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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 12-29-09, 10:40 PM   #1
ryanwood
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Going Single Speed

Today I spent an hour and a half cleaning the drive train on my 2x9 cross check and I am can't take it any more. This is the second week in a row that I had to pull my chain and cassette in order to clean all of the sand, salt, and gunk out. I am heading to the LBS tomorrow morning to pick up some spacers, a cog, and a chain and I am going to swap tomorrow night

I told myself that I wasn't going to jump on the single speed bandwagon, I enjoy having my gears back there always ready to help me out, but apparently the city had decided that instead of plowing the streets here, they are just going to spread thousands of pounds of sand and salt everywhere. Combine that with snow storms and temps just below freezing makes a disgusting mess in my drive train.

I have a very hilly 10 mile commute and use every single gear combo available, but I just can't take the maintenance anymore.

Anybody have any advice for me before I make the plunge?
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Old 12-29-09, 10:43 PM   #2
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i went single speed two years ago and now i went fixed gear. its not as fast, but its a lot of fun.
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Old 12-29-09, 10:57 PM   #3
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Sounds like you need an internal geared hub.
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Old 12-29-09, 11:00 PM   #4
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Sounds like you need an internal geared hub.
I assure you, if I could afford it I would go IG, but since I can go to ss for about $30 its a no brainer.
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Old 12-29-09, 11:37 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by GaryNoTrashCoug View Post
Sounds like you need an internal geared hub.
+1

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Originally Posted by ryanwood View Post
I assure you, if I could afford it I would go IG, but since I can go to ss for about $30 its a no brainer.
IGH can get expensive, but if you are willing to go 3-speed they can be had for a reasonable cost - like this one which includes the shifter, cable, mounting hardware, and a 16t cog all for less than 70 bucks.
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Old 12-30-09, 12:30 AM   #6
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I can tell you personally that it will be an entirely different commuting experience. I went single speed on my Fuji a couple weeks ago and like it alot. I cant take some of the giant hills around my house but I walked up some of those even with gears. Your bike will be alot more reliable with alot less maintenance which is a plus but it will take some time to build up your legs.
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Old 12-30-09, 12:54 AM   #7
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Even an IGH, ss or fg setup will need cleaning on a routine basis to keep from getting damaged by sand and salt. The difference is just that there's less cogs to clean than with a full geared setup.
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Old 12-30-09, 01:03 AM   #8
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Going ss will also save you from cleaning your derailleur and shifter cables. Weather plays hell on cable function especially when you introduce a corrosive material like salt
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Old 12-30-09, 06:30 AM   #9
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I used to commute on a single speed but I found it too limiting in terms of speed on both ends. Climbing the bridge in the morning on a bad day was difficult and top speed was limited as well unless you want to pedal like a hummingbird. Then I had a Shimano 4-speed internal hub, that was perfect, until it broke So I'm back to regular gears. I just carry a small brush with me and wipe the drivetrain after each messy ride, then I have less cleaning to do later. I replace cables in Spring anyway, if Winter was messy, so that doesn't bug me.

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Old 12-30-09, 07:12 AM   #10
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Last winter I got a new touring frame for commuting, so I converted my Italian racing bike to a fixed/single-speed. I really enjoyed it for a while, riding it to work 1-2 days/week. However, my knees didn't like it at all. It is very hilly on my commute route, and apparently my knees just weren't getting enough time to warm up. Long story short, I came close to seriously injuring my knees, and I lost 1,000 miles of riding while recovering. It was an expensive and painful lesson.

I think a lot of the people who get into riding SS/fixed either:
- Live in areas with few or no hills;
- Are a lot younger than me;
- Have much stronger knees than me; or
- Don't ride very much.

I must admit, however, that SS/fixed bikes are appealing. They look great and are easier to maintain due to fewer parts. They are fun to ride because you feel much more connected to the road. They can be inexpensive to build up and maintain.

Just pay attention to your body if you decide to go that route.

Last edited by tarwheel; 12-30-09 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 12-30-09, 10:02 AM   #11
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i have been seriously putting together a cheap fixie to see how I like it, then possibly commit to a primary ss/fg bike as well.
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Old 12-30-09, 10:08 AM   #12
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Singlespeed is all very well and good if you live somewhere that is as flat as a pancake, but if you have any sort of serious hills, you need gears. I second getting an IHG.
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Old 12-30-09, 10:11 AM   #13
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You spent an hour and a half cleaning sand out of your drivetrain? Were you using tweezers? Get a hose, clean out the major stuff, relube, and get back to riding.
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Old 12-30-09, 10:12 AM   #14
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going single

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryanwood View Post
Today I spent an hour and a half cleaning the drive train on my 2x9 cross check and I am can't take it any more. This is the second week in a row that I had to pull my chain and cassette in order to clean all of the sand, salt, and gunk out. I am heading to the LBS tomorrow morning to pick up some spacers, a cog, and a chain and I am going to swap tomorrow night

I told myself that I wasn't going to jump on the single speed bandwagon, I enjoy having my gears back there always ready to help me out, but apparently the city had decided that instead of plowing the streets here, they are just going to spread thousands of pounds of sand and salt everywhere. Combine that with snow storms and temps just below freezing makes a disgusting mess in my drive train.

I have a very hilly 10 mile commute and use every single gear combo available, but I just can't take the maintenance anymore.

Anybody have any advice for me before I make the plunge?
I too commute daily and suffer the road gunk problem, I am going to try the internal 8 speed Shimano hub with a single chain ring up front. Good fenders help. I also clean the chain once a week during the winter, this you have to do. I also converted to disc brakes, they make a huge difference in braking performance. Another thing you could do is go back to a 7 or 8 speed set up as the spacing is wider and won't gunk up as much.

