The Swiss Army Bicycle

The Swiss Army Bicycle

Bikepacking with Kids Reading The Swiss Army Bicycle 4 minutes Next The Goldilocks Gear Ratio:

Designing the Swiss Army Bicycle... 

At OLSEN Bikes we wanted to design a “Swiss Army” Bicycle.  A Bicycle that has many drivetrain options.

We have put together keenly priced bike builds with SRAM NX Eagle 12 speed with Recon RL suspension forks for £1799.  The gears will not last forever, however it will give you approximately a year of riding before you need to make a choice to stick with 12 or change?

We also have a series of Rolling Chassis for £1499 for those who want to add your own groupset and brakes.

The reasoning behind the “Swiss Army” Bicycle is to give the customer more versatility.  To give you more choice – to change your mind – to experiment with what works for you.  So, like the Swiss Army knife Olsen Bikes have several drivetrain options.  OLSEN Bikes have 142mm wheels have Shimano 9-spline hyper-glide (HG) rear cassettes. This allows you to run the following:

  • SRAM and Shimano 12speed derailleur drivetrains. 
  • Box 4 Prime 8 speed derailleur drivetrains. 
  • Gates CDX Carbondrive belt-drive.
  • Single speed. 

Chain Problems:

The modern Mountain Bike Drivetrain takes a hammering.  The development of narrow cassette cogs and chains has not helped drivetrain longevity.

  • Single speed and track chains are 1/8 inch.
  • 6-8 speed derailleur chains are called 3/32-inch, however the outside measurement is 7mm.
  • 9, 10 and 11 speed have all got narrower and 12 speed chains are now 5.3mm

Multi Speed Derailleur Economics:

12speed chains need replacing regularly and every 3 chains you need to replace the rear cassette and possible front chainring.  Single speed is Gates Carbondrive will last approximately 2years.  So you have the following “Swiss Army” options: 

  • 12 speed GX Chain £25 x3 = £75 + 12speed GX Cassette  = £175 + Front Chainring = £50  TOTAL = £300
  • 12 speed NX Chain £20 x3 = £60 + 12speed NX Cassette  = £75 + Front Chainring = £50    TOTAL = £185
  • Gates CDX Carbondrive belt = £80 + 24T CDX rear cog  = £79 + Front Chainring = £80    TOTAL = £279
  • 8 speed Izumi 3/32” Chain £16 x3 = £48 + 8speed BOX 4 Cassette  = £50 + Front Chainring = £50    TOTAL = £148
  • 1 speed Izumi 1/8” GOLD Chain £13 + Olsen SS Cog  = £15 + Front Chainring = £20    TOTAL = £48

OLSEN Gates CDX with Gears:

OLSEN Bikes can split for Gates CDX belts giving you the option to chainless world.  Gates Carbondrive drivetrains that can either be run with our Pinion Gearbox Bikes, Single speed or Internal Hub Gears like Rohloff Speedhub and Shimano’s Alfine 11. Changing the 142mm RocknRollouts to the 135mm RocknRohloff Dropouts this bike can change into anything you want it to be...

  • Shimano Alfine 11 hub gear - no problem we have 135mm RocknRohloff Dropouts for this.
  • Rohloff Speedhub – Rohloff have a 142 Maxle version – however 135mm RocknRohloff Dropouts work on the solid axle version of the Rohloff.
  • Kindernay - no problem we have done this with chain drive 142mm RocknRohloff Dropouts.


Purely on drivetrain costs Single Speed is the winner, however this is not for everyone.  Kleins of the 1980 & 1990’s ran derailleurs, but all had rear facing dropouts so that they had a backup plan for mechanicals. WARNING 12speed cannot be converted to singlespeed if you have a mechanical.  12 speed chains and cassettes want to climb up through the gears.  

Our OLSEN Swiss Army philosophy is to have options.  Run derailleurs or gears but have the option to convert to singlespeed mid ride.  BOX 4 needs a special mention, as they offer the alternative to 12 speed.  BOX4 have an economic solution using robust 3/32” chains from the past, but with modern 1x12 gear range.  BOX 4 gets really good test reviews from Bike Journos.  We have several BOX 4 bike builds for this reason.

Keep Riding – Keep your options open – OLSEN gives you options like a Swiss Army Bike.