RE: [rootsradicals] single speed Xtracycle
I recently made the switch to single-speed about two months ago. I am a bike messenger in New York and just got sick of having to do on-going adjustments to shifters, etc. Last winter I got a lot of snow and grit in my gear shifting system and things just either froze up or gunked up, so for a couple of months I just did not bother shifting gears. Eventually when warmer weather came I did get a set of full fenders, but as it is I try to keep my bike as maintenance free as possible. For instance I use Aerospoke mag wheels so I never have to worry about truing or replacing spokes, I always use Kevlar lined tires with Slime in my tubes to avoid punctures as much as possible, and I also have front and rear disc brakes so my brake pads and wheel rims do not wear out and the adjustments are much simpler.
In any case, since I got use too riding in single speeds for months during the winter I figured I could definitely handle doing a permanent switch. At least this way I would not have to worry about extra cabling and gears going bad, and maybe in the process loose a pound or two. While I have not toured on serious hills with the single-speed set up, I DO bike for hours on end in the city on a daily basis. I have to ride over a bridge or two everyday in my commute and there are a few “hills” in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have certainly had no major issues with a single-speed on my Xtracycle.
When I made the switch I basically just bought a rear wheel single-speed conversion kit, which comes with a 16 tooth gear and I believe an 18 tooth gear and some spacers. I did have to also buy a new crankset, front chain ring, and chain tensioner. I got a BulletProof crankset, which I believe is actually a BMX crankset, a Surly (?) chain tensioner, and a 45 tooth chain ring on my crank. I used the 16 tooth gear in the back, which means I have a 45:16 set up or 2.8125 to 1 ratio. Before I made the switch I had figured I would be comfortable with something close to a 3:1 ratio. Basically I just biked around for a couple of days on what I thought would be the most comfortable single gear selections before I made the final switch to single-speed. 45 tooth chain rings are pretty much the lowest common standard of chain rings and the conversion kit came with a 16 tooth gear, so I just went with that. Since then I have not had any regrets yet.
By the way, even though I have not done major climbing on any tours or anything, I have hauled $300 Costco loads as well as my girlfriend over a bridge or two. J Just remember I DO bike professionally carrying stuff for hours and hours everyday in my work as a bike messenger, so the gear ratio I am comfortable might not be cool for you. Perhaps you might prefer something less than 2.8 to 1, like maybe 2 or 2.5 to 1, but of course I do not know you well enough.
I hope this helps and Ride Safe,