Single-Speed "curious"

So non-training related…

I am a newer rider and trying out different styles of bikes and I am VERY curious about single speeds.

I currently only ride outdoors on pavement (commute 17 miles to work) or very light smooth gravel (canal path type).

I’m intrigued by the challenge and the simplicity (and tbh just the looks) of single speed bikes…I guess my biggest fear is how limiting it will be on hills. Over my 17 mile commute it’s about 1,000 feet of accents…so not too bad - but as a newer rider I currently struggle a bit even with gears.

There is a cool bike shop near me that takes really old bikes and restores them however you want. Just want to hear anyone else’s experience with them before I proceed. Also wondering if I should get a road oriented bike or a more upright cruiser / hybrid. I’m thinking the cruiser / hybrid with some bigger tires would be nicer on the canal path…but wondering how much that would slow me down for my commute.

thank you for any input!

Edit: my only goals riding are physical fitness and enjoyment


I had the same thought, tried it and I’m not built for single speeds, I’m 6’6” and north of 230lbs……if I was 5’6” I think it would of gone much better


I’ve ridden, commuted, and even trained extensively on fixed gears and single speeds. In my experience, it’s extremely terrain- and gearing-dependent. You’re going to want gearing that allows you to push over your local climbs without destroying yourself at 30 RPM standing, especially if you’re commuting or running errands. If the gearing to achieve this lets you maintain a relatively normal cadence at a tolerable speed on the flats, you’ll have a great time. If your area is so hilly that the gearing you need to conquer the climbs is almost unusable on the flats, a single speed will not be a pleasant experience. On the bright side, the cost of entry is very low, and it’s cheap and easy to fiddle with gearing too. Give it a try and see what you think!


It can be fun and simpler to use a singlespeed, but I really think they are best used in a very flat place. I always found it frustrating to be standing and pedaling my entire bodyweight up a short pitch. The other option was to gear down and then be limited on the flat terrain.

Get an older geared bike and commute with big, durable tires. This is the way.


I commuted for about a year before switching back to gears. I switched back to gears because i was regularly towing my kids in a trailer and that was too much work.

I love single speeds. I would just do whichever you think will bring you more joy. The difference in time will probably be a couple minutes, which really isn’t a big deal.

I’m currently building up a singlespeed cyclocross bike and I’m really excited about it. Keep us posted on this!

1 Like

I commuted on a singlespeed almost daily for over 10 years. Similar length commute to yours (16-18 miles depending on the route I took) but about half the elevation and nothing steeper than about 5%. That enabled me to run a fairly high gear which worked well for maintaining decent speed on the flats and descents without having to grind too much on the hills.

I loved that bike, the simplicity of it was just great for commuting, very little maintenance and very few mechanicals. And definitely made me a stronger rider who was comfortable and smooth at a range of cadence. Would thoroughly recommend it if you can cope ok with the extra climbing on your route. I did also try going fixed gear but just didn’t like it at all, even on the modest descents I was doing I didn’t feel it was safe to be still having to pedal while also dealing with traffic, pedestrians and other hazards at speeds >30mph.

1 Like

I ride a lot of singlespeed, and I really love it. My MTB and CX bikes are both singlespeed. I got into it while working at a shop that reminds me of the one you described!

If you’re doing a long-ish commute, then I’d say start with a more road-oriented build and expect that it will feel a lot different. Ideally you’ll spend a good month or so riding it as much as possible to get used to it. Enjoy the ride!

I love my single speed. It’s freeing.
My commute is about 22-24km each way but there isn’t much elevation.

Low maintenance, low cognitive load (no shifting whatsoever). It’s also less likely to be stolen as it’s lower value.
Checks all the boxes for me.

I use it for commutes, easy rides with kids, and rides with wifey. Mine is more hybrid in its geometry but i changed the bar to drop bars and the stem is a bit longer than stock so im way more aggrressive on it.

I love my SS bike, it’s not aero, fancy or even that clean right now! But if I’m avoiding the worst hills it is really good fun.

