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The singlespeed freewheel

August 27, 2011

It’s been a while coming but finally I have my wheel with the original freewheel removed, and a singlespeed freewheel in my hand. I’ll take you through this final process

The singlespeed freewheel

It turns out chains and sprockets come in a number of sizes, but there are two common ones: 1/8″ and 3/32″. Most multi-geared bikes will use the slightly thinner 3/32″ chains and sprockets, whereas a BMX might use the thicker and more robust 1/8″ components. The singlespeed market has many BMX components on it (I suppose singlespeeds, until they become really popular on road bikes, will always be a thing for BMXers), and so most of the freewheels you find are 1/8″. At this thickness you are not able to use the original chain used on the multi-geared bike, because it would not fit on the teeth of the singlespeed sprocket. A 1/8″ chain will fit onto 3/32″ sprockets, and so is compatible with the original chainwheels, but not the other way round. So you have two options when converting: buy the singlespeed freewheel and chain at 1/8″, or find a 3/32″ freewheel and use your original chain.

I did a bit of research to find out which of these combinations is preferred by most singlespeeders, and which is cheapest. I couldn’t find any serious evidence for one size to be preferable to the other (google search ‘3 32 freewheel vs 1 8 freewheel’), other than a few people suggesting if you put down the same amount of power as a track cyclist then you might want 1/8″. There are 1/8″ freewheels at as little as £6 on some sites (velosolo.co.uk, sjscycles.co.uk), and at the Condor Cycles London store, and chains at around £10. These sites also do a range of cheaper 3/32″ freewheels. So there wasn’t much in it price-wise, and no difference spec-wise. I settled in the end for a 3/32″ Shimano freewheel from Parker International. At £18.15+p&p I thought it was a reasonable price for a brand I’ve heard of, not that I’ve read anything against the other brands.

I’ll cover the installation of the freewheel, plus the further alterations I need to do to the bike to accomodate the new freewheel (axle spacing, wheel dishing) in the next post.

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