How to Choose a Single Speed Commuting Bike ∓ Top Recommendations

Single Speed Commuting Bike

In this article, we will specifically look at the single speed bike and then compare it to its opponent, the geared bike. We will be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this particular bike, so you know everything about it and can decide if it would be a good fit for your riding experience or not.

What is a Single Speed Commuting Bike?

A single speed commuting bike is essentially a regular bike that has only one gear ratio. That means they don’t use derailleur gears or hub gearing, and the rider cannot shift gears. So, as the name says, single speed, your legs will always have the same resistance in the pedal.

There are many different types of single speed bikes, such as road bikes, children’s bikes, BMX bikes, track bikes, and jump bikes. There are common gear ratios on a single speed bike which are 44/16 and 46/16. What do these numbers mean? Your bike has a chainring and a rear cog, and these numbers tell you that the chainring will have 44 or 46 teeth and the rear cog 16 teeth. Most standard single speed bikes will have that.

The geared bike, on the other hand, has a whole gearing system with derailleur gear, gearing hub, or other methods to change gears. Some bikes use a two gear changing mechanism that means your bike might have a front and back derailleur gear. This will also affect the number of chainrings on your bike, as discussed earlier. 

There is another option which is the fixed gear bike. This type of bike has no freewheel mechanisms, so when the wheels are turning, the cog is turning. So, to get from A to B, you need to keep pedaling. If you stop, the cranks will continue to spin, and you can brake by stopping the pedal motion.

SIngle speed bikes do have breaks like any other form of the bike, yet fixed gear bikes can not have breaks, depending on the bike. It is illegal, though, in some countries to ride a bike without breaks.

Single speed bikes do have a freewheel that will allow you to move it in one direction but can stop it when you reverse the movement. So, if you pedal backward, nothing will happen.

Why Would I Use a Single Speed Commuting Bike?

Single speed commuting bikes have gained popularity and many cyclists, from hobby to pro, use this type of bike. The reason for that is simplicity. A commuter bike is ideal for commuting and is also great to use in the winter due to the easier maintenance. Many people use them as city bikes to commute to and from work.

However, you will find fixed gear bikes mostly at track races. If you have ever watched a track race and seen the bikes speeding around the velodrome, chances are they are fixed-gear bikes with no brakes.

As there is just less going on with a single speed bike, the maintenance and price are lower. It is also lighter and easier to use than a bike with many gears. Many cyclists enjoy this bike simply because it is so simple and easy. And it is also a great workout as you will have to pedal faster if you want to get more speed and can’t just change gears.

There isn’t much to think about when you are riding this bike and when the hills are coming, you stand up and pedal until you feel all the muscles in your body. Using this bike uphill, you will soon see those muscles getting stronger.

In addition, you will learn to use momentum for climbing a hill as you must keep up a certain pace and can’t just use the easier gear to get you to the top. This might be challenging at first but will get easier with time.

With not much fuss around your single speed bicycle, it will be enjoyable to get on the bike in the morning.

Pros of Owning and Using a Single Speed Commuting Bike

We have talked about a few in the last paragraph, but here are all the advantages of owning and using a single speed commuting bike.

Low Maintenance

Who doesn’t want a bike that won’t require repairs and frequent trips to the mechanic? Of course, there are things you have to check, like tires, chains, and brakes, but that’s all. A single speed commuting bike requires minimal upkeep and maintenance.

Pricing

Another reason to choose a single speed commuting bike over another type is the pricing. Now you might know that bikes nowadays can cost thousands of dollars and can be quite an investment, especially if you ride a lot and like to upgrade your bike. You won’t find these extravagant costs with a single speed bicycle.

First of all, the single speed bicycle has fewer parts and can therefore be bought for less money. In addition to that, fewer parts mean fewer things that can break or create problems that have to be repaired or replaced, which will lower your cost for maintaining this hobby.

The biggest components that make up the price of a bike are the shifters, cassettes, cables, housing, crankset, and derailleurs, which you won’t need for your single speed bike.

Also, comparing bikes of the same price, the value of a single speed bike will likely be higher because you are getting a better frame and wheelset for the same price.

Simplicity

Just to put it all together in a bullet point to underline this. A single speed commuting bike is so popular because it is simple. And we live in a world full of complicated issues, so people are drawn to this easy use option. It allows you to be in the moment and not worry about shifting or strange noises when shifting. You can simply be in the moment and enjoy the ride experience on your single speed commuter bike.

Workout and Physical Strength

How to Choose a Single Speed Commuting Bike ∓ Top Recommendations 1

You definitely must cycle way harder on this type of bike. There are no gears making it easy, only your strength and the pedals. This can be a great workout if you commute to work. Riding this bike might be challenging initially but will get easier when you ride more as your muscles start to become stronger. This, in the long run, will make you fitter and stronger.

The Weight

Some bikes are really heavy and not easy to transport. The good news is there are fewer parts on the single speed commuting bike than on a geared bike. It makes it more practical and lighter in weight. When you are riding in the city, and there is a staircase, the single speed bike is light and can be carried down easily. So, you can look at it as more of a city bike than anything.

