Can You Add Gears to a Cruiser Bike? [Plus Options on Adding Gears to a Bike]

Modern bicycles are designed to be customizable and upgradeable. This includes the cruiser bikes. Adding more gears to a cruiser bike is something almost always expected. It is a selling point property. Plus, it enables the bike to have more power to give a better riding experience.

You can add gears to a cruiser bike. In fact, there are multiple ways you can do so. Yet, a factor to be considered is the capability of the bike’s frame to accommodate a wheel hub designed for multiple speed gears. 

This is especially important if the initial build of the bike is for a single-speed gear system. Some bikes are built to easily add gears by just swapping them. While other bikes may require replacement on some of their components for the new gears to be compatible.

How Much Does It Cost to Add Gears to a Cruiser Bike?

Credits to: @fifernando

Every form of modification and upgrade comes with a price. In cruiser bikes, the cost of adding gears depends on the number of gears that you wish to incorporate into your bike. 

Furthermore, the expense may depend on the initial number of gears and the initial build of the bike. If the bike requires its components to be changed upon adding the gears to make it compatible, it will likely cost more.

Adding gears on a single-speed gear cruiser bike can be expensive because you will have to change the entire drive set of the bike. Technically, this process is a conversion from single-speed to multiple-speed. 

A crucial element when converting speed gears is the ‘over-locknut dimension.’ It is also called OLD, which refers to the distance between the outer sides of the locknuts that can be found on the bike’s hub. If the OLD of the cruiser bike’s frame is below 130 mm, there are only two options to add more gears: using an internal gear hub and a cold set in the bike frame. 

Option 1: Using an Internal Gear Hub

In choosing a gear hub, it can cost around $1,200.00. When choosing the internal gear hub, the good thing is that it requires low maintenance. Also, it protects the gears from harmful elements. Furthermore, it allows the shifting of gears even when the bike is stationary and belt-drive compatible. 

Although low maintenance, the internal gear hub can be more expensive once it malfunctions. Its repairs are more complex once the conversion takes place. In addition to this, the internal gear hub is a part of the wheel itself, making it more difficult when the bike wheels get damaged.

Option 2: Cold Set the Bike Frame

The other option, cold setting the bike frame, requires the spreading of the dropouts. This will allow the dropouts to accept the hubbed wheel designed for more gears. The adjustment may cost from $40.00 to $100.00 for its labor alone. This is significantly cheaper than an internal gear hub, but it has a lot of limitations, too. 

For instance, the cold set method can only be conducted on frames made of steel materials. Aluminum frames can be cold set, but it is inevitable to damage the frame in the process.

Single-Speed vs. Three-Speed vs. Seven-Speed Cruiser Bikes

Choosing the right speed gear system for your bike depends on your activity and the complexity of your driving terrains. Single-speed and multi-speed gears have advantages and disadvantages over each other. 

Collectively, the more straightforward the task of the bike, the simpler the speed gear system is recommended. It is not advisable to use higher-speed gearing for terrains that do not need technicality in control and pedaling. 

1. Single-Speed Gear

The single-speed gear on bikes is highly recommended for casual riding activities, such as exercising, city commuting, and beach cruising. Aside from being simple, it is more reliable and definitely more sturdy compared to multi-speed gears. It is ideal for people riding through paved roads and flat surfaces. 

Since the single-speed bike has only one gear set, the bike’s weight is also lighter than other gear settings. Because it is lighter, it is less strenuous in the long run. It also has fewer mechanisms. It does not have derailleurs and shifters, unlike the multi-speed gears. This makes single-speed gears more affordable and requires less maintenance. 

A disadvantage of the single-speed gear system is its limited terrain coverage. It cannot be used on hills or roads that are generally not smoothened. It does not have enough power to support and sustain ascents and descends since its build is for access roads only. If you push a single-speed bike uphill, it would be exhausting and damage the bike a lot. 

Another disadvantage of single-speed gear is that the peak of its speed cannot be extended. When maxed out, that is the best speed that the bike can give regardless of how hard and fast you pedal. This isn’t ideal, primarily if you aim for more speed.

2. Three-Speed Gear

A three-speed gear system is the most minor complex of all the multi-speed gears in the market. It is simple enough to be the recommended multi-speed gear for most bikers. It is also the most common speed gear for bikers who engage on tricky terrains such as hills. The three-speed gear system can give enough power on challenging rides. 

Compared to the other multi-speed gear systems, the three-speed gear requires less maintenance. Also, if you want enough power for rugged terrains but have doubts about shifting gears, the three-speed gear can help. Mainly because it is much simpler to understand than the other multi-speed gears. Downshift when climbing and upshift for descending. 

Lower gears of three-speed gears offer more pedal ease and power when riding uphill. On the other hand, higher gear offers more resistance during accelerated rides, such as when riding down a hill. 

Aside from that, it uses an internal hub. The entire mechanism is encapsulated and more protected against elements that can harm the gears in this design. This also makes the bike look minimalist. 

