It takes a particular kind of person to ride single speed.
Most friends will look at you and your single speed bike and ask “why?”
Well, as a single-speed rider myself, I can attest to the many benefits of switching to a more straightforward style of commuting.
Single speeds are simple. You have one gear, with no derailleurs.
This decreases the likelihood of something breaking. For those of us who love minimalism and hate drama, this design empowers us with a dependable bike that isn’t likely to let us down.
Those of you who commute around town typically find that you only use a couple of gears on your bike, anyhow. Frankly, I find the hassle of shifting to be quite annoying when navigating curbs, cars, and stoplights.
Single Speed cycling is all about getting back to the spirit of easy, carefree riding.
Freewheel vs. Fixed Gear Bikes
Single speed bikes come in two styles. The style that most people recognize is the freewheel bike. Freewheel hubs allow you to “coast” where the bike freewheels along without you pedaling.
However, there has been a resurgence of interest in bikes that offer a fixed rear sprocket. A fixed sprocket means that the drivetrain is always engaged, so even when you are coasting, the pedals are moving (And your feet with them).
The first time you get on a fixed gear bike, it may feel a little weird, but it doesn’t take long at all before you realize just how fun they are actually to ride.
Some models offer a “flip-flop” rear hub that provides both fixed and freewheel options. This gives you the best of both worlds.
To switch between the two options, you remove the rear wheel and turn it over.
Some people like this because it lets you try out the fixed gear option and quickly switch back if it is not a good fit for your style.
Single Speed Bikes Are Stylish
No gears mean no shift cables.
No shift cables mean an emphasis on clean lines and artistic freedom.
They are a work of art. Pretty, even.
And you can choose one that suits your style.
Even better — because the parts are readily interchanged using everyday tools — you can alter and upgrade components as much as you like.
Daredevil Video Of Single Speed Bike Riding
Still got the nerves to do your single-speed riding? Read on…
#5 The Takara Kabuto
This bike is only making my list because I was forced to include it. You see, it is frequently the number 1 best-selling single speed on Amazon.
But it isn’t that great of a bike. It is heavy. Ugly. Un-inspired.
I mean, if you buy this bike, promise me you will spray paint it to make it more original. (And then ride it as if you stole it, to complete the effect).
The commercial-ness of this bike does its best to squash everything the independent spirit of single-speed riding embodies.
That said, for many of you readers, this is the most you can afford. And I’d much rather have you pedaling happily on this steed than hitchhiking everywhere like a bum.
For my review: The Takara is a heavy steel frame. And the wheels are only single-walled which makes them a little flimsy for heavy riders and rough urban environments. Do your best to avoid potholes.
The nice thing is that it does come with both front and rear brakes. They are a little “mushy,” but they do the trick. Plus, you can upgrade to better brake handles and calipers without much investment (Around $60 or less if you shop carefully).
Also, the rear wheel has a “flip-flop” hub so you can coast as you do with a standard bike, or flip the wheel around and try your hand at riding a “fixie.”
Bottom Line: Mow a few more lawns, scrap a few more beer cans, and see if you can’t step up a level.
#4 – The Vilano Single Speed Road Bike
I like what Vilano is bringing to the bike world. They have creatively invented an excellent way to deliver top-notch bikes to the market for only a fraction of the cost of their competition.
While Vilano does not offer as much variety in colors and styles as some of the other bikes, this single-speed sure is an eye-catcher and is guaranteed to draw a lot of compliments.
As far as the bike goes, I like their component spec. The frame is 4130 Chromoly, so I have no complaints with it.
4130 is a steel that will ride well without being too heavy. Add to that the reinforced double-walled, 43 mm rims and you have the perfect commuter.
I especially like the bullhorn handlebars. Those are comfortable and speedy. You’ll love them.
The entire package comes in under 25 pounds, which is going to give you the strength you need without too much weight.
All-around, this is a great way to go without spending too much money.
#3 – Critical Cycles
From here on, the quality of the bikes being reviewed jumps up to an equal — yet high-end — playing field.
The frames are all similarly designed, and your options narrow primarily to choosing your favorite color (as well as price).
I like what Critical Cycles did in trying to bring so much spice to the single speed selection. With over eight different color styles, you are bound to find one that catches your eye.
With the Protek cranks and Promax brakes, you are getting name-brand components that will handle the everyday grind of commuting. The flip-flop hub lets you do both fixed-gear and freewheel pedaling. Your choice.
I also like the upright handlebar that makes for safe city commuting. The ergonomic bike shape comes together to create a comfortable, nimble cycling package that is ready to handle any urban jungle.
What is unique about this design is their use of BMX handlebars.
It gives the bike a unique look and offers the driver a lot of control.
#2 – The Purist: The Pure Fix
Pure Fix has entered the market with an excellent offering. Now, this bike is a little more “aggressive” than the Critical Cycles in that it leans you into a more “aggressive” position.
However, I enjoy a more aggressive riding position on my bikes. It gives me the control and feeling of speed that I love.
A more purist design, this bike only has the front brake — and it is quite easy to remove that front brake if you decide to go full-on fixie.
Despite being such a purist, you still get a flip-flop hub. So if you decide you aren’t ready to ride a fixed gear, you can switch back to the freewheel.
Probably the best part of the bike is the company. Pure Fix is determined to stand behind their product and will do anything to they can to fix problems you have. It’s a level of customer service that you don’t see much of in this world and sets this bike on a level above.
Oh, and you have over 12 design colors to choose from…
Bottom line: they should charge more for this bike than they do. If you are shopping for me for Christmas, get me one of these. Any of them.
#1 Pick – Retrospec
You guys ready for this? I doubt it.
With most of the other bikes reviewed on this page, there are little caveats here or there: “The seat is low-end.” “The brakes are mushy.” The pedals are chintzy”.
And, granted, they aren’t the same quality that you would find with a more expensive model, but then, if the bike you are buying is so inexpensive, you can probably to afford to shell out $30 on a new pedal if yours ever does break.
But those are the other bikes.
With the Retrospec, you are finally getting a package where the bike hasn’t been skimped on. Oh, sure, you might find areas that you will want to upgrade, but those will likely be personal choices.
Retrospec has done an excellent job making sure that you get excellent value for every component of this bike.
(And yes, I hear you whining already “It’s about $100 more”.)
And that’s cool, too. Go with one of the other bikes and just spend $100 upgrading the components that you don’t like. As I said, these last few bikes are pretty much on equal footing, quality-wise.
Front and Rear brakes. Flip-flop hub. Double-walled, deep dish wheels. There isn’t anything to hate.
And I genuinely appreciate their color selection.
How to switch a flip-flop hub between freewheel and fixed gearing (video has loud intro, sorry):