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Which bike is better to get fit on, a single speed or a multi-speed?

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Which bike is better to get fit on, a single speed or a multi-speed?

Old 01-03-12, 04:39 AM
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Which bike is better to get fit on, a single speed or a multi-speed?

I am re-entering into cycling as a way to get fit. I am a definite Athena at 239 lbs.
I am going to order up a nice 29" hardtail mountain bike, but the option is for 1 x 10 gearing, or going with a single speed. I feel the riding position of a mountain bike, and the lower rolling resistance of 29" wheels makes this a good choice. I will be riding on paved or gravel surfaces for the first year, as I get into better shape.

I am looking at a Niner One 9 bike with Rigid Carbon fibre fork and a high quality set of wheels as my base. I like the simplicity of a high quality single speed bike, and am looking at something in the $2000-$2500 range. I can expand on gearing and go 1 x 10, but it will cost another $500.

When I was a child, one gear was enough. If I get the bike set up with a 32 x 20T setup, I think I will be alright. Later on, as I get fitter, I can change to a 19T or even 18T cog. What do you think?
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Old 01-03-12, 04:48 AM
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I like SS for flat rides but I need gears for the hills. Never been to Kelowna but spent a couple days in Penticton, skied the little ski hill nearby and there were some awesome hilly rides around there.
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Old 01-03-12, 06:03 AM
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Whichever one you'd find the most fun to ride. That's the one you'll want to ride. Riding is what's important for fitness improvements, not the type of bike.

Last edited by CraigB; 01-03-12 at 06:11 AM.
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Old 01-03-12, 06:46 AM
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I'm a big fan of singlespeeds and as of last year converted all my bikes over. I even built up my CX race bike as a singlespeed and raced against geared riders in the regular division.
As for "fit", it's really no difference between SS and geared. The mechanics of the two are the same for the geometry of a bike, so go for whatever makes you want to ride more.

***EDIT***
D'oh! Totally misunderstood this, and took "fit" in terms of bike fitting, not in terms of fitness level.
***END EDIT***

32/20 is some mega-low gearing at under 45 inches. You're looking at about 11mph at 90rpm with that gear, so take that into account when considering your terrain.
For reference, my CX racer alternates between 42/18 and 38/18 depending on the sloppiness and hills on the course.
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Old 01-03-12, 06:56 AM
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You are now 239 LBs, out of shape and No longer a kid.

Do some 5 mile test rides before you buy.

I often ride in the same gear all day.

But on long rides with changes in wind direction the gearing comes in handy.
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Old 01-03-12, 07:00 AM
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If you have hills, get the gears... I might suggest spending 1/2 that on one of each... For $2500 you could get a quality road bike, geared 29er AND a single speed...
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Old 01-03-12, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bassjones
If you have hills, get the gears...
And if you have wind, get the gears. Wind is the killer for me.

BTW, have you looked at the Salsa Fargo? That seems like a great bike for the kind of riding you want to do. https://salsacycles.com/bikes/fargo/ You could get that and a great single speed too, as bass suggests.

Last edited by goldfinch; 01-03-12 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 01-03-12, 09:05 AM
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I would start geared, but maybe eventually get second bike with one gear, or even a fixed gear (i.e., no coasting; pedals always rotate if the wheel is rotating). FG is a whole different ride and kind of an interesting change of pace.
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Old 01-03-12, 09:31 AM
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That's really a choice you have to make for yourself. I hate gears, I like the challenge of riding one gear, it makes cycling just a bit more fun for me. If you're going to curse a headwind on one gear, buy a multi-geared bike. It's all about what you like, if you're not having fun, try something new.
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Old 01-03-12, 09:54 AM
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I'd say get the gears. You can always go ss after you get into shape. Harder and more expensive to go the other way. Taking stuff off is always cheaper than putting new stuff on.
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Old 01-03-12, 11:23 AM
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Get a bike with gears. Yes they are more complicated to maintain, but that is what a bike shop is for...if you cannot do it yourself. The gears will take a major load off of your knee joints. Your knees will thank you later if you do not overstress them. Make sure too, that whatever you buy is well fitted to you. Don't let the shop sell you something that they want to get rid of, make sure it FITS you. Realize too that women are typically longer legged and shorter torso'd than men--it will change how you fit the bike.
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Old 01-03-12, 11:24 AM
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A single speed might work if you are tiding really flat terrain ALL the time. The hills are going to dampen your enthusiasm greatly though, and that is important. You are no longer the kid you once were, and now you're carting along a big shopping bag full of groceries with you. If you can, try riding a single speed similar to what you are looking to buy and ride it on one of your planned routes for at least five miles. Try the same thing on a similar bike with gears. You'll soon find what works for you.
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Old 01-03-12, 12:44 PM
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I had a SS until I realized that I liked geared bikes better.
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Old 01-03-12, 10:41 PM
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If you're only going to own one bike, it should be one that has both front and rear derailleurs...
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Old 01-03-12, 10:48 PM
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All depends if you enjoy suffering while climbing.

