Advantages and disadvantages of front single

Posted at: May 16, 2022

The "front single" without front shifting is being increasingly adopted in MTB and gravel road bikes. This section summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of the front single.

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Advantages of Front Single

Weight can be reduced.

When you convert to a single front wheel, the following parts are no longer needed. 1.

  1. one chainring
  2. front derailleur
  3. front shift wire

The weight of these parts can be reduced.

The total weight reduction is about 200-300g, but if you want to reduce the same weight with other components or parts, you will have to replace expensive parts such as wheels and crankshafts, so you can say that front singling is a cost-effective weight reduction by “reducing” the weight.

Shifting troubles are reduced.

When the front is multi-step shifting, there are some troubles caused by the front derailleur.

  1. front gearshift malfunction
  2. strange noise depending on rear position
  3. chain drop

When front shifting is present, these troubles cannot be 100% avoided. Of course, with correct maintenance and parts selection, they can be reduced to the point of not being a concern, but with a narrow wide front single chainring, these worries are almost zero.

Easy to maintain and clean

With a front single, the front area is simplified, making maintenance and cleaning much easier.

First of all, there is no front shifting, so the front shift area is maintenance free. Compared to rear shifting, front shifting is a bit more severe to adjust, which is an advantage for novice road and hybrid bikers who are not used to maintenance.

Front singles are also easier to clean. Since there is only one chainring, it is easier to blow in tight spots, and since narrow-wide chainrings do not have sharp teeth, unlike chainrings for multi-step shifting, you will not cut your hand on the chainring while cleaning.

Disadvantages of front single

Narrower choice of gear ratios

Since a single-stage front wheel reduces the number of gear ratios, the choice of gear ratios is naturally narrower. However, even in the case of front multi-speed gearshifts, there are combinations that overlap gear ratios, so the number of gear ratios is generally reduced by about 30-40% rather than simply halved.

However, if a wide ratio such as 11-34T is used to match the low side, the difference in gear ratios will become too large and fine gear shifting will not be possible. In this sense, it is easy to say, “It’s easy to go uphill, too.

In this sense, what is possible with front multi-step shifting, which is “easy uphill climbing and speed on hills,” is no longer possible.

Gears tend to be “light” or “heavy”.

Another disadvantage of a single front is that the maximum and minimum gear ratios are greatly affected by the “number of teeth on the front chainring”.

For example, a rear derailleur for road bikes has a low maximum of about 34T, but if the front derailleur is 40T, the minimum is 1.17, which can fight up to some hills, but the top gear is only about 3.6, so the maximum speed is sacrificed.

On the other hand, if the front chainring is increased to a larger tooth such as 50T to increase the top gear ratio, top speed can be achieved, but this time the low minimum gear ratio is 1.47, so it is not possible to climb very steep hills.

Thus, depending on the number of teeth on the front chainring, the bike is either “for climbing” or “for speed.

Component choices become narrower.

If you only need to change the front chainring, you can convert to a front single without any problem, even if you are using a normal road bike or MTB with a front multi-step component.

However, if you want to use a wide-ratio sprocket in order to have a wider choice of gear ratios, the choice of components will become narrower.

First of all, for MTBs and other bikes where front single ratio is the standard, the choice of sprockets is wide, but road bikes are designed for front double ratio, so the choice of wide ratio sprockets is limited.

Also, even if you want to mix a rear derailleur for MTB with a road bike in order to increase the maximum low, the rear derailleur for MTB has a different wire pull than that for road, so the STI lever on a road bike cannot pull an MTB rear derailleur.

Ultra-wide ratios are somewhat costly

Ultra-wide ratio components such as 11-51T are now available for MTB, but when used with Shimano components, the corresponding rear derailleur will be a DEORE or higher grade, so the cost will be higher if you include replacing the rear derailleur, sprocket, shifter, and other components.

As pointed out earlier, MTB components cannot be pulled by STI for road use, so if the rear is converted to flat bar road to replace the sprockets, the cost will be even higher, including handlebars, brakes, shifters, etc.

If it is only not Shimano compatible, there is an adapter available from Wolf Tooth that allows you to pull MTB derailleurs with road-oriented STI levers.

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