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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 06-15-05, 02:09 PM   #1
alanbikehouston
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Around my neighborhood, I'm seeing lots of "real" singlespeed bikes: bikes that were designed and built as fast, light one-speed bikes. They are so popular that at some coffee shops, six or seven of the ten bikes outside are singlespeed bikes.

I have a 1983 Trek that was originally built as a light road bike, with a Reynolds 531 frame and fork. A previous owner took off its original "superb" SunTour Superbe six-speed drivetrain, and substituted an entry level indexed drivetrain.

Looking for a "cheap" (actually "free") method to try the singlespeed experience, I've taken off the gear changers, shortened the chain, and have the bike running in a 42 x 17 combination (67 gear inches). Of course, the OTHER five cogs are still there. If I wanted to run in 42 x 19, I can just loosen the quick release, move the wheel forward and move the chain, and refasten the wheel.

I've enjoyed the "hassle-free" aspect of this set-up. Just spin my legs and steer. And, I THINK (could be my imagination) that the bike is more responsive when I accelerate. I've never ridden on a "real" one-speed bike. So, I am wondering whether this sort of "cheapo" conversion really can provide the same riding experience as the bikes that are designed from the get-go as singlespeed bikes?

Last edited by alanbikehouston; 06-16-05 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 06-15-05, 02:15 PM   #2
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I would say that your bike would give you the feel of a true single speed. If your hub is the older style freewheel hub then you can just remove the cassette and screw on a BMX freewheel and have a true SS. The only real difference would e a weight reduction.
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Old 06-15-05, 02:23 PM   #3
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I would be very careful about your chain tension. I ran a bike just the way you described and managed to ruin a few cheap hubs when my chain was just loose enough to catch a tooth on the next larger cog, causing a lot of binding and odd force on the wheel. Other than that it was pretty convenient.
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Old 06-15-05, 02:33 PM   #4
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I have a bike like this, it's an old Schwinn World Sport, and I took off the shifters, deraileurs, shortened the chain, etc. Here in Prov we call that a "Hobo" SS. It works but like Mouton said, watch the chain tension. Like with my setup I can either have it in my highest or lowest on the bike, nothing in between, because of the ammount of chain that is available without using my chain-tool.

All in all that bike should work, just keep an eye on tension and alignment and you should be good to go.
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Old 06-15-05, 02:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanbikehouston

I've enjoyed the "hassle-free" aspect of this set-up. Just spin my legs and steer. And, I THINK (could be my imagination) that the bike is more responsive when I accelerate, with the chain running directly from the chainwheel to the cog, and not into the gear changer and around its spring-tensioned plastic wheels.

But, I've never ridden on a "real" one-speed bike. I'm happy with how the bike feels and rides. But, does this sort of "cheapo" conversion really provide the "feel" of a bike designed from the get-go as a singlespeed bike? Is it just my imagination that the bike responds more quickly and firmly to pressure on the pedals?
you can attach a derailleur and a transmogrifier to the bottom of the chain and it wouldnt make a difference... the tension's still the same... the chain's still pulling directly on the rear cog... whether its geared, fixed, or SS...

now when you backpedal, theres a difference
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Old 06-15-05, 02:49 PM   #6
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transmogrifier, huh, that would create a cool "Boink" sound with every pedal right?
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Old 06-15-05, 04:31 PM   #7
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I did the same thing with a bike. I call it a "silly singlespeed". mine is a cheap folder though, so the chain readily shifted to other cogs, and locked up. of course, it had this problem when it had a derailleur too...that's what Dahons are all about, self-shifting. i am in the process of fully singlifying it, and maybe then the fuggin chain will stay on.

I'd say watch your chainline when you manually shift--it may want to jump around. but if it works, it works!
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Old 06-15-05, 07:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mouton
I would be very careful about your chain tension. I ran a bike just the way you described and managed to ruin a few cheap hubs when my chain was just loose enough to catch a tooth on the next larger cog, causing a lot of binding and odd force on the wheel. Other than that it was pretty convenient.
Thanks for explaining that. I had something like that happen on my first "test ride". When I stopped to see what was going on, I noticed that the rear wheel had pulled forward, and was "off" line, likely pushing the chain up against the next cog.

