In recent years single speed and fixed gear cycling has really taken off due to the appeal of simple, efficient and reliable cycling. Along with this people don’t have the space or money to replace their old mountain, road or commuter bike with a new shiny single speed. Because of this single speed conversions are becoming more and more popular as a cheap and easy alternative.
This single speed conversion guide gives you a simple step-by-step break down of how to convert your bike to a single speed. Along with the parts you’ll need, the best parts to buy and how to fit them.
Single Speed Conversion – Step by Step Guide
Step 1 -Remove Parts
The first step in your single speed conversion is to remove the wheels and everything to do with the drivetrain. This includes crank arms with pedals, rear derailleur, front derailleur and shifters etc. This is a great opportunity to properly clean down your bike. You can get in all the nooks and crannies that you cant normally reach when all the parts are in place.
Optional Step – Re-Painting Your Bike Frame
A single speed conversion will bring a whole new feel and riding experience to your bike. To really make this look and feel like a new bike it is common for people to take advantage of the bike being taken apart and re-spray their frame. Its relatively cheap and straight forward if you have the time. Here is a great YouTube tutorial which talks you through step-by-step how to re-spray your bike frame. How To Re-Spray your Frame
Step 2 – The Parts You Need
The main parts that you need for your single speed conversion are:
- Rear Cog
- Lock Ring
- Front Chain Ring
- Chain Tensioner*
You can get rear cogs with different numbers of teeth depending on the gear ratio you prefer. The simplest way to change your gear ratio is to change your rear cog size. The most common are 16, 18 or 20 teeth cogs but it is really down to personal preference and the power in your legs to turn these gears. To help you choose the right ratio you can calculate everything from gear ratio, cadence and speed here.
To keep costs down you can keep the front chain ring from your original bike. You may find that the ramps and pins on a multi-geared front chain ring may throw off your chain. This can be resolved by fitting a bash guard which will keep the chain securely on the chain ring and prevent it coming off.
Another option, which we recommend is to buy a new single-speed specific front chain ring. This will keep your conversion looking neat and tidy but also ensure that the chain runs smoothly and won’t come off. Again, the size of the front chain ring depends on your gear ratio preference. Here are a few we have tried, tested and would recommend:
Top 3 Single Speed Chain Rings:
The spacers are essential on single speed conversions because they fill in the space where the cassette once was. The lock ring is there to hold everything in place. All very simple and straight forward which as we’ve said already is the main appeal of a single speed conversion.
*A chain tensioner is only required if your bike frame doesn’t have a horizontal wheel drop outs at the rear of the frame. Horizontal wheel drop outs allow you to move the rear wheel backwards and forwards to keep the tension on the chain. Multi geared bikes do not have the consistent chain tension of a single speed because the chain needs to be able to fit around the smallest and largest gears, therefore, requiring slack in the chain. If your frame doesn’t have horizontal drop outs then we have tried, tested and reviewed our top 3 chain tensioners for single speed conversions to suit all budgets:
Top 3 Single Speed Chain Tensioners:
For the remaining parts you can buy all these individually from reputable online bike retailers such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction . Alternatively you can buy single speed conversion kits that have all the parts you need, this is generally cheaper.
Top 3 Conversion Kits
Here are the top 3 single speed conversion kits that we recommend:
Step 3 – Building the Single Speed Conversion
Now you have all the parts you need you can start putting your single speed conversion together. A good starting point if you have bought a new front chain ring is to fit that to the crank arms and pedals. Once that is secured in place you can ahead and fit that back into place on your bike.
Next you want to install the spacers from your conversion kit. As mentioned before you need to fill in the space where the cassette once was on your multi-geared bike. Your kit should come with one large spacer, an outer spacer and several smaller spacers. This is so that you can make minor adjustments to make sure your front and rear chain rings are aligned properly. Because of this it is recommended that you initially fit one or two spacers and hand tighten them until you have determined how many spacers you will require.
The next step is chain alignment. As the chain tensioner is not fitted there will a bit of sag in the line so try and get your chain sized as best as you can by removing the right amount of chain links. For those of you who need help with removing chain links, here is a great tutorial video on how to do this – How To Remove Bike Chain Links
The reason you only hand tightened the lock ring before was so that you can be sure that the chain is properly aligned. The photo above shows an aligned chain, if yours is miss-aligned then you will need to take off the lock ring and move around the smaller spaces from the inside to out side until it is aligned. Once this is done you can properly tighten your lock ring.
Next you need to install the chain tensioner. If you have a horizontal drop out frame or a spring loaded chain tensioner then you are pretty much set to go now. Spring loaded tensioners should come with simple, step-by-step installation guides and should be fitted very similar to the photo above. If you have a manual chain tensioner then there a just a few more adjustments to be made. Once in place like the photo above, adjust the tensioner until the chain tension is just right. A good rule of thumb is to have around 1/4 of an inch movement in the chain. If the chain is too loose its likely to fall off. Too tight and it will restrict your pedalling. See photo below
And that’s it! you are ready to join the world of single speed riding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the guys over at SpinMotiv for their brilliant step-by-step video that I used for this post. Be sure to head over to their YouTube page, check out their other videos and subscribe. You can also find the full video for this single speed conversion guide below. We hope that you have found this useful and if you have any questions or comments then please leave those in the comments section below. Happy Single Speeding!
Also – After spending all this time fixing up you new bike don’t forget to keep your single speed conversion nice and clean. Pedaloff have reviewed these great cleaning products from the guys over at Crankalicious.