How to Convert a Mountain Bike to Fixed Gear

Written by aden williamson
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How to Convert a Mountain Bike to Fixed Gear
A single-speed mountain bike is more responsive, but less versitile than one with many speeds. (mountain bike image by JCVStock from

Initially, all mountain bikes were single-speed machines. As the sport evolved and grew, drivetrain technology advanced as well. Gradually, mountain bike designers developed ways to add more gears. Today, it is common to find 27 or even 30 gear combinations. Despite the benefits of being able to flip through so many speeds, single-speed mountain bikes see an increasing amount of popularity. A single-speed mountain bike requires less maintenance, is lighter and more responsive and lets the rider focus on the riding experience instead of thinking about which gear to choose at every moment.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Chain breaker
  • Allen wrench set
  • 4 chain ring bolts, 5mm
  • Cassette tool
  • Single speed conversion kit
  • Half-link chain
  • Chain tensioner

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  1. 1

    Break the chain, using the chain breaker tool and remove it from the bike. Wipe off excess grease and grime and set it aside on a rag.

  2. 2

    Remove the front and rear derailleurs from the bike frame, using an Allen wrench. Your bike may have a removable rear derailleur hanger. Check whether the chain tensioner you will use mounts to a rear derailleur hanger or not. If it does not, remove the rear derailleur hanger.

  3. 3

    Remove the three chain rings from the crankset. Mount one ring back onto the crankset, using the shorter, 5-mm chain ring bolts. The 32-tooth middle ring is most commonly used on single-speed mountain bikes, but you can choose which ring to mount based on the gear ratio you prefer. The largest ring will allow faster riding, but have little climbing ability. The smallest ring will climb well, but produce little speed.

  4. 4

    Remove the cassette from the rear wheel. Most cassettes are held in place by a lock ring, which requires a cassette tool. Use the tool that matches the brand and model of your cassette to unscrew the lock ring.

  5. 5

    Install the spacers and cog from the conversion kit onto the rear hub. Stack the spacers before and after the cog until the cog is aligned with the front chain ring when the wheel is mounted. To achieve the straightest chain line possible, you may need to try several spacer configurations.

  6. 6

    Attach the half-link chain as tightly as possible. A single-speed drive train must have a very tight chain, or it could slip, possibly causing a crash and injuries. A multispeed mountain bike frame uses vertical dropouts, so the rear wheel cannot be adjusted to increase chain tension. A half-link chain can be mounted tighter than a standard chain.

  7. 7

    Attach the chain tensioner device. The chain tensioner, together with a half-link chain, compensates for the lack of adjustability with horizontal dropouts.

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