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  1. #1
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    Noob question about converting single speed gear ratio

    Two months ago I got a new kilo WT after receiving suggestions from some of you on this bike. It's great so far, although the stock 48x16 gear ratio is a bit hard, especially on the few steep sections of my commute. I was thinking of converting it to something like 48x18, which people seem to suggest and which seems to be about my ideal gear ratio for the commute (as determined by comparing with my road bike).

    My noob question is, how do I switch out the gear? Can I just buy a freewheel like this and swap it out with my old one?

    Will I need to get a new chain too? Will I need any special tools? I've done cassette changes, chain changes, etc. on my road bike before, but never really did any work on my single speeds and want to make sure I'm not overlooking something stupid.

  2. #2
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    That freewheel should be ok. Depending on how much room you have to move your wheel forward in the dropout slots, you may need to buy a new (longer) chain. If your chain does not use a master link, you may need to buy a chain tool. You will also need to buy the proper tool to remove your current freewheel, and possibly a different one to remove your new freewheel, should that become necessary.

  3. #3
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    You're on the right track. Just change the rear freewheel and the one you've linked to gets lots of good mentions on here.

    The chain question is a bit more problematic. I doubt you've worn it out in that time so the only issue is length. Because you're going to a larger rear cog, you will have to move the rear wheel further forward. If there's not enough room in the dropouts, you'll need a longer chain, but only by one link. The chances are though, you'll be right with what you've go so try that first.

    You'll need a tool to remove the current freewheel. It tightens as you pedal and with the freewheel, you can't turn it backwards to spin it off, hence the tool.

    Have a look through Sheldon Brown's single speed pages. They'll explain all.

    You're lbs will be able to help.

    In fact, I'd go one step further. It's obvious you're new to this so take your bike to your lbs and tell him what you need. Ask him to do the work BUT ask him if you can watch and have him explain what he's doing. Make sure you buy the bits from him - you are learning from him and he deserves some payback for that.
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  4. #4
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    I just got an 18t white industries freewheel to go with my 48t chain ring. Its perfect for street riding imo. Have an LBS unscrew the freewheel for you. Its really quick and easy. You can also be ghetto and pound away with a flathead and hammer. You dont need a tool to put the new one on. Just hand tighten it and ride away. I also doubt you'll need a new chain.

  5. #5
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    Thanks all for your comments.


    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    That freewheel should be ok. Depending on how much room you have to move your wheel forward in the dropout slots, you may need to buy a new (longer) chain.
    Below is a picture of how much space I have. Seems like a reasonable amount, eh? Though I'm not sure how much further I expect it to shift forward to accommodate the 18T -- suppose I still need enough free space to give the chain some slack when I want to remove the wheel.

    photo (4).jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by europa View Post
    You're on the right track. Just change the rear freewheel and the one you've linked to gets lots of good mentions on here.

    The chain question is a bit more problematic. I doubt you've worn it out in that time so the only issue is length. Because you're going to a larger rear cog, you will have to move the rear wheel further forward. If there's not enough room in the dropouts, you'll need a longer chain, but only by one link. The chances are though, you'll be right with what you've go so try that first.

    You'll need a tool to remove the current freewheel. It tightens as you pedal and with the freewheel, you can't turn it backwards to spin it off, hence the tool.

    Have a look through Sheldon Brown's single speed pages. They'll explain all.

    You're lbs will be able to help.

    In fact, I'd go one step further. It's obvious you're new to this so take your bike to your lbs and tell him what you need. Ask him to do the work BUT ask him if you can watch and have him explain what he's doing. Make sure you buy the bits from him - you are learning from him and he deserves some payback for that.
    Thanks for all the feedback. Shown below is my freewheel -- does anyone happen to know what tool I would use to get this particular one off?

    photo (5).jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by FixedAventon View Post
    I just got an 18t white industries freewheel to go with my 48t chain ring. Its perfect for street riding imo. Have an LBS unscrew the freewheel for you. Its really quick and easy. You can also be ghetto and pound away with a flathead and hammer. You dont need a tool to put the new one on. Just hand tighten it and ride away. I also doubt you'll need a new chain.
    Thanks. The White Industries freewheels look quite nice -- though I think I'll stick with the cheaper Shimano for now and perhaps upgrade later. Glad to hear that the ratio is working for you on the street.

    I found this youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43i73xDBo9k) on removing and reinstalling a freewheel. Looks pretty easy, though he uses some cone wrenches and a vise. Should those be necessary? I have some large wrenches and a chain whip already. If all I need is a freewheel removal tool or so, and follow this guy's instructions, then it seems pretty easy. OTOH, I can also take it to the LBS as some have suggested, but the LBS I prefer is about 30 minutes away so it's a little bit of a pain.

  6. #6
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamma Point View Post
    Below is a picture of how much space I have. Seems like a reasonable amount, eh?
    Looks like it might work. Be prepared to spring for a new chain, though.

    Shown below is my freewheel -- does anyone happen to know what tool I would use to get this particular one off?
    Possibly this Shimano 4-prong tool:


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Looks like it might work. Be prepared to spring for a new chain, though.
    Sure, sounds good. If I need a new chain and need to break it, then I should be good as long as the Park Tool CT3 works on it.



    Possibly this Shimano 4-prong tool:
    Right, that looks like the closest fit, at least visually inspecting the other options from Park. If no one speaks up and says that they know the kilo WT/TT freewheels use another tool, perhaps I'll give this one a shot.

