Saturday, November 1, 2008

Two-Speed Cyclocross Bike

The cross courses around Ottawa ironically have more hills than the ones in Utah. As the weather is getting worse, I needed to take down my rather steep 48 X 18 gearing, which is good for flat courses, to something more middle range for bad mud and steep hills. I had recently got a hold on a Paul Components Melvin chain tensioner that can be used not only for single-speed, but also as a "dingle-speed" two-speed set up, where you employ two chainrings and a single cog. One of my principal and primary reasons for switching to single speed for most riding was because I hate rear derailures. Front derailures on the other hand, I have no problem with, as I've never had one brake on me (in the middle of a 90-mile ride in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of fixing it. Long story, whatever...). The original reason I converted my cross bike over to SS years ago was due to a crash during a race: I broke my rear shift-lever. Shift-levers are obscenely expensive, so I spent a modest amount of money converting to SS (see previous post).

First of all, the Paul Melvin is far better than the Surly Singleator for chain tension. As per my cited post above, the Surly unit needed the help of a Voile ski strap to actually keep my chain from falling off. The Melvin, with its two chain wheels keeps everything real snug, no problem. I had the other still functioning rear shifter and all the cables and housing so it didn't have to take any trips to the bike store. While I was attaching it I said "what the hell" and went dingle. I had mixed feelings about doing it. I did like the simplicity of SS. But purity didn't win out. I am a competitive person, and nobody around here rides SS, and it was getting frustrating racing in a different world from everyone else. I am also somewhat an iconoclast to a fault, and now I have a bike that matches. Also, it was fun setting it up. Now is have a high/middle-end 48 X 18 good for cruising, but still a tad slow for pavement flats, and I have a middle/low-end 38 X 18 for acceleration, bad mud, and hills. The Melvin is supposed to fit a 20-tooth difference between chainrings. With my set up I only have a 10 tooth differential. Paul Components only mentions a two chainring setup, but I wonder if it would work on a mountain triple 44-34-24? That would be a nice maintenance-free set up longer mountain bike rides in remote places...

Regarding single-speed riding, my friend Bobby Hanson once said, and I paraphrase "when I had gears on my bike, I always felt I was in the wrong gear, with my single-speed, now I know I'm in the wrong gear." Now that I have a two-speed, if I feel I'm in the wrong gear, I can go to the other wrong gear.


  1. I'm embarrassed I had to look up "iconoclast."
    Nice setup. See you this weekend?

  2. Wow, I stumped Justin! Bobby would be proud.