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  1. #1
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    Why so much hate for tensioners?

    I've never used one, but let's face it, the consensus here is that tensioners suck. Yet I notice a lot of trials bikes have tensioners, and those guys beat the poop out of their bikes, without having the same anti-tensioner attitude that is seen in these parts. Tensioners seem to work just fine for trials guys.

    Are tensioners being given a bad rap? Are there any decent ones?

  2. #2
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    One cool thing about a singlespeed is that when you come down on the pedal, the force is directly transferred to the chain and the chain directly to the freewheel/cog for instant go. With a tensioner, some of that energy goes to untensioning the tensioner; it gives some, just like a rear derailleur does. Maybe there are some of you can fix into place so they don't move?
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  3. #3
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    Tensioners work for trials riders because they are not pedaling that much in comparison to a SS ridden on trail.

    I have used them in the past to convert non SS frames to SS's....while it is better than not having a SS at all....I will now go out of my way to build a frame that is SS specific. It is just much simpler.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    One cool thing about a singlespeed is that when you come down on the pedal, the force is directly transferred to the chain and the chain directly to the freewheel/cog for instant go. With a tensioner, some of that energy goes to untensioning the tensioner; it gives some, just like a rear derailleur does. Maybe there are some of you can fix into place so they don't move?
    Not sure I agree with this one....in trials, having your drivetrain pickup immediately is important. This is why high POE freewheel/hub is a necessity. The top side of your chain is tight with a tensioner and the power transfer is immediate. Plus the tensioners they are using are locked, not loose like a derailleur.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbikej View Post
    Tensioners work for trials riders because they are not pedaling that much in comparison to a SS ridden on trail.

    I have used them in the past to convert non SS frames to SS's....while it is better than not having a SS at all....I will now go out of my way to build a frame that is SS specific. It is just much simpler.
    Yes, trials riders are not spinning for hours, typically, but they do pedal a lot; quite explosively. You comment that having no tensioner is simpler (debatable, since dropouts, for example also require tensioners that make wheel changes fiddly). Is there any other legit reason why tensioners suck? This what I'm getting at.

    I think I may be being duped by a fallacious consensus tensioner prejudice here. Am I wrong?

  6. #6
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    I don't hate them, I just see them as unsightly. I prefer the cleaner look honestly. Having said that, they do have a purpose and can be required for converting that nostalgic vert drop frame of yesteryear to feed the SS urge. Buying an eccentric hub and building a wheel is obviously more costly in comparison. Once the urge is fed, I think the desire grows for a SS specific frame or something with sliders/rocking drops that can go back and forth depending on daily desires. Once the SSer has that frame, there grows an anger that manifests in anything that is not so pure as a SS. Let's face it, you gotta be angry to pedal one ratio to rule them all. That in turn has ramifications on life, friends, work, and web mtb postings.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  7. #7
    Just A Mountain Biker.
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    I ran a spring tensioner on a vertical dropout frame, it got the job done although I could feel the chain passing through it and that bothered me a little but I don't think it made it any less of a single speed.

    I could afford a WI ENO Eccentric hub and the re-lacing cost, so I did that. I'm completely happy with it now and I CAN tell a difference w/o the tensioner.

    YMMV
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MidnightFattie View Post
    Yes, trials riders are not spinning for hours, typically, but they do pedal a lot; quite explosively. You comment that having no tensioner is simpler (debatable, since dropouts, for example also require tensioners that make wheel changes fiddly). Is there any other legit reason why tensioners suck? This what I'm getting at.

    I think I may be being duped by a fallacious consensus tensioner prejudice here. Am I wrong?
    My MUSS has a threaded axle with track nuts and it does not move one bit. I find that having the tensioners helped to put my rear wheel back in the same place every time, but I'd have to adjust for chain stretch anyway so in the box they sit. If you are using a QR then tensioners are a must, but bolts and threaded axles with track nuts don't move at all... at least for me.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  9. #9
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    Many newer trials frames use a snail cam rather than a tensioner, which essentially works similar to an ebb only at the dropouts. My trials frame has track ends, which is very uncommon.

    It isn't outright hatred for tensioners here. There are vintage frames I would love to have, and would use a tensioner on them in a second, but it just is not the ideal setup for a single speed.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by blaklabl View Post
    I ran a spring tensioner on a vertical dropout frame, it got the job done although I could feel the chain passing through it and that bothered me a little but I don't think it made it any less of a single speed.

