Single speed bikes have one gear ratio and no shifters, making them simple and easy to maintain. They are popular for their elegance and simplicity, but may not be suitable for varied terrain. They are gaining popularity and more companies are offering affordable options for different types of riders.
People unfamiliar with the world of bicycles might initially be shocked by the number of different varieties out there. One such variety that has been gaining popularity recently is the single speed bicycle, which is any type of bicycle that has only one gear ratio, i.e. has one gear on the rear wheel and one on the cranks. A single speed bike doesn’t use shifters because there are no gears to shift; this pleases many enthusiasts who are looking for a simple, practical and elegant looking bike to take them on the trails or on the streets. The single speed bike has many advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of riding you want to do.
The appeal of the single speed bike comes from its simplicity. Since there are no gears to change, the rider has only one responsibility: to pedal. There’s no worrying about being in the right gear, pedaling too hard or too easily. The downside to having only one gear on your single-speed bike is that it’s less suited to varied terrain. For example, you may find that your gear ratio is perfect for riding moderate trails, but once you hit pavement, you may find yourself pedaling too fast and not moving as fast as you’d like. Conversely, your single-speed bike might be perfect for gently sloping or relatively flat trails, but once uphill, you might find yourself struggling to turn the pedals.
From a maintenance standpoint, single speed bicycles have gained popularity because there are far fewer parts to fix or replace. There are no shifters, and consequently no shift cables, derailleurs or numerous chainrings and sprockets to deal with. The single speed bike has only one rear sprocket and one front sprocket, thus eliminating both parts that require maintenance and weight that can make the bike harder to pedal. The weight factor made single speeds popular with racers, and in recent years a new racing category has developed specifically for the single speed bike.
Beyond the technical and mundane appeal of the single-speed bike, enthusiasts appreciate the elegant aspect of single-speed racing. There are fewer cables hanging out the front end, there are no derailleurs to contend with, and the smaller gear cogs create a more simplistic look that lends the spotlight to the frame and wheels—essentially the classic shape of a bicycle. As the single speed bicycle becomes more and more popular, more and more companies are venturing into the market and offering affordable, stylish and useful machines for all different types of riders.