Boo Bicycles - Bamboo Singlespeed 29er Race Bike

Nick Frey from Boo Bicycles (Fort Collins, CO) shows us this belt drive 29er made from Bamboo! It is a true race bike built for a customer and friend who races. Nick, himself, races a lot and Boo Bicycles rea   Read More »

KMC Chain X-SL and Singlespeed Chain

We saw some cool chains from KMC. The first are these X-SL chains. The construction is impressive and it weighs about 225 grams. That's about 80-90 grams lighter than normal chains. The price is $85 for the    Read More »

Read More »


Topic Quick-Links

[Why? (the notorious question)] [Single Speed Conversions] [Gearing Selection] [Single Speed Frame Types/Designs] [Component Selection] [Single Speed Manufacturer Listings] [Troubleshooting] [Miscellaneous SS Topics] [Single Speed Glossary] [Single Speed FAQ Credits/Contributors]



Contents

Why? (the notorious question)


Single Speed Conversions


Gearing Selection


Single Speed Frame Types/Designs


Component Selection


Single Speed Manufacturer Listings


Troubleshooting


Miscellaneous SS Topics


Single Speed Glossary


Single Speed FAQ Credits/Contributors




Why? (the notorious question)


Why ride single speed?

Ah. The question that has intrigued many, and eluded others (we won't hold it against the latter).

For many people, single speeding is all about the simplicity and low maintenance. For others, it represents a lot more. It may be about rejecting (often high-priced) technological advancements that promise to make us better cyclists, yet seem go the way of Biopace chainrings in just a few years time. Maybe it's making a stand against the flood of aggressive marketing campaigns from big business conglomerates (otherwise known as "the man"). It might simply be boredom, and the need for a new challenge.

The bottom line is that it's hard to summarize the allure of single speeding into just a few statements. However, Striker (a frequent poster on this forum) has put together a fine collection of thoughts attempting to answer the question, "Why ride single speed?" on his website, TriangleMTB.com.

Read. Enjoy. Be enlightened.

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Single Speed Conversions


How do I convert my geared bike to single speed?

Spewing out the step-by-step instructions on how to convert your geared bicycle to a single speed would be "reinventing the wheel". Others have already done it, and done it well. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Start Here - These sites have very straightforward, step-by-step detail on how to convert your geared bike to single speed:

    Single Speed Outlaw's "How to build a Single Speed for Dummies" - Probably the most straight-forward, step-by-step "how-to" conversion article out there.

    WebCyclery's Single Speed Conversion "How-to" - More great step-by-step instructions on converting a geared bike to single speed.

  2. On a Tight Budget? - Here are some additional tips, particularly on converting a bike with a minimal outlay of cash:

    "Build a "Single Speed" from the reject pile (or real cheap anyway)" - This is a pretty cool rant by Keith Bontrager. The title pretty much says it all.

  3. Need More Detail? - Sheldon Brown's website is the "last stop" for serious detail (maybe more than you care to know), and additional conversion tips:

    Sheldon Brown's "Singlespeed Conversions" Page - Sheldon's conversion page has some great "how-to" information, and offers considerably more detail than the others.

    Sheldon Brown's "Chain Tension" Discussion - This is a great article on incrementally adjusting your front chainring position to reduce or eliminate tight/loose variations in the chain as you rotate the cranks. The article references fixed gear, but is applicable to single speeds, as well.

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Will I need a new rear hub?

No. It is possible to convert the rear hub from your geared bicycle for single speed use.

If you have a cassette (freehub®) rear hub, the cassette can be removed, and replaced with spacers and a single BMX cog. You can use several regular cassette spacers available at any bike shop, or you buy some 1 1/4" Schedule 40 white PVC pipe from any hardware, then cut two thicker spacers to the proper length (to achieve good chainline), sandwiching the BMX cog in between. Save your cassette lock ring, though; you'll need it to hold the spacers together. See the links in the "How do I convert my geared bike to single speed?" section for complete details on how to convert the rear wheel.

If you have a freewheel rear hub, the multi-speed freewheel can be replaced with a BMX freewheel. However, it is possible that the wheel will need to be re-dished to achieve proper chainline.

If you prefer to replace your rear hub with a dedicated single speed hub, there are a couple of options to consider. See the "Which should I use...Freewheel vs. Cassette rear hub?" section for the pros & cons for each style.

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How do I tension the chain?

The biggest issue to conquer with a single speed conversion is achieving proper chain tension on a frame with vertical dropouts. Maybe you'll select the right gear combination, and perform your SS conversion while all of the planets simultaneously fall into perfect alignment. This will, of course, give you perfect chain tension without requiring the use of a chain tensioner. Pretty unlikely, although it can be done with certain bikes/gear combinations. See the "Are there tools that can help me decide what gear ratio to use?" section for some tools that will help you determine if one of these "magic" gear combinations will work with your frame.

For frames that already have track fork ends or horizontal dropouts, a tensioner will most likely not be needed. If your frame has vertical dropouts, there are various methods to tension the chain.

  1. Derailleur Hanger-mounted Replacement Chain Tensioner
  2. This seems to be the most popular method among SS converts. Some designs use a spring-loaded tensioning system, while others lock into a fixed position.

    Paul Components Melvin
    paulMelvin.jpg

    Rennen Rollenlager
    rennenTensioner.jpg

    Rohloff Chain Tensioner
    rohloffTensioner.jpg

    Soulcraft Convert
    soulcraftConvert.jpg

    Surly Singleator
    surlySingleator.jpg


  3. Chainstay-mounted Chain Tensioner
  4. This type of tensioner may work for you, but they seem to be somewhat problematic compared with other tensioning options.

    Kore Chain Reactor
    koreChainReactor.jpg


  5. Chain Half-Link
  6. A normal "full link" of chain actually consists of two (2) links, an inner & outer link measuring 1" from pin-to-pin. Because of its stepped plate design (see photo below), a half-link allows you to replace these two (2) standard links of chain with one (1) 1/2" link. This effectively shortens your chain length by 1/2", and may allow you to eliminate a chain tensioner, depending on the gearing combination used. At a minimum, it would allow you to reduce the amount of slack chain while using a tensioner.

    Half-links are readily available for 1/8" & 3/16" chains, but 3/32" half-links (for MTB chains) are more scarce. St John St Cycles in England does carry 3/32" half-links. For those of us in the U.S.A., you can purchase 3/32" half-links through Gene Spicer at Spicer Cycles.

    halfLink.jpg
    (Photo courtesy of St John Street Cycles)


  7. Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) Retrofit
  8. It is possible to have an Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) retrofitted to your geared steel or aluminum frame of choice. I'm sure that there are titanium framebuilders out there who could do this to ti frames, as well.

    Eccentrics have been used for many years to tension the timing (or sync) chains on tandems. Only within the last few years has the use of the eccentric been applied to single speed frames. One of the primary benefits of using EBBs on a single speed is that it allows you to use disc brakes with vertical dropouts.

    Read more about Eccentric Bottom Brackets (EBBs) in the "Single Speed Frame Types/Designs" section.

    Spicer Cycles Aluminum EBB Retrofit
    ebbRetrofitSpicerAlum.jpg

    Vulture Cycles EBB Retrofit
    ebbRetrofitVultureSteel.jpg

    Builders offering these services:


  9. Track Fork Ends (often referred to incorrectly as "Horizontal Dropouts") Retrofit
  10. Track Fork Ends are the norm on "classic" single speed & track/fixed gear frames. While Eccentric Bottom Brackets (EBBs) seem to be the hot thing, track fork ends still work great, especially for bikes equipped with linear-pull or cantilever brakes. Surly even offers track fork ends with a derailleur hanger (like the ones used on their Karate Monkey 29" frame). Other manufacturers, such as Soulcraft, are using disc-compatible versions of track fork ends.

    surlyDropout.jpg
    Builders offering these services:


  11. White Industries ENO Eccentric Rear Hub
  12. Similar in concept to the Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB), except applied to the rear hub/axle. From the White Industries' ENO page, "The bolts are offset 7.5mm from the center of the axle. Normally the fixing bolts are centered to the axle. Once in the frame the axle ends can rotate 180 degrees which gives 15mm of travel. Therefore, by rotating the axle ends you can attain proper chain tension."

