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The Single Speed / Fixed Gear MTB discussion thread

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The Single Speed / Fixed Gear MTB discussion thread

Old 10-01-20, 08:51 PM
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Happy Feet
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The Single Speed / Fixed Gear MTB discussion thread

As the title suggests, show off your SS/FG MTB and any rides or related discussion points. Anyone doing it on this forum?

Please, no debating why, or how gears are better - most people would argue using a motor is better than pedalling anyways
I originally thought of posting this in the SS subform but the emphasis there seems to be on road biking. The activity is still mtbing, only with a twist on the number of gears (just like the divisions of rigid, hardtail and FS) so I think it fits here.




I've recently gotten into SS MTB but have been SS and FG road biking for a while. As a project I decided to rebuild an older era rigid 26 "e stay" bike and the design lends itself to removing the chain so easily that I made it a 2x2 instead. Basically 1 gear for going up, swap chainlines and another for coming down. I was pretty fortunate to find two magic gear ratios that allows me to use the same chain with no tensioner. That rebuild thread is here: https://www.bikeforums.net/singlespe...-retrofit.html

I thought it would be just another project bike but riding it is so darned fun that I find myself wanting to go to it over my other options. I'm a bit older so I shy away from big drops and hard technical in favour of flowy gravity and XC trails and the 1x is cycling simplicity - and a good workout to boot! It reconnects me to the terrain, especially along with a rigid frame and makes easier trails a challenge again.

Since the rebuild it has gone through three bar types: bullhorns (too narrow), flats with bar ends and motocross. Tomorrow I'm replacing the old school heavy azz U brake in the rear for a modern bmx design.
















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Old 10-04-20, 10:59 AM
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On a diving road trip yesterday and decided to stop at the Gran du Bois protected grasslands in Kamloops for some sunset mtbing.
Perfect area for SS riding, long flowy horizontal trails with short up and downs that you can do 1x, and long sustained up and down trails for 2x2.

Entering the protected area from the parking lot.




Arizona Trail




Gear swap at the top of Cows with Guns. Pop the rear wheel a bit, move the chain from one chainline to the other, reset the QR and go. Drop the seat while I'm at it.




On top of the big rock on Tower Classic




The reason I went 2x2. You can push it up there or ride it up there.




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Old 10-04-20, 12:12 PM
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My Timberjack has adjustable drops and I would not be astonished to one day discover I'd made it single speed. 95% of my ride I could do in the 30-15 or 17 gear.

...that last 5% tho, whew!
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Old 10-04-20, 06:50 PM
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What I would call my "riding gear is currently 36-15. I can do a lot of horizontal and up and down trail stuff with that and don't mind standing and cranking a bit but like you say, that other certain %!

Most of the places around me are gravity trails with a long access climb. Some you can drive up, but I ride solo so that doesn't work. Others have a jeep type track or an easier uphill single-track.

That's why I experimented with the 2x2 system. Otherwise I would have to almost always walk half the trip.
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Old 10-05-20, 01:58 PM
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I've been mountain biking for about a decade and started as a transition away from BMX. so a singlespeed mountain bike always made sense to me.

currently on a Karate Monkey with a dropper post, 120mm suspension fork, and one gear. I've been playing around with combos and found that 50 gear-inches is great for smoother terrain but it forces me to walk a LOT in the chunk. that's a 34/20 combo with 29" tires. I tried 32/20 but it forces me to push my axle back further than I'd like and it's kind of the worst of both words: too spinny on the flat and not low enough to climb through chunk. I switched again to 32/21 and that seems just right. yup, it's slow on the road and I don't care. that's worth the trade-ff that comes with being a little more capable of clambering over the chunky stuff to me. when I finish a ride, I don't care how fast I went, I care about how much I was able to ride instead of walk.

I don't have to talk about "my singlespeed" because each of the two bikes I own are both SS.

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Old 10-05-20, 06:43 PM
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It's funny that you mentioned BMX because I am reminded (by this bike in particular) how SS mtb resembles that genre.

The singlespeed let's me feel the terrain more directly in the sense that I coast a bit more when it easy and stand and crank when it's hard. The rigid frame also makes me really pay attention to the line I'm taking or I'll know it. I tend to throw the bike around more than just plowing through.

