Sunday, April 13, 2008

$3.18 per pound

As I mentioned here, I am the proud owner of a $70 single speed mountain bike. I weighed it yesterday, and it tips the scales at 22 pounds. Which means it cost me $3.18 per pound.

Except that the $70 price tag is somewhat deceiving. I had an old mountain bike in my garage that I hadn't ridden in over a year. It was my first mountain bike that I purchased four years ago. I wasn't sure how much I was going to like the sport and didn't want to be into it too much money in case I didn't.

This bike saw duty as my everyday bike that first season, and given it's fairly basic component spec, many of the parts were tired and worn out. I'd had designs on turning it into a single speed for a while, and this year I put that plan into action. First I needed to find a proper fork. I wanted to go rigid but also needed something that would work with rim brakes since I didn't want to spring for a new wheel. Thanks to TGR, I had exactly what I wanted within a day of asking and for the bargain price of $25. I also needed a new bottom bracket ($25), brake pads ($10), and chain ($10), but after a quick trip to the LBS, I was ready to begin work.

The cog is part of the old cassette, and the chainring is also a legacy part from the original setup. I'm running 32x18, which seems about right for where I ride, though I may try and run 32x16 as the season goes along. I converted the freehub to single using the spacers out of my old cassette plus five more I got from a friend. I was exceptionally lucky in that 32x18 works without the need for a chain tensioner (albeit a bit tight initially). As my chain wears and elongates, I'll need to replace it to avoid dropping my chain. But single speed chains are all of $10, so I think I can live with doing that once or twice per year if it means avoiding the need for a singulator.

The frame, wheels, crank, saddle, seatpost, and brakes are all original from the bike. Bar and stem were hand-me-downs from my 29er, since I got a new bar/stem setup this year. The saddle you see in the picture weighs north of 400 grams and feels like I am sitting in a La-z-boy, so that will probably be replaced before too long. I may also spring for a new wheelset, since a friend's got an excess Bontrager Race set that is tubeless ready.

Even without these upgrades, though, the bike rides great. I took it out for its maiden voyage Friday morning. It was about 28 degrees at 6:15 a.m., and my fingers were numb within a couple of minutes, but it was still a ton of fun to get out. Reminds me of riding BMX as a kid--I never felt like I needed lower gears then, I just stood up and pushed harder. And I sure don't miss the extra four pounds I have to push up the hill on my geared 29er. We'll see if this does to my geared bike what having a 29er did to my full-suspension rig last year. (The full squishy was sold and used to purchase new skis several months ago.)

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