3×8, 2×8, 1×8, 1×1, 1×9, 1×1
The evolution of Sven the Spesh continues, this time returning to a single speed setup.
The how is a fairly straight forward process, converting your MTB (or any geared bike) into a single speed wunder-hack bike requires a conversion kit and a selection of basic tools.
- Allen Keys
- Cable Cutters
- Chain Whip
- Cassette Removal Tool
- Adjustable Wrench
- Chain Breaker
The how is only part of the story, more interestingly is the why?
Running a single speed is like riding in the wrong gear, almost all of the time. You spin out on the flats, hurt more than you want on the climbs and once up to a certain speed, pedaling is essentially a futile gesture.
But it is for these reasons that it is such a useful exercise in helping your overall riding, or so the theory goes.
The idea is, riding single speed will make you a smoother rider, let me explain.
There are a few situations where riding single speed in a sloppy style will make for a slower ride. To maintain speed with single speed you have to ride smoothly and aim to keep a more consistent average speed.
For example when coming into a corner, if you come in too fast and end up braking hard round the corner you will lose speed and risk stalling. With a fully geared setup, you can drop through the gears and pedal hard to build your speed back up. This results in a fast-slow-fast-slow clunky riding style.
With a single speed rig, if you ride like this, as you exit a corner having lost all your speed, your gearing will generally be too high to easily build your speed back up by pedaling. To keep speed on a SS setup, you are forced to focus on your form and ride smoothly. Braking hard before the entrance of the corner, being slow in and building speed back up as you exit the corner.
On descents and flatter undulating sections of trail, on a fully geared setup its all too easy to just mash the pedals. With SS once up to pace (something around 15mph), there is little pace to be gained by burning the legs and mashing the pedals. Working the bike and pumping the trail will build pace. Keeping the bike light and hopping over rougher sections and making better line choices by joining up contact patches.
Flowing down the trail, smooth is fast.
Climbing is probably the biggest hurdle stopping those who have not a ridden single speed from trying it. I’m not saying it isn’t harder, but on the climbs you are forced to keep a consistent cadence and keep good even pedal technique. Constant, smooth circles.
And aside of all this but not to be other looked is the simplicity of the experience and the mental energy it frees up. Riding fast down hill is a very complex task, lots of technical actions are carried out instantaneously and unconsciously by a rider. Shifting gears to match an approaching trail feature or your pace requires a level of concentration. That concentration can be applied elsewhere when there are no gears to move between. The experience is simplified, I wouldn’t say it is better, it is different and worthwhile.
There is certainly a learning curve, I found myself shifting fresh air for a few KM’s but once familiarized, it can be a refreshingly simple way to ride. At the very least every rider should try single speeding at least once and winter is the perfect time of year to try.