Single speed bikes explained
Single speed bikes offer cycling in its simplest and purest form. They are lightweight, low maintenance machines which make them ideal for commuting.
Having one gear significantly reduces the need for daily bike maintenance and drive-train repairs.
The rear wheel dropouts on single speed are often horizontal and rearward facing. This ensures that you can achieve the correct chain tension. Correct chain tension with no visible slack is vital for these bicycles as there is no rear derailleur to accommodate any slack in the chain. A chain derailing could cause damage to both the bicycle/rider. Single speed bikes normally come with a flip-flop rear wheel. This is a wheel that is reversible. The rear hub is threaded on both sides, one side with a freewheel sprocket to allow you to freewheel and the otherside with a fixed sprocket for constant pedalling.
A track bike has a fixed sprocket, and some track bikes may have a flip flop rear wheel with different size fixed sprockets on either side for quick gear changes for specific races/activity. A fixed sprocket is the most efficient and direct transmission available, there are no ratchets or derailleur's to negotiate. This means there is no delay or hesitation from the first pedal stroke to the last. The sprocket is directly fixed onto the hub, either threaded or mounted and then secured with a lockring, or sometimes a combination of both a threaded sprocket with a lockring.
A fixed wheel offers no freewheel or coasting possibility. In other words when the rear wheel moves forward or backwards, the pedals revolve in the same direction.
Why are they good?
Single speed and track bikes are generally cheaper, lighter and mechanically simpler than a geared bike of equivalent standard. Due to no derailleur there's less parts that require maintenance so these bikes can be an ideal option for city commuting. They are aesthetically pleasing due to their minimalistic appearance and often feature very alternative paintwork and styling, enabling you to stand out from the crowd.You learn how to pedal in a circle, and not just up and down due to the characteristics of these bikes and being energy efficient in doing so. This enhances the 'road feel', and an increased learning of how the bike reacts to different road surfaces and obstacles in the way.
What are they made from?
Carbon Fibre: This is a very lightweight and stiff material. As a non metal there are huge design advantages when using carbon fibre to build bikes. The material can be manipulated into aerodynamic shapes and fine tuned for increased stiffness and strength in specific areas on the frame. Carbon fibre bikes are also now becoming more affordable even at entry level.
Steel: A very popular and traditional material for building bikes. Steel frames are renowned for their comfort, strength and durability. Steel can also be easy to fix as dents or bends can be repaired. Steel is a comparatively affordable frame material to use especially next to more exotic carbon fibre or titanium frames.
Titanium: Titanium bike frames are extremely lightweight and offer a smooth ride that is similar to the ride quality of a good steel frame. Titanium frames like steel frames have inherent flex. This produces a smooth and comfortable ride feel that is often devoid of heavy surface vibration. Titanium looks great, does not rust and can last a lifetime.
Aluminium: This material is extremely stiff, lightweight and strong. Aluminium bikes have a reputation for having excellent power transfer, although the lack of shock absorption from a stiff aluminium frame can result in a harsh feel for the rider.