    The hub is threaded for a freewheel on one side, and a fixed gear cog & lock ring on the other side. Therefore, you'll be able to run fixed gear on a frame with vertical dropouts. Very cool!

    Available in 126mm, 130mm or 135mm widths.

    whiteIndEnoHub.jpg

  13. Eccentric Rear Axle Replacements
  14. Similar to the White Industries ENO Eccentric Rear Hub (see above), some single speed rear hubs can be retrofitted with an aftermarket eccentric rear axle.

    angryAxle.jpg


  15. "Ghost" or "Phantom" Chainring
  16. Simple and effective. Do you have old chainrings laying around? It may take some experimentation, but you'll likely find a setup that works for you. Larger chainrings and/or moving the ghost chainring closer to the rear cog/freewheel will give you more tension. The main thing to watch for with this setup is chainstay clearance with the ghost chainring. Chainring bolt spacers (~2.5mm - 3mm) can be added up front to move the chainline inboard a little for additional clearance. The setup shown uses a 32T drive chainring, 32T ghost chainring, and 18T BMX cog.

    NOTE: The ghost chainring does not need to be the same size as the drive chainring.

    Another benefit to this system is that you should be able to run fixed gear with this setup, whereas you can't with spring-loaded chain tensioners.

    ghostChainring.jpg

  17. Old Rear Derailleur
  18. There are a couple ways to set up an old derailleur as a tensioner. Keith Bontrager mentions this in his rant titled "Build a "Single Speed" from the reject pile (or real cheap anyway)".

    The 1st method is to totally remove the cable, then adjust the inner & outer set screws to set the derailleur in a fixed position.

    The 2nd method is to insert a short section of old cable into the derailleur's barrel adjuster from the rear (so the cable end rests in the adjuster). The normal cable fixing bolt is used to lock the cable in place. The barrel adjuster can then be used to fine-tune the chainline.

    oldDerailleurTensioner.jpg

  19. Dropout Modification (*** NOT RECOMMENDED ***)
  20. For those brave enough to try it, it it possible to grind some material out of the rear dropout to get proper chain tension, given that there is enough material (dropout designs vary). Since this is a delicate procedure, little detail will be given here.

    IMPORTANT: Proceed with caution, as this could render your frame useless if performed incorrectly.

    filedDropout.jpg

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Who does single speed frame modifications?

It is possible to have an Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) or Track Fork Ends retrofitted to your geared frame of choice. See the "Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) Retrofit" and "Track Fork Ends (often referred to incorrectly as "Horizontal Dropouts") Retrofit" sections for lists of known builders who perform this type of work.

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Gearing Selection


How do I determine the proper gear ratio for my single speed?

A 2:1 gear ratio (e.g. - 32:16, 34:17, 36:18, etc.) is often considered a good starting point for offroad riding. Your ideal gearing, however, may vary based on the terrain in which you will be riding, your strength as a rider, and your component selection - specifically wheel diameter & crank length (more on this in a moment). You would be wise to ask other single speeders in your area for a good "baseline" gear ratio, as gearing changes can become costly, especially for BMX freewheel users (~$15-90 each, depending on the freewheel manufacturer).

While gear ratio is a quick indication of how easy or difficult your bicycle will be to pedal, it fails to take wheel diameter or crank length into consideration. Since these variations do effectively change the gearing, a more accurate way to evaluate gearing selection would be to calculate gear inches, (which factors in wheel diameter) or gain ratio (which factors in both wheel diameter and crank length).

The chart below demonstrates how variations in wheel diameter and crank length affect the various gearing measures.


The Effect of
Variations in Wheel Diameter/Crank Length
on Gearing

  Gear Ratio Gear Inches Gain Ratio


V
a
r
i
a
b
l
e
s

Wheel Diameter (+) No Change + +
Wheel Diameter (–) No Change
Crank Length (+) No Change No Change
Crank Length (–) No Change No Change +

EXAMPLE:

Consider a bicycle with 26" wheels, 175mm cranks, and 36:18 gearing. Using Sheldon Brown's Online Gear Calculator for the latter two (2) measurements, this equates to:

  • Gear Ratio = 2:1
  • Gear Inches = 52.0
  • Gain Ratio = 3.8

Increasing the wheel diameter (e.g. - to 700x56, or 29er wheel/tires) increases both gear inches (58.3) and gain ratio (4.2), but the gear ratio remains static (2:1). Gear ratio does not reflect the effective increase in gearing due to the larger diameter wheels & tires.

Consider once again the original setup with 26" wheels, 175mm cranks, and 36:18 gearing. Switching to longer 180mm cranks, which is common for increasing climbing leverage, does not affect gear ratio (2:1) or gear inches (52.0), but it does lower the gain ratio (3.7). The slightly lower gearing due to the longer crank length is only demonstrated by evaluating gain ratio.

One last thing to consider regarding gearing selection is the minimum size of the rear BMX cog or freewheel, depending on which type you are using. A 16T minimum toothcount is recommended, as smaller sizes provide less chainwrap (the amount of chain that interfaces with the teeth) and are more likely to cause chain skipping. Additionally, smaller gears will wear more quickly than larger ones. This is discussed in further detail in one of Surly's "Spew" write-ups titled "Single Speed Drivetrains". The same (or similar) relative gear ratios/gear inches/gain ratios can be attained by using a larger chainring in the front (e.g. - 32:16 = 34:17 = 36:18).

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Are there tools that can help me decide what gear ratio to use?

There are several useful tools that can assist you in determining what gearing will work best for you.

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Single Speed Frame Types/Designs


What is an EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket)?

An Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) uses an oversized bottom bracket shell that houses a cylinder or "can" with an off-center bottom bracket mounting position.

ebbRetrofitVultureSteel.jpg

The cylinder can be loosened and rotated within the oversized shell of the to provide greater or lesser distance to the rear axle and tension the chain. By using this chain tensioning system, a EBB-equipped single speed frame can be built with vertical dropouts.

There are a few different types of EBB designs. Refer to the "Are all eccentric designs the same?" section for further details.

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Are eccentrics a new concept?

No. Eccentrics have been used to tension the timing or sync chains on tandems for several years. Only in recent years has the design been used in single speed applications.

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Are all eccentric designs the same?

No. There are basically three (3) differents Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) designs:

  1. Wedge bolt (e.g. - Bushnell & Cannondale)
  2. Pinch bolt
  3. Set screw

Wedge bolt designs use a seamless EBB shell and an expanding wedge bolt design. The concept is similar to that of a quill stem, in that tightening a bolt expands the eccentric within the EBB shell. While the design works very well, some types of wedge bolt eccentrics can binds in the shell, requiring a rubber or wooden mallet to loosen the eccentric once the bolt(s) have been loosened. NOTE: Bushnell EBBs are designed with a self-unlocking mechanism.

Pinch bolt designs use a slotted EBB shell with external bolts that pinch the EBB shell around the eccentric. This simple design works very well. The open EBB shell is exposed to more contamination, though, and may require more frequent greasing than the other two designs.

Set screw designs use a seamless EBB shell with external set screws that thread directly into the EBB shell and rest tightly against the eccentric itself. The only minor drawback to this design is that the set screws may "divot" the eccentric somewhat. This may eventually lead to "sweet spots" that cause the eccentric to locate to certain positions within the EBB shell.

