In our current climate of cycling innovation, where maximizing gear range and number of cogs is top priority for many, singlespeeders are often left out. Teased earlier this year at Sea Otter Classic and available for sale today, Wheels Manufacturing flips the script with the SOLO-XD Single Speed Conversion Kit, which offers a reliable solution for converting both XD and XDR driver-equipped hubs to carrying a single gear. Josh recently received a SOLO-XD kit and, below, outlines the installation process and a review after riding with a “dinglespeed” setup for a couple of weeks.
I’ve been riding singlespeed mountain bikes for nearly twenty years. For me, singlespeeding is equal parts efficiency, fitness-boosting, and maybe a bit sadism. It’s also about community, as I’ve met some of my favorite people and best friends through lively international singlespeed factions; just check out our concurrent SSUSA piece and previous SSAZ coverage to see what it’s all about.
But, like the discipline itself, component options have been simple and limited. Gear ratios and chain tension methods aside, most folks not using a singlespeed-specific rear hub (like the original from Paul) rely on a standard HG freehub body, single (or dingle) HG-compatible cog, spacers, and lock ring. There are plenty of singlespeed cog options for adding extra bling to your whip from brands like Endless Bike Co and Wolf Tooth, or if you’re like me and want to go the bougie route, Boone Technologies makes theirs out of titanium.
While not the first of its kind, the new Solo XD Conversion Kit, available today from Wheels Manufacturing, is an all-in-one solution for enabling any XD or XDR hub to carry a single (or double) gear.
Wheels MFG Solo-XD
With the Solo-XD, Wheels MFG entered the singlespeed conversion space with a kit specifically designed for XD and XDR-equipped hubs. According to the Colorado-based component manufacturer, “The impetus for the SOLO-XD was there are a lot of people who like riding XD/XDR wheelsets, but there were very few options for [singlespeed convertors] that are simple to install, remove, maintain and adjust on market. We designed the SOLO-XD hub sleeve and cogs in a way so they would not bind on themselves or hub bodies like we have seen on some other hub style configurations.”
Sold as a complete kit, the Solo-XD includes a 7075 aluminum carrier sleeve and 18T cog, 6061 1.8mm spacer for XDR hubs, five additional 6061 spacers of varying thicknesses, and a lock ring. Wheels MFG sent me their limited edition 18T cog colorway that was finished by Ashley and an additional 20T because I mostly run that cog size in the rear with a 30T chainring up front.
I asked Wheels MFG if this kit could be installed as a dinglespeed – with two different sized cogs on the same carrier – to which they replied “well, we haven’t had anyone do it yet, but you should give it it a try!” While not something I’ll utilize each ride, it will be nice to have a higher gear for terrain that isn’t as punchy as the local trails I ride most often. It’s a simple trailside change with sliding dropouts, but certainly not as convenient with other methods of chain tensioning.
Currently, there are three cog sizes available for the Solo-XD (16T, 18T, and 20T) in seven anodized colors (black, red, orange, teal, blue, purple, and green). More cog sizes will likely be available in the future.
During my time installing and riding with the kit over the past couple of weeks, I noticed a couple of additional benefits left out of Wheels MFG’s website/marketing materials. First, the cogs are machined with a narrow-wide tooth profile. I haven’t seen this before on singlespeed cogs, but theoretically it’ll help with chain retention and enable use of thinner 12-speed chains (more bling, yay!). Additionally, since the system is designed around the XD driver, swapping between geared and singlespeed would be fairly simple granted a derailleur hanger was attached or available for the bike’s dropouts. With no cables involved and as both use the same driver, you’d just need to slide on a cassette, and attach an AXS derailleur, shifter, and chain.
Installation was a breeze and only required a couple of tools commonly found in most mechanics’ toolboxes – grease, 44mm 16-notch BB wrench, and chain whip. First, make sure to grease inside and out on the carrier ring, then slide it onto the hub body with the stepped portion facing the hub. If installing on an XDR hub, be sure to install the 1.8mm spacer onto hub prior to the carrier ring. Next, slide the end spacer over the stepped portion of carrier ring.
Then it is time to install cogs and spacers, which might take a little trial and error to achieve a straight chain line. As previously mentioned, I wanted to try using two cogs rather than one and, due to the built in outer edge on these Wheels MFG cogs, I was able to stack them together on the carrier ring rather than using a 1mm spacer to create separation. With the help of my eagle-eyed mechanic, Tristan of Ride Dialed, we were able to achieve a decently straight chain line in both cog positions and there is still plenty of room for the chain to clear without rubbing on the outboard smaller cog. Once cogs and spacers are in place, tighten lock ring to 40Nm with a 44mm bottom bracket wrench.
To remove the kit, basically go through the installation steps in reverse with a chain whip wrapped clockwise around the cog to hold it in place. Removal might be necessary after the first couple rides, should the chain line need refinement.
While us singlespeeders mostly enjoy riding in shadows and dark sewers, the Solo-XD is a welcome addition to this oft-overlooked corner of the cycling industry. This was a fun one to experiment with and I hope my overview was informative. Let us know your preferred method of singlespeeding in the comments and if the Solo-XD is something you plan to try. And thanks as always to Ride Dialed for the assist!
- Simple to install
- Change between singlespeed to geared with AXS derailleur
- Enables use of existing XD/XDR hubs for SS conversion
- Durable 7075 aluminum carrier and cogs
- Plenty of spacer options for dialing in chainline
- Narrow-wide tooth profile for variety chain options
- Bolt-less installation for easy dinglespeed setup
- Lightweight (115g)
- Kit not customizable with cog sizes (comes with 18T cog; other sizes available to purchase separately)
- Currently only three cog sizes available (16T, 18T, 20T) and limited to Solo-XD specific cogs
- Pricey compared to some of the other singlespeed conversion methods/kits