How do you convince a friend to start single-speed mountain biking?
I had been in the singlespeed wilderness for too long (10+years at that stage). All of my mates rode geared bikes. I move down to the South Coast of England and ended up bumping into and regularly riding with a group of 20+ singlespeeders! How could this happen?
Singlespeed MTBing is popular on the flat lands however this was the south coast with the 100 mile, 10+ climb South Downs Way at its door step. I could not understand why in such a hilly area? The reason for there being so many was simple. Because there was a convertor in the local MTB group.
Friend? — yes it needs to be a friend. You will have the highest success rate here. This is a “Green Eggs and Ham” conversation, so go slow, have a laugh. This is a tall order. I know, but there are a lot of singlespeed curious riders out there. They just need some help to go the final step into the world of singlespeed MTBing.
Start with a conversation on cycling history — choose a few, save a few to return too.
- 1903 the Tour de France was ridden on gravel roads on fixed gears.
- 1928 the derailleur drivetrain was invented.
- 1937 the derailleur system was introduced to the Tour de France — amoungst protest!
- 1949 Campagnolo refined the cable-operated parallelogram rear derailleur.
- 1964, Suntour invented the slant-parallelogram rear derailleur.
- 1980’s BMX and MTBing takes off.
- 1990s saw some major innovations from Shimano changing from friction to indexed shifting leading to the increased number of gears.
By the late 1990s saw the rise of MTB singlespeed off-road (again)… Other swerveball conversation starters are as follows:
- We never needed gears on our BMXs as kids?
- Its not a race, so why all the gears?
- My other bike is a… N+1 = they might have 2 bikes — turn one into a singlespeed…
I understand the evolution of derailleurs for Road bikes. The derailleur works perfectly fine for road bikes where precision shifting is not impaired by mud sand and more mud. I hear a lot of money can be spent on a fragile derailluer, chain and cassette system, these days?
- 11 speed cassette & chains need regular replacement = £125–185 per year.
- A singlespeed setup using BMX 1/8" chain, Stainless rear cogs, Aluminium or Stainless chainrings would cost approx £100 but will last longer than 1 year.
- Belt-drive you are looking at £200–250 and again lasts longer than 1 year.
Shadow ride them…
But try not to be too annoying. Dare them not to shift gear. Help them zip-tie and tape the shifters for one ride. Coach them through it — dont leave them to struggle. If they do not want to participate in the above… Challenge them to a down and up hill climb. Explain Surplease and Flow. Keeping the speed on the last section of the down so that you can get up most of the next hill etc. If this does not work move onto another friend or pair up.
Singlespeed Belt-Drive Final steps…
Help them convert a bike to singlespeed. There are a lot of conversion kits out there, tensioners, doofers, etc. Even a bike with rear suspension can be converted with a Shimano Alfine tensioner. Some frames like VooDoo can also be converted from a derailleur system into a singlespeed. There are a lot of singlespeed frames with Eccentric Bottom Brackets, Rear facing (track style) dropouts, sliding dropouts and swing dropouts, like my RocknRollout Dropouts…
Almost every brand has a “singlespeed” frame these days— however do some research some brands have real-world singlespeed experience. I have tried to adopt the singlespeed first philosophy. It makes a bike more versatile and adaptable.
For singlespeed MTBing I prefer to spin a little, but still averaged 14mile an hour… longer distances I would aim for 10mile an hour and a lighter ratio. These are the ratios I recommend for even hilly sections.
- 29er start with 32:19T
- 27.5 start with 32:18T
- 26aint dead start with 32:17T
- Belt start with 39:24T
It is easy to allow to get the magic ratio to fit the chainstay length. BMX half link chains and going up or down 1 tooth on the front or back.
Singlespeeding is cheap, fun and allows you to ride more, spending less cash. I just do not understand why other people are so reluctant to try. Our great grandparents would have had little or no choice. We can all learn to live with less tech and we all need to convincing to try something new or old… just like Green Eggs and Ham.