GEAR UP: Single Speeding

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Fresh air, no cares. Sounds good, right? Gear up, hit the pavement with your own single- speed bicycle, and enjoy the life-giving elements. —INGRAIN, Summer 2018

Here are some great bikes that'll help you cruise around Chicago

STORY / Mike Nauman

We’re exploring city streets like small-town kids and showing up for work with weather-

whipped faces. Riding a bike hasn’t changed much since we were kids, but the bikes we used to ride sure have. After thousands of miles, we just want to coast down hills on modernized versions of the single-speed bikes we used to love.


If you’ve seen a lot of 1970s Peugeot, Fuji, and Schwinn two-wheelers riding around the city, they may be recent one-speed converts. Classic steel-frame bikes with horizontal dropouts can be converted to single-speeds by your bike shop. Spread the one-speed love.


You can snag a single-speed, like most bikes, for a couple hundred bucks or go high-end. But once it’s yours, single-speeds are typically much less expensive to maintain than bikes with multiple gears. (There isn’t much to break on a single-speed.) Check your tire pressure every few weeks, and you’re ready to ride.


This isn’t the hot-pink Huffy in your parents’ garage. Modern single-speed bikes are as stylin’ as their multiple-speed city counterparts. Look for a road bike, which means the bike frame is made from lightweight aluminum or steel-tube construction.


Exercise for the day? Check. If you live in a place with little-to-no elevation, riding a single-speed is a brisk but relatively breezy ride. If your commute involves a lot of elevation gain (bike speak for pedaling up hills), get ready to do some hard-core pedaling.

Here are some great bikes that'll help you cruise around Chicago and other cities

Here are some great bikes that'll help you cruise around Chicago and other cities
Here are some great bike accessories


You already have the backpack or panniers with flat tire fixes ready to go, yes? You’ll need two extra tubes, tire levers, a CO2 cartridge with an inflator, and a multitool for any needed bike adjustments. Adding a few accessories ensures a safe and (almost) mud-free ride on the road. Pack a change of clothes; if there is a mud battle, our bet is on Mother Nature.


You can’t be too visible to weary early-morning or late-night drivers. Bike lights are a no-brainer (consider using a light with a “flashing” setting on both the front and rear of your bike). Don’t forget helmet or backpack lights. Look for a light that attaches to a seat post or backpack without any additional mounts or hardware so the light is easy to remove.


A helmet that offers solid protection is a city commuter’s safety net. Don’t ever leave home without it. A lightweight helmet that’s easy to carry is handy for any errand stops along the way.


Don’t be the wet dog at the office. Be ready for puddles and mud.