Is a singlespeed cyclocross bike right for you?

Cyclocross is well known as being hard on equipment, especially the drivetrain. Broken or dropped chains, mangled rear derailleurs, and broken cables are common.

Singlespeed 'cross bikes sound like a tempting way to address these issues - they are simpler, far less likely to have a drivetrain failure, and easy to setup and maintain. So is a singlespeed cyclocross bike right for you? Here are some quick questions to help you decide.

Signs a singlespeed cyclocross bike is right for you:

  • You're willing to hurt. As a singlespeed rider, you'll have to stand up when others can simply shift to a lower gear, and run more often when you can no longer stand. Everyone who races cyclocross must be ready to suffer, but the singlespeed rider especially so and you'll earn the admiration of your peers for being willing to do so. 
  • You're willing to keep stock of chainrings and cogs on hand. You only get one chance to get the right gear ratio prior to a race, so you'll need a couple chainrings and cogs if you're taking racing seriously, and be willing to invest the time in testing gear ratios and changing them out for each course. 
  • You aren't big on maintenance. Cyclocross bikes require upkeep, and a lot of that work is around keeping the drivetrain ready for battle. If you don't like cleaning and tuning bikes, a singlespeed is a heck of a lot easier to keep running. 
  • It's not your first bike. If you've already got a traditional gear cyclocross bike, it's an easy decision to make your second bike a singlespeed. As riders advance in 'cross they always want a primary and a backup bike, and a singlespeed makes the perfect backup to leave in the pit. It also opens more races to you since you can race your regular race, as well as the singlespeed-specific category, for riders who want to build fitness by racing twice in a day. 
  • You're a good bike handler. Singlespeed riders must carefully conserve momentum to avoid wasting energy. You've got a head start if you corner and descend well already. 
  • You're just out for fun. All cyclocross is fun, but if you're out for fun and not blood, you may find a great match in the singlespeed categories. 
  • You are on a limited budget. If your wallet is thin there is no doubt that a singlespeed will be cheaper to acquire and maintain. You can ride a lot nicer wheelset, for example, if you don't have to buy shifters or derailleurs. 

Signs a singlespeed cyclocross bike is wrong for you:

  • You're a new cyclist, or new to cyclocross. As a new rider, you may not know enough about your riding style to decide if a singlespeed is right for you. A bike with a traditional geared drivetrain is more flexible for different uses and a safer bet. 
  • It's your only cyclocross bike. Some courses are going to be very, very challenging on singlespeed cyclocross bikes. If you can only have one to race and train on, a geared bike probably opens the most races and terrain to you and not a singlespeed. 
  • Promoters don't offer singlespeed-specific race categories in your area. Racing a singlespeed bike against geared riders is tough sledding for all but the fittest riders. 
  • Your fitness is questionable. There's no place to hide in cyclocross, and especially so on a singlspeed. If you have less than good fitness, singlespeed will be tough.

Want to see some of what you're in for if you decide to enter the singlespeed category?