Single Speed Vs. Geared Bikes

Last updated 16. January 2020


In the battle of single speed versus geared bikes, cyclists will be firmly behind one or the other. There are advantages to each of them, and, of course, there are disadvantages too. Before we get to the pros and cons of single-speed bikes and geared bikes, let’s understand what the key differences between the two types are.

What Is the Difference Between a Single-Speed Bike and a Geared Bike?

Gears are the difference. A single-speed bike only has a single gear ratio. The two most common gear ratios on single speed bikes are 44/16 and 46/16, this means that they will have either 44 or 46 teeth in the chainring, and then 16 teeth on the rear cog.

A geared bike will feature a gearing system. This will usually be either derailleur gears or a gearing hub. It is possible to have two gear changing mechanisms on a geared bike. For example, a geared bike might have both rear and front derailleur gears. The type of derailleur used will also affect the number of chainrings on the bike. The number of possible gear ratios available on the geared bike will depend on the number of chainrings and also the number of sprockets in the cog set.

Pros and Cons of Single Speed Bikes

Man riding in single speed bikePros

+ Single-speed bikes are very low maintenance. They don’t have the same number of components as a geared bike, as they don’t have derailleurs or a gearing hub. Because there isn’t an abundance of moving parts, then you don’t have to worry about parts needing to be realigned or getting things snagged in the moving parts.

There really isn’t a lot that you have to think about when you own a single-speed bike. Of course, you’ve got to keep an eye on your tires, check your brakes occasionally, and make sure that the chain hasn’t become loose, and that’s it.

+ Price is another thing in favor of single-speed bikes. Because there are fewer parts, then you can purchase a single-speed bike for less money than a geared bike. Also, there aren’t as many parts on a single-speed bike as there are on a geared bike, so there isn’t a lot that can break, so you’ll spend less on replacement parts.

+ Single-speed bikes are harder to ride, as you don’t have all the help of multiple gears to get you easily up hills or over rough terrain. This is a pro because it means you must cycle harder. As a result, you’ll find yourself becoming much fitter than you would be if you rode a geared bike.

+ Single-speed bikes are also much lighter than geared bikes, for the simple reason that there’s nowhere near the same amount of parts on them. If your bike is lightweight, then it is easier to ride and maneuver, and it’s also just more practical and portable too.


– The lack of gearing means that you are severely limited in what you can do on a single-speed bike. While it is possible to climb hills, especially if you get up some momentum as you approach it, this type of cycling is better suited to a geared bike, as it will require a lot less exertion.

Then again, a benefit of a single-speed bike is when you go down the hill, you can coast, thanks to the freewheel mechanism, and you don’t have to worry about spinning out.

– Top speeds are limited on a single-speed bike. This is because the cyclist’s cadence will top out at some point, whereas when you can change gears then more revolutions per minute are possible.

There is, however, a lot of debate in the cycling community about whether a single-speed bike or a geared bike can get faster speeds, but it tends to depend on the terrain and whether the bike is going uphill or downhill.

Pros and Cons of Geared Bikes

Geared Bike


+ The biggest advantage to a geared bike is that the inclusion of a derailleur or a gearing hub mean that hills or undulating terrains are far easier and efficient to cycle on. There isn’t any need for tremendous amounts of exertion when going uphill. As a result, you don’t need to be in incredible physical shape to ride a geared bike.

+ A geared bike is generally more efficient to cycle. To reach high speeds on flat surfaces, then nowhere near the same power is required in comparison to a single-speed bike.

+ Some geared bikes can have up to thirty gears on them. That, of course, means that these bikes are extremely versatile. There is a gear for every speed, every terrain, and every purpose you want out of your bike.


– A geared bike will almost always be louder than a single-speed bike to ride, especially as the single-speed bike has a freewheel mechanism so that you can coast. Then again, owners of geared bikes will tell you that if you keep the gear train well-maintained, then the bike should be silent.

– A geared bike has a lot more on it than a single-speed bike. That means it will be heavier and more cumbersome. This is a matter of taste, however, as some cyclists prefer the sturdiness of a geared bike, and the benefits that the multiple gears give you has to come at a cost.

Is a Geared Bike Faster Than a Single-Speed Bike?

There is a lot of disagreement about this in the cycling community. A geared bike doesn’t have the same limitations as a single-speed bike. It is also better suited to going uphill. But riders of single-speed bikes will tell you that because they don’t have to rely on the gearing mechanisms then they are able to reach higher top speed.

Also, when going downhill or on flat surfaces, then the lightness of a single-speed bike comes into its own. The one thing that all cyclists agree on, though, is that a fast rider will be fast whether they are on a single-speed bike or a geared bike.

Who Should Buy a Single-Speed Bike?

There are several types of bikes that are part of the single-speed category. Each of these will be better suited to different cyclists. For example, a commuter will love a single-speed commuter or road bike because of its simplicity.

While you’re weaving your way through busy roads, full of cars that are stopping and starting, then you won’t need to worry about changing gears all the time or trying to figure out if you’re in the wrong gear. A BMX is a single-speed bicycle too, so if you’re into off-road biking and doing tricks and stunts, then you’ll want a single-speed BMX bike.

Who Should Buy a Geared Bike?

Geared bikes appeal to cyclists who want to ride on hilly terrain or want to do mountain biking. They are also ideal for cyclists who wish to minimize exertion and instead use a more efficient bicycle that won’t kill you every time you have climb a hill.

If you don’t mind spending the extra cash on a geared bike and also don’t mind the higher-maintenance that is required, then a geared bike is a solid investment, as it is far more versatile than a single-speed bike, and is better suited to a variety of terrains.

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