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  1. #1
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    Please help me convert my mountain bike into a singlespeed

    I've decided to convert my hardtail mountain bike into a singlespeed. I've seen some pretty cheap kits on JensonUSA, but I'm seeing a lot of mixed reviews on conversion kits, from "this kit is excellent" to "its impossible to get a straight chainline!". I don't want to spend a lot on this project, at least right now, but I can invest $50 now, and if I like it, more later. Also, as far as gear ratios are concerned, I'm a pretty weak rider - really slow up hills especially, but I've read that single speeds make you a stronger rider, so I'm looking forward to the challenge. Any help to point me in the right direction would be appreciated!

  2. #2
    one chain loop
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    show us the bike.
    everything sucks but my vacuum cleaner.

  3. #3
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    Here is a photo, before some modifications:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Please help me convert my mountain bike into a singlespeed-picture003.jpg  


  4. #4
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    Performance Bikes makes a SS conversion kit that sells for $40.00 . I used this kit on a 1996 GT (something) and its now my commuter bike ( the tires are worth more than the bike, lol), works great, no problems at all. It's a cheap, quick, painless conversion that will only take an hour out of your day.

  5. #5
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    Looks like you could climb a wall with that gear ratio.

    Check out Meriwether Cycles for spacers, Whit is a cool guy to talk to.

    If your rear hub has a steel cassette body, I can't find any reason to use anything other a Shimano DX cog provided they have the tooth count you want. It looks like you have a 32t ring on there I would snag a 18t and a 16t. No brainer to me at 4 bucks a piece.

    If you want to wait around you could pick up a used tensioner or if you want to ride NOW (and you probably do right?) I would pick up this

    I like to piece things together and was lucky enough to get a Soulcraft tensioner for a really great price, but if I lived anywhere near a Performance I probably would have just bought the Forte kit.

    BTW, what are the other modifications have you done to your bike?

  6. #6
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    get a single-speed cog from your LBS. most people with a 26" bike would use a 16t cog, or 18-20t if you have lots of steep climbs.

    get some spacers. you can buy SS spacers, use a PVC pike cut into spacers, or use spacers from an old cassette, which your LBS might have some lying around.

    remove your cassette, put some spacers and cog on, play around with the spacing until you get the chainline about right.

    see if that combo you want to use is a "magic gear" that will maintain enough chain tension on its own. buy a tensioner or make your own.

    it looks like you already have a single ring up front. is that a single-speed specific chainring? if not, i would suggest one of those too.

  7. #7
    The need for singlespeed
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    it looks like you already have a single ring up front. is that a single-speed specific chainring? if not, i would suggest one of those too.
    That crankset is begging for some spiderless love.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the responses. The bike is pretty much the same bike as the one in the picture, with different pedals, tires, fork, handlebars, saddle, stem, grips, and rims. Nothing fancy or expensive - just really basic parts, some of which I purchased new, others of which I took off other bikes.

    I have a 32t and a 22t up front - it looks like I have only 1 in the picture. I was going to start with the 22t and then switch to the 32t later after I get a little stronger, but is that even necessary? From what I understand, singlespeeds are more efficient, so its easier to pedal....right? I also have a 24t and a 36t I can use up front.

    I'm assuming the tensioner is necessary? At first I was thinking I could do without one, but it seems like the conversion won't go so well if I don't.

    On a related note, is a singlespeed chain required, or will any chain work? I've had some bad experiences with chains breaking on that bike, because of me screwing up the installation after the chain break - yes, I'm a pretty bad mechanic, even on basic things like breaking and putting back together a chain.

    I was hoping ideally to get a chain with a masterlink, but I've read that they don't always ride smoothly. Suggestions on which chain to buy? The one I have is probably toast.

    Anything else I need to know?

  9. #9
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    22 will be way way low. Start with 32/18.

    Get a 3/32 chain with a masterlink. A lot of single speed chains will be 1/8 and will not be a match for the cog and chainring. It will work but its not really ideal. I personally like KMC X8.93 and X8.99 chains but you will probably get a bunch of different opinions on chains.

