A Quick and Easy Single Speed Mountain Bike Conversion
Most of us have at least 1 dinosaur of a mountain bike sitting in the basement or garage collecting dust. The brakes are rusty, the cogs are warn and the cables have seen better days. The frame may still be in good shape, but the problem with a bike like this is that it will end up costing just shy of a new bike to replace all the warn-out parts. A much better and cheaper solution is to convert your old steed to a single speed. With more and more single speed kits on the market, even a novice wrench can do the work. Here is an overview of what you’ll be in for if you decide to ditch gears.
Remove the shifters, derailleur cables, the front derailleur and the rear derailleur. You’ll only need one chainring up front, so remove the big ring, the little ring and keep the middle one. This should suit you fine for general riding. Assemble the crankset with a new set of short bolts (made to accommodate 1 chainring instead of 3) or use a bash guard and the same bolts as before.
In order to convert your 8 or 9 speed cassette to 1 cog, you'll need a cog that fits the freehub body, some spacers and a cassette lock-ring. The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get all these parts is to opt for an all-in-one single speed conversion kit like those sold at Performance or Price Point. Once you have the parts, all you'll need to do is remove the cassette, install enough spacers to achieve a straight chainline and slap on the cog of your choice. Somewhere between and 16 and 20 tooth cog should be sufficient.
A single speed track bike has long horizontal dropouts that allow the chain to be properly tensioned by moving the wheel back in the dropouts. Your bike most likely has vertical dropouts which make this kind of adjustment impossible. Fortunately, the all-in-on kit you just purchased has a chain-tensioner. A chain-tensioner is a spring loaded device that attaches like a rear derailleur and takes up loose slack in your chain. You'll want a little slack, but not too much.
Once you've made sure everything is secure and you've got a reasonably straight chainline, all you have left to do is saddle up and ride. You've taken an old bike, made it drop a few pounds and given it a new drivetrain, all for $20-$30 and a few hours of work. Not too bad. You've now got enough cash left over to add a few extras like a new saddle, grips or new brake pads. Be careful though, single speed riding can be addictive. It won't be long before you'll be wanting to convert your entire stable.