Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Single Is Not Necessarily Simple

The current Inbred SS set up
 I grabbed the Inbred SS rig for a quick errand yesterday and realized something.....well, actually I remembered something, but the Inbred reminded me of it.

Single speed bikes are not necessarily "simple". In fact, going single speed on a mountain bike these days might actually complicate things a bit. How? Well, in a few, irritatingly significant ways, actually. In some cases, it is almost better just running a geared bike. Almost....

Take rear drop outs for instance. At first glance, the traditional track end seems innocuous enough. But add disc brakes, a boat load of torque, and a grippy rear tire and a few things become sickeningly apparent. Slipping axles in the fork ends, fighting the caliper to remove a wheel, and just getting the wheel centered, (if you are OCD, this is the biggest issue!), can really ruin your day. Sure, you can use a chain tug, but that's another layer of complexity you are adding to a "simple drop out". Yes, you could just use nutted axles, but then you have to carry a wrench. See what I mean?

Then you have the solutions to the track end drop out. Eccentric bottom brackets, sliding drop outs, or swinging drop outs. None without their peccadilloes, and some with a big headache or two.
Why do we have to keep reinventing thru axles?

Then you have suspension forks, which have their own sets of complexities. None more baffling than the through axle. At first glance you may think all of them are like the Maxle, or Fox/Shimano's 15QR, but you'd be remiss in that notion. It seems to be a big game to see how many ways we can reinvent the through axle for mountain bikes.

Take this Manitou Tower Pro, as an example, a fine enough fork when it comes to suspension duties. However; it has a funky keyed through axle that isn't very easy to get right, and the mere fact that it can be done incorrectly, yet look right, is dangerous, in my opinion. Not only is this system less intuitive and fussy than a Maxle or 15QR, but it has a tension adjustment for the quick release lever, which if it isn't adjusted correctly will leave your wheel loose. What? You have to do two things to secure the wheel versus one, simple, easy to use method?  Let's not even get into Magura's system, or a couple of other oddball through axle deals out there.

So, you can see that on both ends of my Inbred, things are complicated. Yes- even without gears. In some ways, just popping a rear wheel into a vertical drop out, slamming the quick release over and riding off sounds kind of like a simple, sweet deal on a geared bicycle. Maybe if the industry would just give over and quit trying to be "different" for the sake of avoiding a licensing fee, we'd see some sensible results. Maybe if stupid trade mark and patent infringement deals that frustrate riders would be let go of so we could have an industry wide standard for through axles like the Maxle, we'd get rid of these wonky, one off designs.

Yeah.....I know- Dream on Ted!

But I will say that when all the goofiness works as advertised, and you hear nothing but your breathing and the tires working the trail, a single speed can give you a certain feeling that makes all those issues go away. For that time, the single speed is the greatest tool of mountain biking distilled down to its simplest form. Well......until you notice that your rear wheel is crooked again! 



Steve Fuller said...

I made a comment in this same vein about axle standards yesterday. The new Rock Shox fork is supposedly using a new "standard" of 17mm x117mm width axle/hub.

*shaking head*

Ronsta, said...

Good insights GT. As the owner of several singlespeed's I can't recommend enough running a bolt on axle setup like Paul WORD hubs or Surly's ultra new hubs. I always carry a Park MT-1 tool in my saddle bag or on me which is perfect for most in-field repairs or adjustments.

Sometimes I ponder the practicality of changing gears for various terrains. Then I realize, this is the only work I usually have to do to my SS and I actually enjoy tinkering with it. Having a geared bike I would never have to change up would be so boring.

Guitar Ted said...

@Steve: What was that we all said when they foisted 15mm through axles on us? (20mm is just fine folks!)

Yeah....the deal with an upside down fork is that generally speaking, they suffer from torsional forces, since the only thing tying the two stanchions together is the axle and crown. A bigger axle is necessary to combat that, and even then, Maverick couldn't figure it out using a 24mm thru axle!

Why in the world Rock Shox didn't just use a 20mm through axle is beyond me.....OH WAIT! Now we can seel you new SRAM wheels to go with that. Yeah......Thanks, but I'll pass on that fork.

If you are going to bother with the upside down technology, Cannondale's forks are light years beyond anything yet produced by others in this vein. Lefty forks have a lot going for them versus a two legged version with no pedigree.

Guitar Ted said...

@Ronsta: Bolt on hubs are definitely a good way to go, but get this- I had Paul bolt ons installed on my 2003 Karate Monkey and still needed a chain tug!

Glad it is working for you. Ride on!

Unknown said...

I am glad to see that I am not the only one who has trouble getting the thru axle on the Manitou to work correctly. I want to like the fork, but the axle sucks.