One of the largest segments in the 29”er market place is made up of a group of singles. There are many of them, they are cheap and easy, and they are not hard to find. Of course, I’m talking about the tremendous array of choice in the single speed 29”er hardtail mountain bike marketplace.
For those of you who are new to the game, you might ask, “What is it that mates these two things together like white on rice?” For most people, this strange phenomenon defies explanation and makes it difficult for them to get their heads around. Is this whole thing nonsense? Or is there something to it? Perhaps there is an obvious connection between these two seemingly disparate things. Let us take a closer look at big wheels and single speeds.
First of all, there is this whole single speed thing, which gets debated to death on a regular basis. There are as many reasons to get into single speeds as there are people. There was always a punk rock, subversive undercurrent to the idea that attracted a lot of mountain bikers to its simple, stripped down ideal. While the ’90s rolled on titanium, anodized, suspended mountain bike bacchanalia, single speeding was coming on with a view to do things on the cheap. Using cast off steel rigid frames, the ideas of early single speed freaks flew in the face of this overblown, over-hyped age of mountain biking. But just like punk rock, single speeding was accepted eventually, and became something a bit more homogenized. It used to be like the Sex Pistols but now it’s more like Green Day, if that makes any sense to you.
Then along came these guys sporting those huge wheels. While 29”ers never were anything like punk rock was to single speeding, the format didn’t really jive with mainstream mountain bike culture. Off road bicycles were supposed to have 26 inch wheels, not these overgrown, heavy, slow hoops. But I guess if you are seen as the red headed step-child of mountain biking, you might as well be subversive too, and I suppose it was something like that that inspired the boys up in Minneapolis, Minnesota decided to mate the single speed with the 29inch wheel. The next thing everybody knew, the Karate Monkey emerged from the Surly stables and it was “on” from there!
The big wheels and the single speed get along quite well, thank you. Mountain bikers all over the world caught on to the way the 29 inch wheels made single speeding more enjoyable. What with the momentum saving nature of the larger wheel and the smoother ride, it seemed a match made in heaven. Or maybe from the wrong side of the tracks. Who knows?
One thing is for sure, there are a lot of companies out there that think this is what the market place wants. You shouldn’t have any problem finding a 29”er that is single. Speed that is!