Can You Add Gears To A Single Speed Bike? (Explained!)

If you have a single-speed bicycle, you know how tiring it is to maneuver around routes and courses. So you may wonder if there’s something you can do.

You can add gears to boost your pedaling efficiency. However, you’re clueless about it, so you turn to the internet for help.

You’re one of many having the same question. Many bikers with single-speed bicycles also want to understand adding gears to help them preserve their energy.

Fortunately, you come across this article. Kindly read on to learn about adding gears to your single-speed bike.

What Are the Perks and Drawbacks of a Single-Speed Bike?

Single-Speed Bike

Many bike riders prefer single-speed gear for casual riding, city commutes, exercising, recreational riding, and beach cruising.


  • Lightweight
  • Fewer mechanisms to malfunction
  • Less effort to pedal
  • Less maintenance


  • Poor performance on unpaved roads and shifting terrain
  • More effort for uphill and rock terrain climbs
  • Can’t exceed the maximum speed

Perks of Using a Multi-Speed Bike

Cyclists have better flexibility with several gear alternatives. They have better control on uphill rides and restraint on downhill cruising.

On the other hand, gears also provide suitable navigation on road and terrain conditions.

If you add gears to a single-speed bike, you can reach several speeds. As a result, you can quickly and effortlessly ascend hills and steep elevations.

Thus, you experience a ride that’s more efficient and less stressful in maneuvering on sand, dirt, meadows, woods, or fields.

However, if you have a single-speed bike, you’ll experience excellent riding on a paved and flat surface.

Unfortunately, you struggle in areas with unpaved pathways, road debris, and elevation change.

A multi-gear bike allows you to shift between easy peddling and having power over obstacles and inclines.

It would help if you had intense peddling because of smaller cogs; however, you can quickly increase your speed after a complete stop.

The chain can complete a full turn because it travels less distance.

On the other hand, larger cogs are quicker to peddle, but you need to expend more effort to increase the speed quickly.

Is It Possible to Add Gears to a Single-Speed Bike?

Your decision to add gears depends on your bike frame’s dropouts. They should hold the multiple-speed wheel hub.

After placing the hub, you can install the multi-gear cassette and derailleur. Moreover, it would be best if you had a new drivetrain to ensure the upgrade is successful.

You need an internal gear hub if you have a narrow bike frame. You may also cold-set the frame only if it’s steel.

What Is Over Locknut Dimension (O.L.D)?

If you decide to add gears, you should first check the Over Locknut Dimension, which is the span between the sides of the lock nuts you find on the rear hub.

Check the standard dimensions for several bicycles:

BikesO.L.D. Measurement (in mm)
Boost hubs141
Road bicycles with disc brakes and MTBs135
Road bikes sans disc brakes130
Track bikes with fixes120

You may install gears if your bike frame’s O.L.D is 130mm and above. On the other hand, if it’s below 130mm, consider these alternatives:

  • Cold-set the frame
  • Attach an internal gear hub

Converting to Multiple Gears with a Derailleur

Multiple Gears

It’s hard to transform a single-speed bicycle to a multi-speed one because you need to invest in components, tools, and labor, especially if you want the gears to work with a derailleur.

Moreover, your O.L.D. may need to be wider to hold the geared hub. However, you can use a rear derailleur to convert to gears if there’s enough space in the frame.

You may also successfully convert to gears if the frame is suitable for the cold setting.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Derailleur Drivetrain System

You may find derailleur gears on the rear wheel, but it can also be in front. A metal frame derailleur works with a shifter and holds the gears.

Pros of a Rear Derailleur

  • Can accommodate up to 30 speeds
  • Adjustable gears
  • Lightweight
  • More power efficient
  • Faster acceleration

Cons of a Rear Derailleur

  • More fragile
  • More susceptible to moisture, mud, dirt, and other elements
  • requires regular maintenance

Prepare the Parts You Need

  1. A new wheel with a hub for gears

The single-speed hubs can’t hold the cassettes; therefore, you should buy a new wheel and seat for gears.

  • Hanger and Derailleur

It would help if you had a derailleur and unique hanger to help position it to hold the rear cogs. However, your perfect bike frame may have a different hanger.

Fortunately, you may buy a derailleur with a hanger or find a way to add the hanger to the frame.

A fixie bike frame has rear-facing dropouts. In addition, you may buy chain tugs with a derailleur hanger.

  • Shifters

It’s best to buy a new shifter, but if you’re using flat handlebars, you will be spending little money on it.

However, if you have drop bars, expect to spend a substantial amount on them, especially if your bike has brake shifters.

