I used to be one of the critics of single speed cycling due to my views on the types of people riding the bikes (hipsters) and the form before function side of things. I hate the practical use of something based on its aesthetics over its function. Like wearing jeans to the gym- look good but crap to do squats in.
However, as I have ridden a road bike for many years both commuting and for long rides, I now see the benefits in both practicality and fitness.
· Less bike means less cost- simple.
· Single speed bikes are easy to maintain- just brakes and tyres to really look after. They are bombproof.
· The single speed bikes tend to be light and strong too- not as light as a carbon fibre race bike but 8-9kg isn’t bad.
· The lack of gears means you work harder on the hills- on a geared bike you shift up a cog on a hill as the resistance gets higher. On a single speed bike you have to apply more pressure to the pedals to keep your cadence up. Great for leg strength and endurance.
· The extra effort on the hills will improve your sprint and hill climb performance, as you will develop more strength and lactic threshold. This will make a difference when you get back on your geared bike.
· On the flat you have to keep peddling to keep your speed up, as you can’t really coast. This increases your leg endurance and encourages you to ride smoothly at higher cadence.
· The extra effort needed on the hills is also applicable for the sprint away from the lights on your commute. You have to really hammer your legs to build up speed, which encourages you to stay out of your saddle for acceleration; good for increasing leg power and strength.
I would never ditch my road bike with its many gears, but I will definitely use my single speed for commutes and shorter trips to sessions and the gym. I’m increasing my fitness and strength and preserving the life of my more expensive road bike. Winning!