Mike’s Bike – Part 3

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.

No chain tensioner! Now which gear to choose?

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”)

Much more elegant than shifters

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.

It's for carrying wine, not bondage. Hurrah!

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.

The bike looks good too.

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).


5 thoughts on “Mike’s Bike – Part 3

  1. Mike

    There is another school of thought that states, the correct number of bikes to own is
    n-1 (where n is the number of bikes it would take for your wife to divorce you).
    However, seeing as my wife is madder about bikes than me, that would be an astronomical number.


  2. Oh and while I’m on here, how about a shameless plug for Mechanical Tempest? Ok, let’s go: Mike’s bike looks awesome and sexy! You want a bike like his? Get yourself down to Mechanical Tempest, the community bike shop at 128 Abel Smith St! Bring in a bike you want to fix up, or fix one of our many donated bikes, with our tools, parts, and mechanics on hand to help you – all for the cost of a (voluntary) koha. Check it out at http://mechanicaltempest.wordpress.com/.


  3. Fixies are fun but like Mike says there is something to be said about being able to go “weeee” down the hills.

    I have a flip-flop hub and occasionally run it fixed but find it a bit tough on the knees when I have to come down past the university or down Glenmore St. If I lived somewhere where it was a relatively flat run to work I’d ride it fixed to work.

    For the gear ratio I would consider maybe a slightly tougher than you expect because your legs will quickly build strength and you will find your self sometimes wishing you could go a bit faster some times. I run 46/18 and is ok all-round, spin it out on the flat but is easy enough to make it back up to Kelburn or the odd ride over Mt Vic.


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