Man's Greatest Invention

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. - Elizabeth West

Purpose and Mission

To share our experience and to encourage and inspire others to use a bicycle as a form of year round recreation and transportation. To be an example of living car-free and to help others to make the transition to having a car-light or car-free life style.

Our bodies is the engine that moves us.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two Speed Bicycle

The simpler a bicycle's drivetrain is the more I want to ride it, given the choice between multi-geared and single speed I will generally pick the single speed.  Riding a single speed bike is a liberating feeling, it relies heavily on the riders ability to produce power with a limited amount of mechanical advantage. Go faster?, push harder!   

There are times though when having one gear simply is not enough and having the versatility and efficiency of a multi geared drivetrain comes in handy.  What generally happens for me is that I end up riding in 2-3 gears even if I have 18-20 gears available.  Having the ability to have 18 different gear ratios and only using 2 of them seems like a very complex and costly way to achieve what is essentially a 2 speed bicycle.

I've installed a Paul Components Melvin tensioner which allows the use of two front chanrings for a simple but effective two speed drivetrain.  I simply change gears with the front derailleur.

Two Speed Conversion

Lots of chain tension and wrap with the Paul Components Melvin tensioner.

The 18 Tooth Cog - 46 Tooth Chainring Combo

The 18 Tooth Cog - 36 Tooth Chainring Combo

Simple Cable Routing, Bar End Friction Shifter.

Riding this bike as a two speed has made the experience much more enjoyable for me. Making it simple and still enjoying the benefits of a multi geared bike. The bike is just as versatile as it was with 18 gears.  It does make the engine work harder, which is a good thing.

It rides and feels lighter without the large rear gear cluster.

Sometimes two is enough.


  1. "Sometimes two is enough"

    I agree! Can't wait to get the Solo back into it's 2-speed configuration for the winter season. The simplicity is nice in the snow/ice and much easier on components.

  2. Looks the the winter season has arrived! The 2-speed set up works really well with cross specific cranksets-chainring combinations like the Masi CX and your Solo CX are equipped with.

  3. as the Paul chain tensioner is almost the size and weight of a derailleur seems like a two cog freewheel, a rear derailleur and a single chainring would be even lighter simpler and shift better as well, or am I missing something

  4. Yes I believe you are missing "something". A two cog freewheel will have a difference of up 3 teeth. The Paul tensioner allows a difference of up to 20 teeth. I did not want a 2-speed bike with 2 closely spaced gears. The difference between the 36/18 and 46/18 combinations is dramatic.

  5. ...or, for a cable-less option you could go with a Sturmey-Archer S2C hub. The difference between high and low is 38%.

  6. I really want to try out a bike that comes equipped with a S2C hub, looks like an interesting option. Have you tried it?, what is your impression?

    1. I considered the S2C until I found an offer for an SRAM Automatix. No kick-back, you just pedal and it will gear up with a soft "click" when you reach a certain speed. Of course, an automatic hub won't always change gear exactly when you want but most of the time I am more than happy with it.

  7. I have one on my Brodie Remus and like it alot - although it is a little weird to use at first. Mine has the coaster brake and my only "complaint" (not really a complaint) is the the space between the gear shift and engaging the brake is really close so sometimes when shifting I'll slightly engage the brake. To be honest, its not a big deal and can be avoided if you take your time with the shift.

    The biggest benefit is 2 speeds (4 if you count standing!), a good braking system, and NO CABLES!

    Feel free to come try it out sometime. Just let me know ahead of time so I can make sure the bike is at the shop.

  8. Sounds cool, I'll be sure to take you up on that sometime.

  9. Hi, just stumbled on this post. I converted my 1 speed Swobo Folsom to a 2 speed using the Sturmey Archer B2C hub. I love it and the 54, 75 gear inches for hills and flats. If I get my butt in shape and drop 10-15lbs then Ill try a couple of centuries on this...

  10. The more I ride a two speed bike the more sense it makes!

  11. dear god that looks beautiful. this just may be my next setup! Dig the masi too

  12. ...And finally I have found the place for my question:)

    First of all, congratulatios for this bike, looks cool, and on the second hand it's something what I'm planning to build also.

    But what about this Sturmey Archer S2C? This would be ideal, but does it have the real difference between the 2 gears?

    I mean, I would build a two gear which has 52/42 in front and 20 rear (basically I need a gear for speeding and one for climbing.

    Thanks in advance!
    so does this S2C provides a solution for me?

  13. What a great build! That's just the config I'd like. Did you set the chainline true with the larger outer ring or in the middle of the two? Thanks for the inspiration! DonD

  14. @ oli1, I like the S2C in concept, I just don't like the extra weight and added mechanical complexity,
    @ Anonymous, the chainline is straighter with the small chainring, but perfectly fine on either chainring.

    Sorry for such a late reply, I'm having trouble leaving commments.

  15. ...And coming back again here as nowhere els I've found valuable information.
    So what about the chain itself? If you have 2 chainrings in the front (multispeed) and a single speed at the back, what kind of chain can you apply?


  16. Welcome back anytime. The chain was nothing special, Shimano 9 speed Deore.

  17. Do you feel the same drive chain efficiency as a singlespeed?

  18. Yes, the Melvin tensioner goes about it's business without attracting any attention. With 36-46 chainrings, it shifted right now fast. Combined with friction shifting, it's a light, reliable and inexpensive way to achieve 2 speeds.

  19. I build a two speed for my 6 year old grandson.. He rides withe me up to 10 mile rides..I found this site looking to see IF I were the only one who had this idea. Great job.. Chief.

  20. Thanks, they say great minds think alike, ha ha.

  21. I've been riding 2-speed for a few years. I'm surprised I don't see it more often. I just use an old derailleur, but the Paul thing is much nicer looking. Either way 2 pulleys works lot better than a single pulley tensioner. The benefit for me over using a single ring with 2 or 5 or however many cogs in back is that you can build a dishless rear wheel and still get a wide range from your two rings. I run 39/48 and 18.

  22. building a specialized p3, seen your post, doing this immediately!