Guided and Self-Guided
Mountain Biking and Walking Holidays
in Cyprus
 

 

Single Speed Mountain Biking.

Yep! Seems like a crazy idea to me as well but the single speed bug has arrived in Cyprus.

Over the last few years a number of our British clients have indicated to me that they use Single Speed Mountain Bikes in the winter. Whilst I could see the logic in the UK - with all those wet and muddy weekends, and the resultant poor gear shifting - the idea did not really seem to make much sense on our - normally - dry and sunny island.

All that changed recently on two counts. Firstly I realised that I have become lazy in my riding style and secondly because we've had a bit of rain. The wetter than normal weather combined with the gritty tracks had caused a fair amount of doggy gear shifting and slipping on my training bike. The truth is, a new chain, cassette and chain rings are long overdue, but whilst it's been trouble free in the dry months, and because it's only my training bike, I've just carried on riding it.

So here I am in these financially testing times looking at spending maybe 70 on new drivetrain parts and at the same time looking for a new challenge to make my riding more interesting. A thought appeared in my tiny brain that maybe there was something in this SSMB idea.

I really liked the thought that I could make myself work harder on a ride by having less gear options. The problem for me is that Cyprus is a hilly old place and most of my training rides involve going up and then down with very little flat in between. I wanted to ride up the hills and not push the bike and decided to research the whole thing a bit more. Tap in Single Speed on the clever Google search thingy and you get pages of material.

Sites dealing with the topic give various reasons for going Single Speed including: -

  • Simplicity and low maintenance.
  • To make a statement against technological advances that only really seem to deliver additional cost without noticeable improvement or benefit
  • The need for a new challenge to alleviate boredom i.e. to increase the fun element.
  • Fitness.

In my case the main motivation has been the fitness and fun angles, but I can also relate to the simplicity angle. The technological bit does not really fit with me because I never buy top end kit for my bikes; I just want them to work not ouse prosperity.

The big issue for a single speeder is the correct choice of gearing for their riding style. Most single speeders seem to use a combination of a front chainring with 32 teeth (a normal middle chainring) linked to a rear cog of 16 teeth (commonly the fourth smallest cog on your rear cassette). Now this is fine for quite flat riding but for more hilly terrain a slightly bigger rear cog may be a good idea. It's all compromise though. Too big a rear cog will make forward momentum on the flat a real chore. The legs will spin frantically but the bike will only creep forward. I tested my need by riding my typical training ride but using my geared bike like a single speed and testing between a 32/18 and a 32/21 combination.

I have opted for a 32/20 combination that means I can ride my normal training route, hills and all. In time, fitness, leg strength and technique all improving I aim to move to a 32/18 combination that will be a better compromise.

Now I don't think single speeding is for everyone but I love the challenge. You have to ride differently. More time is spent out of the saddle and your lungs and legs will burn frequently. You will learn to use momentum more efficiently and to select better uphill lines on rough tracks. Your fitness will definitely improve.

If the idea appeals to you then you may be interested in my single speed pages.

Al Smeaton.

22nd February 2009