FanPost

Techs-Mechs: Summer of the Singlespeed

A few months back I sought the advice of the PdC members on building a singlespeed with some spare stuff I had around. I appreciate all the tips and decided to forge ahead with the project. What I started with was the stuff I had lying about. A Cannondale CAAD8 frame, Reynolds Ouzo Fork, Campy record bb and crank (with a 42t ring which I use as a single), some loose cogs from unused cassettes, a Ritchey WCS Bar and Stem (Ritchey WCS and Pro are all I use on the road or on the cross courses), thomson post, selle san marco saddle, record chain, Chorus calipers and some old handbuilt Velocity rims on record 10 hubs. Stuff I needed was a chain tensioner (quickly discarded though), brake levers (bought Tektro something's that were cheap, look retro cool and are shaped close enough to my regular campy 10 speed hoods on my other bikes) and a rear hub spacer kit. I later bought a singlespeed chain and half link. Ok, the tensioner wasnt for me. It was noisy, seemed to add drag (maybe a mental thing), but also it took away from the minimilist aesthetics of the bike. So after using a chain with half link and a 15t cog it seemed to provide the right amount of tension (half inch of play in the middle is the rule of thumb). Off I went. First impressions. Ok, you will crack your knuckles pushing against a lever that doesnt move at the start of the first hill, but beyond the inital awkwardness was a joy I havent felt riding a bike for as long as I can remember. It is simply you and the road. Want to make it up that hill? You better hit it with some speed. Want to ride the flats at 22 mph? You better spin fast. I expected my normal morning training rides to be slower, but on the contrary they were faster. Significantly in some cases. Ok, I am typically a slow starter and always having easy gear options gave me an excuse to soft pedal on the hills on my geared bikes, but the Singlespeed forces you to go hard much more frequenty. But it's not a chore..I have literally looked forward to the alarm goin off at 5:30 am every morning this summer to see if I could beat yesterday's time. I am already looking forward to tomorrow's ride and hope to stretch it out a few extra miles if I can. I was on a 2 week vacation in North Carolina and the only bike I brought was the singlespeed... Ok, here is where I hit a bit of a snag. I rode every day except for one travel day and wound up with 350 miles in 12 days there. The terrain was just right for the singlespeed too. Just slightly rolling but no need for gears. But, on my 3rd day in NC, on a hard acceleration out of a turn, the chain popped off. ok... it can happen, I was banking hard.. but then the next day it fell of twice, and I was just spinning on the flats. The following day, it fell off three times (I started carrying rags with me, since it became ineviatable. Oddly on my longest single day (50 miles in a driving rain) it never fell off. But I was dealing with a stretched chain, vertical drops (so no way to adjust tension) and all of my spare parts at home 800 mils away. lesson here is vertical drops and singlespeeds arent a great combo. So I switched some stuff. So now my Singlespeed frame is a Pinarello Opera with horizontal drops, but I also converted the Campy Eurus wheels that were on that bike to my single speed wheels. A tad overkill, but since I ride the singlespeed more than most of my other bikes, why not put some nice hoops on it. After 3 weeks on the Pinarello the chain has been fine. If it stretches or the wheel moves, it's an easy adjustment. Also, I am using Record internal cam skewers and not bolt on hubs. No issues so far, but you need to really clamp them down. All told, the Singlespeed has accounted for approx 700 miles this summer with many more before it sees winter duty on the rollers. I only use it for solo rides, so my A bike (geared) still sees plenty of rides with my club friends, but I have been tempted to ride the SS in group rides (although they are a strong bunch and we hit speeds on the flats that I just couldnt do with my 42/15t gear..) All old, I couldnt have been happier, and I now have in my possesion a ENO hub/wheel with a fixed cog and a free wheel cog. Shortly I will be trying this as a fixie, which I hear can be even more of a joy than a singlespeed (although more work). Advice: Well starting with a singlespeed specific frame and wheels probably makes this a bit easier than a converted geared bike set up, but what I have seems to work ok. I went with a 42/15t. For NC I should have swapped out to a 42/14 since I was a tad undergeared, but I can grunt up the steeper stuff near my home on the 15t. If I lived somewhere with longer hills I would probably go with a 16t or 17t rear. But it is a matter or terrain, style, preference etc. Horizontal drops however are pretty important. Can you get it just right with vertical drops? Sure, and they make hubs that can be adjusted too, but the horizonals will save you some headaches. Anyway, would love to hear from other singlespeed/fixie riders out there. I wish I did this 10 years ago.

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