Would single speed 29er be good choice for first MTB?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Would single speed 29er be good choice for first MTB?

    I'm mid-40's, have ridden a bike less than once a year for probably 20 years. Now kids are starting to ride, so I'm looking to get a bike. I also have always wanted to try mountain biking, so I'm leaning to getting an MTB and trying to find local trails, get into the scene.

    So, anyway, I've been trying to settle on a first MTB, and I'm thinking about a single speed 29er as my starter bike. Any thoughts for or against?

    Thanks,

    Ken

    P.S. As optional reading, here's some of my history / thought process:

    My bike history is that, as a teen, I was very much into bmx bikes. I was not really "free-styling" but I did like the ability to attack dirt trails, hills, jumps, ride very aggressively, maneuver very easily, and never worried about gear shifting. Since I became an adult, I had a road bike and never got comfortable shifting gear or with flimsy feel. I also had a prior MTB, very cheap, used, only used at Burning Man one year (where I also lost it). I did not use gears much, but I think they did sometimes come in handy when I just wanted to cover ground really fast. I also thought it was also too heavy, not as maneuverable as I would have liked.

    I guess to start I just need a good, relatively cheap starter bike to get my feet wet, maybe my tastes will change as I get experience. I was reading up and I was thinking maybe the 29ers would have a more responsive feel that would suit what I like. I mean, my gut feeling would be an even larger tire would make it less responsive, since it is moving even further away from 20" bmx tires..but then, I keep reading they are more responsive. And I'm not small (6', 220lbs). And the single speed also sounds nice, though I'm not sure -- will I be in trouble trying to go uphill, downhill, etc., on an MTB with one speed? It was never an issue on a bmx bike, but those things are smaller / lighter, like 20lbs. total (I was probably in better shape then, too, but that's another story).

  2. #2
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    If you're looking for a tossable bike that resembles your BMX bike, you don't want a 29er. A 26er will be the closest thing to your BMX bike. 29ers roll over obstacles a bit easier but they are not as responsive as a smaller wheel.

    If you have any big hills or mountains where you plan to ride, a single speed is a bad idea for a first bike. You have to be in great physical condition to climb with a single speed. If you are riding in a relatively flat state, you might do well with a single speed. The people who ride single speed in my neck of the woods are hardcore riders with professional level conditioning.

  3. #3
    dru
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    Your ability to climb will be hindered big time from being a beginner and SS will only make that worse, however you could gear the bike low and later change to harder gearing as you gain experience. SS is a real trade off, as it generally sucks on anything fast such as riding to the trails on the road.

    Where you live and how hilly it is really matters in your decision. I'm in southern Ontario and can get away with 8 gears most of the time and have single speeded and there's stuff I cannot climb with one gear. Guys out west in the mountains usually need all the gears in back and 2 or 3 rings up front.

    Drew
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  4. #4
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    Thanks for the replies.

    I guess I had thought maybe the 29er preserve more the proportions of a bmx bike in terms of wheel versus frame ratio, at least the length, and maybe that would feel better to me. But that's all just theoretical guesswork.

    I am rethinking a single speed since at this poing, I'm not sure what my ratio of steep versus level hills will be. I'm in Los Angeles, in a Valley, so most trail I'd expect to be in the hills, and have some amount of climbing. But, still, the MTB's with gears have like 21 or 24 speeds or something like that...seems excessive. I would think maybe 3-5 gears would be plenty, one for steep hills, one for moderate hills, one for low hills, one for flat, one or two for downhill.... Maybe seven gears I could see... Do they make MTB's with less than 10 gears?

    Another reason I guess I was leaning toward a single speed is that I'm not savvy on gear maintenance, and I've read that this has to be done regularly for geared bikes. I'd like to keep maintenance as simple as possible.

    Ken

  5. #5
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    If you don't mind walking the bike up steeper/longer climbs you may be just fine SS. The only way you're going to get into a geared bike with less than 9 speeds is to go with a 1x9 setup. I don't know of many entry level bikes that come set up that way...but you could always strip off the big ring and go to a 2x9.