    I could afford a WI ENO Eccentric hub and the re-lacing cost, so I did that. I'm completely happy with it now and I CAN tell a difference w/o the tensioner.

    YMMV
    How rough are you treating the Eno? I'm starting to finally build mine after what seems like a year fondling it.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  11. #11
    Just A Mountain Biker.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbhammercycle View Post
    How rough are you treating the Eno? I'm starting to finally build mine after what seems like a year fondling it.
    Just got it back last week, and have only had a few short shakedown rides around the house on streets while I waited for a few final parts - will know more after this weekend. It is smooth as silk though, and had the wheels built by Dave Thomas of Dave's Speed Dream so you know they are light AND solid.

    This bike will see mostly smooth swoopy singletrack training miles, it's not setup for chunkiness. So I anticipate it will be great if that helps?!?!
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  12. #12
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    I share your anticipation and am full of faith that yes, the ENO shall rock!

    My hesitation has been centered around what rim to use, something that is rim brake compatible so it has the ability to go on a pre-disc frame or to stick to disc. I chose the latter as I got a good deal on some arch ex rims. I now have to choose a standard ENO freewheel or a DOS...
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbhammercycle View Post
    My hesitation has been centered around what rim to use, something that is rim brake compatible so it has the ability to go on a pre-disc frame or to stick to disc. I chose the latter as I got a good deal on some arch ex rims. I now have to choose a standard ENO freewheel or a DOS...
    Well, I used the 1997 Ritchey rims from the garage queen 97 Rockhopper I found (they were perfect, just had the front relaced with new spokes/nips and the rear built with the ENO) because this frame & fork are rim brake only, which is what I was looking for.

    As far as freewheel, I am going to put a WI standard on once I settle in on ratio. I am limited to a 34t (smallest) front ring on my 110bcd cranks, so right now I threw on a 17t shimano FW to make sure a 2:1 ratio is what I wanted before dropping the coin.

    Now back to tensioners debate before we get flamed for going OT...lol
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  14. #14
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    ill admit it. i dont like tensioners because they look like a rear mech. and i much prefer the clean look. so...100% aesthetic. no other reason from me.

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  15. #15
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    There are plenty of reasons for the hate of chain tensioners here. There are obviously a bunch of different kinds, and some are better than others, just like every other bike component. Most of them end up in push down mode, which results in less teeth of the cog being engaged by the chain, which sometimes results in chains skipping under power. They add extra friction to the drivetrain. They're location makes them prone to damage, just like derailleurs. They are usually fiddly to set up, and can make wheel removal a pain, depending on style. And yeah, they look like crap! They take away from the simple lines of a nice singlespeed bike.

    Obviously, I am not a fan of tensioners! As others have said, they are useful sometimes, and many people run them without issue. I am also not a fan of horizontal dropouts, also very fiddly.

    All the other methods(sliders, rockers, EBB) only need to be setup once and need no adjustment or thought when removing and replacing the rear wheel.

  16. #16
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    Here is Danny Macaskill riding with a tensioner. It's tucked up near the chainstay, really not obtrusive at all. He seems to do ok! Maybe tensioners aren't so bad after all?


  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MidnightFattie View Post
    Yes, trials riders are not spinning for hours, typically, but they do pedal a lot; quite explosively. You comment that having no tensioner is simpler (debatable, since dropouts, for example also require tensioners that make wheel changes fiddly). Is there any other legit reason why tensioners suck? This what I'm getting at.

    I think I may be being duped by a fallacious consensus tensioner prejudice here. Am I wrong?
    Nope, the swinging dropouts on my El Mariachi and on my Highball are simple to use.....can swap wheels on and off with no trouble....no fiddling required.

    On the other hand, the Surly Singulator we used when we swapped my wife's Niner EMD to a SS was a PIA. With the gearing that I wanted to run, the chain was too long, thus the chain would skip on the cog....otherwise the chain was too short. I tried it in the pull down direction and the push up direction. Pushing up, the chain rubbed the chainstay. She had to run a harder gear than she wanted to, but I was able to get it to work, but it was really tight. Getting the wheel on and off was worse than trying to install a wheel on a derailluered bike. It was also on the noisy side. Fortunately it was too hard on her knees and we put the gears back on it. Had the same issues converting her Felt road bike into a SS. The Origin 8 tensioner I used on my converted road SS never ran smooth.

