how practical a singlespeed is or even if there is much of a cost savings. It should be slightly easier to maintain over wet and dirty roads.

  8. #8
    Seņor Blues on the path's Avatar
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    Yeah...to see if you can live without gears, select one on your current bike and leave it there no matter what. That's what I did to help me decide on getting my SS. Freewheels are fairly cheap so you can still give yourself gearing options after you've set up your bike.

    I think I developed my road legs riding my SS on a bike path. Not having the option to shift, and not wanting to slow down when climbing yields an excellent workout for developing strength.

    The quietness and simplicity of riding a SS bike is very attractive. As far as maintenance, in 2 years I've lubed the chain, that's it.
    IMO, FWIW, CFM, YMMV, E PLURIBUS UNUM

  9. #9
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Back when I first started racing in the early 70's, I bought a cheap track bike with a fixed gear and installed a front brake so I could ride it on the road during the winter, because that's what I heard a lot of the Euro pro's did in those days. I've been riding fixed every winter since, but have installed fenders and a rear brake because you don't want to be touching the front brake on ice, and it gets kinda cold in the winter up here in Canada.

    Since I stopped racing, I find greater satisfaction in just riding the fixie all the time, for everything. I had a Rodgriguez track bike built for me with couplers and 73-degree angles, and a carbon fork, and I use it for absolutely everything. I commute to work on it all year, I take it with me on business and vacation trips (it's been on 10 round-trip flights in the past three years), I've ridden it in Paris-Brest-Paris, a number of Gran Fondos, and in all three rides of my first California Triple Crown. And I'm hoping to get into next year's Furnace Creek 508 in the fixed gear category, just because they HAVE a fixed gear category.

    I think this is because a fixie is not only a more elegant bicycle, it is also more honest. It is elegant because it is a bicycle stripped down to its absolutely essential elements. If I remove anything else, the bike won't work. It is honest because it's all up to the rider. There are no gears to do the work; every inch uphill or downhill has rider involvement. When you've ridden 200 miles, you have ridden ALL 200 miles, not 180 and coasted down 20. The only thing the fixie does for you is to push the pedal over top-dead-center, but a single-speed won't even do that.

    And I would certainly agree that it's not for everyone. Even riding single-speed is not for everyone. I think one of the biggest draws is that you have to be an expert cyclist (or one who really aspires to be one) to ride one. You cannot ride a fixed gear (I mean REALLY ride one) if you can't pedal properly. But ride a fixie long enough, and you WILL develop proper pedaling technique! I think you get rid of a lot of wasteful motion, like bobbing the upper body (something very common in mountain bikers). And you learn your correct saddle height so you can quit bouncing on the descents. Even skills that you think have no relation to fixed gear riding, like countersteering high-speed turns on narrow descents, when learned under the handicap of a fixie become awesome techniques on a geared bike.

    Yes, I think you should get a single-speed if for no other reason than to protect your good bikes during the off-season. Once you get used to its simplicity and reliability, you may end up riding it in greater proportion.

    Luis

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post

    I think this is because a fixie is not only a more elegant bicycle, it is also more honest. It is elegant because it is a bicycle stripped down to its absolutely essential elements. If I remove anything else, the bike won't work. It is honest because it's all up to the rider. There are no gears to do the work; every inch uphill or downhill has rider involvement. When you've ridden 200 miles, you have ridden ALL 200 miles, not 180 and coasted down 20. The only thing the fixie does for you is to push the pedal over top-dead-center, but a single-speed won't even do that.

    And I would certainly agree that it's not for everyone. Even riding single-speed is not for everyone. I think one of the biggest draws is that you have to be an expert cyclist (or one who really aspires to be one) to ride one. You cannot ride a fixed gear (I mean REALLY ride one) if you can't pedal properly. But ride a fixie long enough, and you WILL develop proper pedaling technique! I think you get rid of a lot of wasteful motion, like bobbing the upper body (something very common in mountain bikers). And you learn your correct saddle height so you can quit bouncing on the descents. Even skills that you think have no relation to fixed gear riding, like countersteering high-speed turns on narrow descents, when learned under the handicap of a fixie become awesome techniques on a geared bike.

    Yes, I think you should get a single-speed if for no other reason than to protect your good bikes during the off-season. Once you get used to its simplicity and reliability, you may end up riding it in greater proportion.

    Luis
    What he says.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  11. #11
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I think a lot of the issue is just what you're used to doing. To a certain extent, you accept what you're stuck with and deal with it. "To a man with only a hammer, all the world looks like a nail", etc.

    Fixed-gear fans will tell you it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But historically, fixed-gear bikes were the original type, and coasting bikes and mult-speed bikes were the later development that overtook them. So evidently, the millions and millions of people riding fixed-gear bikes all those many years didn't feel like they were such a cool item back then, and happily upgraded when they could.