Single speed is definitely easier to ride and easier to choose a gear than fixed. I really like riding my fixed bike, especially if I have good enough form to ride the racey club ride on it. But blimey, it’s defo more demanding of you than a road bike on a lumpy course. When I hit a downhill and have to spin up to 150 alllll the way down and I’m tired, I wish I was on a SS.

I think the 5% gradient noted above is a good tipping point if it’s for extra-curricular riding, especially commuting. Anything above that, and you’re probably going to risk either going too slow with a smaller gear or adding a little too much fatigue with the extra daily effort.

The geometry may matter if you think you’re going to need to do some lower cadence riding. Being low and stretched and going hard with a low cadence will require more of your lower back than this upright setup you’re thinking of.

As everyone has said, the low maintenance is nice, the visuals are clean, and the lack of gears is really satisfying. You just ride, it’s brilliant.

I will have a few climbs that are 8-10 degrees. they are like 1/4 mile. other than that gentle slopes.

Perhaps you could try using your geared bike and just commit to not shifting to get a sense of them?

I think if you want to do it you can definitely figure out the technique to going up a particularly steep climb. I’d recommend hitting it going as fast as you can!


^^^ I was wondering if this would be the same. I somehow got it in my head a single speed would be more efficient if I chose the right gearing just due to the chain being straighter.

also not sure if I could mentally not change gears. maybe a few walks of shame up a hill would get me in better shape.


I’ve done plenty of 10% hills at speed and at a slower pace on 74-84 gear inches, e.g. 48/15-17 flip-flop fixed-fixed. In either case, just know that there needs to be some type of sustainable momentum. It can be great training for me because on my road bike I’m a seated spinner, so this forces me to train different muscles and sequences/movements. That being said, I’d go with an easier gear for commuting and learn to spin with ease over 100rpm when you need to.

Honestly, I don’t think you’ll go for the gear lever very often after your first ride and you’d get used to it really fast.

If you went for fixed, you may have a few accidental lurches as you forget you can’t coast. For SS, it’s all the positives of a single gear without the additional challenges.


A single speed is more efficient due to the lack if a rear derailleur - the derailleur adds drag. It pedals very nicely.

I’d do your commute without shifting for a start. If you really feel the need to shift, that tells you that maybe that isn’t the route for a single speed. Gradients of 8-10% sound like a bit much too me, but it depends how strong you are and how fast you like to pedal.

1 Like

thank you everyone.

hmm sounds like a single speed might be making things unnecessarily too hard for me when I can just ride in a purposely harder gear up hills (or easier gear to spin faster). maybe i’ll commit to a specific hill to do this on.

or just stick with the TR planning :slight_smile: hah I don’t want to own a bike a rarely ride.


My experience with fixed gear and single speed bikes is that they can be great fun as a secondary bike. I’ve owned and built up a few. I would usually ride them a few times, then they’d end up sitting in the garage because I’d more often choose to ride my geared bikes. I live in a hilly area.

I used to commute on a cheap heavy fixie 9-10 years back an my commute was probably about 20miles one way on average (it varied from something like 2 - 35miles depending how I was feeling) but in 20 miles I only climbed around 500ft. It was perfect for that and if your commute is pretty continuous (non stop/start) and constant non varying gradients it can be faster. The simplicity of 1 gear is great and fun. Roll on 10 years and with my current commute 500ft in 10 miles and varying I don’t think I’d fancy 1 gear often :slight_smile:

I commuted for close to 10 years on a singlespeed. Sometimes with a freewheel sometimes without; once the bike died I switched to a geared bike and that was that.

If I lived somewhere flatter and didn’t lift weights I’d consider it but sometimes if my legs are tired I don’t want to be forced to ride hard b/c of topography. Riding a fixed gear was fun though. I optimized the gearing for mild uphills so that spinning was tolerable on the flats and I wasn’t too undergeared on steeper hills.

Personally I’d be leery of a single speed cruiser. The geometry doesn’t seem like it’d favor sudden increases in power that’d be required for steeper hills.

There aren’t many things in cycling that feel as good as riding a fixed gear with well-chosen gearing on gently rolling roads.