Ask Prolly: Can You Recommend a Good 1×8 Commuter? Apr 7, 2011

Perfection in a Commuter by Cicli Devotion

I’ve gotten a few of these emails, but Harry from Sydney had the perfect questions:

“Hello Mr Prolly

My name is Harry and im in Sydney Australia. I know this might be an unusual email for you but I wonder if you could help me spec-out a bike build I’d like to do. I realise you are busy and its cool if you cant reply.

Long story short, I want a steel road bike for commuting / cruising with a single sproket up front, and a dereilluer in back. I want it to be simpler and cleaner looking than an average road bike, with just 7-9 gear ratios to choose from for when the going gets tough. Maybe even set it up with some 28c tanwalls and path-racer moustache bars.

I dont understand the differences in road/cross/mountain (basically any geared) drivetrains. I come from a BMX and Fixed background, where all of them use 1/8 chains. Could you recommend a drive train? I take it I’d need some kind of front chain-guide? Do you forsee any allignment issues?

Thanks for your time and keep up the fine work on the blog.


Check out my answer below!

Single-speed Gazelle by Cicli Devotion

Sounds like a lot of the commuters my friends build up in NYC. There aren’t any real differenced between road, cross or touring drivetrains other than their range of gears. MTB tends to be super compact (small rings up front, 11-36 cassette in the rear). This is mostly because you’ve gotta have those ‘granny gears’ to get up big trails. What I would recomend, if you don’t want to go vintage would be either an 8-speed or even 10-speed MTB rear, SRAM Apex rear derailleur (or Shimano 105 – any derailleur will work), a Single ring (42t-48t is good) up front is easy enough and barcon shifters (bar ends) or downtube shifters. You could also go Alfine rear (internally-geared hub) and run it on a track bike / fixed frame but they tend to be a bit heavy. The plus side is that you’ll rarely need to service it. Look for a bike that’ll clear 28c + fenders – i.e. a cross frame. You should be able to find one on eBay pretty easily. Gazelles are classy bikes with some style that pop up ever so frequently.

I’d recomend going to your local bike shop as well. They’ll steer you in the right direction.

Edit: also check out Carlos’ many pointers below!

Thanks to Cicli Devotion for providing some quality examples!

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