All three designs are well-proven, and should provide a relatively maintenance-free means to tension your single speed's chain. There may, however, be differences in the amount of "throw" provided by the different eccentric designs, which could potentially limit chain tensioning effectiveness when using certain gear combinations. Consult a reputable framebuilder to confirm compatibility between that framebuilder's preferred EBB design and your intended gearing.

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Why use an EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket) on a single speed?

The traditional method of tensioning a chain on a single speed is through the use of track fork ends.  The slotted design allows the rear wheel to be pulled back until the proper chain tension is achieved, then the rear wheel is tightened.  This design has been used for decades, and is still vastly used today. However, the design does present some potential issues, especially with the use of modern disc brakes.  Enter the Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB).

The EBB design allows the use of vertical dropouts on your frame. It is actually the use of these vertical dropouts that provides the key benefits inherent with an EBB-equipped frame, such as:

  • Elimination of brake pad alignment issues when adjusting chain tension (most critical with disc brakes, but also applicable to linear-pull brakes).
  • Elimination of the potential for wheel slip under load, especially when using a quick-release rear skewer.
  • Quick-release skewers allow for easier wheel removal, whether for maintenance or while on the trail (fixing a flat).

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Is there any reason to use an EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket) with linear-pull brakes?

Yes, although it isn't frequently done. The primary benefit in using this setup is that the (potential) need to realign the brake pads after tensioning the chain is eliminated. Some people prefer the clean look of the Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) over track fork ends, as well.

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Will eccentrics creak?

Possibly. See the "Why is the EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket) on my frame creaking?" section for details.

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Can my current frame be retrofitted to use an EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket)?

Yes. See the "Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) Retrofit" section for details, and for a listing of some framebuilders offering this service.

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Are "Track Fork Ends" & "Horizontal Dropouts" the same thing?

No. Horizontal dropouts have forward-facing openings, while track fork ends (commonly used on single speed frames) have rear-facing openings. The "Vertical Dropouts" section of Sheldon Brown's Singlespeed Conversions page has photos of the various dropout and track fork end types.

Track fork ends may or may not have built in chain tensioners. For example, Paul Components fork ends have integrated "axle-keepers" or tensioner screws, while Surly fork ends do not (although they do offer optional chaintugs).

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Are disc brakes compatible with Track Fork Ends?

Yes. There are a couple of options available to achieve disc-compatiblility with track fork ends:

  1. Disc-brake adapters such as the Paul Disk Unit or Brake Therapy. These adapters attach to the non-drive side canti stud and do not require disc mounts on your frame.
  2. Integrated disc mounts such as disc-compatible Paul Components fork ends (used by manufacturers like Soulcraft), and Surly's disc-compatible fork ends (such as those used on the Karate Monkey).

    paulDiscForkEnd.jpg
    Paul disc-compatible track fork end (Photo courtesy of Soulcraft)

Disc-compatible track fork ends will function well, but depending on the fork end design, wheel removal and/or disc pad alignment may be more difficult than on a frame with vertical dropouts.

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Can Track Fork Ends be retrofitted to my current frame?

Yes. See the "Track Fork Ends Retrofit" section for details, and for a listing of some framebuilders offering this service.

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Should I buy a frame with an EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket) or with Track Fork Ends?

Your decision pretty much comes down to preference, but may be influenced somewhat by the following factors:

  • Use of linear-pull vs. disc brakes - Disc brakes favor EBB frames, but there are some disc-compatible track fork end designs, as well.
  • Ease of wheel removal - Many people find wheel removal easier on EBB frames with vertical dropouts.
  • How many gearing variations you plan on using - Some EBB designs don't have enough adjustability to fully eliminate chain slack when using certain gear combinations.

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Component Selection


Which should I use...Freewheel vs. Cassette rear hub?

Actually, there are three (3) options to consider:

  1. Freewheel hub
  2. Single speed cassette hub
  3. Converted cassette (freehub®) hub from a geared bike
The primary difference between the two (2) types of cassette hubs is that a dedicated single speed cassette hub has a significantly narrower freehub® width and uses only a few cassette spacers, allowing for a wider hub flange width. This allows for less dish, and subsequently, a stronger rear wheel.

Should this deter you from using a converted cassette wheel on your single speed? No. Some people argue that the wider flange width on single speed hubs make a stronger rear wheel. In reality, how many people do you know that have suffered catastrophic rear wheel failure due their grossly narrow XT or XTR hub? Exactly.

For the sake of this discussion, cassette hubs will be referred to generically, as the comments apply to both types mentioned.

The Pros & Cons for both hub types are listed below. One type is not necessarily better than the other. However, several things should be considered when trying to decide which is the best choice for you:

  • Do you plan on running disc brakes?
  • Do you ever plan on setting up your bike as a fixed gear?
  • Will you be switching gearing frequently? (cost & effort considerations)
  • What toothcount do you plan on using on the rear of your bike?
  • How important is rear wheel chainline adjustment to you?
  • Do you already have a wheelset from a geared bike that you could use?

    Freewheel vs. Cassette Rear Hubs

    Hub Type Pros Cons
    Freewheel
    • "Flip-flop" design of some freewheel hubs allows you to run a freewheel (or fixed gear cog) on both sides of the hub. This allows different gearing combinations and/or a spare freewheel in case your "primary" freewheel fails while riding.

    • Offers the ability to run fixed gear.
      NOTE: Not all flip-flop hubs offer a true fixed gear design (which includes reverse threading for a fixed gear lock ring).

    • Precision freewheels, such as the White Industries ENO, have greatly improved seals & durability (over older, poorly sealed designs).

    • Silent coasting (vs. a cassette's "ratcheting" sound) is preferred by many on the trail.
    • Disc brake compatibility is very limited.

    • Many freewheel designs are poorly sealed, as they were designed for BMX where mud and water crossings are not a big issue. However, precision freewheels like the White Industries ENO are also available (for a significantly higher price).

    • No chainline adjustment from the hub. Chainline must be dialed in with bottom bracket spindle width and/or crank selection.

    • Freewheels can be difficult to remove from the hub, as pedaling continues to tighten the freewheel (to a certain point).

    • BMX freewheels are considerably more expensive than BMX cogs.

    • Shimano freewheels tend to have a "dragging" or "scraping" sound, while ACS Claws freewheels often develop "knocking" (minor annoyances for some).
    Cassette
    • A wide range of disc brake-compatible hubs available.

    • BMX cogs are considerably less expensive than BMX freewheels.

    • Easy chainline adjustment; the relative positions of the cog & spacers on the freehub can be easily changed to dial in proper chainline.

    • BMX cogs are available in smaller tooth-counts than freewheels; 13T vs. 15-16T minimum (depending on the manufacturer).

    • The use of a Spicer Cycles GCA (Granny Cog Adapter) allows an extremely large maximum "cog" size & almost infinite gearing options.

    • For converted (non-SS specific) cassette wheels, it requires a minimal investment to convert the wheel for single speed use. It also allows you to convert the wheel back for use on geared bikes if you choose to do so.

    • The cassette freehub® lock ring is usually easier to take off than a freewheel, which threads on tighter (up to a point) every time you ride it.

    • You may have the option to add an additional cog (depending on freehub® width) for extra gearing options using manual shifting. While not technically a single speed, many people are interested in this flexibility.
    • Cannot use with a fixed gear setup.
      NOTE: Cassette hubs can, however, be converted to use freewheels or fixed gear cogs with the Surly Fixxer.

    • Loud "ratcheting" sound while coasting isn't as peaceful on the trail as a silent freewheel.

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Is a rigid fork better (than a suspension fork) for single speeding?

Single speed "purists" will argue that you need to abandon suspension forks and ride rigid to truly experience single speeding. While this argument may have some merit, the reality is that there no rules stating that the single speed community will shun you if you use a suspension fork on your single speed.  In fact, many single speeders prefer suspension forks.  Just like anything else, it's strictly a matter of preference.