    Gear maintenance isn't that big of a deal and it's relatively simple, but if you just don't want any hassle then SS would be the way to go.

  6. #6
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    If you leave the city limits of Los Angeles, you would be hurting with a single speed as a newbie. It's pretty darn hilly around there. I'm not familiar with the area, but I bet there is some great riding around there.
    Wheel size is subjective. 26ers are generally considered to be more playful, flickable and more fun in tight, twisty terrain. 29ers are generally considered to roll over trail irregularities easier but less flickable. In other words, a 26er is closer to a BMX bike than a 29er.
    For the record, I like both for different reasons.

  7. #7
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    See, now out of all my bikes, my 29er rides the most like a BMX since the wheels to frame ratio is close and it is SS. I suppose a 26er SS would have a similar feel but to me, the larger frame with smaller tires feels squirrely in comparison(and I don't have that feeling with a similar 20" BMX bike & geo).
    Most of the time, SS does Nebraska just fine. We have rolling hills but not like super short & steep stuff like some places have. Most of the time, you'll be working it, but you can do it and it makes you a better rider overall endurance wise. My SS Karate Monkey 29er is my fave brainless ride(rolls over everything and no shifting required, either mash, spin, or coast...easy peasy!)
    You might just need to check into your local bike shop and just see what trips your light fantastic. Gearing & style is pretty much up to the rider.
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  8. #8
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    I rode BMX for about 15 years before getting a 26" rigid SS mtb a few years ago. I got a 29" rigid SS a little while later and have not looked back. it's had a 1x9 on it and a squish fork at times but most of the time it's SS rigid for me. you might be at the point in your age that you will want a squish fork but mashing a SS bike is for anyone and everyone who appreciates the simplicity and challenge of SS. check the Singlespeed forum for more info.

  9. #9
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    This BD Grav Point 1 for 419 makes a good first bike with Shimano Alivio/Deore drive train. Ride it in one gear for SS.
    Save up to 60% off new Mountain Bikes - MTB - Gravity 29Point1 29er Mountain Bikes
    Maintenance isn't rocket science these days with Youtube, etc.

  10. #10
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    Got the Gravity SS a week ago. I like it a lot. Price isn't bad. It comes with an extra cog. And parts can be swapped in the future if you want to change. I might go to a Surly in the future but this bike was the right price for trying out a 29er for the first time.

  11. #11
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    You could also check at you LBS to see what people are riding in your area, and or what they would recomend for you. I ride SS but I live in ohio, lots of flat area and not too many hills. I do ride alot so I am able to climb step hills when needed but it did take a little while to get use to SS when I switch from geared.

  12. #12
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    Coming from LA (recently moved to BC for educational purposes), I would say, with the utmost confidence "NO!" to getting a singlespeed for your first mountain bike. Hills in the LA area, except for maybe tapia canyon out in Castaic would be brutal for SS, especially if you don't have some serious climbing legs. MTB is higher pedaling cadence, and you use almost, if not all your gears on almost every ride. Having a granny (22 or 24) tooth small gear will make your life much better, and I am a big proponent of a 2x crank for LA's terrain. Once you start riding, you'll pick up shifting pretty quick, and once you build up your legs, maybe give SS a try! But for now, especially starting out, gears are your friend!
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  13. #13
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    if you are new to mountain biking and maybe not incredibly fit, starting out on SS will be a steep learning curve. with gears, you can choose your cadence and gradually get stronger and faster and use steeper gears. with SS, the cadence is chosen for you. you will end up walking a lot at first. if you're willing to take the punishment and humiliation of walking a lot and ride hard and often to improve, you will get stronger and start to enjoy it. otherwise, it's just masochistic.

    if you really like the idea of riding SS but don't think you can hack it at first, start with a standard drivetrain or a 1x setup (one gear up front and 8-10 in back). as you get stronger, you can simplify and tougher your drivetrain until you can ride SS full time. it's also nice to have a bike that you can change into a geared bike for longer, more difficult rides or rides with faster riders on geared bikes.

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