Single Speed Gearing Change

Everyone has heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have a hard time living by that rule, and often find myself thinking, “This works pretty good, but what if…”

We had an extra 18 tooth freewheel sitting in the garage, a leftover part from Kristy’s 29er gearing change. I’ve been running 32×16 gearing on my single speed for about 3 years now, but started wondering how 32×18 would feel.

On the Creek Trail
Frost on the Creek Trail

The freewheel on my single speed specific wheel is just the standard BMX style. I put the freewheel remover on, and clamped it down with a quick release. These things get pretty tight, so I grabbed the wheel with two hands, and pushed the wrench down with my leg. The freewheel finally broke free, but after a couple turns it got tight again. (Voice inside head, “Stop here! Something might not be right!). Mixing brute force and stupidity, I started turning the wrench again. A few turns later, and I noticed the quick release cap was starting to bend! Crap. I was turning the freewheel, but the quick release was preventing it from backing off. This resulted in a bunch of stripped threads, not on the $20 freewheel, but my beloved On One hub! Oh well. I couldn’t stop there, and finished removing the 16 tooth freewheel. I greased up the threads on the 18 tooth freewheel, and reinstalled it, hoping the remaining threads would hold it on the hub.

The first test of the new gearing was the commute to work. Just the two tooth difference was pretty noticeable on my top speed. Zipping around the streets was less torquey, and I found myself spinning and coasting more often. With no real hills on my commute, the lower gearing provided no advantage, but wasn’t slow enough to be a big hindrance either. The bike was still fast enough for a reasonable pace. It’s all about how big of hurry you’re in I guess.

The second test was on the trail. Monday’s lunch ride took us up the Ash Canyon double track, and back down the creek trail. The climb up past the water towers is steep in any gear, but the lower gearing provided some relief. When the hill became less steep, the 32×18 gearing allowed me to spin easier, taking some of the pressure off my legs. Sprinting and spinning out of the corners on the Creek Trail was a little easier too. Still, there were some sections, where I could’ve used a little taller gearing. The open downhill was about the same. That’s more about gravity than gearing.

Riding single speeds every day can burn your body out after awhile. I plan to keep the 32×18 gearing on the bike, and see if this helps with the fatigue. Additionally, I’m afraid of screwing with my back hub anymore! The good news is that the back wheel didn’t fall apart during the high torque conditions of the climb. I guess those few threads are just enough to hold things together!

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7 thoughts on “Single Speed Gearing Change

  1. Good thinking there, fella. Brute force can fix anything. Remind me to have you tune up my bikes for me next spring! :^)
    Your hills must be higher and steeper than ours. I just went 34×16 and it feels good.
    I think I detect a bit o’ frost on that ground; could winter be a comin’?

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