Are You Strong Enough To Ride a Single Ring Setup?

Single Ring

For many modern British trail riders and racers, the single ring setup has become the norm over the last few years.  The ease and simplicity of setup, reliability, less handlebar clutter, and of course, bike fashion mean that it is an increasingly popular option for riders.  The question I am asking is, ‘Are you strong enough?’

If you ride DH, have SRAM XX1, or ride near Thetford then you probably are, but for the rest of us who ride up hills using a 10 speed cassette it is worth pausing to consider whether it is the correct setup for the hills you ride most of the time?  Living amongst the Scottish or Welsh mountains and regularly climb 40minutes plus in one go?  If the answer is Yes, then you had better be strong to push that gear for so long up a hill.

If you are running a triple or double chainset, then you can do some experiments over a few rides to see how you may cope without the extra rings.  It is pretty obvious really, but if you run a triple chainset, try and do a whole ride in just the middle ring and see how you get on.  If you grind down to a low cadence at the cranks on the first long climb, then you clearly are not strong enough to make the change at the moment.  Similarly, if you stall on the climbs and feel totally f*%&ed at the end of your regular loop, then you may not be strong enough at the moment.

Things are a little trickier on a double as the big ring is often 38/40 teeth.  That is about 6 teeth bigger than most people run on a single ring setup, so riding all day in the big ring will be pretty tough, but will give you an idea of what single ring life is like.

If you are already riding a single ring, then next time out, pay attention to the following things…..

Do you have to get off and push a steep section that your mates can clear?

Does your cadence drop below about 40 rpm at the cranks on long climbs?

Do you need to make large movements with your body from side to side to get the power into the pedals on the climbs?

Do you feel like you can ‘spin’ up sustained climbs?

If you answered, ‘Yes’ to the any of the first three and/or, ‘No’ to the fourth then you may be struggling to ride a single ring set up effectively and efficiently.  Now imagine you go for a weekend away in a hillier area, or take a trip to the mountains of Europe and you may find yourself in a world of pain.

Hopefully this has made you think a bit about your riding, and many of you will be totally fine with your current setup. However, to help you all out and to make sure that you can all ride the setups you really want to, I am going to be writing a series of articles to help you get strong enough to ride a single ring setup.  I am going to split the articles into 4:

Upper body


Lower body


If you can’t be arsed to read my articles then go and buy a range-expanding sprocket for your cassette or get XX1!  Haha

Stay Strong