For this older guy it's a good way to remain engaged with mtbing. I do love the modern gearing in very mixed up and down terrain but the modern FS design tends to push the rider into taking bigger risks because it flattens out the feedback. I don't know how many times I've bombed through some sketchy section and though how screwed I would have been if I'd lost it gong so fast.

26", rigid, cantis and ss removes almost all the mechanical advantages from the equation.

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Old 10-06-20, 08:54 AM
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yeah, I've done the rigid, 26", rim brake thing. I evolved into a more modern bike over the years. I only own one mountain bike *gasp!* so I need it to be capable for most of the terrain I ride. I know some people in my area who ride "less bike" and I am proud for them, but for many of them, it's one of several bikes they own and they only ride it on the easier trails. they seem to do it for the novelty of underbiking, whereas there's no under/over biking for me. the suspension fork and dropper post mean the only disadvantage I have (if you choose to think of it that way) is the lack of gears and rear suspension. a lot of people around here think of a FS bike with a massive gear range as mandatory, but I can prove that it's not. it's all a matter of what makes riding fun for you, and a super-squishy bike with a 500% gear range would remove too much of the challenge for me to be subjectively fun anymore.
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Old 10-06-20, 12:00 PM
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I like what you say about being subjectively fun.

One thing I am noticing now is that the biggest need for advancement I require isn't gearing or suspension, it's braking. I love cantis for most applications because they are so simple to work with but the lack of braking power on steeper descents means I have to slow down sooner. My speed on a trail is most negatively dictated by that.
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Old 10-06-20, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I love cantis for most applications because they are so simple to work with but the lack of braking power on steeper descents means I have to slow down sooner. My speed on a trail is most negatively dictated by that.
Replace with V-brakes?
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Old 10-07-20, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
One thing I am noticing now is that the biggest need for advancement I require isn't gearing or suspension, it's braking.
that's easy to fix. replace the brakes with some linear pull ones. you might need different levers. those are cheap and easy to source.
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Old 10-07-20, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
that's easy to fix. replace the brakes with some linear pull ones. you might need different levers. those are cheap and easy to source.
I have a set for the front of my current bike. Just have to put them on. The rear had a U brake so V's won't fit but I swapped out a set of more modern cross levers as the U was so heavy. What a strange design.

I'm also looking ahead to my next build of mashing two 90's era bikes together. One has a light frame with V's on the back and the other has a Marzocchi bombet suspension fork with the mounts for a disc caliper. Already scoped out the BB7 parts needed.

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Old 10-07-20, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I have a set for the front of my current bike. Just have to put them on. The rear had a U brake so V's won't fit but I swapped out a set of more modern cross levers.

I'm also looking ahead to my next build of mashing two 90's era bikes together. One has V's on the back and the other has a Marzocchi suspension fork that with the mount for disc calipers. Already scoped out the BB7 parts needed.
u-brakes can be very powerful. if your old ones are lacking, it's possible that a modern BMX u-brakes will fit the same way. set it up with some compressionless brake housing, good pads, and minimal spring tension and that should be a solid setup.
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Old 10-07-20, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
u-brakes can be very powerful. if your old ones are lacking, it's possible that a modern BMX u-brakes will fit the same way. set it up with some compressionless brake housing, good pads, and minimal spring tension and that should be a solid setup.
Thanks for that.
I just read up on compressionless housings and that sounds like a big part of my problem. No matter how close I set the calipers there is too much squish in the system. I think I am going to try the jagwire pro kit.
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Old 10-21-20, 08:09 PM
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Wound up buying the SRAM brake kit.

Before replacing it a friend and I packed up my bikes and went for a ride. He's new to mtb (but a good road cyclist) and buying a new FS 29r so I thought it would be a good idea for him to experience the opposite end of the spectrum so he would know what he was missing

Threw the bikes in the minivan and headed out!



We were laughing so hard that I don't remember why I wiped out but I bounced off a couple of trees and folded in half like a swiss army knife. At the time I felt my hamstring burn and knew I either pulled or tore it. Still rode out of the woods though. A couple of days later this showed up. It's hard to see but the bruising extends down into the top of the calf as well.

Guess I'll replace that brake now...


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Old 10-22-20, 02:49 PM
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I spent a few years running SS on a rigid 2006 Karate Monkey. 32/20 gearing.

it was a great way to breath new life into trails that were getting kind of old on the 5 full suspension geared bike.
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Old 11-20-20, 09:44 PM
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Some years back I flirted with a fixed rigid mtb. I used one of those Origin8 cogs that fit on the disc rotor mount to make a regular hub fixed. I put a V brake on the back, as the SS frame had mounts for both (something rare that I look for on frames for sale...there is a period of frames that have both post and disc mounts on them.)

