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Why ride a single speed mountain bike? No one really nows... Here are a few answers I have come across while cruising the web. Credits posted when I could tell who wrote it. Scroll down for lots of quotes...

Singlespeeding can be an experience that demands more of a person, and so a person finds that extra drive, that extra strength to do something that perhaps he didn’t believe he could accomplish before. Or even relate to. Singlespeeding is quiet. It’s simple. It’s pure. But it’s way more than that -- it’s personal.


You know you're a singlespeeder when...
* You can't balance your check book with a calculator but you can figure gear inches in your head. - aka brad
* really don't care whether others get it or not, so you don't defend or explain it. - Sparty
* show up to a race in a dress, and get mad because someone else has a nicer one on than you do. - Jersey Devil
* You realize the bike you're fantasizing about for your "next" purchase is not something you read about in Mountain Bike Action, but an entry level track bike.
- Glowboy

There is nothing to get about single speeding as there is nothing to get with freeriding, cyclocross, bmx, trials, DH, XC, road etc... - Striker Ride what you want to ride for whatever reason you choose. If you're on a bike and you're having fun, then you're doing it right. - Spydersmom
10. It’s fashionable right now.
9. All those buttons, wires, derailleurs and gears – it’s all too confusing...
8. There’s meant to be more than one? (well worn, but still a good ‘un)
7. To mess with your head.
6. I lost the others, can I borrow some?
5. Reminds me of “E.T.”
4. Gave up after 10-speeds, can’t count higher unless I take my shoes off.
3. It’s all I could afford.
2. Punk’s not dead.
1. Beats being a pedestrian. - KneeHell
"If you don't hear the voice from within - don't worry about it."
The urge to ride a SS comes from within your soul, it beckons you, it haunts you, it fills your sleep and it controls your days. If you don't have it - don't worry about it. Just live your life with gears and let others live theirs without.
Han Solo didn't try to become a Jedi because he didn't have the urge. But, he did just fine without it. Or, is that fiction?? - GA-SS
I like walking up the hills? And besides, I can't climb worth a damn on my gearie either, so what good is it? - BikeHigh

Well, there are a lot of different possible reasons. And yes, people do ride them on trails. It's not as hard as you might think. I run geared some of the time (road rides, some mountain biking), and singlespeed some of the time (commuting, more and more mountain biking). Here are my reasons:

Efficiency. A singlespeed's chain runs directly from the chainring to the rear sprocket and back. A geared bike's chain snakes around two jockey pulleys to a sprocket that is out of line (left-to-right) from the chainring by much as an inch. Even without the chainline issue the improvement is at least a couple percent, and compared to some of the more crooked chainlines you might run on a multi-geared bike, the difference can be quite a bit more than that. Believe it or not, you can feel the difference. Don't believe me? Find a bike shop that sells a few singlespeed bikes, and pull both a singlespeed and a geared bike off the rack. Now crank the pedals backwards pretty hard and let go. Notice how much longer the pedals spin on the SS bike? That's the difference in efficiency, and it's even more pronounced under load.

Maintenance. No derailleurs to adjust, no jockey pulleys to lubricate, no cables to clean. Most of the maintenance most of us do, other than tires, is on the drivetrain. With a singlespeed all you have to do is take care of your chain. That's IT.

Durability. No rear derailleur to tweak on trail obstacles, no shifters to go bad, no front derailleur to jam, no 11-tooth cogs to wear out early and force you to replace your cassette before its time.

Weight savings. To be honest, I still have the rear derailleurs on my bikes so I can run gears when I want, so I'm not seeing that much weight savings. BUT even so, when I pull off my cassette and replace it with a single cog, I'm taking away about 220 grams. That's half a pound. I can easily feel the difference when I pick up the bike. Go truly singlespeed by stripping off the derailleurs, shifters and cables, and you can end up saving 2-3 POUNDS. People spend hundreds of dollars to lose that kind of weight off their bikes, but with singlespeeding you can do it for free.

Concentration. You don't have to think about what gear you're in. You don't have to plan your downshift ahead of time when you come to a stop in traffic. It's not like shifting is THAT much of a mental burden, but you'd be surprised how many brainwave cycles singlespeeding frees up for other things. Like paying more attention to traffic. Like paying more attention to your body english, line and speed when you attack that rock garden. See my writeup below under the "Inaugural SS ride at Cutthroat PaSS" for a better description of what I mean. Singlespeeding makes you a better technical rider.

