Part 3 – One Gear To Rule Them All.
So it’s done.
No more derailleur. No more shifters. No more gears… Almost. (I’ll get to that in a moment)
One of my main goals with my new bike was to make it single speed. I’d heard about the joy of urban commuting without gears, the freedom, the purity, etc. and I wanted to give it a shot.
Now, as I have pointed out previously, I am a mechanical luddite and while I was keen to do the single speeding (is that a term?) myself, I wasn’t keen to wreck my bike. Luckily Brooke from Mamachari was willing to step in and do the de-gearing (is that the term?) for me at a very reasonable price.
However I was still presented with a dilemma. Which gear ratio to choose?
This is not as simple as I hoped. Whenever I asked the experts what would be a good ratio for Wellington, I was invariably told, “well, that’s up to you”. I wanted someone to give me a definitive answer, but it turns out it actually is up to you. You have to find a comfortable medium, so that you can get up hills without too much struggle but aren’t peddling like a maniac on the flat. As I was a little unsure, Brooke suggested not taking the gears off. That way I could try out different gear ratios until I find the one that suits me. The derailluer hasn’t really worked on Rolly since I got it and I’ve pretty much been riding in one gear anyway. So I thought that gear would be a good place to start. Brooke says he can take all the gears off once I’ve decided on the ratio.
I also wondered about making Rolly a fixie, or getting a flip-flop hub. Now I’m sure fixies are cool, but in the end I like freewheeling and going “weeeee” downhill too much. (As you can tell I’m not cool enough for a fixie)
Brooke removed the derailluer, gear shifters, cables and replaced the chain with a shorter one. Luckily as Rolly doesn’t have vertical dropouts on the back wheel, he doesn’t need a chain tensioner. With vertical dropouts a tensioner gives you enough chain slack to take off the back wheel (look at me – I’m learning). A chain tensioner looks pretty lame though, so I’m glad I didn’t need one.
I’ve been riding Rolly as a single speed for a few weeks now and I love it! For starters it looks very cool now it’s stripped down. In place of the gear shifters my wife gave me a beautiful Japanese temple bell. It rocks! (actually it makes a very nice “ding”)
I’m not 100% sold on the ratio but as I said, I can always change it. I love single speed though. It feels natural and I never realised how much effort I wasted thinking about gears until they were gone. Without them, it’s just me and the bike, the way it should be.
I’m pretty much done with Rolly now. Last weekend was my birthday and as the plan was to have it completely done by then, we spent a good few hours cleaning and polishing it. The wife also gave me a birthday present, that I thought was a strange piece of vintage bondage equipment. After a bit of awkward laughter, she explained that it was this.
And that’s about it. There are other things I could do, like get Rolly painted but I’m happy with how it looks now. I get so many positive comments about it.
I still need to get the gear ratio sorted and eventually I’ll have to get new brakes. I’ll be sure to blog about any further improvements I make. The way I see it he’s a work in progress and I’ll continue tweaking until I get a new project. As I was recently told, the correct number of bikes to own is n+1 (where n is the number of bikes currently owned).