  • Housing and Shifting Cables

Add the housing and cables to your list.

  • New Chain

A single-speed bike has a thicker chain, about 3.175mm inner width. On the other hand, the geared bike has an internal width from 2.18mm to 2.38mm.

Generally, the more gears, the narrower the chain because of the smaller spacing between the rear cogs.

  • New Chainrings

The original chainring works with the original chains. However, they won’t fit with multiple gears because they’re thicker; therefore, you should buy new chainrings.

  • Bolt-on Cable Stoppers

You won’t find cable routing in a single-speed bike frame. However, you have two solutions for it:

  • Buy cable stoppers mountable to the top tube of the bike frame using bolts
  • Connect the derailleur and shifter with a cable, then use a zip tie to attach it to the bike frame.

Prepare the Necessary Tools

You need the following tools if you want to convert from a single-speed to gears yourself:

  1. Wrench
  2. Screwdriver
  3. Allen keys
  4. Cable and housing cutters
  5. Dropout alignment tool

Converting a Single-Speed Bike to Gears Using an Internal Gear Hub

If you have a single-speed bike with a 120mm O.L.D, you have limited options on internal gear hubs.

Check the following speeds and internal gear hubs suitable for your 120mm O.L.D. single-speed bike:

2Sturmey-Archer S2 Kick-Shift (920g)
2Sram Automatix 2 Speeds
3Sturmey-Archer S3X Fixed Gear
3Shimano SG-3C41 Nexus Gear Hub
3Sturmey-Archer S30 X-RD3
8Sturmey-Archer S80 XRF8

Generally, you’ll only find internal gear hubs with two to three speeds because it’s hard to fit more gears in a small package.

Moreover, prepare to pay more using the internal gear hub route. You also need the following parts:

  • Shifter
  • Internal gear hub
  • Re-lace the old wheel or new wheel

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internal Gear Hubs

Pros of Internal Gear Hubs

  • Protection from the elements
  • Low maintenance
  • Can shift gears even when not moving
  • Compatible with belt drive
  • Simple and clean look

Cons of Internal Gear Hubs

  • Weight
  • More complex maintenance
  • Harder to replace a tire
  • Gear is part of the wheel
  • Lack of shifter alternatives
  • The low range of gears
  • Frequent adjustment of chain tension

How to Cold-Set a Steel Frame

If you have a steel bike frame, you can cold-set it to ensure it can accommodate the internal gear hubs.

It will help if you spread the dropouts to enable the frame to hold a wheel with a hub for gears.

You can cold-set the frame using threaded rods and nuts or the Sheldon Brown Method. Ensure the structure is in excellent condition before using any methods.

Bending steel doesn’t significantly affect its structural integrity because its tensile strength is better than its yield strength.

How to Pick the Right Gear for Your Bike

Gear for Your Bike

Pedaling can be frustrating, and picking a gear can make it harder or easier. If you prefer to change the gears, consider the following:

  • Uphill cyclists want the easier gear, while riders who ride downhill choose a higher gear
  • If you don’t know which terrain you’ll ride, opt for the mid-range gears
  • A large cog makes it easier to pedal but challenging to increase speed quickly
  • A small cog makes it harder to pedal but easier to increase swift speed
  • Many cyclists opt for different gears, allowing them to shift between quick pedaling and powering over obstacles and hills as they ride.
  • You may opt for mid-range gears if you’re unsure what you want
  • An internal ear hub allows for quick switching between gears
  • You can replace the rear rim with a single-speed model if you decide you don’t wish to gears anymore


Can My Mountain Bike Have Gears?

You can add several gears to a mountain bike for power and speed. You can add gears to the gear system or hub.

Moreover, you can also add gears to the cranks for more range and power.

Can My Road Bike Have Gears?

Your road bike is versatile; therefore, you can add gears to the cranks, gear system, or hub for more range and power.

Moreover, you can ride at high speed as you quickly switch between several gears.

Can My Hybrid Bike Have Gears?

You can opt for a hybrid bike if you want to experience a bit of everything. For example, you may use it for commuting on the hills and trails.

It’s easier to add gears to a hybrid bike because of its versatility. Therefore, you make cycling more enjoyable.

Can a Fixed-Gear Bike Have Gears?

Adding gears to your fixed-gear bike may be challenging and expensive. It would be best if you sold it, then bought a bike with gears.

Moreover, riders enjoy their fixies because it’s simple, and adding gears makes their bikes complex.

Thomas Kersten

Hi, I am a passionate biker, and I have been riding for more than ten years and share my biking tips and tricks with the world. I've tested more than 300 bikes.

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