Geared or Single?

Geared or Single? Having a Single Speed Superfly race bike that I’m using in the NUE races and the Geared Team Superfly I’m using for everything else, It’s always a challenge choosing a bike for a long weekend of riding. 29ercrew I love riding my single speed at least one day, but depending on terrain, I’m often able to ride more difficult terrain on the geared bike… resulting in more fun. With three or more friends sharing a ride, bringing the extra bike is usually not an option.

This past weekend was just such a trip. My friend Pete Johnson hosted friends Mike Gallagher, Christophe Cataisson, Jeff Haggquist, Mike Kruhlak, Jason Gull and myself for 3 days of mountain bike riding in Canaan Valley WV. Pete invites us out to his place once or twice a year for some of the best riding on the east coast. So in preparing for my trip, I had to ask Geared or Single?

Thanks to my awesome rep Jon Rogers I no longer have to decide… I can do either or both. That’s right, I now have a Gary Fisher Rig which comes as a single speed, but is easily converted to geared riding… and that’s exactly what I did last weekend. No, my new Rig does not have the state-of-the-art shifting and braking of the SRAM XX components of my race bikes, but rather whatever I had left over from bikes of past years that now need a new home.

I’m generally not a big fan of Frankenbike projects since they usually have some major built in limitation. I don’t consider this conversion to be in that category. Converting a single speed Rig to geared is very straight forward. There’s nothing crazy going on. You don’t need to cut or file anything. The Rig frame comes with everything you need to run deraileurs and cables.  Sweet!

The first day out, we decided to replay the 2009 edition of Revenge of the Rattlesnake a 40 mile race in extremely rocky terrain. I was fresh and wanted to do the day on single speed so I did. The Rig has vertical dropouts with an eccentric bottom bracket that allows chain tension to be set. I use a standard XTR 9 speed triple crank with just the middle and granny gears always installed. This way I don’t have to mess with the crank when switching modes. When running single, use the chain on the 32 tooth middle ring.  As long as the chain line is straight and chain tension correct, the ramps on the geared middle ring do not cause the chain to derail. It works as expected single speed with the only the extra weight being the unused granny gear. Consider it training weight!

Rig with a Single Speed drivetrain

Rig with a Single Speed drivetrain

The next morning, we were feeling a bit tired from the day before, and so decided on the Dobbin House trails, a shorter smoother and faster ride. This I wanted to ride geared. The Rig has cable stops for front and rear deraileurs and also takes a standard removable deraileur hanger. So I bolted on my triggers and deraileurs. If the cables and housing have already been measured and cut, it’s a ten minute job.  Since the Shimano shifters I use on the Rig don’t have a split matchmaker clamp like SRAM XX, the job is made a lot easier if you just mount the shifter clamp on your bars and leave it there.  When you decide to run geared, mount the trigger pods to the shifter clamps. This beats stripping the bars every time and again adds a very small weight penalty when running single.  The nine-speed chain that I used single speed, needs a few extra links added to accommodate the longer chain path. This I do with a short segment and a second quick-link. All you need to run a geared wheel single is a single cog (preferably without shifting ramps) and enough spacers to fill out the width of a geared hub cassette body. I have a single speed rear wheel and a separate geared rear wheel which minimizes the amount of work required to switch. All told, the conversion takes me now less than a half hour.

Rig Geared Drivetrain

Rig Geared Drivetrain

I can’t tell you how awesome it is to be able to switch back and forth easily between geared and single on the same bike. Ever rip your rear deraileur off the bike 20 miles from nowhere? This setup would allow that mess to be converted into a real single speed in minutes. The Rig is a super cool bike at a really nice price point. …and right now it’s my favorite!

Rig ready to go geared

Rig ready to go geared

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