So why do many single speeders seem to exhibit this seemingly devolutionary behavior in regards to using rigid forks? While advancements in suspension fork technology continue to offer lighter, more responsive forks with increased tunability, many single speeders still prefer the sheer simplicity of rigid forks. They are inexpensive, maintenance-free, and lightweight (potentially a couple pounds lighter than a suspension fork). They don't develop leaky seals, and you won't need to worry about rebuilding them season after season. They handle quickly and predictably, providing that the crown length of the fork is a good match for your bicycle's geometry.

Still, this rationale only addresses some the technical reasons single speeders may prefer rigid forks. Equally important to some is the idea that sometimes simplicity outweighs technology. Matt Chester wrote an article titled "Why?" for http://www.63xc.com/mattc/why1.htm.  While the article addresses fixed gear riding, the fundamental concept (simplicity) applies to the rigid fork topic, as well.

If you prefer a suspension fork, models that offer a lockout seem to offer the most flexibility, allowing you to lock the fork's travel (essentially making it rigid) when climbing or sprinting.

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How do I tension the chain?

Several chain tensioning options are discussed in the "How do I tension the chain?" section under "Single Speed Conversions".

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Should I use wider bars on my single speed than I do on my geared bike?

Gone are the days when 23" handlebars were considered wide. Many bars (risers in particular) are now available in 26-27" widths, and some wider yet. But why use wider bars, particularly for single speeding?

Simply put, "Wider is better."

It comes down to the principle of leverage. Since the (seated) "drop-into-the-granny-and-spin-away" approach isn't an option for single speeders, the tendency is to stand & rock your way up big climbs. The additional bar width (over a typical 22-23" XC handlebar) provides greater leverage, which is helpful in applying upper body strength and "body English" while climbing. Does this mean that everyone should use 26+" bars? No. Smaller riders with narrower shoulders may likely use an appropriately narrower handlebar. Any increase over their "normal" handlebar width will provide a relative increase in leverage.

However, depending on the types of trails you ride, there may be trade-offs with using wider bars. If you frequently ride tight & twisty singletrack, wider bars may introduce clearance issues in particularly tight sections of trail. The goal is to find a balance between clearance and increased leverage.

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Will a longer crank set work better on a single speed than a "normal" length crank set?

Many single speeders prefer longer cranks (e.g. - 180mm arms), as they provide more leverage on climbs. The increased crank length effectively lowers the overall gearing (see the Gain Ratio discussion in the "How do I determine the proper gear ratio for my single speed?" section). However, by adjusting your gearing selection, you should be able to achieve the same effect using a "standard length" (shorter) crankset.

DISCLAIMER: No physicists are currently present to confirm or deny the statement above.

In general, longer cranks offer a little more leverage for climbing, but reduce overall spinning speed (more basic physics). They also reduce the amount of ground clearance, which may be an issue when riding in very rocky, technical areas.

There isn't a way to accurately assess what percentage of single speeders use 180+mm vs. 175mm cranksets, so any statement indicating "the norm" would be a guess, at best. If you are curious as to how longer crankarms would feel on a single speed, try to demo a set (possibly on a friend's bike) prior to buying them. Take into consideration the pros & cons mentioned above, and make the best decision for your riding style and/or terrain.

Other interesting crank length write-ups
www.nettally.com/palmk/crankset.html
www.cranklength.info
www.zinncycles.com/cranks.aspx

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Should I use linear-pull or disc brakes on my single speed?

Similar to the debate over Rigid vs. Suspension forks (see the "Is a rigid fork better (than a suspension fork) for single speeding?" section), the discussion regarding Disc vs. Linear-pull brakes evokes strong emotions from riders on both sides of the argument. While linear-pull brakes have served many people faithfully over the last several years, discs have definitely infiltrated the single speed (and general mountain bike) market.

However, do disc brakes provide any particular benefit to single speeders? While discs definitely have some tangible benefits (particularly in foul weather conditions), there is little differentiation specific to single speeding. For in-depth discussion on disc brakes, check out the MTBR Disc brake FAQ.

When trying to determine which brake type to equip your single speed with, consider the following (Refer to the "General Issues" section of the MTBR Disc brake FAQ page for further details.):

  • What is your budget? Linear-pull brakes are usually much less expensive than disc brakes (there are some exceptions, however).
  • Do you regularly ride in poor weather conditions? Disc brakes tend to have better all-weather performance.
  • Do you freqently ride down long, downhill grades? Disc brakes dissipate heat better than rim brakes.
  • How important is bicycle weight to you? Disc brakes are generally heavier than linear-pull brakes.
  • Will you be using an existing wheelset? Are the hubs disc-compatible? If not, a new set of hubs and/or wheelset can be quite costly.
  • Do you already have linear-pull brake levers? If so, linear-pull or mechanical disc brakes will allow you to retain your existing brake levers.
  • Does your frame have disc mounts? If not, linear-pull may be your best choice. However, it may be possible to retrofit disc brake mounts onto your existing frame. Consult an experienced framebuilder for more information.

Keep in mind, too, that after adapting to riding with a single gear, you will most likely use your brakes considerably less than you do (or did) prior to riding a single speed. Why? Because single speeders quickly learn to retain as much momentum as possible, which makes conquering climbs much easier.

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For cassette rear hubs, will a BMX cog work better than a Hyperglide® cog removed from my cassette?

Yes.

You can easily disassemble some cassette models and use one of the individual cogs (e.g. - Shimano Hyperglide® cogs) for a single speed conversion.  However, these cogs are designed with profiled teeth that aid in shifting. When used on a single speed, the profiled teeth are more likely to allow your chain to derail. The teeth are also fairly short (in comparison with those on a BMX cog), which may lead to chain skipping under load, especially with small (< 16T) cogs with relatively little chain wrap.

In contrast, BMX cogs are designed with a single gear in mind. The teeth are not profiled, and they are significantly taller than those on a Hyperglide® cog.

Are you on a tight budget with your single speed project? Give a Hyperglide® cog a try if you have one with a tooth count that meets your gearing needs. Chainline and chain tension will be more critical in this case, but many people have used this setup successfully. If you do eventually run into skipping or derailing problems, a new BMX cog can be purchased for around $5, and the added insurance is well worth the price.

Some manufacturers such as Chris King offer higher-end cogs. King Cogs offer a wider base, or interface, to the freehub® body. This will prevent the BMX cog from "chewing into" the freehub under serious torque. This probably isn't an issue for most riders, but may be a consideration for very powerful and/or clydesdale-type riders.

BMX cogs are available in sizes ranging from 13T - 20T. For cog sizes greater than 20T, try a Hyperglide® cog or the Spicer Cycles GCA (Granny Cog Adapter).

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What is the difference between a standard chainring and a "single speed chainring"?

Most chainrings currently being produced are designed with shifting in mind. These chainrings have ramps, profiled teeth & pins that aid in smoother and faster shifting.  While these chainrings may be used on single speeds, a chainring without ramps & pins is recommended.

So, is there such a thing as true single speed chainrings? Yes. There are companies specializing in single speed products who offer non-ramped/pinned chainrings. These aren't the only chainring options available, however. Downhill & BMX chainrings are also designed for single-ring use. In addition, companies like as Sugino and Salsa produce non-ramped/pinned chainrings intended for use on geared bikes. All of these chainring options offer tall teeth that are not profiled. They will be more apt to keep the chain from derailing when the trail gets rough, and they are also a little more forgiving in regards to chainline.

This isn't to say that you can't successfully use a "normal" (geared) chainring on your single speed. If you have one laying around that will work, give it a try. When it comes time for replacement, though, a single speed chainring will give you a little added insurance.

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What are chaintugs, and do I need them on my single speed?

