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Can You Add Gears To a Single-Speed Bike?

Single speed bikes are not overly common but have seen a rise in use over the past few years, most notably by those in cities that use them for their daily commute. Single-speed bikes are also used in a racing sense on the velodrome, with them being the only legal bikes that can be raced on the track. 

If you own one of these bikes, you may often find yourself wondering if you could add gears to your single-speed model, and today we will be endeavoring to answer this question for you.

Firstly, we will fully explain what single-speed bikes are before telling you how to add gears to them, and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. 

You can add gears to a single-speed bike, but it is not something we would advise doing as the process can be difficult and potentially dangerous depending on what kind of single-speed bike you are adding them to. You cannot legally add gears to track bikes. 

What Are Single-Speed Bikes? 

As the name would suggest, single-speed bikes are models that feature only a one-speed setting and therefore do not allow the rider to shift gears into alternative speed levels.

There are a number of different models of single-speed bikes, and as we mentioned earlier, they have proven popular with commuters that do not want the hassle of having to constantly switch gears in busy places where they could lose focus on the road ahead. 

On the velodrome, single-speed bikes are designed for the rider to carry speed. Given the speeds that riders can reach on the track, it would be dangerous for their bikes to feature gears as they could cause the riders to lose control and lead to crashes.

This is the main advantage of using a single-speed bike as they allow the rider to focus solely on the effort of getting to where they want to go. Unfortunately, this can also be the major disadvantage of a single-speed bike too though. 

Given that they only have one speed, they can become incredibly hard to ride when the terrain starts to get tougher, for example, a particularly hilly part of your journey where you would benefit from being able to switch into a smaller gear.

With this in mind, how would you go about adding gears to your single-speed bike? 

What Do I Need To Add Gears? 

There are only certain types of single-speed bikes to that you can add gears because not all have the required features that allow the job to be done. To attach gears to your single-speed bike you need to own a model that features a dropout large enough to attach the multi-speed wheel hub.

If you are wondering what a dropout is, they are essentially a form of fork at the rear of the bike than can be removed with the chain still attached. If your bike does not have this ability, then you cannot add a gearing system to it. 

There are also some important tools that you will need to have at the ready for you to complete the job including Allen keys, screwdrivers, wrenches, and a dropout alignment device. We don’t have time in this piece for a step-by-step guide on how to complete the job, but you can ask your local bike technician for advice. 

Advantages of Adding Gears 

There are a few advantages of adding gears to your single-speed bike and the first is a pretty obvious one, it allows you to have more control over the speed at which you travel and can make your ride easier when you need it to be. 

Having a variety of gears to switch into your bike will also become more efficient in terms of your pedaling performance. The reason most bikes have gears is that manufacturers realized that people needed to be able to pedal at the same cadence when the terrain they were riding on changed. 

If the road is flat you can ride at a higher speed than when you are heading up a hill or mountain, but riders usually want to be able to maintain a steady cadence to keep in the rhythm of the ride. 

Having just a single speed available means that your pedaling efficiency is greatly reduced, especially when going uphill as you cannot maintain the same cadence which can lead to muscle strain. This can all make your ride feel less smooth and your enjoyment of the bike is reduced. 

Why You Shouldn’t Add Gears To a Single-Speed Bike

It may sound like the best idea in the world right now, but there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t add gears to a single-speed bike. The first one is that the process of adding gears can be a long one, that could end up costing you a lot of money to complete.

Gearing systems are complicated components and are made up of a number of smaller parts that all come together to form the gears of a bike. If you are planning on starting from scratch with this job, you are far better getting a professional to do it rather than attempting it yourself as this will likely save you a lot of time (but not necessarily money). 

Another reason that you shouldn’t bother adding gears is that single-speed bikes are not really meant to have them, and you would be better served selling your bike so you can pick up a new bike with a regular gearing system. It may not sound as exciting as messing around with your bike, but it could save you a lot of stress in the short and long term. 

There we have it; you can add gears to a single-speed bike, but it really isn’t something that we would recommend doing unless you really want to. If you do decide to do the job yourself, make sure you have the proper tools for the job and plenty of time on your hands.