The single speed mountain bike doesn’t have any gears like a traditional mountain bike. The gears on regular mountain bikes amplify the force created by pedaling to a greater or lesser extent allowing the rider to adjust their exertion level according to the terrain. Mountain bikes seem like the last place that a single speed setup would be advantageous. However, they have recently become popular among many mountain bike riders, both novice and experienced.
Advantages of The Single Speed Mountain Bike
Proponents of the single speed mountain bike have various reasons for their choice. Some say it is a ‘purer’ choice, where what you can do is based strictly on your strength and skill without the assistance of gears. Others cite more practical concerns such as efficiency and weight.
A single speed is considerably lighter than a bike with full gears. Extreme riders who have trimmed every ounce of weight off their bikes will likely see an obvious change in how the bike rides after it loses 2-3 pounds of weight in derailleurs, gears, shifters and cables. The chain on a single speed is also more efficient several percent when compared to a geared mountain bike.
Riders who enjoy being at one with nature appreciate the simplicity of a single speed mountain bike because it does not require as much concentration. There are fewer parts that can snag on rocks and branches and more importantly, there’s no thinking about which gear is needed. A single speed bike is reduced to pedals and brakes with only the rider’s effort and the terrain to adjust speed.
Of course, mountain bikers are not without their pride and riding a single speed requires considerably more effort than riding a 28-speed on the same route. The ability to conquer a trail on a single speed is bound to make any rider feel good about themselves. It can also create new challenges out of old routes that have become boring and predictable, especially for those riders who are stuck close to home.
Disadvantages of The Single Speed Mountain Bike
The main disadvantage is the obvious one. Single speed mountain bikes lack the ability to shift into a lower gear in order to get up a big hill or remain stable at low speeds. They also lack the ability to shift into a higher gear in order to increase speed without increasing cadence.
One disadvantage that most single-speeders are well aware of is that the rest of the mountain biking community views them as strange or even stupid. The prevailing attitude seems that be that there is no reason to go with a single speed when bikes with gears exist. However, there are also plenty of riders who don’t understand the appeal but certainly don’t care if you do.
How to Make a Single Speed Mountain Bike
Obviously, you can simply purchase a single speed bike. However, finding a single speed mountain bike for sale is a real challenge, because it is a pretty obscure sport. Most people who ride single speed mountain bikes modify an existing bike because this is the easiest way to get a single speed that maintains the other advantages of a mountain bike.
Making a single speed out of a geared bike mostly involves removing parts, so it doesn’t take a lot of money. However, you will need some equipment such as spacers. A possible cheap or free source of these is your local bike shop, which may be willing to give you junk parts from which these can be salvaged.
The Internet is probably the most important resource an aspiring single speeder has. People who want to buy a single speed mountain bike are most likely to find one online. There are articles detailing every step of the process to convert a geared bike into a single speed available on the internet should you chose to build your own. There are also chat rooms, forums, and other resources available that cover pretty much anything you need to know about building your own single speed mountain bike so go surfing for more info and start building your bike today.