So, I pulled the wheel back into "proper" alignment, and really cranked the quick release down hard. And, I'll recheck the chain tension and wheel alignment on a regular basis.

This frame has the 126mm spacing used in the '80's for six speed and seven speed freewheels. Is there a BMX cog that would screw onto my hub and have the correct spacing for a 126mm frame?
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Old 06-15-05, 07:43 PM   #9
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that depends also on your BB width and the position of chainring on the crank

usually, though, you'd have to redish the wheel a bit.
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Old 06-15-05, 08:22 PM   #10
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Yes, its really a single speed. Just, not a very good one. With the chainline not perfect, you run the risk of tossing the chain. But it won't hurt too bad, as long as you keep tension good. The best solution is to take off the 5 speed freewheel, respace/dish your hub/wheel, and then thread on a bmx freewheel. That is a totally acceptable way of doing it. Here's how (look for item #3):
http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/wheels/

The procedure is exactly the same whether you're going fixed, or freewheel.

Have fun, and be safe!
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Old 06-15-05, 09:41 PM   #11
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Is it really a ss? YES!

This is a totally acceptable way to rig a SS. The purists and fashion police may laugh at you, but you don't care, right?

I ran that setup for a while as SS, and it worked fine.

If you want to finally get rid of the kludge factor of the rear gear cluster, I would just pick the gear you like, and screw on a BMX freewheel. The threading is the same, and you can get them in sizes 16-20t in both 1/8" and 3/32" chain. There is really no need to redish. With 126mm rear spacing the freewheel isn't that far out of alignment. I ran my SS setup like this for almost 2 years, I never redished. The only reson why I changed it was because I loctited on a track cog in place of the BMX freewheel. The chainline is still slightly effed, but I haven't had a problem yet in the few months I've been fixed on this bike.
So a redish isn't really necessary, but it will make things run a little smoother and quieter.


A QR rear works great, provided you use an old steel QR, have serated steel locknut faces, and have steel dropouts. I used a QR rear for SS, and currently use a QR rear for fixed, and never have had a problem or a wheel slip. Much more convienent, IMO.

Here's a pic of my old setup from the winter:

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Old 06-16-05, 11:24 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by BostonFixed
Is it really a ss? YES!

A QR rear works great, provided you use an old steel QR, have serated steel locknut faces, and have steel dropouts. I used a QR rear for SS, and currently use a QR rear for fixed, and never have had a problem or a wheel slip. Much more convienent, IMO.

Here's a pic of my old setup from the winter:


Wow...if you went riding the day your photo was taken, with ice and snow up to the rim...you are VERY serious kinda cyclist.

I use bolts instead of quick releases on my front wheels. But, I've had rear wheels slip slide when I used bolts with the 80's style "long" dropouts (my Trek dropouts look similar to those in your photo). When I put maximum torque into closing a quick release, my rear wheels have "stayed put" (at least until I hit a pothole that I didn't see coming).

This week I've had fun riding my (kinda/sorta) single-speed '83 Trek. This bike has been my "midnight movies" bike, because it fully shows twenty-something years of use and abuse, with its DIY ugly green paint, speckled with specs of surface rust and a three inch long dent in the top tube. Too ugly for a crook to want. And now, as a single-speed, it is probably even less interesting to a thief.

The combination of a light Reynolds 531 frame and fork, decent hubs and rims, and Continental tires make "Green and Ugly" a fun ride. The big BMX pedals make it easy to ride with ANY sort of shoes: dress shoes for riding to work, running shoes for the park, or beach sandals for the coffee shop. My cheapest bike may become my favorite bike.

Last edited by alanbikehouston; 06-16-05 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 06-16-05, 11:42 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by rykoala
Yes, its really a single speed. Just, not a very good one.
You know after reading others comments, and re-reading my own, I realize that sounded very elitist, and I am sorry. If your setup works for you then so be it. I had to run that type of setup for a while on my geared bike because my derailer got hosed when the chain broke. Long story. I ran it for a solid week at least without any issues at all, so I shouldn't be so high and mighty about it. Again, I'm sorry.

Enjoy your ride, however you like it.
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