    So prejudice.....not really, just sharing my experience with them.
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  18. #18
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    KISS.

    Tensioners are just extra technology.

    So KISS
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57º36' Highlands, Scotland

  19. #19
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    I don't hate them, I just couldn't prevent chain slip when using 2 different brands of tensioners when I ran my 29er as SS for awhile. I'm a Clyde so maybe I was expecting too much? Since then I've converted my old mid-90's Trek 26er into a SS. It has semi-horizontal dropouts and I'm using good ol' fashioned Shimano QR skewers. Haven't had any chain slippage issues, even when standing on some climbs. I'm only running a 36/20 though.

  20. #20
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    They're called Simple Speed for a reason.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MidnightFattie View Post
    Is there any other legit reason why tensioners suck? This what I'm getting at.

    I think I may be being duped by a fallacious consensus tensioner prejudice here. Am I wrong?
    Yes and no. A tensioner can work fine, but it just never "seems right", even if it can actually perform better in terms of removing all slack from the chain, and increasing chainwrap at one end or another. It's kind of hard to explain. I've used a Surly Singleator on two different bikes in "push up" mode(with a zip tie to limit its downward travel), and set one up with an ISCG mount Stinger that would have also worked perfectly had I not been using an oval chainring. It's just kinda cheesy setup-wise, and leaves you(me, anyway) wanting to be rid of it. Like right now, I've put a 1x10 drivetrain back on my only mtb. I really needed to do that for some of the riding I'm doing(SS becomes less attractive when I start doing climbs measured in miles rather than hundreds of yards), and to be able to ride more frequently, but at the same time...key point here...I hate having that crap on my bike. And part of SS's appeal is eliminating all that crap.
    Can be a matter of priorities, too. If I build a dedicated SS bike, which I would like to, it's going to have adjustable dropouts-as long as I don't have to compromise on the geometry I want to get them.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by OwenM View Post
    ...but at the same time...key point here...I hate having that crap on my bike. And part of SS's appeal is eliminating all that crap....
    Well said. That's it in a nutshell.

    It's not the look - that's not important - it's how it feels.

    A tensioner removes that feeling of immediacy, the instant response you get on a properly set up singlespeed. It's one of the joys of single speeding, your bike is like a scalpel, sharp and precise. The way the bike reacts the instant you think.

    I regard tensioners as a temporary solution, ok for when you have to, but to be dispensed with as soon as possible. And these days there's enough decent SS frames around that they are not so necessary except as a gateway into singlespeed.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    One cool thing about a singlespeed is that when you come down on the pedal, the force is directly transferred to the chain and the chain directly to the freewheel/cog for instant go. With a tensioner, some of that energy goes to untensioning the tensioner; it gives some, just like a rear derailleur does. Maybe there are some of you can fix into place so they don't move?
    Quote Originally Posted by MidnightFattie View Post
    Not sure I agree with this one....in trials, having your drivetrain pickup immediately is important. This is why high POE freewheel/hub is a necessity. The top side of your chain is tight with a tensioner and the power transfer is immediate. Plus the tensioners they are using are locked, not loose like a derailleur.
    I don't know, still feels like a much more immediate directness on my single speed vs my geared bikes. Whether I'd still have that with a tensioner of not, idk, never used one. I'm with the others, keep it as simple as possible. But if you need a tensioner at this point, go for it.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    Well said. That's it in a nutshell.

    It's not the look - that's not important - it's how it feels.

    A tensioner removes that feeling of immediacy, the instant response you get on a properly set up singlespeed. It's one of the joys of single speeding, your bike is like a scalpel, sharp and precise. The way the bike reacts the instant you think.

    It's this type of reasoning that is leading me to question whether tensioners are being given a fair shake.

    I don't think this could possibly be true; if it were, trials guys would NEVER use them. In trials, they ratchet for practically everything, and immediacy of power transfer is absolutely necessary.

    Maybe trials guys are using a different kind of tensioner than what most SS conversions have used?

    If tensioners are a viable solution, frame options are wide open!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    KISS.

    Tensioners are just extra technology.

