By Nick Legan
A singlespeed bicycle, especially one made for mountain biking, is the ultimate Zen machine. You turn off the idea of switching gears and focus on finding the smoothest line and maintaining momentum whenever possible. Stay off the brakes, carve the corner. All of this concentration requires you to be in the moment. You can’t be caught up in what you’ll make for dinner when clearing a log across the trail dominates your experience. When it comes to simplicity and focus, nothing beats a singlespeed.
That simplicity is stripped down even more when you look at a bike like the Spot Rocker SS 27.5+. While it’s rare that adding something is in effect taking something away, that’s the case with its Gates belt drive and the subsequent easy maintenance. A belt never needs to be lubricated and therefore doesn’t require degreasing. A quick rinse usually does the trick if you experience a squeaking belt after a ride in dusty conditions.
After several months with the Rocker, I’ve found that I enjoyed not only my rides on it but also in thinking up trails I wanted to attempt on the singlespeed. Life on Colorado’s Front Range can be steep, and riding a singlespeed mountain bike here shows both grit and commitment. To be honest, it’s not for me on a full-time basis. But the rides I did were a lot of fun. Without rear suspension, gears, or a dropper post, the Rocker is quite different from my usual steed. But that only allowed me to more quickly ready the bike for a ride and focus my attention while pedaling.
The Spot’s handling is unique. It’s a blend of old school cross-country and 21st century traction. The Reynolds 853 air-hardened steel frame is plenty stiff without being harsh. The Rocker is quick to turn in, almost nervous when the fork is compressed, and loves to rip around tight turns. On long, fast sections at times I needed to remind myself that I didn’t have rear suspension. It is certainly possible to get in over your head aboard the Spot.
While some may argue otherwise, the 27.5+ wheel and tire platform is perfect for singlespeed riding, where traction in low speed/high torque scenarios is paramount and maintaining speed through rough sections is appreciated. Yes, there is a weight penalty, but the reward is surefootedness.
The Spot’s Rockshox Reba RL fork is set at 120mm of travel. As mountain bikes continue to grow longer and longer legs, 120mm is now viewed as on the cross-country end of the spectrum. The Reba was easy to set up and performed well over the course of my test.
The rest of the components on the Rocker are affordable, workmanlike quality bits. Nothing too flashy, but all of them are entirely up to the job of conveying and stopping a mountain biker. Alloy Race Face handlebar, stem, and wheels are mated to SRAM Level TL brakes, a SRAM X5 crank, a Truvativ seatpost, and a WTB saddle. Gates handles the belt, “chainring,” and rear cog. Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic 2.8in. tires, set up tubeless, were great in a wide variety of conditions.
If you have second thoughts about singlespeed life, you can add gears to the Rocker. You’ll just need to install a different driveside dropout that includes a derailer hanger. All the cable guides are already in place.
While some may never even attempt a mountain bike ride on a singlespeed, scoffing at the silliness of it all, Spot’s Rocker is the epitome of fun. It is cycling boiled down, reduced to its most basic principles. And by stripping away all that is unnecessary, your connection with the trail becomes more intimate. Instead of isolating its rider from the undulations, bumps, and edges of the world, the Rocker puts it all into sharp focus. It reminds you that the world can be rough and tumble, but you’re up to the task of navigating your way through.
Nick Legan is the Technical Editor of Adventure Cyclist.
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
Size tested: L
Weight: 25.88 lbs. (without pedals)
Head tube length: 120mm
Head tube angle: 69°
Seat tube length: 483mm
Seat tube angle: 75.0°
Top tube: 622mm (effective)
Chainstays: 427 – 462mm (sliding dropouts)
Bottom bracket drop: 61mm
Bottom bracket height: 301mm
Fork offset: 51mm
Wheelbase: 1165mm (as tested)
Standover height: 713mm
Frame: Spot Rocker Reynolds 853 Air-Hardened, Heat-Treated, Double-Butted Steel, Kobe 2 Slider Dropouts, Boost 148 rear spacing, tapered head tube
Fork: RockShox Reba RL Boost 120mm travel, 110mm Boost spacing
Headset: FSA No. 42/ACB
Rims: Race Face Aeffect Plus
Hubs: Race Face Boost, 15 x 110mm front, 12 x 148mm rear
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic, 27.5 x 2.8in., tubeless ready
Crankset: SRAM X5, Gates CenterTrack 42T sprocket
Bottom bracket: SRAM GXP BSA threaded
Cassette: Gates CenterTrack 26T
Brake levers: SRAM Level TL
Shift levers: N/A
Front derailer: N/A
Rear derailer: N/A
Brake calipers: SRAM Level TL, 180/160mm rotors
Stem: Race Face 35mm clamp, 60mm
Handlebar: Race Face Aeffect 35mm clamp, 760mm width
Seatpost: Truvativ Stylo, zero offset, 30.9 x 400mm
Saddle: WTB Silverado