Suburban Assault

So I Upgraded The Gearing On My Redline Monocog

with 13 comments

Fix Flat Flowmaster

I’ve been documenting the conversion of my Redline Monocog, single-speed mountain bike, to a street-ready, Suburban Assault machine. Here is the story of my latest upgrade – the chainring.

To sum up, I bought the bike with the intention of getting back on the trails. Somewhere along the line, my taste in cycling has moved more towards street riding and commuting. Wanting to make the best of the situation, I started converting the Monocog to a street worthy machine. I’ve been happy with the bicycle, with the exception of it’s off-road gearing – too slow for riding around town. The ultimate goal was to upgrade the drivetrain to make it work better on the street.

The original set-up had a 32T chainring (up front) and a 20T cog (at the wheel), which gave it a 1.6 gear ratio (please forgive me if I butcher the science of bicycle gearing – my intent is to articulate a general basis 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 I needed more.

Just recently, I decided to upgrade the chainring from a 32T to a 36T. This would bring my gear ratio to a 2.4 – just enough to make the ride interesting, without killing me on my commute to work.

32 to 36

Getting The Part (Sorry, but this is long. If you don’t want to read a rant, skip to the install):
I decided to support my local economy and do this upgrade with my nearby bike shop (which will remain unnamed for reasons that will be explained as you read on). I rolled the Monocog right to the service department so that there wouldn’t be a mistake about what part I needed. Changing out a single-speed chainring would have been an easy upgrade, but I was willing to let the shop do it – again, to support my local bike store.

After standing around for several minutes (they weren’t busy, but preoccupied with their repairs) one of them eventually made eye contact and, I guess, felt obligated to ask if I needed help. After explaining to the guy my intent, he was more than happy to check in the back for an available part. As expected, there wasn’t one available and he would have to special order it. He gave me a verbal quote for the price of the part and I gave him my name and phone number. He told me it would take a week to get the part in. I wasn’t in a rush, so I was more than fine with that timeline.

A week went by. No phone call.

I called them a few times. Although very helpful, none of the employees were able to locate my part. They all kept referring me the person in charge of ordering – who wasn’t available when I called. At the end of the second week, I went by the store and inquired about my part. Again, after standing around for a few minutes, I was eventually helped. They checked and no part. Not wanting me to leave empty handed, he gave me a business card with the name of the parts ordering person and the best time to call.

I managed to eventually get hold of him by the end of the third week. He looked, but couldn’t find the part. He checked his order log, and found no record of the order. He apologized and said he could re-order it for me. At that point, I still wasn’t in a rush, so I told him to order it.

Because it was such a hassle, I talked myself out of letting them install it. All of a sudden, I wasn’t so gung-ho about supporting my local bike shop.

Towards the end of the fourth week, my 36T chainring finally came in. When I went to pick up the part, another person – who was completely unaware of everything I went through – brought me my part. Although it wasn’t his fault, I felt completely deflated when he just handed it to me and walked off. I guess I was expecting another apology or appreciation for my patience. To add insult to ego injury, I noticed the price was $10 more than my verbal quote. I wanted to set it down and just leave at this point.

But, I’m a man of my word. They committed to special ordering that part, and I committed to purchase it. It took longer than expected, but they completed their end of the deal – I felt obligated to complete mine. However, I will not be supporting this store with any future transactions that involve special ordering.

The Install:
Installing the new chainring was pretty easy with just 4 bolts holding the old one on. Since I was going with a larger gear, I had to put on a longer chain. This is where the install got interesting.

I’ve used a chain tool several times over the years, but I have to admit, I’ve never been trained on how to properly use one. This being a topic for another post, I’ll give you the quick version of the story. As I was reconnecting the links, I discovered that I had done it wrong. In my attempt to undo my mistake, I bent the tip to my chain tool. Bad went to worse, and I ended up tearing up my chain – my quick install came to a halt. I decided to pack everything up, take it in and just get it done quickly.

Not wanting to return to the shop where I bought the chainring, I decided to take my bike to the Plano Performance Bike (Note, I am mentioning them by name – it was THAT great of an experience.) instead. I got there a few minutes before they opened, but they were happy to let me in. The service guy Henry, not only salvaged my chain, but he also showed me the proper way to use my chain tool. I even got a replacement tip for it.

Conclusion:
Overall, I am completely happy with my upgrade. The Monocog is now a perfect street-ready machine – well worth all the hassle.

The unnamed bike shop did manage to get the part – eventually. Although somewhat friendly, they did fail with their follow-through and customer service.

In contrast, Performance Bike is now my favorite bike shop with their outstanding customer service. They’ve restored my faith in local bike shops.

36T

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Written by dickdavid

August 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm

13 Responses

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  1. Rich, was that shop within a mile of your house? Just trying to pinpoint the suck-ass shop so I don’t make the mistake of doing business with them.

    Bob Loftin

    August 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    • Nope. But I’ve had mixed experiences with them as well.

      Honestly, I’ve had great as well as bad experiences at most of the local shops. It’s only Performance that is continually good. Too bad their bike selection isn’t that great.

      dickdavid

      August 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

  2. […] will bring my gear ratio from the original 1.6 (32 front, 20 back) to a 2.4 (36 front, 15 back). Here is my write up on the not-so-fun experience ordering the part, as well as the unexpected problem […]

  3. I don’t know if the shop in question was Plano Cycle, but they saved my Cannondale after a Cannondale dealer in Grapevine repeatedly demonstrates their inability to either order the Cannondale part or remember that they’d promised to get one. At Plano, one of the mechanics took the part off his own bike, saying there was no charge, but they hoped I’d remember them when I needed bike stuff in the future. I just wish they were not so far away. The point? Experiences vary.

    Steve A

    August 20, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    • No, it wasn’t Plano Cycle. I’ve gotten a bad first impression of them. But they’ve, since, been pretty good.

      dickdavid

      August 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

  4. On the other hand, one of my engineers made the mistake of buying his first road bike at RBM.

    Steve A

    August 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

  5. My experience today with Performance pushed them up a couple of notches. Good job on the upgrade.

    Paul

    August 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  6. Sorry the first bike shop did such a poor job with the ordering & customer service. I also have only heard good things about Performance Bikes’ service.

    Jenny R

    August 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

  7. I have the same bike and found your post because im looking to do the same thing. This maybe a silly question but what do I look for in purchasing a 36t chainring from the Internet.

    Newell

    October 15, 2011 at 7:27 am

    • That’s not a silly question at all. The main thing to look for is bolt pattern and spacing or BCD (Bolt Center Diameter) http://www.vueltausa.com/media/pdf/bcd_guide.pdf. It’s different for different cranks. Sorry, but I can’t remember what it is for the Monocog.

      You’ll also need to find one made for single speed. Hope that helps.

      dickdavid

      October 15, 2011 at 8:00 am

  8. Great blog! I have a monocog myself that I started making something Totaly different as well.

    mike

    September 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm


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