    So KISS
    I dunno, the sliding dropouts hangers with mutiple parts, track ends with tuggnuts, EBB, they all add extra stuff. I suppose if you want to be that much of a purist, you'll only run track ends, to "KISS".

    Regardless, you don't have to call me stupid! It's a genuine question!

  26. #26
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    Seems like if nothing else a tensioner would cost a couple of watts.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  27. #27
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    2 "pure" single speed MTB's, one Singulator converted SS CX and one DMR roller converted hardtail MTB.

    Apart from some extra noise from the Singulator, there's no loss of "immediacy" in any of them.

    The only issue I have is the lack of choice of gearing on the tensioner equipped bikes.
    34-38-42/17 on the CX, 34-38/20 and 36/18 on the MTB.

  28. #28
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    As a former trials rider, one of the reasons I preferred frames with vertical dropouts and associated tensioner is that frames with horizontal dropouts tended to have the wheel slip out of place on a daily basis. There were various approaches to get the wheel to not move with horizontal dropouts but all tended to be a pain to set up each time you need to remove the wheel to change a flat. It was simply much simpler and quicker to deal with a tensioner and vertical dropouts. I have been out of trials for about 10 years and maybe you can get trials frames with sliding dropouts or eccentric bottom brackets now, but you could not back then.

  29. #29
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    When I built my wife's first SS out of a Schwinn Homegrown we used a tensioner, and it worked really really well. It made a little bit of noise. She liked it.

    Then a year or so later, the bottom bracket turned into toast and in setting up a new BB I decided to try for a magic gear.

    It came out perfectly, and she liked it a lot, and said she could feel the difference. And she began to ride SS a lot lot more.

    We don't have any magic gear bikes now, but I'm very partial to that kind of set-up as an ideal.

    My next SS project has track ends. This will be my first track end SS. For me to try track ends, is going to be a milestone.

    May the next bike after that will be magic gear.

    But I don't hate tensioners. But prefer not to have one. I am certain they use up some wattage, especially on long rides, but the amount is not crippling, I'm sure.

    One real drawback is the vulnerability to damage on a long ride. That canard does detract from the robustness of a single speed bicycle.

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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by MidnightFattie View Post
    It's this type of reasoning that is leading me to question whether tensioners are being given a fair shake...
    It's not reasoning. It is experience.

    I have used the following tensioners, Surly, Rohloff, DMR and another brand I have forgotten because it was so long ago.

    No tensioner gives such a good experience as a proper SS frame where you can adjust the chain tension. If I thought they were better I would be using them.

    BTW there's more to a good single speed frame than not needing a chain tensioner.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  31. #31
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    Considering how SS frames are becoming more and more of a boutique-ish, niche market, a tensioner might be in my future. I keep removing items from my "must-haves" for a new frame and SS-ability is going to get chopped next.
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  32. #32
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    I don't think it hate. All things being equal I think most would prefer no tensioner. One more thing to worry about, break or complicate the simplicity of SS riding.

    I did have on on my first SS about ten years ago and it was awful. Maybe the technology is better today. I did have a Kona with sliding dropouts and occasionally that would drop a chain (occasionally = 2x per year) and need some adjustment. So nothing is perfect.

    But now i ride a Pivot Les with Swinger dropout and it's super clean easy to adjust and never drops a chain.

  33. #33
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    I'm using a tensioner on mine and it's absolutely trouble free. It's not spring loaded and it's used in the Push-up direction for maximum rear tooth engagement.

    I'm using the Soulcraft convert which may or may not be readily available anymore.
    One gear is all you need.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuckha62 View Post
    I'm using a tensioner on mine and it's absolutely trouble free. It's not spring loaded and it's used in the Push-up direction for maximum rear tooth engagement.

    I'm using the Soulcraft convert which may or may not be readily available anymore.
    This^^^^
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  35. #35
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    Has anyone tried a frame with Taper Lock dropouts? It's track ends with tapered washers, so there's no need for chain tugs.

    http://www.dmrbikes.com/files/taper_lock_dropout.pdf
    26" rigid SS 4130 BB7 nylon-flats ESI latex-tubes non-lubricated-8spd

  36. #36
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    I had no issues with the DMR in push up position with a 34t oval ring.
    Just checked the tension before each ride as per normal.

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