You are about to buy a new bike and wondering what are the benefits of owning a single speed bike. This question at first seems obvious once you understand the purpose of gears. They support you on technical terrains, steep climbs or when going fast. Having said that does it make any sense to own a single speed bike?
What are the benefits of owning a single speed bike? The benefits of owning a single speed bike comes from its simplicity. They are affordable and reliable. They help to improve the fitness level of the rider and have a lower price tag and maintenance costs than bikes with gears.
The benefits of owning a single speed bike are many, however they are not equally fit for every rider. For some it will be an excellent choice, for others probably a bad one. Let’s go into detail to find out if it’s a good idea for you to get a single speed bike.
Are Single Speed bikes More Affordable?
Single speed bikes have only one gear.
Single Speed bikes are more affordable than geared ones as they lack many of the sophisticated and expensive components such as the sprockets, chainrings, shifters and derailleurs that wear out and need periodic maintenance and sometimes replacements.
Groupsets which also include the above listed components differ a great deal in quality, value and price. In fact higher quality groupsets are indicative of higher quality bikes.
High end groupsets never make it into entry-level bikes. An entry level bike will likely come with entry-level Shimano Tourney or Altus groupsets.
On a single speed bike there is one chainring in the front and one rear cog and none of the components needed for gears.
The absence of all those components significantly reduces the price of single speed bikes.
A single speed bike needs less maintenance.
Single speed bikes are not only cheaper to buy but also cheaper to maintain. Less moving components, less chances of something wearing out or breaking and therefore less maintenance.
Tune-up cost of single speed bikes is also lower.
From an economic perspective buying a single speed bike can help you save some money.
On a single speed bike there are less components to break and wear out, resulting in a also more reliable machine than its geared counterparts.
If you are one of those who is always worried about what can go wrong and you have an aversion to fixing the bike on the roadside then this might be something worth considering.
The chances of something breaking or malfunctioning is reduced on a single speed bike. If you know how to tighten and loosen some bolts, remove the wheels and fix flats, you’re golden.
If you run a search for the best single speed bikes you will notice a vast array of designs and colors: they come with different kinds of frames (gravel, road, hybrid, etc) and frame geometry, different types of handlebars (bullhorn, drop, riser, flat).
If you compare them the only similarity you will find is that they are all single speed and they are pretty minimalistic in design.
Single speed bikes because of the very simplistic design look pretty cool. Most of the time they come barebones: without fenders, racks, bottle cages and lights that make them look pretty sporty.
They are simple machines designed to provide the bare minimum: a bike ride to get you from point A to point B.
Are Single Speed bikes good for Fitness?
Single speed bikes can be excellent for improving fitness especially if they are ridden at fast speeds and on hilly rides. There is only a single gear for climbing up hills or reaching high speeds, which demands greater effort from the rider and thus can improve his fitness in the long run.
You can’t make it easier to climb up a hill by shifting to lower gears as you would on a geared bike. Similarly you can’t shift to a higher gear to go faster.
On a single speed bike you do all that in the same gear (and same gear ratio) but with a different cadence. The cadence will be the only way you regulate your speed.
Riding on a single speed bike is more strenuous than using a geared one and therefore will improve your stamina and fitness.
A single speed bike will definitely boost your fitness.
Are single speed bikes good for beginners?
Single speed bikes can be excellent for beginners because of their simplicity. They are affordable and can come with a wide range of frames as well as handlebars. However for fast and hilly rides this is not a good choice for beginners.
If you are a beginner and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on buying a new bike then a single speed bike is a good choice as generally they are cheaper than other bikes.
If you have never ridden a geared bike, shifting can be confusing at first and if you’re not a techy person, but you just want to enjoy the ride then not having to deal with shifting, a single speed bike is your friend.
I know some adults who even after several years of riding experience find the handling of the shifters a bit confusing. It’s just a question of preference.
Because of the multiple types of frames and handlebars anyone can find what fits best his preferences.
You don’t have to stick with flat bars, you can get them with drop or bullhorn handlebars as well. You don’t have to sit completely upright because you can find some with aggressive geometry.
So really there is a wide variety of single speed bikes you can choose from.
A caveat regarding fixed gear bikes:
Fixed gear bikes are also single speed bikes. Be careful though that fixies don’t have a freewheel mechanism meaning that the rear cog is directly attached to the rear wheel and therefore to the motion of the pedals too. if the wheels are rolling the rider also has to pedal.
If they roll faster you pedal faster, if they roll slower you pedal slower even if you don’t feel like it. Keep this in mind if you want to buy a fixie.
Are single speed bikes more efficient?
Single speed bikes are more efficient than most bikes with gears because they are lighter and because the chain is always in a straight line between the chainring and the rear cog which entails less friction.
Single speed bikes are usually a few pounds lighter than geared bikes as they lack all the necessary components for gears: sprockets, derailleurs, cables, shifters and multiple chainrings.
All that means that you can go faster with the same if you put in the same energy. Can you feel the difference in practice? You might save seconds or minutes on long rides, but practically the difference is so slight that it is barely noticeable, especially to a beginner.
The transmission of the pedaling force to the rear wheel is more efficient because there are no sideway forces involved on the chain. The chain moves sideways when you change gears on a geared bike which exerts sideways force on the chain thus losing some energy in the pedaling force transmission.
Can you feel that in practice? Again this is something that is very slight and those who spend a lot of time on the bike can notice the difference.
If you add them up the difference becomes more noticeable but you definitely need some point of reference. You have to have experience with geared bikes.
Single speed bikes can provide you with an excellent ride experience. Hopefully you have found some help deciding if single speed bikes are for you. However whether you pick a single speed or a geard one it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you get out there and start enjoying the ride!