Can anyone help find some literature or some pictures of a 2 speed conversion which has worked? I ride a huge gear, but plan to bike cross country, and I want to put my smaller chain ring back on my crank to manually switch to for prolonged climbs in the Rockies, but none of the road rear derailleurs I've tried have successfully acted as a tensioner. The idea was to shift from chain ring to chain ring by hand, and the rear derailleur which I've fixed on the position I need for a good chain line, would take up the slack and apply pressure in both gears. It doesn't work. As the derailleur moves closer to its point of origin it loses tension and the chain skips horribly. Can anyone help me figure out how to make this work? Has anyone succeeded?

  • 3
    You gotta have a derailer with enough "tooth capacity", and the right length chain. Mar 24, 2013 at 19:12
  • Is this a singlespeed/fixed frame? Track or semi horizontal dropouts? In other words, do you require a chain tensioner on your current setup?
    – joelmdev
    Mar 24, 2013 at 22:13
  • It would help to know the tooth count of your two front cogs, and the general nature of the derailers you've tried. Mar 25, 2013 at 14:56
  • The answer depends on whether you're running a true SS (single cog freewheel) or a fixie. The options to converting to dual speed are pretty different, depending on application. Dec 31, 2013 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


You could try something like this: http://www.bikecarson.com/2012/03/12/surly-dingle-speed/ http://urbanvelo.org/surly-dingle-cog/

With the right chainrings it gives you two different gears with no need for a chain tensioner, so can even be used for a fixed gear.

(But without more details of your current setup, I've no idea why your derailleur isn't taking up enough slack, or doesn't have enough tension.)

  • 1
    The caveat with the Surly Dingle Cog or the White Industries Dos is that the gear difference is a bit more limited than one might desire - especialy for flat vs. very prolonged steep climbs. The following link describes a DIY method that appears to accommodate a larger gear difference with no tensioner and tweaks the chain length for the inital setup with multiple master links. (No need to adjust length afterwards.) psyclestore.com/pages.php?pageid=14
    – jmmygoggle
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:51
  • Nice - taking out and replacing links is a bit more hassle than "shift from chain ring to chain ring by hand" though. But I think what he really wants is to find out what's wrong with his derailleur-as-tensioner setup.
    – armb
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:44

Here's a 2-speed using a chain tensioner & front derailleur, but without much of a gear difference: http://saddleupbike.blogspot.com/2010/11/two-speed-bicycle.html

If you want to use a rear derailleur, you probably want to make sure you're using a mountain or road triple derailleur with a long cage so you have sufficient 'tooth capacity', as mentioned above. And if you're using a vintage part, make sure the spring isn't worn out.

There are also several examples of retro-direct conversions on the internet, which are a 2-speed bicycle with 2 cogs, each having the freewheel clutch operating in the opposite direction, and the chain running around both. You engage one cog by pedaling forward and the other by pedaling backward. This allows for a pretty significant difference in gear ratios. Here's a bunch of pictures from a Czech dude: http://matej.boha.cz/retrodirect/ There are a bunch of other examples out there if you search for 'retrodirect'. I wouldn't put too big of a bet on the durability of such a cobbled setup, though.

Speaking as someone who's ridden across the US, you'll want a very low gear for cranking an ~80-ish lb. loaded touring bike up 4000'+ passes— probably close to, or even below, 1:1. You'll want a relatively low gear just for cruising all day at 12 or 13mph when you're lugging that weight. You'll probably want another gear for days when you're fighting a headwind all day, and another for when you're sailing the prairies on a mighty tailwind at 25mph+. And when you're lugging your touring load up and down rolling hills in, say, Kentucky, you'll want to change gears rather often. I reckon what I'm saying is that gears are really great for a cross-country touring bike, which sees incredibly varied conditions under very heavy load, even if gears are not so necessary around town. Even if you're on a really tight budget, something like the Windsor Tourist is pretty cheap, and you can find things even cheaper on the used market this time of year, especially considering you have 3 or 4 months until a summer and the likely start of a tour.

  • a comment from the Czech dude: '... Just a note from the "Czech dude" who built the retro-direct conversion mentioned above (and happened to find this thread:-): The durability is almost unlimited. The mechanism is so simple that there is hardly anything that could go wrong! I've been using my retro-direct bike for every-day commuting for about five years, without any need for adjustments or repairs, just providing basic maintenance. The gearing must have been submitted to over ten thousand kilometers of service by now! And even now I still consider the back-pedaling to be great fun;-)' Dec 5, 2014 at 17:54

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