Why would anyone want to ride a single-speed? I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that question in the nearly 15 years that a single-speed mountain bike has been hanging in my stable of bikes. Having been a longtime believer in the KISS design principle, the single-speed beautifully embodies that idea. Wanna go for a ride? Hop on it and go with no worries of shifting issues. Oh no, a hill! Pedal harder or pop-up off of the saddle for a little more power. With little noise and such simplicity, the single-speed is one of my favorite bikes to grab when going for a ride.
After building my first 29er last year, I caught a bad case of the 29er bug. The larger wheels of a 29er—a mountain bike using 29-inch wheels—just handle the rocky trails along the Front Range of Colorado so much better that the 26-inch (26er). The 26er single-speed mountain bike that was hanging in my garage was an older Seven Verve from the mid-1990s. Don’t get me wrong, it was (and still is) a great bike, but the horizontal dropouts along with the 26-inch sized wheels sitting next to my new Moots Mooto X YBB had me longing for something new.
So the search began.
After riding a number of different bikes at the 2011 Interbike Outdoor Demo, closely examining a number of frame geometries, and pricing out many different frame options, I selected the Lynskey Ridgeline-29 SL. Along with price and geometry, a number of different factors also weighed in on the final decision including – frame material, rear dropout options, country of manufacture, and suspension fork clearance. The Ridgeline-29 SL came the closest to fitting all of my criteria.
Even though the Ridgeline-29 SL has a suggested retail price of $1,995, it is the lowest priced single-speed mountain bike frame offered by Lynskey besides the deals that pop up in their “Loft” section. There is only a $700 difference between the Ridgeline and their high-end, stock single-speed frame, the Pro29 SL. The main differences being the Pro29 SL features the Helix tube set for increased stiffness, a wider bottom bracket shell, and a machined yoke that joins the bottom bracket shell to the chain stays, providing more clearance for a wider tire. Since the budget was also a major concern, that $700 was going to go a long way into purchasing the needed components.
It was going to take approximately six to eight weeks to have the frame built and arrive at my doorstep. This allowed plenty of time to piece together the components group. The plan was to keep my Seven Verve intact, so the parts for the new bike would need to be sourced from my parts bin or purchased new. Since this bike build was coming out of my own pocket, I had a specific list of components in mind.
The Components List
Fork: Fox F29 (120mm model spaced down to 100mm)
Headset: Cane Creek 110-Series Tall Cover
Stem: Ritchey WCS
Bars: Truvativ Noir World Cup Carbon (now T40, I believe)
Brakes: Avid XX (160mm front and 140mm rear rotors)
Grips: RaceFace (ODI)
Barends: Titec carbon
Seatpost: Kent Eriksen Cycles Ti (Zero setback, 400mm x 27.2)
Saddle: Selle Italia SL Flow
Hubs: Chris King Single Speed
Rear Cog: Chris King 20 tooth
Rims: WTB Frequency i19
Valve Stems: American Classic
Spokes: DT/Swiss Competition with alloy nipples
Tires: WTB Moto 1.9
Rear Skewer: American Classic Ti
Bottom Bracket: Chris King
Cranks: RaceFace Deus XC
Chainring: Vuelta USA (32 tooth)
Chain: Sram PC-971
Pedals: Forte (Performance) Carve
Water Bottle Cages: King Cage Ti
Computer: Cateye Enduro 8
After all the parts were brought together, the wheels laced, and the frame finally arriving, the real assembly could begin. The Ridgeline-29 SL arrived ready to have the components installed, as no frame preparation was required. It was originally a Lynskey representative who recommended going with Cane Creek as the headset choice since all of their frames are machined to the Standardized Headset Identification System (S.H.I.S.) standard. This was one reason that I also went with Cane Creek for my recent Mooto X YBB build as Moots doesn’t necessarily machine to the S.H.I.S. standard. As it turns out, the Cane Creek 110-Series headset pressed into both frames easily.
Along with the machining standards, the Cane Creek was also chosen since the cups are machined domestically and the top cover is available in a “tall” and a “short” version. I wanted to set the Lynskey up as close as possible to the Moots, but the Lynskey had a head tube that was 12mm shorter. Installing the Cane Creek 110-Series Short Cover version on the Moots and the Tall Cover Version on the Lynske, allowed the setups to be fairly close without having to install a bunch of spacers on the Lynskey steer tube.
With the Chris King bottom bracket threaded into the frame, the brake lines were quickly attached to the frame using the zip-tie braze-ons. Ultimately all the parts fit perfectly. The Ridgeline-29 SL is welded with down tube derailleur cable routing that includes a plastic guide bolted to the underside of the bottom bracket shell. That guide was removed and the two holes were filled with GOOP adhesive to keep water and mud from getting inside the frame.
Once the cranks, rear wheel, and gears were installed, the chain could be cut to length. When building a single-speed, my preference is to get the sliders centered fore and aft in the dropouts with the chain installed. That neutral position allows adjustments either way at a later time. The sliders are extremely easy to adjust and the micro-adjusting screws allow for small changes. As a bonus, if for some reason the main screws that hold the sliders should loosen, these adjusting screws will keep the slider from moving forward.
The total weight of this build came in at 22.5 pounds. That is a very respectable weight for a 29er, but it could have been made even lighter with a different fork or even a ridged fork—the choice of many single-speed riders. The build was finished up and all that was left to do was take it out for a maiden voyage.
