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Why Single Speed Cyclocross

November 9, 2011

Single speed bikes and racing on them seems counter-intuitive. But that’s why they — and those who race them — are fascinating. When I interview Jesse Swift next week, I’ll uncover his reasons for riding single speed as well as his preparation for the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships. Until then, here’s a bit of a single speed primer.

Jesse Swift, Gates/Carbon Drive, after winning at Back to Basics Cyclocross Series in Golden (Mary Topping)

What is a single speed bike?

A single speed bike runs on one chainring and one gear in the back. It differs from a fixed-gear bike because it can free-wheel (coast).

Why ride single speed in a cyclocross race?

Why ride without all the gears that can make it easier to pedal uphill and gain speed on flats or downhills? Several reasons surfaced from an internet search.

From gomeansgo.org:  “Single speed cyclocross may be one of the most affordable forms of bike racing one can get involved in.  Single speeds, whether they be track bikes, mountain bikes, or cyclocross bikes- are much more affordable, simpler and therefore easier to maintain than their geared counterparts.”

From thatswhatshesaidaboutyourbike on Blogspot: “They are reliable, can be built crazy light, making them easy to handle through barriers and corners, and the absence of gears means there is less to clog up on muddy and snowy courses.”

From SheldonBrown.com: “Single speed cyclocross is a beautiful thing, as very little can go wrong. A good chainline makes chainsuck irrelevant and you never never ever stack because you missed a shift going into a barrier and forgot to get off your bike.”

More from SheldonBrown.com link above: “The end is key as well because this is when everyone around you starts to zone out and spin a tiny gear on everything. You don’t have this luxury, the lack of gears makes you a better cross racer at the end of the race.”

Bike Magazine posted seriously funny photos from the 2010 Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships, replete with golden bikini prizes.

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From → Cyclocross

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