Chaintugs, also called chain tensioners (but not to be confused with the chain tensioners discussed in the "How do I tension the chain?" section), are designed only for use on frames with track fork ends (not vertical dropouts). They pull back on the rear axle using threaded adjusters that seat on the rear of the fork ends, and keep the rear axle from slipping under load. Chaintugs are generally used on both sides of the wheel, but sometimes only on the drive side (as that is where most of the force is exerted when pedaling).

How do you know if you need chaintugs?

  • Does your frame have track fork ends (not vertical dropouts)? If you have vertical dropouts, it's a non-issue.
  • Are you experiencing recurring problems with your rear wheel slipping in the track fork ends (quite probable when using a quick release skewer on the rear)? Chaintugs will prevent this from occurring.
  • Do you find it difficult to get the rear wheel aligned when reinstalling? The chaintug's threaded adjusters will make this much easier.
  • Would you like a bottle opener on your bike? Some models, such as the Surly Tuggnut & Spot Rocket Frame Saver have built-in bottle openers.

The Surly & Spot chaintugs were mentioned above, but any shop that carries BMX products should have (or be able to order) basic chaintugs that will work with your frame. Consult a knowledgeable shop prior to purchasing chaintugs, as compatibility will depend on the frame's track fork end design.

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Can I use quick release (QR) skewers on the rear wheel of my single speed, or do I need to use a solid axle with track nuts?

There are only a few ways to attach wheels to your frame & fork.

  1. Quick-release skewers
  2. Solid axle & track nuts
  3. Fastening bolts (used by manufacturers like Paul Components & Chris King [optional Fun Bolts])

For frames with vertical dropouts, use whichever type you prefer.  A potential issue applies only to frames with track fork ends or horizontal dropouts.

Quick-release skewers can be used on frames with track fork ends or horizontal dropouts, but care should be taken in selecting what type of skewer to use. Modern alloy skewers usually cannot be clamped down tightly enough to hold the rear wheel in place.  This may lead to the wheel slipping under load.  Older, heavy-duty steel skewers like early Shimano XTs seem to work the best for people choosing to use a quick-release on the rear.  Adding chaintugs would also reduce the likelihood of slippage.

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Where can I find comprehensive information on MTB tires?

When it comes to tires, the MTBR.com Singlespeed Forum's own shiggy©®™ is the undisputed tire guru. His website, Shiggy's Mt. Bike Tire Site: www.mtbtires.com, has detailed tire specs, manufacturer links, reviews, etc.  The site is especially helpful in providing information on F-A-T tires (which are a popular choice for bikes using rigid forks).

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Which component manufacturers cater to the single speed market?

See the "Single Speed Manufacturer Listings" section for manufacturers offering frames/bicycles, rigid forks & other single speed comonents.

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Single Speed Manufacturer Listings


Single Speed Frame/Bicycle Manufacturers

(Updated 01/23/2004 with 2004 model-line URLs)

NOTE: If you are a single speed frame manufacturer, or if you find an invalid URL in this list, please e-mail 1x1 Speed Craig with the appropriate additions and/or changes. Thanks!

Airborne Bicycles - 26" SS frame: Ti Hag (3AL/2.5V titanium). 29" SS frame: Dreadnaught (3AL/2.5V titanium). Reasonably priced titanium MTB & road geared frames also available.

Bianchi - SS complete bike: S.A.S.S. (Dedacciai COM steel tubing). Track frame: Pista (Reynolds 520 butted CrMo steel). A range of materials - Steel, aluminum, ti, carbon fiber & boron - are used for the balance of Bianchi's product line, including road, mountain, Cross-terrain (cruiser), & cyclocross bikes.

Brew Bikes - SS frame: Beaver Creek (SS optional) (BREW Big Butted steel tubing). Steel geared frames also available in road, track & touring. BMX frames are available, as well.

Brodie - SS Dirt Jumper: Heathen (available 2005). SS frame: 1-Ball (aluminum). Modular dropouts & braze-ons allow the option of adding derailleurs. Also available as a frame-only. Geared MTB & comfort frames also available.

ByStickel Bicycles - SS frame: Custom SS - No model name (Columbus, Tru-Temper, Dedacciai & Reynolds steel). Some of you may know Steve Stickel as "D.F.L." from here on the MTBR Singlespeed Forum. NOTE: Website is currently under construction. Until it's completed (soon), you can E-mail Steve Stickel for more information. ByStickel offers a full range of custom frames, including HeadShok frames, 29", 26"/29" convertible, EBB frames, etc.

Cannondale - Two (2) SS frames: Singlespeed Ultra (aluminum) & Singlespeed (rigid aluminum). Aluminum & carbon fiber road, 'cross, hybrid, triathlon, tandem & recumbent bicycles also available.

Circle A Cycles - SS frame: Single Speed (Columbus & Dedacciaci steel). Fixed gear and geared MTB & road frames also available.

Coconino Cycles - SS frame: Custom 1-speed (Columbus steel). Geared MTB, 29er, road, cyclocross & touring frames also available.

Curtlo Bicycles - SS frame: Solo Mountaineer (True Temper OX Platinum steel). Geared hardtail & softtail MTB frames, along with road, 'cross & tandem frames (custom) also available.

Dean Bicycles - SS frame: Colonel Single Speed (3/2.5 seamless titanium). Ti road & 'cross bikes also available.

DeKerf Cycle Innovations - SS frame: Solitaire (Reynolds 853 steel). DeKerf also offers steel & aluminum geared frames.

DeSalvo Custom Cycles - Two (2) SS frames: Steel Single Speed (Columbus Thron steel [production model] Columbus & True Temper steel [semi-custom deluxe model]) & Titanium Single Speed (titanium). Geared MTB, road, & 'cross frames also available.

Edge Cycles - SS frame(s) - Neo, Trinity & Hoopty (Columbus Foco steel). Geared MTB & road frames also available.

Goat Bike - SS frame: Single Speed (4130 Cro-moly steel). Heavy-duty frame "built for freeriding, dirt jumping, trailriding, street, skatepark, trials...Whatever the hell you wanna do."

Gunnar - Offroad SS frame: Ruffian. Road SS frame: Street Dog (both use True Temper OX Platinum & Reynolds 853 steel). Geared MTB, road, & 'cross frames also available.

Hilset (Belgian company) - SS frame: Ti Singlespeed (titanium). Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) design. Very little information at this point, but if you're Belgian, you may be able to help us all out.

Hunter Cycles - Two (2) SS frames: Standard Single Speed & Single Speed Universal Disk Brake Model (Columbus Nivachrome steel)

Ionic Cycles - SS frame: Johnny Rotten (Reynolds 853 steel). Steel & aluminum geared road & MTB frames also available.

Independent Fabrication - SS frames: Optional on all frames (Reynolds 853 & Columbus Nivacrom steel or Aero-space grade 3/2.5 titanium). Steel & ti geared frames also available in road, 'cross or touring.

Jade Cycles - SS frame: LSJ (Reynolds 853 & Columbus Zona steel). Steel & aluminum geared MTB, road, cyclocross, track & aero frames also available.

Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles - SS frame: ONE (3AL-2.5V seamless titanium). Custom design available with Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) or track fork ends, 26" or 29" wheels, 3-D Spaceframe design, etc. Geared frames also available.

Jericho Bicycles - SS frame: Leadfoot (Columbus Zona steel). SS Dual Slalom, geared XC, freeride, cyclocross & road frames also available (steel & Easton aluminum tubing).

Kelly Bikes - 26" SS frame: Deluxe. 29" SS frame: Ro Sham Bo. SS Cyclocross frame: Knobby X. SS Cruiser frame: Hoop T. (All frames use True Temper OX Platinum). Frames are available in geared configurations, and a road bike is available, as well.

KHS - SS frame: Solo One (Reynolds Double-butted Chromoly steel). Softtail frame design. Geared hardtail & softtail MTB frames, road, 'cross, track, comfort, folding & tandem frames also available.

