Mountain Gear

How to Build a 'Blingle-speed' MTB for Under $1,500

How do you make those old trails new again? Try rollin' with one gear. And if you build your new rig carefully it won't break the bank.

By Wendy Booher
Easier and cheaper to maintain, a singlespeed possesses more power to transform your ride.
Easier and cheaper to maintain, a singlespeed possesses more power to transform your ride.

Right now your local trails are probably getting pretty dull. In fact you’ve ridden them so much already this season and they’re so boring that – to mix things up – you’re considering road riding (egad!).

Don’t do it.

How do you make those old trails new again? Reach for a bike that’ll make that scree-littered climb challenging once more or a bike that demands you upgrade your skills just to be worthy of riding it.

Singlespeed mountain bikes gained their cultish appeal once racers started riding – and winning – atop one-geared bikes. Independent Fabrication, Spot Brand Bikes, Bianchi, and Surly emerged as category trendsetters and their bikes earned you instant recognition if you owned one but pedigrees like these don’t come cheaply.

A chop-shop single-speed can be crafted for pennies on the dollar, depending on where the parts are sourced from, but time is money and you can find most of the parts to build a performance-oriented single-speed at your local bike shop.

We challenged Gerry Garcia, pro downhill racer and suspension specialist at Ace Wheelworks in Somerville, Massachusetts, to build a singlespeed mountain bike for under $1,500. The bike needed to be sexy enough to turn heads but modest too with respect to price.

Garcia, who raced pro cross-country in his native Mexico before turning to downhill, owned the task and produced a pile of new parts that he would choose for his own budget “blingle-speed.”

“You can make it one, two, or three steps better,” Garcia said. “But there are not many options out there to keep it under $1,500.”

Scavenged parts will drop the cost even lower but if the parts are worn or are close to failure, then the cost could ultimately be greater, especially if injury results.

The real value of a single-speed though, is its ability to break up the monotony of riding a geared bike. Easier and cheaper to maintain, a singlespeed possesses more power to transform your ride from routine to rich riding experience in one, single gear.

Frame and fork: Surly 1×1 $570
Handlebar: Dimension $20
Stem: Dimension $40
Headset: Cane Creek $35
Grips: Oury $15
V-brakes: Shimano Acera $22/each
Levers: Shimano $20
Freewheel: Shimano $25
Rear hub: Surly (bolt-on, flip-flop) $72
Front hub: Shimano Deore LX $26
Spokes: DT Swiss straight-gauge $51 ($.80 each x 64)
Rim: Mavic 317 $35 each + $85 to build wheels
Rim tape: Velox $6
Tires: Bontrager Jones XR $40 pair
Tubes: any $6
Seat stem: Promax $30
Chain: SRAM SS PC-1 $12
Cranks: Truvativ Stylo GXP w/ BB $200
Saddle: WTB $40
Cables: mtb $8
Housing: $5.50
Seat clamp: $15
Pedals: Shimano M-520 $55
Total: $1,490.50