I've been riding my Roadini a lot since I built it up earlier this year, but I have a grand plan to ride only derailer-less bikes for the next six months, and possibly all of 2023 depending on how it goes.
The goal is to ditch the derailers but not change how I ride, meaning, if my friends want to go on an all day ride with lots of climbing, I won't back out of it because of my limited gear range - although I'm reserving the right to back out of it for the plethora of other reasons I might bail on a ride. I swear it sounds more macho show-offy than it is - all of my derailerless bikes (currently my Quickbeam, Susie, Crust Florida Man, and now this Roadini) are geared low and, in the case of the QB and Susie, actually have two gears I can use.
Why, though? I'm super happy with the shifting on all my geared bikes - I've found what I like and I just replicate that set up on every bike. I always use a double, with a 9 speed XT cassette in the back, a rapid rise rear derailer, whatever front derailer works, and friction shifters. It works so well that I wish everybody could try my bikes before they drain their checking account on electronic goofiness. But despite being happy with my geared bikes, there's something really fun about singlespeeds that's hard to articulate. I'll try anyway:
- Self-imposed limitations are fun and often revelatory, especially when it's bike-related. It's not like fasting or giving up coffee, in most riding situations, I have more fun with fewer gears - that's why I'm doing it. Riding a unicycle is a limitation too, but isn't next up on my list because riding a unicycle is awful (sorry, unicyclers). If you ride a two speed chain tensioner bike for even a week, you'll forever scoff at anything with over 9 cogs.
- The rear end of the bike gets bouncy and light, It's minor but once you feel it it's kind of addicting.
- Ditto on the drivetrain, chains nowadays are flexible enough to work well enough at extreme angles, but when everything is perfectly lined up... it feels good. Seeing how angled the chain is in the low gear on 1x11 bikes with super short chainstays hurts me.
- You don't realize how much mental energy you spend on shifting and thinking about shifting until it's gone.
- No chainslap. Actually, it still happens on my Susie with the tensioner on super rough stuff, but it's minor. On the rest of them, zilch. I come down the Bart escalator (yes, I take the escalator; the steps at Civic Center are wild) and cavalierly drop my bike onto the platform from hip height and all I hear are tires bouncing. I love that.
- I get some positive nervous energy on longer rides with singlespeeds wondering whether or not I'll be able to do it. Nervous energy sounds bad... I get hyped!
- Easy to clean.
- The bike industry is so hyperfocused on more gears, more range, more, more, more. It's fun to snub 'em and go the other direction.
I have enough derailer-less bikes (a clunky term, but two of them aren't technically singlespeeds; I'll try to come up with something better) that I didn't have to convert my Roadini, but I've been enjoying it so much that six months without it seemed like too much and it gave me a chance to exercise my wheelbuilding skills, anyway.
On bikes with vertical dropouts like the Roadini, you need a way to tension the chain, either with a tensioner like the Paul Melvin, or, in this case, the White Industries ENO eccentric hub. The axle on the ENO can be moved in a circle so you can get the chain length close enough and then rotate the axle until it's taut. I love products like this - super nicely made and for such a small, niche-y market. I lost some tire clearance in the process, but I probably could also rotate it down and back instead of up. As it is, it still clears the 40mm Challenge tires I have on there.
It all went together easily, and I've got all the geared stuff in a bag underneath my desk when the time comes to change it back, probably when the Roaduno frames get here in Fall of '23.
Singlespeeds just look cool too. I rewrapped the bars after pulling the bar end shifter out of the right side. I used Blue Lug natural cotton tape and shellac'd it clear for that stale pee look I was aiming for.
Close up of the drivetrain. It's a 42x18, which feels perfect so far. I think even the naked hanger looks cool, like a single earring.
Here's that hub with a White Industries freewheel threaded on. With this hub I could even set the bike up fixed if I use a WI fixed cog, although I won't.
See how I moved my brake pads up? My bottom bracket must be lower now too, but it feels the same. If you want to try this out (you should), Rich can build you a wheel. Fun stuff!