Here's a review of the righteousness of his Redline Monocog 29er by Cameron Brown (yurmom on the GORC Forum), that was intended for last Spring's newsletter which was never published. I'm sure he's put a lot more miles on it from when the review was written, and the color on Redline's website might be out-of-date.
Should I try this SS rigid 29er thing everyone is talking about? It's a question more and more people are asking themselves. You can read the countless commentaries about the pros and cons of the larger 29” wheels vs. the standard 26” wheels at places like mtbr.com and twentynineinches.com, but the basic idea is the bigger the wheel, the less displacement it experiences in rolling over uneven ground. Why would anyone elect to ride with only one gear on a totally rigid bike, ignoring decades of technical advancements in light weight suspension and gear componentry? I’d have to say it’s a combination of applied physics, one-with-nature zen philosophy, mechanical simplicity, and a bit of testosterone.
Riding single speed definitely has its challenges, but it’s not nearly as difficult as one might think. First, you are always in the right gear, whether you want to be or not. No more flubbing up a climb because you unsuccessfully tried to change gears at the last minute. Second, you develop your climbing skills, becoming much more conscious of the terrain and your physical state and riding position/technique. Riding builds more leg strength and forces you to use more muscle groups giving you a better overall workout. Also, with the fixed gearing, you find you get up those climbs faster than you used to in granny gear, expending what feels like the same amount of energy. And with a smaller single ring up front, you’ll clear those logs and rocks without bending teeth.
Giving up suspension was the toughest step for me. However, I decided to give the rigid fork a good test run before upgrading to something more exotic, especially since the leading suspension fork out there for 29ers (Rock Shox Reba) is about $450. Expect to pay about $275 for a carbon fork which will drop about a pound off your ride and soak up the bumps a bit more than a steel fork.
Riding SS rigid 29ers has a feel all its own. The rigid setup allows you to more fully experience not only the trail, but your bike as well. You quickly learn how your bike responds on a variety of terrain. The ride is faster than you might think, both uphill and down. Some say they experience a loss in steering agility due to the larger wheels. I don’t share their sentiment. With a rigid front fork finding the right tire pressure is key. The larger 29er tread patch provides added traction and allows for lower pressure riding with less risk of pinch-flats. My 175 lb back side typically rides on 30 PSI in the rear and 27 up front.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my Redline Monocog 29er, gleaming in Satin Brown, or what I like to call Fecal Green. I’ve only put about 30 miles on it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to my hard-tail gear bike.