Kish Custom Fabrication - SS frame(s) - Steel SS (Columbus Zona steel) & Ti SS (3AL/2.5V titanium). Geared mtbs, road, cyclocross & cruisers also available.

Kona - Hardtail SS complete bike: Unit (True Temper Platinum OX). Full Suspension (3.5" Travel) SS frame: A (Kona 7005 Butted Aluminum). This isn't a typo...it's just called "A" (pronounced Ah). The A is available as a frame-only. Kona has various XC, freeride, downhill, road & touring bikes available, as well.

Land Shark - SS frame: Custom Single Speed (Dedacciaci steel). Track, fixed gear, and geared road & mountain frames also available.

Matt Chester - Two (2) SS frames (both are Ancotech & Sandvik 3AL/2.5V titanium). "Whatever-you-want fully custom 700c wheeled utility rig": Indie Rock. 29" SS frame: Mutinyman.

Moots Cycles - SS frame: Optional for YBB & YBB SL, YBB AirRigor Mootis & Mooto-X EBB 29"er. (titanium). Moots also has geared MTB, road & cyclocross frames.

On-One - Four (4) SS frames. Standard SS frame: Inbred (DN6 aerospace 4130 chromoly). EBB Disc SS: Inbred EBB Disc (DN6 aerospace 4130 chromoly). EBB Disc SS: Inbred Ti EBB Disc, or "Tinbred" (On-One Old Skool Ti). SS cyclocross frame Il Pompino (DN6 aerospace 4130 chromoly...soon to be available in titanium, as well).

OX Brand Bikes - 29" SS frame (not yet available, but in the works): Steel Mountain Cruiser SS (steel). If you haven't seen the first offering from these guys - the geared Ti Mountain Cruiser 29" - it's cool. A steel EBB single speed frame is in currently the works at OX Brand, but is not yet available.

Peyto Cycles - SS (optional) frame: Ridiculight XC (Columbus Zona steel). - Bolt-on Paul Components fork ends or EBB optional. Geared freeride, cyclocross, softtail & BMX frames also available.

Phil Wood - SS frame: Piss Off, or "Phil Independent Single Speed Off Road" (Aero space grade 3/2.5 titanium).& components, as well as standard hubs.

Redline Bicycles - SS frame/complete bikes: Monocog (chromoly steel) & Monocog Flight (U-6 Aluminum Alloy). NOTE: The Monocog has 110mm (BMX) rear spacing. This is a consideration if you're planning to upgrade wheelsets, as most SS hubs are 135mm wide.

Retrotec Bicycles - SS frame: Optional on all frames (steel). Frames designed with retro, cruiser-style looks. Also available are geared road, 29" MTB & cyclocross frames.

Rock Lobster - SS frame: Team Tig Single Speed (Richey Logic Nitanium & Tange Prestige; Reynolds 853 optional). Track frame: Rock Lobster Track (True Temper O.X. Platinum). Geared XC, cyclocross & tandem frames available.

Salsa Cycles - SS frame: Juan Solo (Scandium, Custom Drawn). Frame utilizes a Bushnell EBB. Geared MTB & road bikes also available.

Seven Cycles - SS frame: Optional on all frames excluding the Duo. (titanium or steel). Geared XC, cyclocross, road & tandem frames available.

Slingshot Bicycle Company - SS frame: SingleShot (Steel - Slingshot Custom Tubing). Geared XC, 29", time trial, cyclocross & road frames also available.

Sofa King - SS frame: Good (Easton Scandium or Easton Ultralite). Standard SS or EBB frames available. Sofa King also offers geared MTB & road frames.

Soma - SS frame: 4one5 (Reynolds 631 front triangle & butted Cro-mo). Track frame: Rush (Reynolds 631 front triangle & butted Cro-mo). Standard 120mm track spacing. Geared MTB, road & 'cross frames also available.

Soulcraft Bikes - SS frame: Plowboy (SuperStock Custom Pipes - steel). Geared MTB, road, cyclocross, 29", women-specific, etc. also available.

Spicer Cycles - Three (3) SS frames (soon to be available): Standard Steel SS, Standard Aluminum SS & Standard Titanium ECC. Steel and aluminum track, pursuit, kilo, time trial, fixed gear road, & MTB frames, as well as Two-wheel drive bikes, also available. Gene Spicer also offers Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) retrofit services for steel and aluminum frames.

Spot Bikes - Single speeds are all they make (with the exception of a few custom geared Spots floating around out there. SS MTB frame: Mountain (Reynolds & Dedacciai steel). SS Cyclocross frame: Cyclocross (Reynolds & Dedacciai steel). SS Dirt Jumping frame: Dirt Jumping (seamless Chromoly steel). NOTE: Gratuitous use of Flash on website.

Steelman Cycles - SS frame(s) - Optional on all frames (mix of Reynolds, True Temper & Dedacciaci steel). Geared MTB, road, & 'cross frames also available.

Strong Frames - SS frame(s) - Optional on all frames. All frames are available in aluminum, scandium, steel & titanium from manufacturers such as Columbus, Reynolds, True Temper, Easton, Ancotech & Dedacciai. Geared MTB, road, touring, 'cross, triathlon & 29" frames also available.

Surly - Four (4) SS frames. 26" SS frame (the frame that started it all): 1x1. 29" SS (or geared): Karate Monkey. SS (or geared) cyclocross frame: Cross-check. Track frame: Steamroller. All of Surly's frames are 4130 chromoly.

Sycip - SS frame: Diesel (Custom ovalized & tear drop steel). SS cruiser frame: Java Boy (Java Boy Super-Flo steel tubes). Geared aluminum (or aluminum & carbon) road bikes, XC, cyclocross & full-suspension frames also available.

Thylacine Cycles - SS frame: 221 (Columbus Zona steel). SS optionial on Stock Program XC (Columbus Foco), Custom Program XC (Columbus Foco & EOM 16.5 steel), & Custom Program Ti (3/2.5 Titanium) frames. Austrailian-based framebuilder.

Tom Teesdale Custom Bicycles - SS frame: TET Single-Speed - MTB, road or 29" (Reynolds & Columbus steel, or Easton aluminum). Track frame: Track. (Reynolds & Columbus steel, or Easton aluminum). EBB frames available. Geared road, 'cross, triathlon & tandem frames also available.

Titus - SS frame: Riddler (aluminum). The Riddler uses modular dropouts that allow you to run SS or geared. Geared XC, downhill, freeride, & road bikes in titanium, ti/carbon & aluminum also available.

True North Cycles - Optional on all frames (Columbus steel). Geared steel & titanium frames are also available in 'cross, road, touring & city/commuter configurations.

Vail Cycle Works - Mega One (Columbus Navicrom steel). Available with Sub-11 track fork ends or with an Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB). Track frame: VCW Track (Columbus Navicrom steel). Geared steel & ti MTB & road frams also available.

Vanilla Bicycles - SS frame: Single speed (steel), with Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB). Track frame: Track (steel). Geared road, 'cross, touring & frames also available.

Ventana Mountain Bikes USA - SS Frame: El Toro (Easton Ultralite 6061-T6 double-butted aluminum). Eccentric Bottom Bracket w/vertical dropouts and disc mount. Geared full-suspension MTB & tandem frames also available.

Vicious Cycles - SS Frame: Monolith (Ritchey WCS OS steel). Geared road, 'cross, 29" & tandem frames also available.

VooDoo Cycles - 26" SS frame: Wanga One (steel). 29" SS frame: Dambala 29 (steel). Geared MTB & cyclocross frames also available.

Vulture Cycles - SS Frame: No model name (steel). Eccentric Bottom Bracket w/vertical dropouts and disc mount. Geared MTB & road frames also available. Vulture also offers Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) retrofit services for steel frames.