Cons of Owning and Using a Single Speed Commuting Bike

There are so many great things about single speed commuting bikes, but we need to look at some cons. Many people are critical of single speed bikes because of different factors that we will be looking at right now.

Effort

It can be a pro, but it also can be a con. The single speed commuting bikes need you to pedal more which is a physical challenge that is not for everybody. Some people prefer an easier ride and want comfort over sweating and struggling.

Not for All Rides

You can climb hills with single speed commuting bikes, but it is harder and not designed for long uphill riding. A geared bike is recommended for hills because otherwise, you are very limited without shifting gears, and riding uphill might be too much of a struggle. The same thing for going downhill. You can’t shift and won’t keep up with other people using a geared bike.

Speed

If you want to be fast, a single speed commuting bike won’t be the best choice for you. Your cadence will top out with a single speed bike. Yet, there is a lot of discussion about this topic as to whether a single speed bike is fast or not. It mostly depends on the terrain and if you are going uphill or not. The lightness of the single speed bike comes in handy, though on a flat surface, it’s not 100% clear with which bike you can be faster.

Pros and Cons of a Geared Bike to Compare

For a quick comparison, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of a geared bike to give you an idea of what to expect and if a single speed commuting bike is a great fit for you.

Pros:

  • The first and biggest advantage is that this bike has gears that make it easier to cycle uphill and change terrain. You will be more efficient, and climbing hills won’t be as much of a struggle with this kind of bike which means your physical shape isn’t as important. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a workout on this kind of bike; it will just be easier when going uphill.
  • Efficiency on a geared bike is way higher, and you can reach high speeds in no time. At the same time, you won’t use as much power to get there. The discussion is loud among bike fans as many don’t believe that single speed commuting bikes are slower. 
  • The range of gears some bikes have is up to 30 gears, meaning you can go up any hill and over any rough terrain you want as you can shift and adjust the bike to whatever you ride on.

Cons:

  • A geared bike isn’t as lightweight as a single speed commuting bike and is harder to transport. That might be an advantage as well, though, as many riders like the heavier bike type. It depends on what you prefer.
  • Another con could be that the pricing can be very high. It can go up to $5,000 and more. In addition, you need to think about the pricing for components that you might need to fix and replace at a certain point
  • Higher maintenance is also a point to look at. Many more components can break or become damaged with these types of bikes, and the cost to repair or replace them is quite high. Next to wheels, brakes, and chains, there are many components of your bike that need maintenance from time to time.

What to Look Out for in Single speed and Fixed Gear Bikes

The Frame Design

The most common option is either a steel frame or an alloy frame. Choose alloy if you want your bike to be lighter and a steel frame if you want something stronger and less easily damaged.

Wheels

A single speed wheelset doesn’t need a bulky cassette, so they look different and are more symmetrical, making for a more robust wheel. You need to check the axle width for your wheels as there can be multiple standards. Most standard bikes will have a 130 mm rear axle, but track frames will probably have a 120 mm rear axle.

Brakes

You should have a road bike with two braking mechanisms. For example, in some countries, it is illegal not to. So, you might need to check if your bike has two rim brakes. A fixed gear bicycle can be slowed down by slower pedaling.

Pedals

It’s your personal choice if you want to use flat pedals or clipless pedals. AS most single speed commuting bikes can be found in the city, it might be better to get flat pedals so you can wear regular shoes and can get off and on easily.

Still, you will be less connected to the bike, which means that you can slip off easily, and also, it might be hard to break with your legs.

You can use double-sided mountain bike pedals, which are great choices, and they are easier to clip in. Road bike pedals are harder to get in and out of, and you need to keep in mind that you will pedal while trying to get a foot out to stop.

Chain Width

In most cases, you will have a ⅛ inch chain on your fixie bike.

Drivetrain and Gearing

Choosing the right gearing is important. If it’s too low, you could spin out, and if it’s too high, you might not get away at all.

Try out different gears as it is important with this kind of bike and changing it won’t cost much. The typical ratio is 44/16.

Who Should Buy a Single Speed Commuting Bike?

You can buy a single speed bike if you are a hobby biker or if you are a pro cyclist, there is no rule for that. But this type of bike is great for commuting in a city where you have to stop and go often and don’t want to worry about constantly shifting. It is also often referred to as an urban bike or city bike.

However, BMX bikes are a single gear bike as well. If you are the type of person that likes to go down hills and off the road while doing tricks, then a BMX bike would also be a great choice.

Summary

A single speed commuter bike is a great choice if you are commuting in a city. It has many advantages such as pricing, weight, low maintenance, and the simplicity that many love. You need to be in decent physical shape, and hills will be your enemy on an urban bike.

However, if you enjoy riding without thinking about shifting, this is the perfect bike for you. It is affordable and looks great. Many people come back to this type of bike because of its style and many great features. Ask your closest bike shop if they have single speed bike options and test it out before buying online.

Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter

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