    As far as a tensioner it will let you play around with ratios much easier. You could find a magic gear but it may not be the exact ratios you want, and change ratios you would need to swap both the front and back to maintain tooth count. On top of that may have issues maintaining proper tension as the chain wears some. It can all be done but (sometimes with a 1/2 link) but I would personally just snag a tensioner.
    Last edited by yellowjeep; 03-27-2012 at 09:40 PM.

  10. #10
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    Also I can see pins in your front chain ring... I say run it as is and make sure you get your chain line spot on. If you have issues with the chain wanting to pop off grab a non ramped and pinned ring like a Blackspire Mono Veloce.

  11. #11
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    4th post 1 more

  12. #12
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    5th sorry

  13. #13
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    Thanks again for the replies. I'm going to order the KMC X8.93 chain from JensonUSA. I also noticed they have a singlespeed conversion kit for $32, and the reviewers give it flying colors, so I think I'm going to grab it:

    Wheels Manufacturing Singlespeed Kit > Components > Small and Service Parts | Jenson USA Online Bike Shop

    However, there are two options:

    Option 1: W/Spacers, Angled Spacers, 16T
    Option 2: W/Guides, Spacers, 16T

    Which one do you recommend or does it matter?

  14. #14
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    Jenson is my favorite place to buy from anymore and they are really good about price matching. Personally I would go for option one. I was able to find it on google for about 9 bucks cheaper... check your PMs. What are you thinking for a tensioner?

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    Thanks! I think I'm going to go with the tensioner on eBay. I will probably buy everything else from Jenson USA and get a few other things while I'm at it since they have free shipping on orders over $50, assuming that promotion is still valid.

  16. #16
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    By the way, before I pick up the eBay tensioner, is there a better one I can get from JensonUSA? There are a lot that have great reviews, but I'm not sure if they are single speed compatible - there are also a number of different designs to choose from. Here are the results from JensnUSA, sorted by rating:


    Search results for tensioner | Jenson USA Online Bike Shop

  17. #17
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    Jenson, oddly, doesn't really have anything other than the Alfine that would work for what you are wanting to do. I have heard good things about that one but IMO its not the cleanest setup.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowjeep View Post
    Looks like you could climb a wall with that gear ratio.

    Check out Meriwether Cycles for spacers, Whit is a cool guy to talk to.

    If your rear hub has a steel cassette body, I can't find any reason to use anything other a Shimano DX cog provided they have the tooth count you want. It looks like you have a 32t ring on there I would snag a 18t and a 16t. No brainer to me at 4 bucks a piece.

    If you want to wait around you could pick up a used tensioner or if you want to ride NOW (and you probably do right?) I would pick up this

    I like to piece things together and was lucky enough to get a Soulcraft tensioner for a really great price, but if I lived anywhere near a Performance I probably would have just bought the Forte kit.

    BTW, what are the other modifications have you done to your bike?

    I agree with all this but i'm biased.
    If you don't have all the tools or aren't a great mechanic I'd probably get a kit (like the Soulcraft one) and get someone at a shop to set it up right...but it's REALLY easy to do by yourself and getting the chainline right is not hard at all. The key to getting the best chainline is just having smaller (width) spacers so you have the ability to adjust in smaller increments than in larger increments. My spacers were built by Wheels years ago so are super high quality (but not black, they're shiny aluminum). If you don't use a 12t cog to cap it off before the screw cap, it's been my experience that the whole setup comes loose over time and can creak or even contribute to extra wear of the cassette hub body.

    I wouldn't get a kit that has a 16t cog included. Those are found a dime a dozen in the bottom of a shop's steel recycling can (they are very common and if you find any old Shimano cassette it'll have one). But like has been said before, unless it's tremendously flat where you live or you are tremendously strong, don't use a 16t rear cog...I have always used an 18t on 26" wheeled bikes (34 or even 32t up front) and a 20t for my 29er singlespeeds. I'd just get a Surly cog as they have more 'real estate' on the cassette body and won't dig into the cassette body and make divots over time as much as the Shimano ones do (if it's an AL body).