Momentum. 1. On a geared bike, when you start losing speed on a climb, you downshift, and you let off the power to do it ... which slows you down even more. On a singlespeed, you stand up and hammer. You get more momentum going up the hill (although it can be exhausing at times!). 2. Because you know climbing can get tough if you bog down too much, you pay a lot more attention to preserving your momentum, and you're less likely to sap away precious momentum with your brakes when you don't need to. 3. Because you carry more momentum going uphill into difficult technical sections, you have an easier time getting through them in the uphill direction. Why is technical terrain harder going uphill than downhill? Speed.

Pride. Let's be honest here. It feels pretty good doing that bad beeotch of a climb in a gear twice as tall as you would have on a geared bike. And people that aren't ordinarily impressed by others' riding are sometimes impressed that you can ride a particular trail AT ALL on a singlespeed.

Those are the reasons that are most important to me, but singlespeeders are a diverse group (which is a good thing, in my little worldview) and here are some other potential legitimate reasons which I also respect:

Elegance. A singlespeed bike (other than mine) has a really nice clean, elegant look to it, with no derailleurs hanging off various places, shifters cluttering up the handlebars, and shift cables running along the tubes. Now if you saw my bikes you'd know I'm not exactly seeking out a "clean" look, but I can appreciate it in others' bikes, and a lot of other singlespeeders appreciate it too.

Cachet. It's a fringe activity. You're a member of a pretty exclusive club if you're a singlespeeder. There's always the danger of it being a trendy fad, which means someday it won't be cool anymore, but I don't think where anywhere near there yet.

Making a statement. There are a lot of people who are fed up with planned obsolescence, Shimano's dominance of componentry, and/or the over-engineering of today's bikes. Some people like making a statement about one of those things, or about noncomformity, stickin' it to the man, or maybe something else they think singlespeeding stands for.

Boredom. Some of the people on this forum are extremely accomplished mountain bikers. They've ridden it all. Singlespeeding is a new challenge.

From Glowboy on

"Do not be afraid to..."
Lower the gearing. 2:1 is "standard" but in the real dirt world lower is better for most people and places.
Walk. You are not that much slower pushing than gearies riding on many hills. Run for a while and push for a while. You do not need to try to ride the whole thing yet.
Coast. Rest when you can. When you are moving too fast to pedal effienctly save your energy and coast.
Attack. Do not ride like a gearie approaching climbs. speed up before you reach the base of slopes. If you ride like you can shift down for the climb you work harder.
Use "only have one gear" as an excuse for everything. Good and bad.
Not take the ride too seriously. The goal is to have fun. Do not worry about how fast you are riding or whether you could make the climb or not.

"Sparty's Miserable Magazine Flavored Rant (grab a beer 1st)"
Although I haven't been riding singlespeeds as long as some of the diehard regulars on this board, I've been at it long enough to understand that SSing is a unique and special dicipline. "Not shifting" is not singlespeeding.
And yet the know-it-alls at some of the major national mountain bike publications think a singlespeed bike is simply a limitation when compared to a geared bike. To quote one recent mountain bike mag's editor, "... The reality remains: If you want to ride a good singlespeed, just don't shift the bike you have." (Name withheld to protect the guilty.)

Singlespeeds are real. Them that knows know they know. Them that don't know don't know they don't know.

Singlespeeding is not just a bike. It's way more than the bike. Like I said before, it's a dicipline. That's where the mag editors don't seem to get it. Ever notice that the people who think singlespeeds are dumb are the people who don't ride them?

It takes commitment to enjoy singlespeeding at its highest and most rewarding level. It takes a dedicated bike with one gear that cannot be shifted. Leaving a geared bike in one gear involves you in singlespeeding, but it doesn't commit you to anything. What's the difference between "involvement" and "commitment?" Well, think of the ham and eggs you had for breakfast this morning. The chicken was involved; the pig was committed.

Of course it takes a little time to come to love singlespeeding. Maybe the magazine boys aren't willing to make that commitment. Or maybe they've become so high and mighty in their own minds that they just want to tell the world what's right and what's not. Perhaps the care and feeding of their know-it-all egos is where their real commitment lies.


