• Single Speed CX Compendium

    by  • November 18, 2011 • cx • 0 Comments

    Big time cross, or a big time freak show, will be hitting the Bay Area this year with the SSCXWC taking over Golden Gate Park in November.  While it should be a great event I find single speed CX endeavors stressful. Unlike the track where you can buy a cheap bike and then ride one of several gearing options, which experts will lecture you on ad nauseum, single speed cross is more black art than science.  Every year I spend countless hours trying to figure out how to configure my bike.  There are so many choices its worse than picking a healthcare plan.  Take my opinions with a grain of salt, and check out the resources listed below for more informed opinions.

    The easy way out

    First of all just buy a bike. Getting a factory spec is the easiest way out, especially on the gearing issue, since you don’t have to think and they are not ridiculously expensive.  I even saw one on steepandcheap.com for $600 at one point in the summer.  Felt and Kona both have factory specs that are under $1000.  If you want to be cool then go for a Surly, since they have perfected the art, and if you want to support local, check out the Swobo Crosby.


    The biggest question is always around gearing. First of all, don’t even think about setting your bike up as fixed.  That would just be insane, stupid, and will likely tear your ACL.  To dial in your drive train you have to figure out the perfect gear inch ratio which will require a little calculating, so math skills, or comfort with numbers is helpful.  There are  online calculators but if you are a real denizen of the art you will use a slide rule to figure out your chain ring/cog ratio, based on your tire & wheel size.  Riding style and course types will have a big impact on which direction you go.  Most Norcal riders seem to be in the 60-68 gear inch range.  We don’t have a ton of hills or mud so stay out of the 50’s unless you have chicken legs.  CX Magazines Andrew Yee recommends 62″ gear inches, I opt for 64′, which is why i beat him all the time. (BAM take that andrew!) I swear I’ve seen some of the big boys using stuff in the 70s”, but that sounds kinda hard.

    – Gear Inch Calculator:  http://www.bikecalc.com/gear_inches

    – Black Dog Gear Calculator iPhone App

    Online Resources

    It used to be impossible to find anything out side of one or two articles.  Knowledge was more closely guarded than the secret gear combos’s that track riders use.  That seems to be changing as cyclocross grows and single speeding has become a more acceptable practice off road.  These days CX Magazine is the go to source when I need to re-aquaint myself on single speed issues, with a few Sheldon Brown pieces to make sure I don’t royally screw something up..

    CX Magazine Forum

    I have found this to be the best resources since there is a wide range of opinions, and folks are friendly when answering questions.  Don’t start a new thread, just find the major one and jump in.

    CX Magazine Forum


    The CX Magazines Holy Bible on Single Speed Set Up

    CX Magazine put out a ‘How To” article that is pretty comprehensive.  It’s focused mostly on the conversion process but worth checking out as a starting place.

    How To Article  http://www.cxmagazine.com/how-to-convert-your-bike-to-singlespeed

    The Tech Guru: Sheldon Brown

    Brown may have passed away but his encyclopedic, and arcane, knowledge of parts, technology, and compatibility comes in pretty handy at all points during the set up process.

    Sheldon Brown on Single Speed Set Ups http://sheldonbrown.com/singlespeed.html

    The First Article on SS CX Ever: Tarik Saleh on Single Speed Cross

    This is like the old testament.  Its an old classic and for years was the only resource i could consistently find on the topic.  The info seems a little antiquated now but it is one of the original sources for single speed info so it’s a good starting point.

    Tarik Saleh on Single Speed Set Ups http://sheldonbrown.com/singlecross.html


    If you have any other notes or resources shoot them over.  I’m sure there are a few single speed hopefuls that need to get their rig’s dialed in before the weekend.




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    Former NorCal resident now residing in Madison,Wisconsin. I race cross, but I'm named after a velodrome. Support your local bike shop, NorCal race promoters, and go learn to race on a track. Hellyer Velodrome - http://www.ridethetrack.com


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