Road bikes are seen as the gold standard for long distance cycling. Having a choice of gears means cyclists can adapt to the terrain. High gear for flat ground. Low gear for hilly ascents.
So how do single speeds (with just a single gear setting) measure up against other types of bikes? Are they just exemplary city bikes, suited to commuting and the odd errand? Or are single speed bikes good for long distance too?
Here we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of riding a single speed bike long distance. Plus some tips for getting the most out of your single speed when you want to get the miles in.
Riding long distance on single speed bikes: the cons
There are a couple of reasons why riding long distance on a single speed bike can be challenging.
A tougher ride over hilly ground
Geared bicycles have the upper hand if you’re travelling over steep ground. By switching to an appropriate gear, you expend less energy as you pedal uphill. This means you’ll be able to ride for much longer before needing a pit stop.
Slower average speeds
Feeling the need for speed? Then geared bikes offer a faster average speed than single speed bikes or fixie bikes. That’s because, with the help of your bicycle gears, you can travel at an optimal speed regardless of the terrain.
Riding long distance on single speed bikes: the pros
Onto the pros. A few of the benefits of riding single speed for 50 miles – and beyond.
You build your fitness
Sure, having a single gear makes hills harder. But it also makes you a whole lot stronger over time.
If you can manage hilly terrain on a single speed, you’ll have the physical fitness to power up an ascent next time you’re on a geared bike.
Your bike is super strong
When compared with geared bikes, single speed bikes are strong – and they don’t have as many moving parts. As a result, they’re pretty hardy when you’re out on an extended ride.
There’s very little that can go wrong mechanically. And you’re a lot less likely to end up stuck at the side of the road dealing with a dodgy derailleur.
It’s an easier ride over flat ground
If you’re travelling over relatively flat terrain, a single speed bike offers an easy, hassle-free long distance ride. No gears. No chain dramas. All you need to do is pedal, steer and enjoy the view.
Tips for riding long distances on a single speed
Gradually increase distance and speed
If you’re used to riding a bike with gears, going long distance on a single speed bike can feel challenging, particularly if you’re cycling steep terrain.
So build up your stamina slowly. Gradually increase the distance and speed at which you travel. And you’ll find each new ride that bit easier.
Use pedal straps
Attaching pedal straps or toe cages to your pedals makes your pedalling more efficient. You apply power on both the upward and downward motion, which means better energy transfer.
Optimise your gear ratio
Riding in the city? Then the best ratio for your single speed bike stands at around 44:18. However, you can prepare your bike for a hilly, long distance ride by altering the gear ratio.
Something along the lines of 44:16 or 46:18 will help you to manage steep sections of a long distance ride more easily.
We wanted to know: are single speed bikes good for long distance?
It is totally possible to travel long distances on a single speed bike.
A seasoned single speed cyclist can manage 100 miles in a single day. And the record for long distance fixie cycling stands at 415 miles in just 24 hours.
The terrain and your fitness level inevitably make a difference to your ride.
But if you want to spend a full day out cycling, you definitely shouldn’t rule your single speed bike out of long distance adventures.
Whether you plan to travel long distance or just want a beautiful city bike for your commute, you can find the perfect single speed at Steed Bikes.