By James Jordan
The cycling community is extremely diverse. Though you might find different types of bikes used in cyclocross, the most popular ones are single-speed and geared bikes. Cyclocross enthusiasts will vehemently defend their preferences, but which one is actually the best one for you?
We’ve compiled the pros and cons of both sides so you can make the decision for yourself.
What exactly is a cyclocross bike?
To put it simply, cyclocross bikes are specialized for cyclocross. They’re modified with lower gear ratios and enhanced mud clearance so they can survive going off-road. They are also equipped to deal with various terrains with their knobby tires and can tackle extreme conditions that a regular bike would struggle with.
Riders use this bike to navigate through mud, sand, and many other obstacles. Sometimes they have to dismount their bikes and carry them while running so the bikes have to be light enough to facilitate that.
If you’re looking to invest in a cyclocross bike, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages of both the single-speed and geared cyclocross bikes.
Pros of single-speed bikes
- A single-speed bike is cheaper and helps save money in the long term because you don’t have to invest in extra parts such as derailleurs, shifters, cables, and cassettes. So rest assured, your pockets will remain full.
- It’s also much easier to maintain due to having fewer parts. This contributes to its simplicity and durability.
- There are fewer moving parts than a geared cyclocross, which means that the likelihood of things breaking off gets reduced too.
- It’s highly resistant to damage, so you’d never have to worry about peeling off a derailleur due to a bad landing.
- It’s also lighter than a geared bike. This puts you at an advantage if you have to carry your bike over hilly terrains.
- It can be more fun, especially in a geared race. Single-speed cyclocross racers are usually more laidback and prioritize having fun. There’s also more of a celebratory air around single-speed events.
- The bike remains cleaner as there’s less space for mud to build up due to reduced cable routing.
- You can use it for commuting on flat grounds as well as for cyclocross.
- The adjustments allowed by the horizontal dropouts on the rear help stretch the chain over time.
- Tuning the drivetrain does not require a lot of knowledge. Therefore, even beginner cyclists can do it.
- Riding these bikes is much harder due to their lack of gears. It means you’ll have to push yourself up the steep inclines with your strength, which will force you to become fitter and stronger in the long term.
Cons of single-speed bikes
- They’re not as versatile as geared bikes due to fewer gears. This will limit the things you can do and might make you feel more exerted as you won’t have any gears to make riding easier for you.
- You might get the gear ratio wrong
- The bike requires extra tools as you’d need to change your gearing depending on your courses. This also means you’d have to have different gears on hand.
- You’d also need to carry around different chain lengths for various cog sizes, assuming that you don’t use a chain tensioner.
- Having to make all these adjustments might be inconvenient for a rider, especially under extreme weather conditions. It would be a hassle to change all these parts on a bike that’s slick with mud on a cold and windy race day.
- You’re at a crossroads on courses where half the course is flat and requires fast-paced biking and the other consists of large climbs and jumps. With a single-speed bike, you’re going to have to sacrifice navigating the hills for speed on the flats.
- Abrasion is distributed among a single chainring, which means the bike would need replacements.
Pros of geared bikes
- The geared bike is quite versatile. It has multiple gears that can be adjusted for various inclines, which makes for a more comfortable ride compared to a single-speed bike.
- This also means that a geared bike will put you at an advantage over a single-speed bike due to the adjustability options on variable inclines.
- Navigating hills is much easier due to the multiple gears. You won’t have to put in as much effort while going uphill as you would while riding a single-speed bike.
- Your body doesn’t have to be at optimal fitness to ride this because it doesn’t require tremendous exertion.
- It’s also a good option for beginners due to its customizability for different grounds. Some of these bikes can have up to 30 gears, meaning there is a specific gear for every scenario you can imagine.
- If you feel like you want to switch to a single-speed bike, you can convert your existing geared bike easily.
- Abrasion is distributed among multiple chainrings, unlike in the single-speed bike which concentrates all the abrasion on a single chainring.
- Due to having more components, it means that the bike will be heavier. This could be considered a positive as its weight would add to its sturdiness, which is a feature some riders prefer.
Cons of geared bikes
- They tend to be on the more expensive side compared to single-speed bikes.
- There are more components than in a single-speed bike that can be broken, especially the derailleurs and hangers.
- Due to the number of parts, the bikes are harder to maintain and require frequent replacements.
- It is costly to replace the parts.
- Since it has more parts, it will be heavier as well.
Those who want their cyclocross bikes to double as commuters can opt for a single-speed bike. They don’t require you to change gears while you’re busy navigating roads full of vehicles and pedestrians. The lack of gears also removes the decision fatigue of selecting which gear is best suited for your specific terrain.
If you want to ride on hilly terrains efficiently, then the multiple gears on a geared bike will come in handy for you. It has more components compatible with various conditions, and this translates to endless adjustments for your comfort and convenience.
The cycling community consists of both single-speeders and geared bikers. Both sides will tell you their bikes are better than the other’s, so at the end of the day it really depends on your preferences.
Image sources: Pexels/ Midia, Dylan Howell and Pixabay
As a kid James inherited the love for mountain bikes from his father. Later on, his interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. Apart from racing, James also got into the mechanics of bicycles, did a couple of courses on it, and finally found himself as a bike designer. He hopes to come up with some unique MTBs in the near future. Check out his website at: https://gearbikesreview.com.