What most people don’t realize is the first bike they ever owned was a single speed. The first single speed bike I owned wasn’t a mountain bike. Rather, it was a bmx bike. I owned several when I was a kid. Even had a single speed cruiser.
Growing up in San Diego, I had a great time riding my bmx bikes. I never got too crazy with them, but they were very fun to ride, especially down hill. Of course, they weren’t so fun to ride when I had to ride up hills. And that’s kind of what you have to deal with when considering whether or not you should get a single speed mountain bike. You will undoubtedly love bombing down hills. Riding back up hills isn’t as fun.
That’s the dilemma you have to look at when deciding on whether or not to purchase a single speed mountain bike. But, it doesn’t end with uphill riding. Some people, like me, like to pedal going downhill. With a single speed, you have a smaller chainring up front, and once you hit a certain speed, it can be hard to pedal as fast as the tires are moving. If that is the case, you better hope your bike has a free wheel, because if its a fixed gear single speed, that can be bad news for your knees. The good thins is many single speed bikes come with a flip flop hub, so you can simply turn the hub around if you want to go from fixed gear to free wheel mode.
So, should you invest in a single speed mountain bike?
Well, that depends. First of all, what kind of terrain do you ride? Do you live in a relatively flat part of the state, like Western Kansas, or do you live in hilly terrain? If you do live in hilly terrain, are there lots of rolling hills, that you can gain momentum as you start to ride up the next hill?
Are you someone who likes a bit of a challenge, who likes to push themselves? Then a single speed might be for you. I’ve got a friend who has actually ridden his single speed road bike on Ragbrai, so that’s 75+ miles a day on his single speed. Now, don’t get me wrong, he isn’t going to be the faster rider on the tour, but he says he likes riding his single speed bike,in his case, a fixed gear, because its “different”.
Are there any benefits to a single speed mountain bike?
Well, other than pure enjoyment at times, followed by pure pain, but a sense of satisfaction for climbing up a steep hill, or series of hills on your single speed, there are some benefits to owning a single speed bike.
For starters, single speed bikes get your in great shape. They are a great way to train yourself and learning how to push yourself. Secondly, single speed bikes are usually lighter than their geared counterparts, because when you remove things like shifters, chainrings, and cassettes, you are going to have a lighter bike.
Another thing that can be beneficial about owning a single speed, especially with a mountain bike, is that you learn to take things like corners and sudden ascends a little faster, because rather than taking that split second to shift into another gear, instead you are just powering right into the curve, or powering up the hill. This can make you a better rider.
If you are not sure if you are ready to invest in a single speed mountain bike, one thing you can do instead is invest in a single speed conversion kit. That way, you can always can always convert your single speed back to a geared bike if you decide you don’t like it.