I love my single-speed, it’s a different type of riding than jumping on a road or mountain bike. Sure, I’m not going to beat a roadie up a hill when I’m riding it on a weekend but what about a weekday commute – is it my bike of choice?
Yes, single-speed bikes are good for commuting. On the whole, they make great commuting bikes – though there are instances where they wouldn’t be my bike of choice. If you’re wondering why and when, well you’re just going to have to keep reading 🙂
Are Single Speed Bikes Suited For Urban Commutes?
For many commuters, a single-speed bike will be the perfect commuter bike. Let’s say your commute is moderate and there aren’t a huge number of hills – single-speed works!
When compared to multi-speed bikes, they’re cheaper to buy, maintenance is easier, single-speeds tend to be more reliable and they’re a whole heap of fun! If you’re used to riding road or mountain bikes at the weekend, a single-speed can offer you something different (and exciting) during the week. If you’re like me, that appeals!
A key thing to remember is that single-speed does not equal fixed gear so coasting is possible – your legs do get a break in other words!
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What About Fixies?
Fixies can be a great commuting bike, depending on your commute so that could be an option for you but do remember all fixies are single-speed but not all single-speeds are fixies!
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Will A Single Speed Make Me Fit?
If you’re wanting to take up bike commuting to improve your physical fitness then single-speed bikes can be a great option as you have to work with the bike. Gears aren’t going to save you. That’s a daunting thought at first but when you get used to it, it’s actually quite empowering.
When you don’t have gears to turn to you can find yourself becoming increasingly in sync with your bike, you learn how to ride it, how to get the best out of it – and yourself, and that’s a really good feeling when you reach that happy point!
However, if your commute involves a lot of hills then a single-speed bike isn’t going to be my first recommendation for you. Take a look at a road bike or a mountain bike – these could be a better fit and make your commute easier.
Pros Of Commuting On Single Speed Bike
So why choose a single-speed bike?
Bikes can be heavy and generally speaking the more components they have, the heavier they are. With single-speed bikes you don’t have any of that worry – there are so few components so your average single-speed can be relatively lightweight!
Forget about the shifters, cables, shocks, and all that gubbins. You get none of that on a single-speed. It’s a very simple setup.
I will venture a hot tip – some bike frame materials can make the bike heavy so if you’re looking to go for a vintage model, be sure to check out the material.
In terms of commuting, this can be a great bonus, as if you need to carry your bike anywhere (on a train for example), then it’s easier if the bike isn’t heavy.
When you buy a single-speed bike you tend to get more bang for your buck. By this, I mean better frame, wheels, and saddle.
What this does is give you a pretty comfortable place to sit while riding!
Now every saddle doesn’t work for everyone so that may need to be changed (just as you would with any bike) but the frame and wheels should produce a comfortable ride.
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Less Likely To Get Stolen
Every year more than 188,500 bike thefts are reported each year in America. This is a huge number and that’s only those that are reported!
As I’ve already mentioned, single-speed bikes don’t have as many components as multi-geared bikes and that usually makes them cheaper. So if you think of it from a thief’s point of view, the resale value isn’t as great. When parked next to a road or mountain bike, a single-speed bike is less attractive to a thief.
Another reason why single-speed bikes are less likely to be stolen is that they aren’t as easy to ride so when a thief is trying to make their getaway, it can be too tricky.
Of course, this doesn’t mean single-speed bikes don’t get stolen so please ensure you lock them up correctly and don’t take any unnecessary risks!
Ease Of Handling
When you’re commuting in a City, there can be a lot of cars around and that can make things tricky in terms of handling. You want quick, responsive handling and a single-speed bike delivers big time on that.
As the rider, you have fewer things to concentrate on too. You don’t need to consider what gears to be in, you just ride and focus on the road in front of you.
Speed And Efficiency
This isn’t a total slam dunk but providing the terrain is right, you should find yourself being able to achieve greater speeds, without having to put in so much effort.
The reason for this is that you can get better energy transfer from the pedal to the rear wheel.
If you’re riding in a city, then this is something you’re likely to notice and enjoy!
Cons Of Single Speed Bikes When Commuting
It’s not all rosy with single-speeds, so let’s balance things out with the cons.
The lack of gears on a single-speed bike is a real sore spot when you find yourself faced with a steep climb. Leg power is all you’ve got and when commuting, you probably don’t want to get sweaty before you start your day…your colleagues certainly don’t want you to!
Over time, yes the steep climbs will get easier but honestly, I’d recommend finding a different route and saving the hills for the weekend.
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Single-speed bikes aren’t as flexible at allowing you to carry lots of things, especially when compared to a hybrid bike for example.
You can get around this by attaching panniers and cargo racks but you have to take care to ensure that they are compatible. This can be trickier than with other types of bikes as single-speed bikes don’t always come with eyelets or space to attach things.
If you’re wanting to carry more than a backpack, I’d recommend spending some time to make sure you can find a solution to suit your needs – there will be one out there!
Looking for some more reasons to give single-speed a try?
Takes A Bit Of Getting Used To
Single-speed bikes are different from multi-geared bikes. That’s why we love them but if you’ve never ridden one before, it can take a few rides before you feel totally comfortable.
The lack of gears can be a shock to some people. The simplicity of the bike can also take a while to get used to. By design these bikes are pared-down – that’s a good thing but different.
Different things can take a while to get used to. Embrace the change!
Max Speed Limitations
Whilst you are able to achieve a decent speed on a single-speed without too much effort, you can be limited as to the maximum speed you can reach.
You’re effectively limited to the speed your legs can spin at any given time. With a single-speed bike, you don’t have the benefit of changing gear so that you can go faster, you just have to spin more!
In reality, this shouldn’t be a problem, especially if your commute is flat and you aren’t trying to achieve great speeds.
If you’re in a built-up area and want to be nimble, then a single-speed will serve you well and get you there more quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Single Speed Bikes Good For Long-Distance?
Some of this will depend on your fitness levels and how much you want to endure. The terrain will play a part in it too. If you’re looking at a hilly route – pretty much forget it. Get yourself a multi-geared bike and enjoy the ride.
If the route is suitable and you’re up for it, then you can do it on a single-speed bike.
Can You Turn A Single-Speed Bike Into A Multi-Speed Bike?
It can be done on some frames but not all single-speed bikes.
Some manufacturers have a multi-speed conversion kit, whereby you are able to convert your single-speed to a multi-speed with all the right components – hurrah!
The problems arise when that kit isn’t available. The first thing you need to check is whether or not the rear stays on your bike are wide enough that they can accommodate a wheel with a multi-gear cog.
You also need to see if the rear dropout is of a size and geometry that will accept a rear derailleur hanger.
If your bike doesn’t fit those two points then you won’t be able to.
My advice? Speak to your local bike shop!
Single-speed bikes can be the ideal commuter bike. They have many advantages.
For me, a lot is going to depend on the type of terrain you intend to commute on as to whether a single-speed is the bike for you.
Whichever bike you’re on, put a helmet on and enjoy the commute! Ride on!