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Single speed mountain bikes | Everything you need to know

Single-speed mountain bikes are loved by some hated by others, but there’s one thing everyone agrees on and it’s “they are FUN!” and if you had a rapid boost in your mountain biking there’s nothing better than a single speed.

Single-speed bikes are harder to push they are a challenge in themselves on the trails and if you are more of a competitive person or you had like to either polish or get back your lost skills single-speed mountain bikes are your one-way ticket to get there as fast as possible.

Let’s dive in a little bit deeper.

I will be covering these topics in this article.

  • Can you convert your geared mountain bike into a single speed
  • Difference between single Speed and a fixed gear
  • which tires would go best with single speed
  • advantages of single speed
  • disadvantages of single speed
  • How to get the most out of a single speed
  • who single speed mountain bikes are not for
  • Is switching between a single speed and gears a good idea

First things first there is a huge difference between a single speed and a fixed gear.

Difference between single speed and Fixed gear :

Single-speed and fixed gears are not the same things the main differences between single speed and fixed gears are below.

Single Speed Fixed gear
reversible No yes
weight Low Low
trail riding difficulty Lower compared to fixed gears very high, not suited for trails
good or bad for trails Good Bad
control Very controllable worst
free riding Average Best for freeriding/tricks

Fixed gears bikes are a nightmare on trails as a beginner, of course, they are one way hard and brutal they can be tamed with enough experience but overall they are not very good for trails the main con is you cannot lift your feet from the pedals you can either paddle forward or backward and trails are unpredictable you have to slow down and speed up sometimes and they are just not suitable in that area.

Single-speed is on the other hand a little bit better they are as well brutal for a newbie and definitely not recommended but still, they are a good workout and they speed up your learning curve rapidly, still, to get to the single-speed you may need to plan it you can’t just jump into it.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of single speed to get a better understanding of them.

Advantages of single speed :

  • Better control
  • single gear, you don’t have to think “oh I need to smash the 3rd or 4th gear here”
  • better momentum
  • better line selection
  • Focus
  • Better handling
  • Great for a workout
  • Lesser weight
  • Easier to push around
  • Better free riding experience
  • Lesser maintenance
  • Lower Cost
  • Lesser maintenance cost

I can go on and on but the main advantages would be they are just a better workout you will never be missing a leg day, if you are bad at line selection to try a single speed you will notice the difference in a day, they have lesser weight easy to push around and a very fun free riding experience.

No gears, you don’t have to think about gears and just think about which line to take and focus on trails rather than focusing on the gears or bike itself.

Disadvantages of Single Speed :

  • They require a lot of energy
  • walking is a part of the game with a single speed
  • harder climbing
  • you cant just start riding them without hitting the gym for some days beforehand
  • you cant just ride any trail
  • A lot of riding, grinding and walking
  • high entry barrier (The first week feels like hell and you might give it up)
  • challenging and tiring

While they are a blast on the downhill with perfect controls and better riding experience it’s on the climbs that you start realizing why there are so few single speed riders, single-speed doesn’t mean you have to push to the end of the world walking is part of the game so get used to it and if you actually thinking about it it’s not that big of a deal than we have made it to be.

Single-speed requires a lot of energy and if you are on the other side of the end don’t try them or at least take a tour around it the best way to convert to a single speed would be slowly reducing sogs on your geared bike and reducing them one by one until you feel comfortable on your lower gears.

single speed is all about realizing your limits and staying in between them and not overdoing it.

Who single speed mountain bikes are  not for :

Single speeds can be tough to ride especially uphill, most of the time if you are starting out you will feel like it’s beyond climbing on the bike you have to take a detour, or sometimes you will think of toughing it out it is a slow process and sometime you may have to carry the bike to get over some rocky section of the trails.

So if you are

  • Physically weak
  • bulky person
  • not a regular rider

then you may wanna avoid a single speed but it doesn’t mean you can just ever drive you just need to try to get to it with a different approach that’s all you could try reducing gears and moving up from there or trying hitting some gym or doing some workout.