Taken from

"beacuse the pain and exhaustion..."
I get from singlespeeding overwhelm all of the other darkness in my life, pausing for brief moments of bliss the pain, the hopelessness, the incessant voices urging me to just give it all up. - Hollywood on MTBR

Why? I just built up a 29er SS and my friends don't get it. They say things like " Is this the new retro thing? Is this what the cool people are doing?" And, I dunno, I don't feel that cool, or retro, it just seems... nice. -whoopicat on mtbr

The Tao of Singlespeeding
By Corvus Corvax

The Tao of Singlespeeding
Adapted from the Tao Te Ching, the following verses are meant to inspire and enlighten. As there are a total of 13 verses, we will continue to release a new verse with each successive eNewsletter.
ride. enjoy. live.

The ride that can be finished is not the perfect ride.
The frame that can be broken is not the perfect frame.
The ride is the beginning of sky and dirt.
The singlespeed is the mother of the ten thousand gears.
Ever desireless, one can see the trail.
Ever desiring, one can see the bike.
The two spring from the same source, but differ in name;
this appears as riding.
The gate to all mystery.

Sky and dirt are ruthless;
They see the ten thousand gears as useless.
The wise are ruthless;
They see the riders as fools.

The space between sky and dirt is like a tire.
The shape changes but not the form;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More gears count less.
Hold fast to the trail.

Sky and dirt last forever.
Why do sky and dirt last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The singlespeeder is behind on the downhill, and ahead on the climb.
He is unencumbered, thus at one with all.
Through flow, he attains fulfillment.

Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Make the bike too light, and the handling will suffer.
Adorn your frame with XTR, and no lock can protect it.
Claim medals and podiums, and drug tests will follow.
Drink beer when the ride is done.
This is the way of singlespeeding.

Thirty-two spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape latex into a tube;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Drill eyelets in a rim;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness comes from what is not there.

Accept difficulty willingly.
Accept pain as the human condition.

What do you mean by "Accept difficulty willingly"?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with your heart rate.
This is called "accepting difficulty willingly."

What do you mean by "Accept pain as the human condition"?
Pain comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be pain?

Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to ride any trail.
Love your bike as your own self; then you can truly ride anywhere.

The masters are subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The skill of their riding is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Delicate, like riders crossing a winter stream.
Alert, as if on tight singletrack.
Balanced, as if negotiating a switchback.
Focused, as if on a long climb.
Yielding, like fine steel.
Simple, like track hubs.
Smooth, like machined bearings.

Who can wait quietly for the ride to begin?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Followers of singlespeeding do not seek advantage.
Not seeking advantage, they are not swayed by a desire for change.

Do you think you can take my bike and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

My singlespeed is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will lose it.
If you add a suspension fork, you will ruin it.

So sometimes I am ahead and sometimes I am behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes the trail goes up and sometimes down.

Therefore the singlespeeder avoids extremes, complacency, and heavy traffic on climbs.

Give up gears, and put an end to your troubles.

Is there a difference between the granny and the big ring?
Is there a difference between uphill and downhill?
Must I ride what others ride? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying their full suspension.
In spring some go to the trails and descend the mountain.
But I alone am riding, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and wandering.
I am different.
I am nourished by the trail.

To ride one gear is natural.
Sprints do not last all morning,
Descents do not last all day.

The follower of singlespeeding
is at one with his bike.
He who rides smoothly
Experiences flow.
He who loses the trail
Becomes confused.
When you are at one with your bike,
The trail welcomes you.
When you conserve your momentum,
The flow is always there.
When you are at one with pain,
The pain is experienced willingly.

He who does not get out of the saddle
Will not make it to the top of the hill.

He who has his weight forward is not steady.
He who sprints cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to the followers of singlespeeding,
"These are extra gears and unnecessary weight,"
They do not bring happiness.
Therefore followers of singlespeeding avoid them.

Spinning is the motion of the singlespeed.
Flow is the way of the singlespeed.
The ten thousand gears are born of singlespeeding.
Singlespeeding is born of not riding.

The wise rider hears of singlespeeding and practices it diligently.
The average rider hears of singlespeeding and thinks of it now and again.
The foolish rider hears of singlespeeding and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, singlespeeding would not be what it is.

Hence it is said:
The smooth trail seems rough.
Going forward seems like retreat.
The easy climb seems hard.
Singlespeeding is quiet and without artifice.
One gear alone nourishes and brings the ride to completion.


Adapted by Corvus Corvax from The Tao Te Ching, translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Random House, Inc., New York (1972), with apologies to Lao Tsu.

© 2002 Dirt Rag Magazine

"What is true, simple, and sincere is most congenial to man's nature." --Cicero