I had fun, but I couldn't hang with the demands of the long steep downhills with obstacles. I'm not a poorly skilled rider. It's just that I had a few yikes moments and resented not being able to let it go.

I gave it up in two weeks.

I love single speeding though.

Single speeds can also borrow trials riding techniques as well. Something full suspension bikes don't need or really do.

Dingle speed bikes are the way to go too. I'm into that.

​​​​
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Old 12-01-20, 09:55 AM
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Last June (2019) I bought a 2012 Raleigh XXIX from a friend. At the time I had a single-speed Schwinn road bike, and my thought was simply to sell the Schwinn and use the Raleigh as an around town, brewery, paved trail, just-for-fun kind of bike. I wasn't even doing that much mountain biking the previous two or three years. And I thought that single-speed mountain bikes, much less fully rigid SSs, were a really, really stupid idea.

But I of course I had to take the Raleigh out on a local trail just for the heck of it before I changed to more road-friendly gearing. OMG that was hard. And: OMG that was so much fun!!!!


Since then, I've probably done more mountain biking than in any other year of my life (I bought my first mtb in 1998). The bike has changed a little bit to make it ride better.
  • wider tires: 2.4 up front, 2.3 rear
  • wider rims + tubeless: WTB i25 rims
  • hydraulic brakes
  • wider, lighter, better handlebar: Spank Oozy 760mm
  • and the biggest change - switching from Gates Carbon Drive to traditional chain drive. I hadn't initially planned on this one, but when I got the new wheels I found out that the tabs on the Gates rear sprocket were so chewed up that it couldn't be slipped onto the new hub. And it was much more expensive to find and buy a new gates sprocket than to go to a chain. Plus, I wanted higher gearing which would have necessitated a new Gates belt which just about doubled that cost.

    The drivetrain switch was a blessing in disguise because it's now much, much easier to mess with gear ratios. I started with a 30/32 oval chain ring and 20t Surly cog. But as I got stronger I got a 32/34 oval chain ring which only required moving the eccentric BB for chain tension. I am now considering trying out a 19t cog which again I should be able to do without having to alter the chain length. I also will likely set up the original wheelset with path friendly tires and gearing. That will require a new shorter chain, but thanks to the split seat stay (needed for replacing the original carbon belt), it will be maybe a ten minute task to switch between the dirt trail and paved path set up. Not to be done daily, but for the occasional weekend brewery tour with friends that will be easy.
No doubt about it, this bike has made me such a better rider. For the trails that I ride 90% of the time it is more than enough. There are just a couple of downsides:
  • I am not some top-notch mountain biker. I'm somewhat of a chickensh*t on many things, regardless of the bike. But there are trails I would like to ride that I am certain something with multiple-gears and suspension would allow me to do. Back in October, I rode two trails in George Washington National Forest. The first I turned around after maybe half a mile - it was just no fun. The second was actually a blast, but there was still a whole lot of walking up hills, over things, and I'd even have to stop on some of the downhills to allow the bike's suspension (my legs, arms, back & shoulders) to take a quick rest.
  • Keeping up with friends: When I'm riding solo, I just simply have fun on the single-speed. But when doing group rides I am almost always at the far back as the people with multiple gears and full-suspension are pulling away from me. This includes people who are newer to riding trails and probably not as skilled as I am. But on, say, a flat gravel section they hit their 30x10 gearing and are gone while I am close to being spun out. Make that any sort of downhill slope and it's even worse. What's funny, though, is that on uphills I have to stay back because the geared bikes are all spinning away in low gears at speeds lower than I am able to ride. More than a few times I've had to stop because I was about to run into somebody's rear tire on hills that I regularly clear without issue.. Of course once I've stopped I often can't get started again and therefore have to walk to the next flattish section. But this adds to my lagging behind even when it's not really my fault )
  • The two above things are obviously partly due to my rigid fork vs the single-speed gearing. But I've ridden a couple of friends hard tails and that didn't make as much difference as I thought it would, meaning that the while the suspension fork obviously helped, it felt clear to me that being able to change to lower or higher gearing was what helped my success over obstacles or overall speed.
  • The more I ride, the better I get. But at some point I can't overcome the bike's limits in order to keep up with friends.
So, I am shopping for a full-squish bike again (previously I've owned a '97 Specialized Ground Control and a 2010 Giant Trance). I've demo'd a couple of friends' bikes to get a sense of what I want to buy. I'm leaning toward something like the newer, slacker XC bikes (think Trek Top Fuel with 120f/115r travel). But each time I spend an hour or two on one of these arguably more capable bikes, it's always fun to get back on the single-speed. Regardless of what new bike I get, the XXIX will not be leaving me.
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Old 12-01-20, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by telebianchi View Post
  • Keeping up with friends: When I'm riding solo, I just simply have fun on the single-speed. But when doing group rides I am almost always at the far back as the people with multiple gears and full-suspension are pulling away from me. This includes people who are newer to riding trails and probably not as skilled as I am. But on, say, a flat gravel section they hit their 30x10 gearing and are gone while I am close to being spun out. Make that any sort of downhill slope and it's even worse. What's funny, though, is that on uphills I have to stay back because the geared bikes are all spinning away in low gears at speeds lower than I am able to ride. More than a few times I've had to stop because I was about to run into somebody's rear tire on hills that I regularly clear without issue.. Of course once I've stopped I often can't get started again and therefore have to walk to the next flattish section. But this adds to my lagging behind even when it's not really my fault
.
Yeah, riding with geared bikes when you are on SS can be tricky. My issue was not that I was slower but that I was often just going a different speed. I'd spin out and fall behind on some DHs, but in rolling terrain, I would often be trying to keep up my momentum and going faster than the others. Also, there are times when you have no choice but to go as hard as you can because that is the only way to keep the cranks turning. So while everyone else if grinding up a hill at a moderate pace, you have no choice but to hammer as hard as you can in a much higher gear. On some climbs I was not sure whether to get in the front or the back, because I was going to either smoke everyone up the hill, or end up walking.

