I live in Portland, Oregon and I need a bike to ride to work. It's about five miles, with one steep but not long hill. I used to have a track bike with a freewheel that was really nice for Salem, which was a flat commute. Sadly stolen. I loved how fast it accelerated, it helped a bunch in traffic. Hills were killers on my knees, ouch.

Was thinking about maybe two or three gears. But as a cassette in back would make it less snappy off the line, I was imagining a front derailleur only. Is that implausible? Maybe having a chain tensioner at all would kill any snap. Do they make a Hammerschmidt for road bikes? Are there any frames designed for this?

Frame something closer to a racing geometry than a touring geometry, since I won't be taking many long rides, if any.

Also, weight, like to keep it not much over 20lbs. So, not a hybrid frame.

Disc brakes I am in love with from years of mountain biking, and would help control and maintain stopping power in this rainy climate; I don't know how heavy the road discs are however.

So.. a track bike with disc brakes and a front derailleur? Start with a cyclocross? Is there the perfect bike out there already made? Am I nuts? Any ideas?


Edit, to respond to comments:

What I mean by "snappy" - I found that using a super tight chain on a single back ring lets me apply speed faster than one where i have to take up slack first - i can make quicker adjustments to unaware cars. It's the same reason that I like disc brakes, more control.

Sorry if my experiences and desires bother some of you, that wasn't my intent. I follow all the bike laws and ride politely.

@mattnz Thanks for that suggestion, I will look at internal hubs again. A few years ago I looked at Rohloff's but I decided they weren't a good choice, mostly due to weight and ease of maintenance, but it appears that they have updated their lines quite a bit. I think SRAM has one too. Still be heavy I think which would add to angular momentum. There are also the Schlumpf Speed Drive planetary front cranksets.

  • Get a second hand steel road (race) frame and swap out the front fork. I'm thinking with the right frame the bike could mass 8kg.
    – andy256
    Apr 20, 2015 at 23:06
  • 2
    I am only commenting because you asked "Am I nuts?", otherwise I would not criticize your ideas. I don't know if it's a good idea to chase after this unicorn of a drivetrain just because you think "No derailleur = Snappy", whatever "Snappy" means. I don't think any other bicyclist is being slowed down by having a rear derailleur. As you already found out, having multiple gears is good for hills. A rear derailleur is an easy way to accomplish that. Avoiding a rear derailleur is just hipster fashion, in my opinion.
    – Nik
    Apr 20, 2015 at 23:11
  • @Nik, Yeah I took my 26"x2.4" knobby tired mtn bike into the city to get it serviced & while stopped at a light on my way back to transit a dude on a single-cog freewheel decided to nudge up in front of me because clearly he was going to be faster off the line & wanted to get around me... Nope! Definitely not "snappy". & then I was suck behind him for 3 blocks. I know this is just anecdotal of course & everyone has a preference, no one setup will work for everyone.
    – renesis
    Apr 20, 2015 at 23:24
  • 2
    Internal hub may be an option.
    – mattnz
    Apr 21, 2015 at 2:47
  • 1
    "A track bike with disc brakes and a front derailleur". Pretty sure you are not going to find THAT perfect bike out there already. You are going with a custom build because a cassette is not snappy enough?
    – paparazzo
    Apr 21, 2015 at 11:35

1 Answer 1


With what you envision - A single cog in the rear and a triple crankset up front - you would still require a rear derailleur to take up the chain slack since the chainrings have such large difference in diameter. A chain tensioner would not cope with the slack created from shifting from a 42 to a 32 tooth chainring, for instance.

Since you'll need a rear derailleur for a multiple gear solution anyway, you might as well go with a cassette and single chainring.

For disc brakes you're limited to mechanical (like Avid BB7s, TRP Spyre) or the cable actuated hydraulic calipers (TRP HyRd) unless you spring for shimano Di2.

The closest you'll get to a track/road frame that has the necessarry reinforcements and mounts for disc brakes is likely a cyclocross bike or some of the newer endurance road bikes (Trek Domane as an example).

You're unlikely to get something exactly as you envision, but with a few compromises (cyclocross with a cassette) you should be able to make things work.

  • Spyre are fully mechanical brakes, you've confused them with HyRd. Apr 21, 2015 at 1:03
  • Thank you! I think your suggestion is the best way forward - my friend told me that he rides a masi single speed cyclocross in his commute - though he lives in San Antonio where it's flat and mostly rainless.
    – user13173
    Apr 21, 2015 at 23:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.