    I rode a Worksman cruiser for a couple of years and put about 7,000 miles on it. And I was okay with it. But there were limitations, too. Group rides were out, as I couldn't keep up with most groups (those bikes are geared 42:21 or so, it's fairly low). There were a couple of rides I couldn't complete because I got too hot and too tired. I mostly avoided hilly routes. And when I got interested in riding farther, I changed up what I was doing.

    To my way of thinking, winds would be a major reason NOT to ride a single-speed bike. That Worksman worked pretty good in the wind, because around 12 mph was a good pedaling cadence, and I could just crank into a wind. However, I was not able to ride 30 mph with a tailwind, which is something I can do on the current bike.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  12. #12
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    I converted a good garage-sale Trek touring bike ($50) to singlespeed with a BMX freewheel and a spacer ($14) five years or so ago, and I love it. I still ride my geared bikes more, but for a quick lunch ride or getting around town, it's my ride of choice. It's not necessary to spend much money if you have or can get a decent older road or mountain bike--just take off the derailleurs, shifters and all but one chainring, replace the freewheel or cassette with a single, shorten up the chain and ride. Took me about half an hour. I put fenders on it and ride it in bad weather, too. Maintenance is done with a garden hose and bottle of ProLink.

  13. #13
    Seņor Member cali_axela's Avatar
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    When you say it's "mostly flat" -- is there a way to put an approximate number on how many feet you're climbing every day?

    I commute just over 10 miles round trip per day, with a moderate hill in one direction, about 340 feet of climbing. I usually do it on my fixed gear at 46x16t, and love it. It's easy to cruise fairly fast on my way to work in the morning, and easy to work myself out just a bit on the short climb back home.

    However, I would not want to limit myself to only having a single speed bike -- or force myself to do longer climbs than this on it every day. If it works for your commute and some of your weekend rides, that's awesome. But it's not as fun to take out on group rides or really long rides, if you like climbing steeper and longer hills; it's possible on a single speed sure, but really not fun or reasonable. I consider myself a reasonably strong rider and can tackle some of the really steep blocks in SF fixed, but it's very taxing. I would not be able to climb longer routes on it, without a ton more training.

    The advice of trying your commute in a single ratio on your current bike, such as 48x17, is great. If you can do that a couple times and don't mind it, go for a single speed bike for sure. And either keep around, or replace the mountain bike later, with another fun weekend bike for hillier or longer rides.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    The bike in my signature is a '64 Schwinn Varsity converted to a 26" coaster brake bike. It's a cruiser. Great bike to pull out and just pedal. I love it, and just finished restoring an American Eagle single speed English roadster lookalike. Neither would be my only bike. There's enough hills and head winds to make gears a good thing. I see the guys with fixies, I just don't see them in the hilly sections.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  15. #15
    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    I've been riding my Gunnar Street Dog, Fixed Gear, for twelve years now. Love it. Maybe it's best if I put it into "bullet points":

    -Like most adults who work for a living, I simply don't get to ride as often as I would like. A fixed gear goes a long way toward giving me a better work out, whether
    it is an evening ride, or an eleven mile commute to work.

    -It's fun to ride. Yes, there is a learning curve, but if you are already a cyclist, you should pick up on it fairly quickly. You will make some muscles sore that never got
    sore before, but this passes. Hills? Yes, there might be some that will stop you, but I regularly hammer up the hills in my area. Just stand, and put some butt muscle into it.
    All of a sudden it feels as though you are getting a push from some unseen force. You will need to consider what gear would work best for you. Mine is 42x15, which gives me
    a 75 inch gear. Some like a lower gear. I would probably go lower, if I rode into the city on a daily basis.

    -The late Sheldon Brown spoke of finding a new joy in cycling, when you start riding fixed. He was right, I think.

    -It's fun to ride. (yep, I said it twice)

    One thing: Do not fall into the nonsense about "you don't need brakes on a fixie!" Leave that smurf for the 20-somethings, who seem to feel they're making some sort
    of political statement. Riding brakeless on the road is very foolish, and illegal. One of the things I love about being over 50, is not having to care what anyone thinks.

    If you decide to do this, give yourself time. Ride around your neighborhood, practice starting and stopping. When you feel confident enough, then take it out into traffic.
    I thought I was suffering from depression once. Turned out, I was simply surrounded by idiots.

  16. #16
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Heck, I was riding a single speed when I was 5 years old, for several years. I really don't see the big deal. Just ride your geared bike without shifting, if you like.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  17. #17
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    "A singlespeed would cost less, reduce cost of replacement parts and requires less maintenance."

    Yeah, sure. Keep telling yourself that! Of course, it's going to cost and keep costing you serious coin.

