Updated: Sep 8, 2018
My thoughts on a Rigid Single Speed Mountain Bike. Does it work as an everyday bike, how is it off road and what are the compromises you will have to live with compared to geared suspension bikes?
I did not give consideration to any of the above. What appealed to me was the light weight and the simplicity! No more derailleur adjustments, seemingly an endless contest between cable tension, dirt and slight H/L adjustments. After so many squeaks and missed gear changes I was very excited to get my hands on a SS MTB.
And there it stood, the Specialized Crave SS. After changing the rear gear from the standard 20 T to a 16 T and replacing the front gear with a 32 T oval ring I set off on a 140 km club ride.
We set off at an ungodly hour of the morning making me wish I bought that knee warmers I have been looking at for some time. At first there were a few immediate advantages to a SS that almost anyone will notice as soon as they swing a leg over the rigid frame. There is not as much harshness as you would expect from a bike with no suspension.
The carbon rigid front fork will allegedly soak up minor vibrations and seems to work really well. It might be from riding my Fat bike that also has no suspension to talk of, so if used to suspension bikes you might experience it differently?
Then there is the very direct power application to the back wheel. What you put in is what you get out. This makes for a very surprising climb and acceleration ability. Although as I found there are just two ways in which to approach climbs.
One – keep your cadence high and you will soon wonder where you lost the other riders! – OR – Take it slow. The slow approach will test your strength while on the seat, but standing will allow you to climb quite easily.
On the more steep technical climbs you will certainly need some momentum before you enter the climb up, if not you might stall mid climb with a resulting walk to the top.
Where the SS has a distinct disadvantage against geared bikes is on the downhill sections.
The technique of doing a few very high cadence to keep up, works well. This become less of an option when you are tired.
So keep your pace in mind on your next ride, you will need energy throughout your SS ride as you will have no additional gears to use in an effort to relieve the pain.
As far as I am concerned a single speed delivers simple riding, low maintenance and can easily be an everyday machine for the non-competitive rider or for Batman.
Then there is the ever present feeling of riding something specialand custom!
See you on the trails….