Since three-speed gear uses an internal hub, it is relatively more expensive. Building an internal hub requires more parts. It also needs a highly-engineered design compared to building external gearing systems. In addition to this, repairing internal hubs can be tricky and requires an expert. Being said, repairs cost extra. 

3. Seven-Speed Gear

Aside from having more gears than three-speed and single-speed gears, the seven-speed gear has a more complex shifting system. It is referred to as the standard gearing mechanism for bikes. Moreover, the seven-speed gear is the ideal system for professional bikers to take difficult terrains. In fact, the main purpose of seven-speed gear is to allow the bike to adapt through strenuous conditions.

A seven-speed gear gives you options and the ability to maneuver the bike according to your preference. Since it has more complex gear shifting, you can adjust better on specific terrains depending on the need of the bike. For example, in terrains that require quick transitions, the seven-speed gear can offer better service.

Although more versatile, a seven-speed gear may take some time to get used to. It can also require more effort to operate than the single-speed and three-speed gear. Another is that it requires a greater mechanical repair when problems start in its mechanism. 

Can You Convert a Fixed-Gear Into a Multi-Geared Bike?

Credits to: @chrisbecker

Converting a fixed-gear bike into a multi-geared bike is possible. However, it has a lot of technicalities and can require a lot of component replacement to complement the gear change. 

Fixed-gear bikes, or fixie, are a bicycle setup with a drivetrain without a freewheel mechanism. This means that you have to pedal all the time to move the bike. Its key feature of not having a freewheel mechanism may seem disadvantageous. Still, a lot of bike enthusiasts prefer it for many reasons. 

The fixed-gear system can give a better connection between you and the bike. Also, since fixies have no freewheel mechanism, the fixed-gear bike can preserve the chains longer.

Changing a fixie to make a multi-geared bike needs the appropriate frame to carry the new gears. The frame should be widened enough to install the derailleur. After the conversion, the bike would need a longer chain as well. To sum up, converting a fixie to multi-geared bike takes time and effort.

Advantages of Cruiser Bikes With Gears

A cruiser bike’s build is intended to provide comfort while traveling on flat courses. Adding gears will enable a cruiser bike to drive through various terrains other than paved roads. 

Moreover, more gears will help you gain more control over the bike’s maneuvers. Below are the other advantages of integrating gears in cruiser bikes.

1. Less Maintenance

Cruiser bikes that have multiple gears need less maintenance. Multiple geared cruiser bikes distribute the stress of the ride on all of its gears and chainrings instead of only one. 

In a cruiser bike with an internal hub system, it costs less to maintain the health of the gears. The internal hub system is designed to enclose the gears to prevent elements, such as dirt and mud, from harming the gears. With this design, it does not get dirty. It will also not need any regular maintenance. 

2. More Power, Less Exhaustion

Gears give more power to you as a biker on a broad scale. They allow comfortable pedaling depending on the gear shift. When taking rougher roads, cruiser bikes without gears may experience difficulties. With the help of gears, the bike would not require greater pedaling power. Instead, the biker can just shift gears. 

A good example is when taking uphill rides. A cruiser bike will find it hard to ascend and descend from such a route without gears. But with gears, the bike will cover a reasonable distance on every pedal uphill and give enough resistance when going downhill. 

Since the gears technically cut the job for you, accessing difficult roads will not take a toll on your strength.

3. Fast Rides

In a traditional cruiser bike with no gears, the amount of pedal you do determines the distance you can cover. With the gears incorporated, you can cover more distance in less time. You and your bike become more efficient on the road with the proper utilization of gears. 

The gears’ size and number determine the amount of complete revolution the bike can do on every pedal stroke you make. With the proper knowledge in gear shifting, you may utilize the bike to cover doubled distance with the same amount of pedal.

For example, when using the smaller chainring of the bike, each pedal will make a complete wheel revolution. But by shifting to the larger chainring, each pedal will make two complete wheel revolutions. Moreover, you can have more control over whether you want to speed up or down anytime.

4. More Comfort

Cruiser bikes are already built for safety and comfort. With the gears, this is amplified. Gears will help you ride through rugged terrains easily and comfortably. With proper utilization of the gears, you do not need to exert too much effort on pedaling and focus more on your biking experience. 

Lower gears enable more effortless pedaling when going uphill. It will require less amount of force and pushing from you. Moreover, although the ride will be slower with this gear, it will be more steady. Middle gears are great for casual terrains such as flat roads. This gear will give you just enough resistance while pedaling. 

You’ll have a cozy ride while still feeling the connection between the bike and the road. Higher gears are great for descending terrains or faster on a flat road. This gear gives more resistance and more wheel coverage. 

5. Versatility on Different Terrains

Because of their traditional build and components, cruiser bikes are mainly used for leisure and commutes. With the help of gears, this limitation is removed. A cruiser bike with gears can be used even on steep hills, terrains with obstacles, and complex surfaces. You will have more control over your pedaling power and bike maneuvering on any type of road with the help of gears.