How to get the most out of a single-speed mountain bike :

Single-speed is even better at improving your skills than hardtails if you are having trouble reading trail or just at picking wrong lanes switch to a single-speed your focus will get wider than 2 feet wider on the wheel, since you will be on a single gear it gives you more room to scout the best line rather than thinking which gear to in.

you will be quickly learning how to

  • pick the best line
  • trail scouting
  • a broader view on the angles
  • lesser focus on where the tire will go to
  • you will learn how to be more versatile and active
  • you will learn to not waste your energy on the wrong lines
  • trying to stay on the best line to move faster

All of these skills may not be used among common people but if you are looking into improving them then single speed may be the best way to get you there a lot faster.

They are also lightweight and best to develop skills like wheelies, sitting, bunny hopping.

Is switching between a single speed and gears a good idea :

Yes, it is you can switch between single speed and gears no problem you can hone your skills on the single speed and do usually riding on gears it could be the best practice it will increase your focus boost your skills and things just become more fun if you have skills.

It will greatly enhance your speed and stamina on trails as well, if you are looking into traveling really far on your mountain bike only and following trails, single-speed can give you that boost in your stamina and help provide for the skills that may otherwise take you months to master.

Can you convert your geared mountain bike into a single speed :

Yes you can and it’s not expensive as well all you need are

  • A spacer to support and keep that single cog fixed
  • You can remove the derailer as well and shorten the chain length for some time using the chain tool
  • do try to measure the freehubs dia and get the single-speed cog that fits it.
  • Remove the gears wires

You can do some other upgrades as well if you had like to like

  • using a lighter handlebar
  • and changing grips
  • remove mudguards if you have any to reduce the further weight.

Everything at this point dials down to weight the lighter the weight the more you can use that to your advantage, you can keep switching back at forth until you master the line picking and try to go on from there.

Tire selection :

in a single speed it’s all about weight the lighter you get the better and easier it gets to push the bike around a 29er would not be the best choice to go about it 27.5 would be the better option than a 29er or 26er 27.5 would give you enough traction less rolling resistance and a little lesser weight than a 29er.

As for the tire pressure, I would recommend going to or three points higher than your usual tire pressure so that it will lessen the rolling resistance and give you a speed boost normally on the heard cycles we keep the tire pressure low for more traction but in case of a single-speed its better if the tire pressure is higher since you are already moving slower you don’t need to tat much traction you need that extra weight and that less rolling resistance.

Switching pace between a single speed and gears :

Switching between gears and a single-speed might be better than dragging it one way here’s how it will work out

If you would gon one week on a single-speed and another week on the gears it might burn you out a lot sooner and you may feel stressed out the best way to go about it would be choosing single speed or gears for 2 or 3 days and then switching to the later one.

it won’t burn you out change the riding state and soon your skills from either style will start evolving and they will start growing on you and you won’t burn out so soon as well.

Are there any dedicated single speed mountain bikes :

yes, there are if you can afford to and had like to buy both of them to save yourself from the hassle of changing them every other day then yes there are single-speed mountain bikes ou there are and they are cheap as well, but of course, there are pros and cons of the only single speed as well.

like Motobecane OUTCAST 29 Singlespeed is a good bike that may cost half the price on the same specs you would be paying double for.

Pros :

  • They are really light
  • They are a lot cheaper than other bikes, you can get a single speed with the same specs half or even in fourth the price of any expensive bike.
  • Faster on downhills
  • Due to their lightweight very suitable for bunny hops and wheelies
  • Easier to learn skills that could take months to master

Cons :

  • They might not be equipped with the suspensions.
  • They might be equipped with a freewheel or a fixed gear(so watch out for that)
  • They can be quite tiring
  • you will burn out really quickly

I had already written the pros and cons but just to point out some of them.

How much it would cost you to convert single speed into geard bike :

Here are the parts that you will need to replace if you had like to convert a single speed into a heard bike.

  • Casette-costs around 100$
  • Deraileur- around 100$
  • Deraileur hanger-10-20$
  • extra chain pieces -5-10$
  • gear shifters+cables – 100$

SO that’s all you will be needing to convert it into a fully geard bike.

If you still count some extra upgrades like wheels and hydraulic brakes the price wouldn’t go above 500$ and you can get almost all of those parts in good quality.

Conclusion :

Single speeds are fun and if you had like to progress on your skills even faster than you do on a hard tail single speed may be the thing you might need and once you get a taste for them you will know how they can be so fun. on the downside its tougher to ride uphill but still I would recommend try riding a single speed once in a life time.