The first time you get passed by a big-box department store bike, it hurts. I mean, it cuts like a knife. Cycling culture is all about speed, from shaving grams to shaving legs. Even the mountain bikers drink the kool-aid, with endless whisperings over rolling resistance and 19lb carbon-fiber hardtails.
To intentionally design a slow bike… It’s heresy. It’s a dunking in icewater. And it’s exactly what I needed.
The fast culture is so deep, it’s hard to find ‘slow’ cogs. For the singlespeeder who dares climb, there’s Endless Bikes.
Endless Bikes is Shanna Powell, and Shanna Powell is Endless Bikes. They’re — no, wait! she — is a US-based component manufacturer in North Carolina, pumping out some of the best-quality anodized singlespeeder kit you can ask for. Shanna machines and anodizes the parts in Asheville, then laser-etches them in-house, packages them for shipping, and emails you personally when it’s ready. Domestic manufacturing is often declared dead, but in my experience, its heart beats all over the place. You just have to look!
Shanna’s letting me test this industry-upsetting, fast-disrupting 25T rear cog on my Pugsley, and I’ve got just the drivetrain to do it.
Regular readers may remember, with horror, the Two-Speed Karate Monkey. Melvin is sitting in a box somewhere, waiting for me to be brave and dream again, but the two-speeding concept is still at the forefront of my brain. On the light and nimble Soma Juice, my 29er, a singlespeed setup is perfect and I’m happy to climb on 32×18 just about everywhere I ride in this part of the Northeast. The Pugsley, however, is a bit of a different beast.
With this setup, I have two cogs and two chainrings. Up front, I have a Surly 30T chainring, in the super-odd 94 BCD that Surly ripped from the grave with their OD Crankset. The smaller ring is 24T, which Surly does not make… so, I hit the black market and found a Sugino steel 24-ring in 5-bolt, 58 BCD, still in its original packaging from the 1980’s. That’s just about the only market for 58 BCD chainrings, so I’ve been scouting eBay like a hawk and slowly amassing rings with different tooth counts, hoping the price doesn’t go up. Right now, they’re about $5-10 each.
With the front squared away, I popped off my cassette and slipped into something more comfortable… a 19T Surly cog and that big, beautiful 25T Endless cog.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; Where’s the tension arm? How can you run multiple gears without a tensioner?
Surly’s Dinglespeed cog first enlightened me to the idea of running parallel ratios using the same chain length. Essentially, if you keep your gear teeth counts even, you can run different gear ratios using the same chain. In my case, it plays out the following way:
30 + 19 = 49
24 + 25 = 49
So, my 8-speed chain is happy either way, and I have a slow gear. Well, ok, realistically, both gear ratios are pretty slow. The step down from 32/18 to 30/19 is noticeably spinny, but on the Pugsley, it’s the perfect grind-gear for 90% of my riding. There are three corner-case conditions that I really love on my Pugsley, and this is where that second, much lower drivetrain comes into play: Snow, Sand, and Mountains.
When I hit a big climb like, for instance, Mount Greylock in North Adams, MA, I can loosen up the Redline tensioner, slide my hub forward a bit, switch to the 24/25 rings, and tighten things up again. Then I’m crawling my way up and over just about anything, the exception to the singlespeed rules.
Instead of ‘hardening the fuck up,’ I soften gently and cruise along at a pace that makes Wal-Mart Schwinns look like Pinarellos. And yes, I have been passed on my commute. Humbling!
Snow isn’t the only condition we’re getting in the Northeast this week. Our weekend bikepacking expedition was shorted by a gnarly thunderstorm, striking the fear of getting wet (gasp!) deep into the hearts of my friends. Ryan was still in, but we missed a connection through bad cell service and I had turned around before he got out to our campsite. Next time, Ryan!
So, all loaded up with nowhere to go, at least I got the chance to test the new drivetrain with 15-ish pounds of touring gear. What’s the verdict?
Slow. Slow and perfect.