What is a Single Speed Bike?

In a nutshell

A single speed bike is one that features only one gear, one chain ring at the front and one sprocket at the rear. It has no gear shifters, no front or rear mech and no gear cables. This simple, pared down, style of bike makes it very easy to maintain and lightweight. It’s a bike style favoured by commuters, couriers and of course hipsters.

A single speed is not necessarily a ‘fixie’, and although a fixed-gear bike is also a single speed it has no ‘free-hub’, so you are unable to free-wheel – meaning that if the back wheel is turning your cranks are turning also. This requires some skill and practise! If you forget and stop pedalling whilst on a descent the pedals kick round very quickly and can pitch you out of the saddle! Most fixie bikes come with a ‘flip-flop’ hub with a fixed gear on one side and a free wheel on the other so you can choose how to ride.

It is the simplicity of a single-speed bike that appeals to so many. Nowhere does fashion meet cycling design with as much passion as in the stripped down minimalist aesthetic of a single-speed.

What are the main advantages of riding a single speed bike?

With no gears or derailleurs to get bent or damaged your bike always runs smoothly, no indexing or skipping chains. A single speed bike is reliable, whether you need to use it daily or just occasionally, it is a great bike to own, with less mechanical things to worry about you can just get on with having fun riding it! Single speeds are naturally lightweight, for commuting that is great if you need to carry it anywhere, or lift it on and off trains.

What types of single speed bikes are there?

Single-speed bikes aren’t just confined to urban commuting, there are also single speed mountain bike and adventure bikes available such as the Charge Cooker 0. These bikes build on the innate reliability of a single speed and combine it with off-road capabilities, giving you a bike that can take a huge amount of abuse.

Riding a Single Speed as a Fixie

Should I ride a single speed as a fixie?

A single speed is fast, the simplicity of its drive train makes it mechanically efficient and if you ride single speed a lot it will develop your pedalling cadence. If you want to increase your speed, you need to pedal faster - very simple speed control!

What are the benefits of riding a single speed as a fixie?

Having only one gear really improves your ability to read the road or terrain ahead and plan the best way to tackle it. On steep climbs having only one gear can be challenging, the resistance quickly ramps up and it takes some power to muscle your way to the top. If you see a hill approaching hit it with as much momentum as you can so you travel further up the climb before the gear starts to feel too heavy.

How would I ride differently on a single speed compared to a bike with several gears?

If you choose to ride your single speed as a fixed gear it can take a bit of getting used to, the first and golden rule is - do not stop pedalling! This can feel very unnatural at first, things like hopping up a kerb feel very different when you can’t free wheel a couple of pedal strokes leading up to it. Stopping and starting is also different but with a fixed wheel bike it is much easier to track stand, reducing the number of times on a ride that you have to put a foot down.