Blog 26-06-23

With the Harley Quinn single speed completely complete, I’m thoroughly enjoying every single speed minute I ride the bike and with the anticipation of the single speed Surly Ogre on the horizon, I must admit I’m singularly smitten by single speed cycling. But why, you may well ask? What’s the point of having one single gear? Are you mad? Yes, quite possibly, yes.

I think the best word to describe single speed cycling is simplicity. To ride a single speed is a wonderful experience. There’s no need to ask if you are in the right gear, you are always in the right gear. No, climbing hills is not impossible, just a new challenge each time. And to beat that challenge you use a special technique called pedalling! As simple as that. If you run out of pedalling, you get off and walk. No stress, no worries, no problem.

Riding a single speed makes you ride smarter, you look ahead, you think ahead, you actually use your brain power to assess the challenge, to plan your attack on that hill and you find that you usually triumph. You actually put some effort into cycling and will amaze yourself of what you are capable of achieving. There is also a great sense of personal satisfaction when you conquer a hill you used to use gears to climb.

Single speed riding is quiet, serene, peaceful and beautiful, full of stuff like Zen, Chi and the Force. If Yoda rode a bicycle, it would be a single speed. If mysterious ninja monks in the Himalayas rode bicycles, they would ride single speed. You can hear the air zipping past, the birds singing in the trees and the beating of your heart, especially the beating of your heart. No crunching noises when you change gear badly, no annoying slap of the chain on the bikes chain stays, just the swish of tyres on tarmac. Single speed is ultra cool. Single speed will be the next trend in cycling. You mark my words.

Now, as you can see, I love single speed and I want more single speed. So, I’m going to start another single speed project, my third one. But not just any old single speed project. This one goes against all sensible, realistic and sane advice, but is based on the actual experience of other riders who have also lost their marbles and gone the same way. Okay, are you ready? I’m going full fat single speed. Yes, I’m converting the Surly Pugsley fat bike to single speed. Yes, a fat bike with one gear, quite possibly a totally ginger nuts idea. But I’ll going to do it anyway.

Way back in 2016 Surly offered for sale the Pugsley SS, a single speed version of the Surly Pugsley fat bike. Not much is known about the Pugsley SS but I’ve contacted Surly to see what they can provide and will include that later, hopefully. So, a single speed Pugsley is not something new. But is it practical? Err, well, probably not.

Is it lightweight? No, most definitely not. At the moment, Pugsley weighs in at 17.60 kg naked. I’d like to aim for a target weight of 15.00 kg but will be happy to get below 16 kg. Will it be hard to pedal? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure. Yet. Really depends on the gear ratio I end up with. I think the same 32:16 (32T front chainring: 16T rear freewheel) as either Harley Quinn or Ogre will be sheer torture but something between 32:18 to 32:22 will be more suitable. Only testing in the field will really determine what is the the optimal size. Will the Pugsley SS still be a go-anyway ride-over-anything bike? Yes, indeed it will. It will still ride over small annoying yappy dogs, wayward children and anything else that gets in its way. But above all else it will still be fun. And that’s what riding a fatty is all about.

On the topic of gearing, I’m happy with the 32:16 setup on the Harley Quinn, and will probably do the same for the Surly Ogre, however, will need a little trial and error using different sizes of freewheel with the Surly Pugsley. On this, one point to note is that if you fit, say, a 32:16, the chain will be too short if you want to try 32:18 or higher. You will therefore need a new chain. So, my plan is to start with something like 32:22 and work my way down the sizes. As the chain is longer at 32:22, it only needs shortened for a smaller rear freewheel and not replaced. For information, bigger at the back means lower gearing, smaller at the front also means lower gearing. The opposite is also true.

What about cost? Well, as with the Surly Ogre, not much needs changed. On the rear wheel the Shimano Alfine hub gear will need replaced with a Surly Ultra New single speed hub, same as both my other bikes. That will involve a wheel rebuild, and again, I’ll be using BG Cycles in Portobello. The only other component I need is the rear freewheel and I’ll start with the cheapest ones I can find to determine the ideal size before purchasing a more expensive, but far better quality, freewheel from White Industries. Total cost about £250.00

Now the paint job. With, hopefully, enough paint left over from my previous projects, the Pugsley will be treated to the same makeover as the other two. The same six fluro colours, along with some black and white as well. Not sure of the design yet but that will no doubt evolve as the project progresses. Quite like the idea of combining two colour schemes. On the one hand, black and white. On the other, the six fluro colours. But plenty of time to decide. Anyway, better gets the Surly Ogre finished first. Back soon.

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