Reasons Why A Single Speed Mountain Bike Is The Best Choice
What is it with single speed mountain bikes? What’s the temptation, and why would you bother in the first place?
I mean isn’t that why the God of Bikes invented gears, so we could all make it to the top of the hill without having a heart attack?
Why would you want to go slower, as you inevitably must have to do both uphill and downhill? Surely there’s no advantage to having one other than wanting to be ridicules by everyone else on the mountain?
Oh, so many questions and seemingly without any answers. And yet, despite the seeming oblivion that must await the single speed resurgence, more and more people seem to be switching on to the idea of single speed. Why?
Of course I am already a convert. I rode a single speed mountain bike throughout the 80’s and through most of the 90’s, but back then, no one ever batted an eyelid at me.
Now when I mention to my cycling buddies I’m thinking about building myself one again, they all look at me like I’ve just gone face down in the mud full on nuts crazy.
When I say, ‘but I owned one for years….’ They reply, ‘Your wasn’t a mountain bike. It doesn’t matter you used to ride it like it was…’
‘F*ck off,’ I always say.
But they have a point. If single speed gearing on a mountain bike was as good as its proponents said it was, and gears were not all that most people think they are, then more people would have them wouldn’t they.And yet, almost all of us learned how to ride our first bike with just one gear.But aside from that, you know Single speeds actually have quite a lot going for them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m firmly in the ‘everyone should own one of every type of bike, or more,’ category, depending on their situation.
That’s why I have me a 29” mountain bike so I can keep up with my friends, and also my trusty 26” Kona Shred for when I go out on my own.The point I’m trying to make here, is the same point I always seem to be making, no matter what it is I’m writing about when it comes to bikes…The only thing that matters, is what you think. Nothing else matters.
Don’t listen to what you read on the forums, or hear from clueless Lycra clad moron out on the trail. Just go with what you feel yourself.
And here’s the thing that really gets me. Why are people so surprised when they ride a single speed and find they actually like it?
Well, so here are a few easy reasons, why the single-speed mountain bike was invented by myself, the choice to enter the mountain bike community…
- They are in vogue right now – Let’s start at the start. I should begin by saying I’ve never really understood the concept of things being ‘in vogue.’ Nor does anyone else, especially when it comes to mountain bikes.Things in the cycling world don’t really move at the same pace as fads do in other walks of life. Just google “26” vs 29”” and see what comes up.
- So I don’t know if the whole single speed bandwagon has even really got started yet. But that said, more and more people are trying it so maybe there’s something to it…Of course, it could also be a revolution that’s already died out.
- It’s simple – Pedal and ride, and there’s no need to be mucking around with gears, wires, and derailleurs etc. Pedal and ride.There’s no need to worry about gear selection as you go into a tricky downhill section, you can just hammer in thinking about what’s coming at you instead.
- Not that worrying about your gears is that much of an issue anyway, but it’s only when it’s no longer a concern you realise how much time you spend thinking about shifting up and down the gears.
- Why does anyone need 36 gears anyway? – In truth most people couldn’t tell the difference between 10 speeds and 50 speeds when riding in the first place.
Yeah, I know, you can. Of course you can.
- It’s everyone else we’re talking about here, especially the Sunday gear heads who spend their working week googling mountain bikes and only get out for a few hours on Sunday.
- It’s cheaper – Oh Hell yes, it’s cheaper. That’s especially if you can do it yourself. I was about to say that downgrading any mountain bike to single speed is quite an easy task, relatively speaking, but that would be the wrong choice of the word.It’s cheaper – Oh Hell yes, it’s cheaper. That’s especially if you can do it yourself. I was about to say that downgrading any mountain bike to single speed is quite an easy task, relatively speaking, but that would be the wrong choice of the word.
- It’s just you and the bike – And it can all get really Zen really quick. No tech, no nothing; just you, and the bike.You’ll have no choice but to be aggressive – There is none of this spinning bullshit to get round obstacles.
- It makes for a nicer light bike – Really? I don’t know, but that’s what all the single speed mountain bike fanatics I know are saying.The smart zealots who build their own custom build do have this niggling tendency to leave their bikes with the option of reattaching or leaving their rear derailleurs on, just in case though.
- Even if they don’t, how much weight can be saved by removing a cassette in the first place…Well that is the reason some people spend thousands on carbon bits and bobs for their bikes to save grams, and here’s some uppity maniac saving the weight for free…
- It’s a great way to build a mountain bike on a budget – I hear that. Several years ago, after I busted my nice expensive (for me, at the time $400 would have been a fortune.) Kona doing stupid stuff on the downhill, I couldn’t afford to replace it.
- Maintenance isn’t a hassle – The more stuff you have on a bike, the more tech. you cram on it, the more likely it is to break and the more time you’re going to spend tightening stuff and maintaining it.Get this: Single speed mountain bikes have next to nothing to look after apart from a chain, and two cogs. It’s also really easy to see what’s gone wrong when it goes wrong. For someone like me, who likes the nice and easy path through life, it’s a bit of a no brainer.
- Keeps life interesting – You’ve decided to try something new. Why not? Sometimes constantly shifting up and down gears and rising the same trails again and again, going down the same hills, pulling the same jumps can get boring, no matter how fast you get up there doing it.Let’s be honest, that’s what most of us do in any case: We get out there and we ride the same stuff again, and again, and again.
- Well, except this guy I used to write for. It turns out he spends most of his time travelling Europe these days because he made an absolute killing by selling his website and associated businesses.
- For the last year or so, he’s been travelling around in a camper van with his bike strapped to the back just moving from trail to trail. I hate him. Not just because he gets all the girls, but because that is literally his life.
- He’s ten years younger than me as well, godammit. But the point I’m really trying to make is that most of us don’t have chiselled abs, all our own hair (men), and have to work for a living.
- Therefore we ride the same stuff week in, and week out. By getting our hands on a single speed, every trail suddenly becomes new again. How you approach every corner, every rock garden, and every berm is a brand new experience. Try it.
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