I loved the saying that SS is actually 3 speeds: Sitting, Standing, and Walking.
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Old 12-01-20, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
I loved the saying that SS is actually 3 speeds: Sitting, Standing, and Walking.
I am absolutely stealing this.

I agree that it's not always about being slower on the SS. But there is a different flow to things. Riding with someone on their geared bike who also rides SS things aren't so bad because they get it. But go out with people who have never experienced a single-speed and the differences show up pretty quickly. One of my big gripes (and this is purely in jest) is when somebody stops at the top of a hill not thinking that that means I have to stop while still on the uphill and will then possibly have to walk the rest. A couple of regular ride partners have gotten better about that after hearing me yell more than a few times to speed up and go over the top.
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Old 12-04-20, 06:35 PM
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Just got back from a ride with another friend who has a brand new FS Enduro 29r. It was fun.

With the two speed in low gear I can go up the steep stuff just as well as him, for the most part, so long access approaches are ok. Down hill I was slower because I was rigid, non disc and SS (and he is better at it than me - but I blame the bike!).

Did the brake swap. Feeding the stiffer compressionless housing through my frame was a royal pita that had me swearing a blue streak but now she stops purdy good



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Old 12-07-20, 04:53 PM
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Should I buy a Surly Lowside, or convert a vintage Mtb to SS? I'll use it for singletrack/flow near my home and winter riding in MN. It's tempting to get a cheap vintage bike, but then maybe I would get what I pay for. Currently, I've been pretending my touring bike is a mtb, which can be fun, but is pushing things.
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Old 12-07-20, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by SurlyLHT2020 View Post
Should I buy a Surly Lowside, or convert a vintage Mtb to SS? I'll use it for singletrack/flow near my home and winter riding in MN. It's tempting to get a cheap vintage bike, but then maybe I would get what I pay for. Currently, I've been pretending my touring bike is a mtb, which can be fun, but is pushing things.
Personally, I were I building a SS, especially a rigid one, I would go with a 29er. The loweside is a 26er that looks to me more oriented for dirt jumping. It has a pretty steep head tube angle by today's standard for trail riding.
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Old 12-23-20, 11:03 PM
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Here's a 26" light duty titanium dingle with White Industries Dos drivetrain and eccentric Eno hub. It has a 26+ WTB Scraper front rim. It's for long trail rides over not too technical terrain with an emphasis on climbing.
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