  8. #8
    Veteran Racer TejanoTrackie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Looks like it might work. Be prepared to spring for a new chain, though.
    Nah, he'll be fine. The axle will only move about 1/4 inch forward in the dropout.
    What, Me Worry? - Alfred E. Neuman

    Quote Originally Posted by Dcv View Post
    I'd like to think i have as much money as brains.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TejanoTrackie View Post
    Nah, he'll be fine. The axle will only move about 1/4 inch forward in the dropout.
    Thanks Tejano.

  10. #10
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    Those removal tools aren't expensive and you only need the right sized spanner as well. Well worth having in the tool box.
    As TT says, 2 teeth = a quarter inch, you'll be fine (the chain will move 1/8th inch for each tooth).
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by europa View Post
    Those removal tools aren't expensive and you only need the right sized spanner as well. Well worth having in the tool box.
    As TT says, 2 teeth = a quarter inch, you'll be fine (the chain will move 1/8th inch for each tooth).
    Thanks again europa. I realized I have a 15 mm cone wrench on the back side of my Park Tool chain whip, so should hopefully just need the Shimano 4-prong tool.

    I'll update this thread with anything as I try it next week once I get the parts, even if nothing goes wrong just in case it's helpful to other newbies.
    Last edited by Gamma Point; 04-12-14 at 08:28 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamma Point View Post
    I'll update this thread with anything as I try it next week once I get the parts, even if nothing goes wrong just in case it's helpful to other newbies.
    I would find it immensely helpful as I am considering the same thing, but in reverse (going from a 16 tooth sprocket to a 15 tooth). A post mortem with pictures would be appreciated!

  13. #13
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mixedfix View Post
    I would find it immensely helpful as I am considering the same thing, but in reverse (going from a 16 tooth sprocket to a 15 tooth). A post mortem with pictures would be appreciated!
    This is actually the most rational use of a flip flop hub. Stick the 15 on the other side but leave the 16 on so you can change it around while riding or easily change it after a ride. Using both sides this way is a good way of fine tuning what gearing you want because eventually you'll reach a point when you realise you aren't changing the wheel around - that's often a good time to remove the superfluous cog.
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mixedfix View Post
    I would find it immensely helpful as I am considering the same thing, but in reverse (going from a 16 tooth sprocket to a 15 tooth). A post mortem with pictures would be appreciated!
    Sure thing bud. I'll try to take pictures of anything that looks like it might be useful, and will summarize how things went. I expect I'll get my freewheel removal tool late this week.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by europa View Post
    This is actually the most rational use of a flip flop hub. Stick the 15 on the other side but leave the 16 on so you can change it around while riding or easily change it after a ride. Using both sides this way is a good way of fine tuning what gearing you want because eventually you'll reach a point when you realise you aren't changing the wheel around - that's often a good time to remove the superfluous cog.
    That's what I was thinking. Right now I'm riding 47/16 in (somewhat hilly) LA; it's a flip flop with the same ratio on both sides with the non-used side sporting a freewheel, which I have not tried and am not particularly curious to do so (because what's the point, so I can learn to ride my brake?).

    This gear ratio is fine for me as far as commuting and generally poking around downtown goes but I would like something a little more intense for fun. I actually have a geared Schwinn which I now never ride since I got the fixie. I never thought I'd like fixed but I LOVE it.

  16. #16
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mixedfix View Post
    I never thought I'd like fixed but I LOVE it.
    That happens so often it's nearly a cliche.
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  17. #17
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    Alright, I got my Park FR-6 removal tool in the mail today, so I did the switch. It was ridiculously easy, and this guy already has a perfect write-up of the procedure.

    But in any case, I promised some description so here it is. I figure I've done a good job in my BF posts to show that I'm completely devoid of any secret bike mechanic skills, so perhaps me saying how easy it was will give the rest of you confidence.

    First, I put the removal tool on the freewheel (securing it with the nut):

    photo (10).jpg

    Then, I just grabbed a big wrench and put it around the tool:

    photo (9).jpg

    You turn counterclockwise to get it off. It took a decent amount of force (so much that I thought "is this going to come off?", but then I just decided to take it off like a boss).

    Here's a picture of the new Shimano 18T next to the bikes direct factory-installed Dicta 16T:

    photo (8).jpg

    I then just used some bike grease on the threads on the wheel and on the inside of the new freewheel and just screwed it on. It was easy:

    photo (7).jpg

    And here's the new cog on the bike:

    photo (6).jpg

    You can compare the above pic with one earlier in this thread to see how much the wheel will move forward upon going from a 16T to a 18T.

    I just took the bike out for a test ride around the block and think 18T was the right decision -- much more enjoyable to ride than the 16T, but still plenty of gearing to go fast when needed.

    The one downside with getting this Shimano cog is that apparently it takes some special Shimano tool to remove. So now I need to get one of those...

  18. #18
    Uninformed Senior Member
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    Enjoy.

    Tool collection...it's a slow process (most of the time).

  19. #19
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    Dammit, I wanted to charge the local hipsters $100 to do this, now they'll all be doing it themselves.

    Doing your own work leaves a good feeling doesn't it
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by europa View Post

    Doing your own work leaves a good feeling doesn't it
    Indeed, always feels good to learn how to do something new

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