Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why my first bike was a single-speed

The most stressful decision I have faced entering the world of cycling was purchasing my first bike. There are so many different types of bikes for every imaginable purpose, deciding which was best for me took weeks. Did I want the rugid strength of a mountain bike, the versatility of a hybrid, or the refined speed of a road bike? After reading dozens of descriptions/reviews and honestly reflecting on the type of cyclist I wanted to be, I purchased a single-speed.

Single-speed v. fixie
Now before I begin my soapbox on the merits of single-speed road bikes for first time cyclists, it is important to explain how they differ from a fixed-gear (fixie). Although both single-speeds and fixies lack the gearing system of the common road and mountain bike, fixies are the simplest and oldest type of bicycle. As long as the bike is moving, so are a fixie's pedals, leaving riders unable to 'coast.' Here is part one and two of a great video made by two novice cyclists - like me : ) - converting a geared bike into a fixie. Not only do they visually explain 'coasting,' they also highlight how easy it is to convert an old road bike into a fixed gear drive train (if you so desire).

Why I went with a single-speed
In the end, I found fixies to be more restrictive than liberating. The idea of shooting down a Miami bridge with my pedals moving faster than my feet seemed like a simple recipe for a broken leg or accident. A single-speed bike, however, would allow me to 'coast' down bridges, keep a simple design, and give me an opportunity to learn the basics of bike maintenance anxiety free. Plus lets be honest, $200 was a much less risky investment than the $700 for the average entry level geared road bike. Once it was clear what I wanted, I went to my local bike shop and decided on the bike above (it was love at first sight).

Selling a single-speed
After about three months on my single-speed, I have loged in 100 to 200 commuter miles. In this time, I built up my legs to handle an average flat speet of about fifteen miles per hour. Also, through YouTube searches and tinkering I have learned how to clean and lube a chain, adjust handlebars and breaks, and the importance of storing a bike inside (away from the elements - rust is no joke).

As I near my fourth month, I have begun seriously considering making the jump to a geared touring bike. I am getting more and more excited about the idea of cycling across the country, and although a single-speed is phenomenal for short distance rides (less than fifty miles), the inability to switch gears translates to more energy on the side of the cyclist. This was great in the beginning to get me into cycling shape, but as I look to long distance cycling trips (200+ miles), a geared touring bike seems ideal.

But the best part is single-speed bikes are super easy to maintain, and therefore super easy to sell back at, or near, equal value! Even though I am beginning the transition to the world of geared cycling, I would never trade in the lessons I learned on my single-speed. I highly recommend single-speed bikes to anyone that desires to test the waters before making the jump into the world of cycling.


  1. Thank you so much for providing a useful source of comparison for bikes! Cheers to more cycling activities and more bikes to come!

  2. Glad you liked it! If you are interested, I've moved my blog over to Hope you enjoy it!