    As for me, no way will I ride a single speed bike. It's fixed or it's geared. But that's just me.
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

    Icyclist, the blog considered too areodite for bikeforums

  18. #18
    working on progress treebound's Avatar
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    Calculate the gearing on your MTB and print out a chart (I use gear inches, the SheldonBrown.com gear calculator is handy to get a printout from). Mark the chart for which gear ratios work for your commute, mark which gears are too tall for hills, which ratios are too low for the flats, which are comfortable, which are not. Seems most folks end up with SS gearing in the 76" range +/-6" or so. Also, if whatever bikeframe you end up with has horizontal dropouts you might be able to go with a flipflip hub on back and have two gear ratios to pick from, one for daily use and the other for windy or tired days. If your frame ends up with modern dropouts you might be able to use something like a singulator for chain slop tension.

    Cost will depend on new or used, your mechanical capability, how good or lucky you are finding deals, and on what you'd be happy with. You can find a used bmx bike to salvage a freewheel from, and several rummage sale or thrift shop bikes to accumulate more parts from. One I set up I had maybe $15 into total cost. My Lemond Fillmore was bought new and cost quite a bit more even with a seasonal employee shop discount.

    Set your budget, figure out your gearing, decide new or used or mixed, check your local market for deals, and go for it. I like having a singlespeed available, but I also like having a geared bike too. N+1 is fine if you have the budget and room.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GFish View Post
    A singlespeed would cost less, reduce cost of replacement parts and requires less maintenance.
    Singlespeed freewheels cost about as much as 6-speed freewheels and unless you're putting on NOS XT freewheels everytime (Was there even a 6-sp XT? I can't remember) then you can even spend much more on singlespeed freewheels if you want.

    Chains are mostly cheaper. $8-100 single speed vs. $15-40 for 6,7,8-speed.

    No more derailers to buy so there's a bit of savings there.

    Maintenance is a bit less. You don't have to cringe as much when your bike falls on drive side.

    I'd rather ride fixed roadie 14.5 miles twice a day than geared or SS MTB but maybe that's just me.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  20. #20
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cali_axela View Post
    When you say it's "mostly flat" -- is there a way to put an approximate number on how many feet you're climbing every day?

    I commute just over 10 miles round trip per day, with a moderate hill in one direction, about 340 feet of climbing. I usually do it on my fixed gear at 46x16t, and love it.
    That's pretty similar to my rides: 350-400' of climbing, using 46x17 gearing. I have no problem staying with the "B" group on group rides (and no desire to join the "A" group).

  21. #21
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Freewheeling single speed seems completely pointless to me. I really like my gears for maximizing acceleration, efficiency, and fun. Derailleurs are reliable and easy to maintain, particularly if you are into friction shift, as I am exclusively.

    I tried fixed gear once (1973 wedding present from my wife's brother) and quickly decided it was not my thing. If I ever try it again, it will be w/ the newly resurrected Sturmey-Archer 3-speed system.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  22. #22
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    Single speed is a good winter bike for riding around town. I ride to the gym, coffee shop and around town every day on my SS. No clipless, no helmet, no spandex, simply hop on the bike for the short ride into town. Just like we did as kids. It's pretty neat to be able to do that.
    Bike riding New England gentleman.

  23. #23
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    My single speed drivetrain, happens to be attached to an internal multiple gear hub..

    built up a dumpster single speed , 26" 2:1 gear, but was living on a hill,
    so was often in my 2 foot gear anyhow..

    now down on the Tsunami exposed level of town, I have the winter storms,
    to gear down , and ride against..

    ... & gear up and ride with ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 10-16-12 at 09:56 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    I LOVE my SS MTB on what i call the teaser trail - 2 miles each way , no long climbs or descents, i like having to really hammer up the hills, no chainslap, the quiter drivetrain and lack of rear derailer destruction concerns. Most serious trails will have me on my 21 or 24 speeds, though
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  25. #25
    Slowpoke
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    A singlespeed can be a fine bike, it depends a lot on what you're looking for. You will _probably_ find that you're overall slower on a SS compared to a geared bike. There's a reason that road racers use gears. You might find that you're slightly faster going uphill. Non-racers use gears to go slower uphill, but at some point you have to get off and push. You'll probably be a lot slower going downhill because you spin out at some point and have to coast. I like commuting on a single speed. I have done so for the last year (1-3 times per week), but have recently switched to gears for the winter, just to do something different, not because it's better. The SS bike is quieter than even a well adjusted derailer bike. I find I really have three speeds: sit and spin, stand up and use body weight, get off and push. I don't have to use the low gear *too* often! Before I went for the SS, I did what others here suggested. I did my commute and local riding several times without shifting. It also gave me a good idea what one gear I would want on the new bike.
    ----------
    mike rosenlof
    louisville colorado usa

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