Initially when the purchase of the Ridgeline-29 SL was made, I was told that it would be one of the fastest bikes that I had ridden. The one thought that kept crossing my mind was, how can a bike be “fast?” The speed of a vehicle is controlled by the engine. Its engine might be an internal combustion type or the body of a human, but a car without an engine or a bike without a rider can’t be fast. So I thought that it had to be the handling that made it “feel” fast.
Heil Valley Ranch, a local Boulder County trail, is my personal trail of choice when reviewing a bike and every build is ridden there at least once. Following a certain route provides 24 miles of climbs, descents, switchbacks, lots of rocks, and smooth, fast turns. The trails were dry and loose that day so it would be very easy to push the bike as hard as possible.
The first climb was actually a bit more difficult than I had expected, but that was my own fault. Originally the 34-tooth chainring was moved over from my Seven, but it turns out that though a 34×20 was a good gear for a 26er, it is not so good on a 29er. The gear was just a little too big, which is why the current build was changed to a 32×20 setup. Once the gearing was lowered, subsequent trips to Heil Ranch proved that the 32-tooth chainring was the right choice. As for climbing with the Ridgeline-29 SL, the bike stayed easily in control with no signs of the front-end unexpectedly pulling up. When the need arose, the front wheel was easy to pop up and over rock steps with plenty of clearance for the bottom bracket.
Once at the top of the first climb, the trail turns to rocky sections with sweeping turns. The front-end did require more focus than any other bike that I have ridden recently. The head tube and seat tube angles are not unusually steep, and the bike doesn’t feel twitchy. It almost had a little bit of oversteer feel that I was not accustomed to on other 29ers. The only other thought is that my center of mass is in a slightly different place on the Ridgeline-29 SL than my other bikes. Lynskey specifies that a zero setback 400mm long seat post be used with the Ridgeline-29 SL, where other manufacturers specify the use of posts with setback. This might mean that my weight is centered further forward on this bike than my others.
Is it a big deal? No.
After a few miles, I was used to the feeling and started to really like the quick, precise handling. After a number of rides, the thought became a distant memory. The Ridgeline-29 SL goes where it is pointed and there has not been one switchback that has been overshot while riding this bike. On the descents, rocky or smooth, the Ridgeline-29 SL is absolutely stable and easy to control. Even entering turns at a high rate of speed, the method of braking hard into the turn and accelerator fast out, seems to work well.
As for the suspension, the 100mm of travel is easy to use up and there certainly is good reason to open the Fox F29 back up to 120mm. I have not done that yet, but on the next fork service, I might pop the 20mm spacer back out and try the Ridgeline-29 SL with the additional travel.
As for the rear-end, since the tube top is straight and does not curve up toward the seat tube junction, a long seat post is needed for most riders. Lynskey recommends a 400mm length to guarantee that there is plenty of the post inside the frame. The frame is actually reinforced in this area for the stress load of a longer seat post. What does this all mean to the rider? There is a lot of the post sticking out of the frame. If you go with a titanium post, there will be a little bit of flex that can slightly knock the “edge” off of a rough trail. Though Lynskey sells an extremely nice two-bolt titanium seat post, for this build a Kent Eriksen Cycles post was used – their one-bolt design more closely follows the KISS principle.
The Ridgeline-29 SL’s ride quality did not disappoint. Once used to the handling, I found myself trying to push the bike faster. The word “nimble” comes to mind when describing this bike to others—it feels like a giant BMX bike that seeks rocks and jumps in the trail to launch off. The finish selected for this build, Industrial Mill, does add $175 to the cost of the frame, but unlike bead blasting, when this finish looks “tired,” strip the decals, hit the frame with a Scotch-Brite pad, and apply new decals. See our Facebook page for the photos of the refurbishment of my Seven to get an idea of how easy it is to refurbish a brushed titanium frame.
The two real issues that I have with this frame are the rear tire clearance and the derailleur cable routing. At a suggested maximum tire width of 2.1, there aren’t many choices. The tire clearance issue is most likely due to the manufacturing process of titanium—the smaller diameter tubes simply can’t be bent that tight without crimping. This is understandable and the number of narrower tire choices are increasing all of the time. As for the cable routing… though I may never run this bike as a geared bike, Lynskey should have done top tube cable routing. It is a cleaner routing method and makes for smoother shifting over a longer period of time. The routing was no surprise when the initial order was placed and certainly didn’t stop the purchase of this frame, but it is disappointing to know that the European version of the same frame under a different name has top tube cable routing.
Other than those two minor issues, the Ridgeline-29 SL is an absolute hoot to ride. Sadly my Seven hasn’t seen dirt since assembling this 29er. The Ridgeline-29 SL might not be fast on its own, but it makes you want to go faster. Actually, it might even make you faster… riding those trails at Heil Ranch used to take over three hours on my Seven; on the Lynskey, the time is well under three.
- Geometry designed for a 100mm and up to 120mm travel suspension fork
- Rear, slider dropout can accommodate a quick release or bolt-on axle
- Curved down tube for fork crown clearance
- Accepts up to 185mm rear brake rotor
- Rear tire clearance only allows a 2.1 tire width
- Downtube routing for the shifter cable
Make/Model: Lynskey Ridgeline-29 SL
Stock Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large (Medium model in review)
MSRP: $1995.00 – frame only (Review model has Industrial Mill Finish adding $175)
Note: Single speed hanger included, derailleur hanger adds $40
Country of Manufacture: USA (Chattanooga, Tennessee)