Marathon and racing cyclists are in peak physical condition as they ride their fancy multispeed bikes, but a single speed is more efficient because you will use and build more muscle if you want to get healthy.
Additionally, there’s far less friction and lost energy between your legs and the wheels without all those extra parts. Are single-speed bikes more efficient?
Single speed bikes are more mechanically efficient because of the way they interact with the human body to move. When you have gears and extra drivetrain parts, it can help you handle speed and pedaling uphill more efficiently, but you lose power. Some of that energy is lost when friction slows you as you pedal.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
Table of Contents
5 Reasons Why Single Speed Bikes Are More Efficient
There’s no question that mountain bikes are great for tackling hills, and racing bikes are excellent for winning marathons, but what about single-speed bikes?
Are these simple, mechanical wonders really more efficient than their peers? It turns out they are better for quite a few things.
Early bicycles didn’t have gears. Jim Elking of the Bicycle Museum of America told Bike Radar in an interview, “As early as 1868 a wheel was described which would create varying reactions to the rotation of the pedal as compared to the rotation of the front wheel therein the pedal may go around one time while the wheel would go around two times or the opposite.”
However, once people began adding complexity, they also started trading energy efficiency, weight, and the ability to break down in more ways for easier maneuvering.
The trade-off was worth it in some situations. However, a more complex machine isn’t necessarily more effective or economical.
Below are 5 ways for a classic single speed bike to be more efficient than a geared bicycle:
1 – Better For Your Health
A single-speed bike is more efficient for obtaining and maintaining good health. Riding a single-speed bike is not the easiest way to move over uneven terrain.
The idea of changing how wheels and pedals interact at the flip of a switch certainly improved how we handle bumps and hills in the road, but there are two sides to that coin.
On the one hand, a geared bike is superior for moving over those rough patches. However, on the other hand, you are sacrificing some of the health benefits of riding a bicycle by making it unnecessarily easy.
The more effort you put into pushing the pedals, the more calories you burn. Plus, you’ll build both stamina and muscle faster as well.
2 – Mechanically Efficient
When you use a bicycle, you become the engine of an elegant machine. You turn calories from the food you eat into energy, which in turn becomes muscle movement.
Your muscles then drive the pedals forward, setting the drivetrain in motion, and that energy goes from pedals to the crank. The crank turns the chain, and the wheels spin.
You use your balance to keep the bicycle upright and your arms to control the fork for direction. It’s a beautifully complex interaction where very little energy is lost.
When you add a cassette and gears, all those parts touch your chain, and as they rub, you lose energy to friction. A single-speed bike is the most efficient way to turn human power into forward motion.
4 – Low Maintenance & Easier To Repair
The most likely part to fail on a bicycle is the derailleurs. However, only geared bikes use these parts.
If you are looking for a smart way to minimize the chances of mechanical failure, then picking a single speed is the best option.
DIYers who prefer to do their own mechanic work on their bicycles will be pleased to learn that single speeds are lower maintenance and much easier to repair.
Having fewer parts is more efficient for your time and your tool chest.
3 – Easier To Learn & Ride
Although there is nothing wrong with gears, and they have their place, they add an element of complexity to riding a bicycle.
You may have noticed that children’s bikes don’t have gears. This is a practical and efficient decision on the part of bicycle manufacturers.
Bikes without gears are easier to learn to ride. With less to memorize and coordinate, the rider is free to work on balance and control rather than toggles and switches.
However, children aren’t the only ones who benefit from a more minimalist and efficient riding system. Many adults prefer single-speed bicycles.
5 – Cost Effective
Yet another way that single-speed bikes are the superior choice is cost-effectiveness. Not only are these excellent bikes generally less expensive to buy in stores, but they are also less expensive to get parts for.
Less complexity means less to worry about and infrequent issues. That all adds up to savings without sacrificing quality.
Why You Should Try A Single Speed Bike
If you have never ridden a single speed bike or haven’t been on one since you were a child, then it’s easy to overlook the advantages.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced pro, there are many excellent reasons to ride an uncomplicated, efficient, single-speed bicycle.
I recommend checking out this video from Your Favorite Cyclist to learn more about why everyone should at least consider the benefits of a single-speed bike.
Helpful Tips To Know If Single Speed Bikes Are More Efficient
Single speed bikes are more accessible and more effective in numerous ways. From maintenance to muscle building, these excellent bicycles are well worth owning.
Here are more helpful tips to know if single speed bikes are more efficient.
- Single speed bikes are usually lighter weight than their geared cousins. They can shed a few pounds worth of metal parts because they have no cassette and don’t need all the extra bells and whistles to shift gears. A lighter bicycle won’t fatigue the rider as quickly, leading to longer, more enjoyable rides.
- According to The Exploratorium’s Science of Cycling, “German Inventor Karl von Drais is credited with developing the first bicycle. His machine, known as the “Swiftwalker,” hit the road in 1817. This early bicycle had no pedals, and its frame was a wooden beam… a rider walked on top of the bike with his feet leaving the ground during descents.” We would call the Swiftwalker a balance bike in modern terms, and this predecessor to the single-speed bike is the only type of bicycle that is more efficient with even fewer parts and less wasted energy.
- It is worth noting that a single-speed bike is also more efficient to clean. Fewer places for dirt and debris to lodge means you won’t need to spend as long on removing dirt. Moreover, the simple chain setup often means a shorter chain to clean and lubricate.
In most ways, a single-speed bike is the most efficient option for many riders. New bike owners will find this style easier to learn to ride, clean, and maintain than most other types of bicycles.
In a world where people often equate more with better, sometimes a minimalist approach is actually the best choice you can make, as is the case with single-speed bikes.