Suburban Assault

$15 For A New Bike

with 14 comments

Well, sort of.

Last year I bought a Redline Monocog, which was my first bike purchase in about 15 years. It was on mega-clearance, and I had convinced myself that a new single speed, 29er was just the motivation I needed to get back into trail riding. It’s an awesome bike that’s loads of fun to ride, but in the end, it failed at motivating. I ride it, just never off-road.

As it turns out, mountain biking just doesn’t seem as fun for me and my old bones. After discovering the suburban assault, I seem to get more enjoyment out of riding around my neighborhood and town.

This became a problem with having the Monocog. Even though it’s a fun ride, it was geared for off-road pedaling – which translates to SLOOOOOOOOW. If I remember correctly, the front has a 32T crank and the back is configured with a 20T single gear, great for getting the torque you need on the trails but likes to spin softly when on the streets.

Having a slow bike was fine but my new bike had become my back-up bike, forcing me to rely on my old, geared bike for long commutes or group rides. It seemed a waste. My first thoughts were to trade in the Monocog for something a little more street friendly. That just seemed like too big of a hassle, plus I don’t think I would have gotten such a great deal on another bike. The next idea was to just convert the Monocog with some better gearing.

Not knowing the best gear set-up for single-speed road riding, I went to the internet. I compared several single speed road bikes and decided to try out a larger crank chainring. Not wanting to make a big jump at first, I figure moving from a 32T to a 42T would do just the trick.

I talked to Nick, one of the great mechanics over at the Richardson Bike Mart who immediately related to my problem and put me at ease with his “Right On” attitude. We talked about the cost of upgrading to the larger crank chainring, which would have required a special order. In the end, it would have cost me about $40 – 50 in parts and labor, plus a few days of waiting. This wasn’t too bad, but with all the holiday shopping and my crazy schedule, I almost decided to put it off for a few more weeks.

That’s when Nick suggested I try going with a smaller back gear. He had a 15T in a box ready to replace the 20T that came stock on the Monocog. For about $15 parts and labor, he could have me switched out immediately and give my bike the speed it needed. I told him to go for it.

When I jumped back on the saddle, I was amazed at how losing 5 little teeth on my back gear could make such an amazing difference. That little change was enough to turn the Monocog into a nice little ass hauler. It was like having a brand new bike.

Written by dickdavid

December 29, 2009 at 7:05 am

Posted in Cool Bikes

Tagged with , ,

14 Responses

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  1. So… 32/15 is 2.13. I take it you’re running 700c tires?

    The new bike I just got for Christmas is geared at 46/18 = 2.56. I’m doing okay with it so far, but if it were geared any higher I’d be having trouble getting up even moderate hills. I hope I “grow into it” and the hills will get easier. Right now I don’t think this would work for commuting.

    32/20 seems ridiculously low for street riding. You did the right thing.


    December 29, 2009 at 9:45 am

    • Yes. I’m on 700s. My next upgrade is for some slicks. That 46/18 looks pretty tough – I’d be standing on it quite often.


      December 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

      • I run a 40/18 on my Raleigh XXIX commuter (set up as a fixed gear). With 29er slicks (2.0″), that gives me a good enough gear to cruise to work, while hauling loaded panniers up the hills.

        Skinnier tires would allow a higher gear, but I find it hard on the wheels.

        Jon Grinder

        December 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

        • What slicks are you running?


          December 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

  2. My stock Redline 925 has a 42/16 with Kenda 700 x 28’s. I have to stand to get up a few hills but it just gets me off my sore rear. I haven’t had a bike this simple since the 60’s and I’m loving it. I compare it to bobbed motorcycles…Keep it simple on a pedal bobber.
    I also turned the back wheel around and I’m trying the fixie thing. I’m kinda liking the back pressure to slow down and rarely missing coasting.


    December 29, 2009 at 10:27 am

    • I have to stand on hills, and sometimes I stand up for a stroke or two while starting from a dead stop. My single speed is a Schwinn Cutter which is purpose-built. For some reason, the fit and the proportions feel perfect as a single speed. The gearing feels just right on most hills when I stand up; I feel almost like I’m “walking” up the hill.

      I love the bike except for one thing: I wish it had a flip-flop hub so I could try this fixed gear thing. Oh well…. Father’s Day is just around the corner. 😉


      December 30, 2009 at 10:22 pm

  3. Excellent idea. I think you’ll love it, and we are looking forward to more photos of the “new” machine in action.


    December 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

  4. right on and ride on 🙂


    December 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  5. Frankenbike’s direct gear combo on the Nexus 7 speed is 47/19=2.47, which is a touch higher than I’d like. When I replace the chain, I may go with the outer ring and a new rear cog as a 52/23=2.26, although as it is, I rarely use anything over 5th and never use low gear because there just aren’t any hills around here.

    Steve A

    December 30, 2009 at 1:37 am

  6. […] My first thought was to put a 48-tooth chainring on the front to bring it to a 2.4 gear ratio, but my bike shop guy talked me into a much cheaper solution – replacing the cog from the 20 to a 15-tooth. This brought it to the current set up to […]

  7. […] of comparison). My first, and cheapest, solution was to switch out the cog from the 20T to a 15T. Click here to read about that. This brought the bike to a 2.13 gear ratio, which worked fine but I could tell […]

  8. I just got on my new Monocog today and have the same problems as you, sloooooww on the flats, just way to easy to pedel like a chipmunk. Glad I found your story.!
    I’m gonna try that 15 in the back, I realize it the stock gearing would be cool for hills on the trails but I like to cruise around public and I feel like a pussy going 2 miles an hour.


    February 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

  9. Thanks, I had already read about all your upgrades, nice.
    I’m not sure now to go with a 14t/32t or a 15t/32t gearing, again I have the same bike as you, I just dont have the coin right now for a 36 ring in the front so I’m gonna lose either 5 or 6 teeth in the cog, just not sure which and with all the hunting I do I cant find much help, I want to order tonight. damn
    I’m going with a surly cog for $20 bucks, I like that they have a little thickness.


    March 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm

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