    A chain tensioner is a must IMO. People do it without, but they are usually stuck with whatever gear 'fits' with their particular bike. And it's usually too hard of a gear
    I prefer tensionsers like the one linked above that have a loop so the chain doesn't fall off but I especially love the Paul's Component's Melvin tensioner but it's pricey.

  19. #19
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    The Alfine is tough one to work with. I think the chainline is somewhere in the 40-45mm range. I had to remove my spacer on the drive side bottom bracket and use all spacers on the Alfine to get the chainline. It is a solid tensioner, though. I found every tensioner to require a huge amount of tension to keep my chain from slipping on the rear cog. That tension caused more drag to my drivetrain than my geared settup. I have used 4-5 different tensioners that all caused drag in order to stop the skipping.

    The ones i used were all with spring type tensioners such as...

    Sette- required a lot of tension to stop skipping.


    Origin 8- not enough tension possible to stop skipping


    Q2 Dual roller- arm is too short to fit a 19 tooth cog. Might not even fit an 18t.


    Now, you may try to use a non-sprung tensioner and it will reduce drag caused by the amount of tension needed on the sprung versions. If the sprung version has a chance to loosen up, it will skip. I have deformed the teeth on my Niner cog from the skipping Static ones, like these, will not allow it to loosen up even with less tension to start with...

    DMR-


    Sette-


    In the end, i just picked up a frame with a EBB and it works great. I probably spent as much money on chains, tensioners, and even filed my old frame's dropouts to try and make it work. Should have built a wheel with a White Eno hub or just bought a new frame to start with.

    Also, i'm not the strongest rider and still a noob. I started with a 32x20 on a 26 inch wheel. Spun a bit much and had trouble on some 15% and steeper grades. Shortly moved to 34x20 and flats were better, but, am not ashamed to walk some of those steeper climbs. Now have a 650b rear and am back to the 32x20 (soon to be 33x20). It will all depend on where you ride and how much climbing you will do. A 32x18 would have me walking up more of the hills here in SoCal than i would be mashing. Start with a 32 front and adjust the rear cog with the trail and your strength.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meriwether View Post
    I agree with all this but i'm biased.
    I still haven't emailed you a picture of my set up because I haven't had a chance to get out to the trails. Just been riding to class. Also the bit about using a 12t cog on end is one of the best pieces of advice I've received. So thanks for that.


    I really like my Soulcraft Convert. It is not cheap but I got a good deal. I really like the quick release feature.


    Single Speed Chain Tensioner Rigid Fixed 200-003 | eBay

    That link was my original plan before I found the Soulcraft.

  21. #21
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    Ok, so after reading the last post and reading some reviews about people having difficulty getting their singlespeed chain tensioners to work, I'm really paranoid about the conversion!

    I wonder if I should just go to the local bike store, buy their single speed conversion kit for $25 (I don't recall that it came with a chain tensioner), and ask them to install it. Any thoughts? Seems like it might same a lot of time and heartache!

  22. #22
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    It's really not that bad. Takes a little tweaking to get it all set up but it isn't rocket science.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowjeep View Post
    It's really not that bad. Takes a little tweaking to get it all set up but it isn't rocket science.
    This
    Duct tape iz like teh Force. It has a Lite side and a Dark side and it holdz the Universe together.

  24. #24
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    To add to my last post, If you have the bike shop set it up perfectly what happens when you are out on a ride and something happens? Will you know how to fix it? If you do the work yourself and you have to go though the whole process you will know the ins and outs of your set up and you will have some experience if something happens on the trail (and it will at some point).
    Just my .02 but I can't thinking of many things that suck worse than walking a disabled bike.

  25. #25
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    Well, finally placed my order for the singlespeed kit, but I still need a tensioner. Ended up going with the Wheels Manufacturing kit which I picked up on eBay for just under $25, with free shipping. Today at work, I got a free $25 eBay gift card, so I didn't have to pay anything out of pocket for it.

    Still need to order the tensioner. I think I'm going to go with a non-sprung tensioner as jetboy23 described above. I'm ok with getting a deformed cog if they cause that since its a pretty cheap part to replace after a little wear - seems like that would be better than a slipping chain due to not enough tension, and would minimize drag.

    Anyway, I will post photos when I'm all done. Thanks again for all of the responses!

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