I also have built up a single speed mountain bike 29" wheel and am having trouble finding the right gear combination due to the 29" wheel, anyone have any suggestions there. Right now I am running a 32X22 and it just seem a little to big of a gear for the pacific Northwest trails
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Old 12-30-09, 10:52 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
Singlespeed is all very well and good if you live somewhere that is as flat as a pancake, but if you have any sort of serious hills, you need gears.
Tell that to the ss and fg riders who've done 1200k brevets. I know people who have ridden PBP, GRR, Cascade, and raced The Cannonball! and the S2S on fixed gear bikes. Heck, Deanna Adams finished the Great Divide Race on a fixed CX bike this year and Kent Peterson is racing it on a fixed 29er in 2010.
I put in about 25% of my yearly mileage on my ss/fg rig in the not-flat-as-a-pancake Cascade foothills. The key is to get your gearing comfortable, and realize that you're never going to max out your speed on the downhills, and yes, you may struggle on some of the longer, steeper climbs. I use a 44/18 combo (65.4gi) which at a comfortable 90rpm cadence puts me at 17.5mph.

That all said and done, I can't imagine spending 30 minute cleaning the drivetrain on any of my bikes. Even my brevet bike (2x9) is a 10 minute process: Pull the chain and repeat rinse it with mineral spirits until it rinses clean. Spritz the cassette with mineral spirits and scrub with a parts brush or floss it with the collar from an old t-shirt. Same for the derailleurs. Wipe the rings with an old t-shirt and some mineral spirits. Slap the chain back on and give it a drop of Finish Line per link.
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Old 12-30-09, 12:15 PM   #16
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Singlespeed is all very well and good if you live somewhere that is as flat as a pancake, but if you have any sort of serious hills, you need gears. I second getting an IHG.
My commute is 40 mi rt w/one 18% .4 mi hill. Depending, I'll do switchbacks or grunt my way up straight on 2-3 times per week. In my area I've got rides laid out from 20 to 120 miles that I do on singlespeed. There're several 5-14% grades within those parameters. This year a guy finished the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen ( http://www.dannychew.com) on a fixie w/39x20 gearing. The easiest hill is a 24% grade grade w/t toughest being a thigh burning 38% on cobblestone. The rest fall somewhere in between.

IGH would be optimal, of course, but going to fx or ss is doable. One just has to select the right gearing. I use 46x16, but will go to a 48x15 fx asa I get the $$ for the components(wheelset, bb, cranks, etc) for my old Ross frameset. When I finally made the jump it took me about a week to adjust. My overall strength on hills improved as well as my technical skillset.
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Old 12-30-09, 12:25 PM   #17
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i run 42x16 and it works for me quite well.
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Old 12-30-09, 01:17 PM   #18
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Not everyone has the bodyweight-to-strength ratio to ride a singlespeed up steep hills. Kudos to people who can, I'm jealous When riding a singlespeed (freewheel) I was unable to go up some hills no matter how hard I tried, I'd just stall I could have gone with lower gearing but then my top speed would be limited.

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Old 12-30-09, 01:25 PM   #19
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I commute on a FG road bike, but I live in a very flat city. I have a SS freewheel, but have used it very rarely. I like FG for winter because of the instant feedback on wet streets and because it does force you to pedal the entire ride.

As for knees, I notice that mine are very sensitive to proper saddle height. Whenever I've changed saddles/seatpost/pedals, I could tell within a few mm whether I was too high or too low. Also, going with a lower gear/ spinning a higher cadence can help.

If you have a gear in mind from your multi-gear bike, I'd suggest going one cog more (that is, easier), especially in winter.
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Old 12-30-09, 01:52 PM   #20
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Switching my bike to SS was the best change I ever made. The bikes that are just for fun still have gears, but a commuter or transportation bike does very well with SS. I started with 59GI two years ago and used 67GI this year. I wouldn't put gears on it even if they were free.

The riding will be different, but you will get used to it. Don't be afraid to run a low gear and learn to spin.
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Old 12-30-09, 02:01 PM   #21
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I agree with AdamDZ.

Kudos and applause to those that can do it.
I commuted from my house to US1 one beautiful Florida Sunday afternoon (7 miles approx) on a 20+ year old ss cruiser style oldie but goodie.

I rode the bus home.

*---as someone else has posted: MY KNEES HURT!---*
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Old 12-30-09, 02:33 PM   #22
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I just converted my Bianchi San Jose to an internal hub and love it. I had 42x16 gearing and found the SS to be a little too limiting, especially on the straightaways.

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Old 12-30-09, 02:51 PM   #23
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What you really need, is to convince the road crews to use magic salt ice melt.







But Officer, really I was not cycling while drunk!
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Old 12-30-09, 02:56 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
Not everyone has the bodyweight-to-strength ratio to ride a singlespeed up steep hills. Kudos to people who can, I'm jealous When riding a singlespeed (freewheel) I was unable to go up some hills no matter how hard I tried, I'd just stall I could have gone with lower gearing but then my top speed would be limited.

Adam
6'6" and 230-ish pounds, here. The low gearing I've chosen allows me to use that weight to a mechanical advantage when slogging up the long grades.
You are correct about the top speed, though. I maxed out at 28mph on my fixed side once on a wicked downhill and I really found my zone. I was spinning up over 140rpm to do that, and honestly thought my legs might snap off if I tried to go faster! My comfortable average on the ss/fg rig (both sides with the same gear combo) is around 17 - 18mph, or hovering around 90rpm.
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Old 12-30-09, 02:57 PM   #25
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Where I live there are hills and it is harder to ride my ss up them but I feel alot more accomplished when I do. Gears are great if you need them but many riders dont. It is all preference but I do enjoy the workout on my way to work that I was not getting when I had gears.
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