Walt Works - SS frame: Optional on all frames (steel). Geared MTB, road, cyclocross, track, mountain, 29", BMX frames also available.

Wily Cycles - SS frame(s) - Optional on all frames (True Temper OX Platinum steel). Geared MTB frames also available.

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Rigid Fork Manufacturers

NOTE: If you are a rigid fork manufacturer, or if you find an invalid URL in this list, please e-mail 1x1 Speed Craig with the appropriate additions and/or changes. Thanks!

ByStickel Bicycles - 26" & 29" MTB forks available (Cromoly steel), available in linear-pull only or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height(s): Custom. Some of you may know Steve Stickel as "D.F.L." from here on the MTBR Singlespeed Forum. NOTE: Website is currently under construction. Until it's completed (soon), you can E-mail Steve Stickel for more information.

Dimension - 26" MTB fork: Disc-specific rigid fork (Cromoly steel), disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 413mm.

Hilset (Belgian company) - 26" MTB fork: Vork (titanium), linear-pull/disc or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 423mm. Very little information at this point, but if you're Belgian, you may be able to help us all out.

Hunter Cycles - Very little information at this point, but Hunter Forks are supposed to be coming soon.

Independent Fabrication - 26" MTB fork: IF "No Travel" Fork (Columbus steel). Axle-to-crown height: 430mm. Cyclocross, touring & road forks also available.

Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles - 26" & 29" "truss" MTB forks and "front ends" (one-piece handlebar/stem/fork) available (3AL-2.5V seamless titanium), available in linear-pull only or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height(s): Custom.

Kelly Bikes - 26" & 29" MTB fork(s) available (Cromoly steel). Axle-to-crown height (26"): 420mm. Cyclocross forks also available.

Kinesis - 26" MTB fork: Maxlight (6061 Aluminum), linear-pull only. Axle-to-crown height: 420mm.

Kona - 26" MTB fork: Project 2, also called P-2 (Cromoly steel), linear-pull only. Axle-to-crown height: 410mm. The Project 2 is also available as a cyclocross (700c) disc fork.

Morati - 26" MTB fork(s): Morati HC (Ti3Al,2.5V & Ti6AL,4V titanium), linear-pull only or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 420mm. Cyclocross & road forks also available.

On-One 26" MTB fork(s): Inbred (Cromoly steel), linear-pull/disc or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 420mm. Titanium Inbred (titanium), disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 400mm or 420mm.

OX Brand Bikes - 29" MTB fork: Titanium OX Brand Forks. (Double butted 3/2.5 & 6/4 titanium), linear-pull/disc. Axle-to-crown height: 430mm. Also compatible with 26" wheels (if using disc brakes).

Pace - 26" MTB fork: RC31 X-Country Hollowform (Carbon fiber legs w/magnesium dropouts), disc-specific with optional V-brake mounting kit. Possibly, the lightest rigid fork out there at 695 grams. Axle-to-crown height: 419mm. NOTE: This is not a jumping fork!

Planet-X - 26" MTB fork(s): Kniffen (Cromoly steel), linear-pull/disc. Axle-to-crown height: 400mm or 420mm. Kniffen Long (Cromoly steel), linear-pull/disc or disc-specific (black only). Axle-to-crown height: 435mm. Superlight (Cromoly steel), linear-pull/disc. Axle-to-crown height: 400mm or 420mm.

Sibex Sports (Russian company) - 26", 29" & Cyclocross forks available. 26" MTB fork: Titanium 26" rigid fork (3al/2.5v titanium), disc/linear-pull compatible. Axle-to-crown height: 430mm. 29"/700C fork: Titanium 29"/700c rigid fork (3al/2.5v titanium), disc/linear-pull compatible. Axle-to-crown height: 430mm. Cyclocross-specific forks also available.

Soulcraft Bikes - 26" MTB forks: Steel rigid fork (Cromoly steel), available in linear-pull only, disc/linear-pull, or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 425mm. Cyclocross forks also available.

Spicer Cycles - 26" MTB fork(s): Spicer Titanium rigid fork (titanium), linear-pull only or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 395mm or 430mm. Spicer Steel rigid fork (steel), disc-specific only. Axle-to-crown height: 395mm or 430mm. Cyclocross forks also available.

Surly - 26" & 29" MTB fork(s) available. 26" MTB forks: 1x1 (4130 Cromoly steel), available in linear-pull only or disc/linear-pull w/removable canti studs. Axle-to-crown height: 413mm. The 26" Instigator (4130 Cromoly steel) fork is designed for 100mm travel frame geometries, and is also disc/linear-pull compatible w/removable canti studs. Axle-to-crown height: 447mm. 29" MTB forks: Karate Monkey (4130 Cromoly steel), disc/linear-pull w/removable canti studs. Axle-to-crown height: 468mm.

Steelman Cycles - 26" MTB fork: Steel rigid fork (True Temper Cromoly steel), linear-pull only. Axle-to-crown height(s): 440mm. Road & cyclocross forks also available.

Sycip - 26" MTB fork: Segmented MTN or Unicrown MTN (Columbus steel), linear-pull only, disc-specific or disc/linear-pull (small upcharge). Axle-to-crown height(s): Custom. Cyclocross & road forks also available.

Thylacine Cycles - Custom MTB forks available (Cromoly steel or Titanium), available in linear-pull only, disc/linear-pull, or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height(s): Custom. Austrailian-based framebuilder.

True North Cycles - Custom MTB forks available (Cromoly steel), available in linear-pull only, disc/linear-pull, or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height(s): Custom.

Wily Cycles - 26" & 29" MTB forks available (True Temper steel), available in linear-pull only, disc/linear-pull, or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height(s): custom.

Vicious Cycles - 26" MTB forks: Steel rigid fork (Cromoly steel), linear-pull only or disc-specific. Axle-to-crown height: 425mm. Cyclocross forks also available.

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Single Speed Freewheel Rear Hubs Manufacturers

On-One - Inbred hubs.

Paul Components - WORD (Wacky One-Speed Rear Device) & Disk WORD.

Phil Wood - Several single speed & fixed/free hubs models.

Spot Bikes - Standard & disc-compatible freewheel hubs and wheelsets. NOTE: Gratuitous use of Flash on website.

Surly - Single speed and fixed/free hubs in several rear spacings. One additional product worth noting is the Fixxer, which converts any cassette hub to fixed gear (or freewheel-compatible SS).

Van Dessel Cycles - 135mm fixed/free hubs & wheelsets.

White Industries - ENO Precision Freewheels & Eccentric fixed/free hub (135mm). The ENO hub uses a unique eccentric design, and is discussed in more detail in the "How do I tension the chain?" section (Option #6).

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Single Speed Cassette Rear Hub Manufacturers

Chris King - Standard & disc-compatible cassette hubs.

Norco/Axiom - Disc-compatible cassette hubs.

Novatech Components - Disc-compatible cassette hubs.

On-One - Disc-compatible cassette hubs.

Woodman Components - Disc-compatible cassette hubs.

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Single Speed Chain Tensioner Manufacturers

Several chain tensioning options are discussed in the "How do I tension the chain?" section under "Single Speed Conversions".

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Other Single Speed Component Manufacturers

Boone - Titanium chainrings and cogs.

Bushnell - Dennis Bushnell's Eccentric Bottom Brackets (EBBs) used in many EBB single speed (and tandem bicycle) frames.

Fast Freddy - Custom single speed headset top caps with engravings like "Single Speed - One Is All You Need" & "My Other Bike Is A Singlespeed". Definitely a cool addition to any SS! Fast Freddy is a regular here on the MTBR Single Speed Forum.

Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles - Offers weight-reducing Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) modifications, as well as a single speed-friendly handlebar dubbed the "H-Bar" (3AL-2.5V seamless titanium), which provides a lot of leverage and comfortable sweep.

