Can you convert a geared bike to a single speed?

Like the idea of road or mountain biking without gears and derailleurs weighing you down? Then a single speed bike, with just one speed setting, makes for an easier ride with less maintenance at the end.

Single speed bikes are affordable. So you may find that selling your geared bike and buying a single speed is a cost-effective choice.

But what if you want to stick with the frame you already have? Can you convert a geared bike to single speed? You can. And we’re here to tell you how.

Girl on yellow single speed bikes wearing orange dress and denim jacket

How to convert a geared bike to single speed

What you need

Grab a couple of bike tools:

  • Chain whip and lockring tool
  • Chain tool
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Allen keys

And the new bike bits that allow you to convert your geared bike to a single speed:

  • Spacer kit
  • Rear cog
  • Tensioner
  • Single speed chainring

You can get spacers, cog and tensioner as part of a single speed conversion kit. But you’ll probably have to buy a single speed chain ring separately.

What to do

1. Remove the bits you don’t need

Using your bike toolkit, take off the chain, the front derailleur, the rear derailleur, the front and rear shifters and all shift cables.

2. Replace the chain ring

If you want to install a specific, single speed chainring, now’s the time to do it. Remove the existing chain ring from your bicycle crank and fit your new one, fixing it into place with chain ring bolts.

The chain ring you choose will affect the gear ratio. In our view, the best ratio for a single speed bike for all-round riding is 44:18. This means your front chain ring should have 44 teeth.

3. Remove rear wheel and cassette

Use the quick release lever to remove your rear wheel. Use a chain whip and cassette lock ring remover tool to remove the cassette from your rear wheel.

4. Install and align the rear cog

With the cassette out of the way, it’s time to put your new rear cog in place. Use your spacer kit to align the rear cog. You’re aiming to get it in line with the middle ring on the cranks.

Secure with a lock ring. But be prepared for a little trial and error and don’t fully tighten until you know everything is in the right place after completing step 6.

5. Install chain tensioner

If your bike frame has short or vertical dropouts, a chain tensioner will come in handy. This bit of kit (as its name implies) helps to ensure good chain tension. Fit it to the rear axle of your bike or to your derailleur hanger.

Looking to do a speed conversion? Then getting the right number of links in your chain allows you to skip this step.

6. Fit rear wheel back into place

Put your wheel back into the frame and lie your chain across the cog and chain ring. If your chain line isn’t straight, remove the rear wheel again and play around with your cog and spacers until you have a better alignment.

When your chain is straight (or as close to straight as you can get it), you’ll enjoy a smoother ride and your chain will last longer too.

7. Fit your chain

If you’ve installed a chain tensioner, adjust it so it sits in line with your rear sprocket. Feed your chain through the tensioner, around your rear cog and chain ring, and then fix it back together.

Whether you’re using a tensioner or not, you may find that your chain is too slack or too tight. If so, it’s time for some manual chain tensioning. Use a chain tool to add or remove links to achieve the ideal chain tension.

Should you convert a geared bike to single speed?

Can you convert a geared bike to single speed? Absolutely. But should you? That all depends on your level of bicycle knowledge and what you’re trying to achieve.  

If you’re making a permanent switch from a geared bike to a single speed setup, then taking the time to adapt your bike yourself may well be worth it.

But want to switch between your geared bike and a single speed with ease? Then buying a single speed to add your bike collection is a better and surprisingly affordable choice.

Check out the Steed range of fixie bikes and find your perfect single speed today. 

girl  on single speed bike Steed Bike in lilac shirt

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