On a geared bike you can ride with your granny and enjoy the sights.

With a SS, you'll be cursing the day your granny every met your grampa.



personally, both is best.
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Old 01-03-12, 10:50 PM
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When I "retuned" to cycling in 2010, I had the fantasy of being like Kevin bacon in the movie Quicksilver. My goal was to train to ride a single-speed on a sponsored 200 mile bike ride that following summer. I excitedly ordered a nice single-speed bike and at 320lbs, took it for its maiden ride on the local bike path. My fantasy lasted about 10 miles (over 4 days) as the SS almost killed me and on the flat paths. I sold the SS, went to the LBS and ordered a Spec.Roubaix Comp (20 speed). I would never go back to a SS until I get below 200lbs and thats a long way aways.

Gears will be your best friends...embrace them
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Old 01-03-12, 10:51 PM
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Also you'll coast too much on the downhills. Less workout there.

My 26er geared MTB I can pedal up to 35mph or so. A bit shy of 45 on my road bike. I think I start coasting around 25 on my 26er SS MTB, and it's geared a little high for me to get up some hills around here : 32x15

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Old 01-03-12, 10:58 PM
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For the sake of your knees I'd recommend avoiding a single speed depending on the incline of the hills you'll be riding. In terms of fitness, I don't think there's a big difference although you'll probably tire faster on a single speed going up hills although might build a bit more muscle. Maybe for cardio go with the geared, for muscle/burst strength go with the single speed.
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Old 01-03-12, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by apsheehan
For the sake of your knees I'd recommend avoiding a single speed depending on the incline of the hills you'll be riding. In terms of fitness, I don't think there's a big difference although you'll probably tire faster on a single speed going up hills although might build a bit more muscle. Maybe for cardio go with the geared, for muscle/burst strength go with the single speed.
I agree that the geared bike would probably be better for cardio training, but I'm not so sure that it wouldn't be as good as or better than the single speed bike for muscle/burst strength, too. After all, couldn't you just pull a bigger gear if you wanted to work on strength? And it would also have the advantage, once you built up some strength, of letting you easily move up to a yet bigger gear ratio with just a flick of the fingers, without taking a wrench to the bike.
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Old 01-04-12, 06:56 AM
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Single speed with coaster brake. The ultimate fitness machine. On hills you can zig-zag for a while but eventually you have to get off and push which is a real workout. Riding into the headwind is an awesome workout as well.

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Old 01-04-12, 06:58 AM
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60 lbs. of bike is a hell of a workout for sure!
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Old 01-04-12, 07:36 AM
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Which bike is better to get fit on, a single speed or a multi-speed?

Are we forgetting what the question is?
You're going to get fit on whatever you are having the most fun on.
If you find you are not using your gears when you ride, then switch it up and try a single speed.
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Old 01-04-12, 07:43 AM
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Duct tape your shifters so you can't shift?
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Old 01-04-12, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by davestv
Which bike is better to get fit on, a single speed or a multi-speed?

Are we forgetting what the question is?
You're going to get fit on whatever you are having the most fun on.
I believe that's what I said back in post #3.


Originally Posted by davestv
If you find you are not using your gears when you ride, then switch it up and try a single speed.
Or get a geared bike and if you find you're not using them, or don't want to, you're riding what is, for your purposes, a single-speed. Problem solved.
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Old 01-04-12, 11:09 AM
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How about a hub gear bike? One chainring, one cog, as many as 11 gears. They are simple and straight-forward to use, but you have gears when you need them. The only drawback is that they tend to be heavy.
The Trek Soho and Norco Ceres are examples of the type of bike I mean.

Last edited by Rhodabike; 01-04-12 at 11:18 AM.
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