Kavic Bicycles - Bolt-on Kavic Modular Dropouts, that allow you to change your bikes configuration (e.g. - SS, SS disc, geared, etc.).

LeVeL Components - Unique single speed & fixed gear hubs, and soon-to-come proprietary freewheel.

Paul Components - Track fork ends with built-in "Axle-Keepers", and Paul Disk Unit disc brake adapter (for use with Disk WORD hub).

On-One - Chaintugs.

Race Face - Bash Rings.

Salsa Cycles - Single speed (non ramped/pinned) chainrings.

Shimano - The gearie-oriented folks at Shimano also offer some inexpensive BMX cogs & BMX freewheels.

Spicer Cycles - The GCA (Granny Cog Adapter) allows you to use a granny chainring as a rear cog (cassette hubs only), offering a wider range of gear combinations than currently available with BMX cogs & freewheels.

Spot Bikes - Chainrings, chain guards (bash guards), SS hubs, & SS wheelsets. NOTE: Gratuitous use of Flash on website.

SunRace - High-quality SFX80 Merril BMX Freewheel available soon.

Surly - The Fixxer converts any cassette hub to fixed gear (or freewheel-compatible SS). Surly also offers Tuggnut Chain Tensioners (chaintugs).

Travis Brown (1st World Singlespeed Champ) - Disco chain guide. These are plastic discs that keep the chain from derailling off the rear cog. May be especially useful on converted single speed bikes with vertical dropouts.

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Troubleshooting


What is causing the chain to skip on my single speed?

Chain skip can be caused by several things:

  • Using a new chain used with a worn chainring/freewheel/cog (or vice versa)
  • Not enough chain tension - Tighten chain tension. If you're using a spring-loaded chain tensioner on a converted SS, try removing a link and/or tightening the tensioner's spring.
  • Not enough "chain wrap" on the cog - This can be caused by using too small of a small cog on the rear (e.g. - 13-14T). The chain does not engage as many teeth, so eccessive torque can lead to the chain skipping over the top of the cog. A 16T-minimum freewheel/cog is recommended.

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Why does the chain on my single speed keep derailing?

Some common causes of chain derailing are:

  • Chainline, chainline, chainline.
  • Not enough chain tension (particularly when using spring-loaded chain tensioner on a converted SS) - Bumpy sections of trail can cause the chain to bounce a lot, creating short periods of excessive chain slack that can cause the chain to derail.
  • Poor chain tensioner pulley alignment - The chain will probably derail off the rear cog/freewheel.

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Why is my rear wheel's axle slipping under load?

NOTE: This applies only to frames with track fork ends or horizontal dropouts (not frames with vertical dropouts).

  1. How is your rear wheel attached to the frame?

  2. Are you currently using a chaintug(s)?

    If you are already using a single chaintug on the drive side of the frame, you may consider adding a second chaintug to the non-drive side.

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Why is the EBB (Eccentric Bottom Bracket) on my frame creaking?

Because it is a moving part in a very dirty, wet and generally mistreated area of the bike, Eccentric Bottom Brackets (EBBs) can develop creaks. Most are solved quite simply by removing the eccentric, cleaning it thoroughly and reinstalling it with a liberal amount of the proper grease for your frame material.

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Why do my knees hurt when I ride my single speed?

Knee pain can be caused by several different issues, most of which are addressed in the "Knee problems" section of the Rec.Bicycles FAQ. Single speeders, in particular, often experience some knee pain from riding. In addition to the suggestions mentioned on Rec.Bicycles, you may want to consider a lower gearing (related to question/answer #3), and/or a high-float pedal design like the Speedplay Frog, Time Atac, or Crank Bros. Eggbeaters.

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Miscellaneous SS Topics


Is "fixed gear" the same thing as "single speed"?

No. While a single speed's freewheel or freehub® allows you to coast, a fixed gear is a direct-drive setup. As long as your rear wheel is moving, you must pedal.

Fixed gear riding used to be reserved for the track or for road/city/commuter/messenger riding, there are some people who venture offroad on a fixed gear. In fact, http://www.63xc.com/ is dedicated to offroading "fixxies".

If you're interested in trying out fixed gear riding, the www.63xc.com's "How To" page will answer many of your questions regarding required equipment and bicycle setup.

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What is the "4-tooth rule"?

The "4-tooth rule" states that by adding or subtracting 4 total teeth to a single speed's gearing, the overall chain length should remain unaffected (NOTE: See clarification/restrictions below).

Why does this matter? It usually boils down to that quest to find the perfect gearing without the use of a chain tensioner on frames with vertical dropouts. There are a couple of tools mentioned in the "Are there tools that can help me decide what gear ratio to use?" section that will help to determine if this is possible on your bicycle frame. If you find that a particular gear combination will work without needing a tensioner, the 4-tooth rule implies that you should be able to add or subtract 4 teeth without affecting the chain length. However, variations in manufacturer measurements & tolerances may affect the actual compatibility & fit.

Another useful application of the 4-tooth rule is a 2-speed bicycle (blasphemy, of course) equipped with both road & mountain gearing. For example, the use of two front chainrings and two cogs could provide 34:14 and 32:16 gearing that can be manually changed without affecting your overall chain length. This can be particularly helpful for "on-the-fly" gear changes without (or with limited) use of tools.

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Single Speed Glossary


Where can I find a comprehensive glossary containing single speed (and other bicycle-related) terms & definitions?

Sheldon Brown has put together a comprehensive Bicycle Glossary that is referenced throughout this FAQ page. Thanks for the great resource, Sheldon! You can even download the Bicycle Glossary to your PDA. Be sure to check out Sheldon's Harris Cyclery website for some great biking-related articles, products, etc.

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Single Speed FAQ Credits/Contributors

1x1 Speed Craig (Craig Emenaker) - Writer/Editor

Craig lives in West Michigan, and has been mountain biking since 1995. He started single speeding in 2000, and has been riding single speeds almost exclusively since 2001.  He also enjoys fixed gear riding, and has recently been bitten by the cyclocross bug (single speed, of course). Tandem riding with his wife or daughter rounds out his riding interests. Check out the tandem setup that allowed his daughter to experience her first offroad ride at 22 months old!  His personal biking website includes photos & details on his (and his family's) bikes, various biking-related links, riding photos, and rants on various subjects.

Drevil (Ricky deLeyos) - Contributor

Drevil got hooked on mountain biking in '91. He was bit hard by the SS bug ten years later, and digs single speeding mostly because of the simplicity and reliability. He currently own seven bikes..."They're either built up as single speeds or just not built." He worked in bike shops for seven years, but works in the IT field now. Drevil lives in Maryland, and you may see him at Avalon or the Fred' 'Shed. Go Terps!

Striker (Tim Broyer) - Contributor

Tim is the webmaster for TriangleMTB.com, a local website in Raleigh NC. One page on the site is dedicated to answering the question, "Why ride single speed?". Tim is Married with one daughter. He's been riding regularly for years and single speeding for two years, and just loves to ride no matter what kind of bike it is.

Poison Chicken (James Quinlan) - Contributor

James is the creator of the ssConvert Single Speed Software, useful in determining what gearing to use on your single speed. He lives in Ohio, and has his personal bio posted on team Bigtime's website. He also states the following about himself:

  1. I am a math geek...working on phd, finishing in about a year
  2. I am a minimalist (that'ss what i love SS)...i try to limit consumption of everything
  3. I like the motto K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
  4. I have a 4 year old daughter
  5. I commute daily on a fixie
  6. I dislike corporations and government

Sheldon Brown - Contributor/technical guru

Special thanks to Sheldon for all of the detailed technical information & comprehensive Bicycle Glossary referenced throughout this FAQ page! You can even download the Bicycle Glossary to your PDA. Check out Sheldon's Harris Cyclery website for some great biking-related articles, products, etc. Thanks again for the great technical information that your website offers!

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