Category Archives: Bikes!

Single speed conversion

When I was a kid, I’d just jump on my bike and start peddling. I journeyed all over town… out through country roads… exploring everywhere I could. The world was my playground and my bike was my rocket ship. Get on. Peddle like hell. Try not to crash.

Then, when I was 13, I got a 21-speed. Sparkling and gleaming there on the showroom floor, I just KNEW that a multi-speed bike would make my life complete.

The beauty of simplicity.

Eventually a birthday rolled around and I received the 21-speed as a gift. And life became a lot more complex and difficult. Which speed am I in? Which speed SHOULD I be in? Why does my chain keep falling off? How do I get it back on? How do I get it to STAY on? Suddenly, all of my focus was being diverted to getting the bike to function properly and away from simply enjoying the ride.

But looking around, I saw all the cool guys and gals having a fine time on their multi-speed bikes. I figured something was wrong with me. So I just put my head down and tried to tough it out. “It’s just part of the deal,” I told myself.

This went on for decades.

Finally, last week, while riding my bike to work, the gears changed unexpectedly on me while I was cranking down hard. For the umpteenth time. And I decided right there and then it would be the last time. Old, crappy gears needed to be replaced, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending a lot of money to get them installed and maintain them. I didn’t want to become a bike mechanic. I just wanted to ride my bike!

I decided to tear them off and go for the single speed experience.

Make sure you choose a conversion kit that INCLUDES the chain tensioner. The kit I chose did NOT. I ended up spending about $80 as a result. As of press time, you should be able to get a decent conversion kit for about half that. And in case you don’t have your own personal architect/bike fiend to help you out, here’s an excellent source of instruction: http://helen-smeaton.suite101.com/how-to-build-a-single-speed-mountain-bike-a96518

After an afternoon of learning while a friend wrenched away on my bike, I hopped on and discovered something amazing: I was having fun again! No worries about switching gears. No strange noises signalling impending doom. Basically, almost nothing to go wrong at all! Just riding my bike!

I feel like I’m 7 years old again, and riding bikes is a total blast.

Get on. Peddle like hell. Try not to crash.

Special thanks to my buddy Justin Repath, respected architect and bike fiend, who performed open heart surgery on my mountain bike to convert it to a single speed this weekend. The conversion consisted of removing the gearing that came stock on my Trek 3900 and replacing it with single chain rings both front and rear (32:16 ratio). He also added a tensioner, which works much better than simply using the old derailer. Total time was about three hours of working at a leisurely pace, including a quick trip downtown for parts. (Note: See the two missing 5mm chainring bolts on the front chain ring? This photo was taken before we ran down to a local bike shop to get replacements. The originals, designed for multiple chain rings, were now too long for a single ring.)

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3 Comments

May 7, 2012 · 12:35 pm