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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 10-27-11, 05:08 PM   #1
Steely Dan
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I love SS/FG in concept, but......

there are days like yesterday where i was reminded of how glad i am that i decided to go with an IGH for my foul weather/back-up commuter bike. a 30 knot headwind screaming at me right off the lake for 14 miles on the way in, then an absolutely riotous 30 knot tailwind shoving me along for the 14 miles of my return run home.

the simplicity of a single speed bike really, REALLY appeals to me, but because my commute route takes me directly along the stupidly windy shores of lake michigan, i just don't know how a single gear ratio could work comfortably and enjoyably for both 30 knot headwinds and tailwinds.


an alternate title of this thread: "Why do big giant bodies of water have to be so goddamn windy?"
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Old 10-27-11, 05:24 PM   #2
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Be appreciative of the fact that you enjoy a tailwind...
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Old 10-27-11, 05:28 PM   #3
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Yeah. I've ridden my new IGH bike for about 650 miles, and I'm hooked. Super easy compared to my touring bike, but still enough to at least get up and down the hills.
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Old 10-27-11, 07:28 PM   #4
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I saw a great piece of advice to somebody considering a fixie, they were told to pick a gear on their normal bike and dont change gears. If you like riding like that, the get a fixie.

On the odd occasion when I have ridden with a fixie rider you have to wait for them to pick up speed when the light goes green, as their gear ratio is to high for a fast takeoff. This puts me in the mass of bikes taking off. Then their high speed is generally lower, as they are not geared high enough. If they are, they are even slower to take off...

Also, unless they carry a front brake, and that does seem to defeat the whole idea, they have to be much more ready to stop, as skidding a back tyre is not the quickest way to stop.

Still, I really do see the appeal of such a simple bike....

z
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Old 10-27-11, 09:22 PM   #5
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I saw a great piece of advice to somebody considering a fixie, they were told to pick a gear on their normal bike and dont change gears. If you like riding like that, the get a fixie.
I always find that gear... ride a bunch of miles on it. Then run into a nice steep hill
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Old 10-27-11, 09:34 PM   #6
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I can't understand the appeal of limiting myself to a single speed, even less so have it fixed so that I can't coast. But, around here it's pretty hilly. No one gear will ever be good enough for everything, and going down hills around here fixed just sounds like torture, to me at least. I'll stick to my gears. I've found I need my granny gear sometimes when I'm commuting with my books on the back.

On the other hand, my grandfather lived down in the flats in Louisiana and he refused to ride anything but a single speed because he just didn't need the added complication. I can respect that, and I even imagine a fixed gear wouldn't be unpleasant in such a flat environment.
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Old 10-27-11, 11:53 PM   #7
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It's true that with a fixed gear/ss you can't always have the appropriate gear for any situation, but it's relatively easy to find a ratio that will work consistently if you are a strong rider. FG drivetrains are more efficient than geared bikes so it isn't quite the same as just leaving your bike in one gear and never shifting. You'd be surprised to learn how not having the option to shift really frees up your mind. Also, I don't see how running a front brake defeats the purpose of a FG in any way.
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Old 10-28-11, 12:18 AM   #8
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Also, I don't see how running a front brake defeats the purpose of a FG in any way.
Well the whole appeal of a fixie, for me, is that it is a simple as possible. Adding anything would seem to defeat that ideal.

z
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Old 10-28-11, 12:28 AM   #9
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I recently had to ride without my rear derailleur for one morning commute (broken cable) and I absolutely hated it. Even though Shanghai is flat as a pancake, there are a couple of bridges that have to be climbed on my route, plus the wind seems to be quite variable, and so I change gears relatively frequently. I just couldn't get by on a single speed. Mechanically simple, maybe, but not being able to keep an efficient cadence in any conditions pretty much ruins the idea for me.
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Old 10-28-11, 12:34 AM   #10
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I always find that gear... ride a bunch of miles on it. Then run into a nice steep hill
Oh, +10000.
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Old 10-28-11, 01:25 AM   #11
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I had a lot of arguments in my head against fixed gear/ss until I lived with it for awhile and now I love it.
Never wished for more gears or felt wanting in traffic.
The simplicity just makes it so enjoyable, hard to describe. There are a lot of good things it does for your spin, strength and it's mentally fun because it's a new challenge for something you take for granted.

It's made me a better rider. I wish I took it up a long time ago.

As to the front brake- if it's needed than that is as simple as possible.
You can go without brakes. Just ride a lot slower or a lot crazier.
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Old 10-28-11, 01:40 AM   #12
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Just curious, but how do people ride up hills with SS/FG?

I seriously considered getting a bike with a Alfine 8 when I was bike shopping earlier this year but soon realized it would not go low enough as they came from the store. I figured that I could change the chainring and/or rear cog but if I did that, the top end would be about 70 gear inches maximum according to Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator. If it went up to 80 or 85 that would be perfect. The Alfine 11 seems to have a much more usable range as it can be geared to have a range from about 23 to 90 gear inches.

My daily commute is quite a workout even with 28T ring 34T cog combination or about 22 gear inches.

Last edited by jsdavis; 10-28-11 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 10-28-11, 02:26 AM   #13
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It actually feels a little easier to me to climb on a fg but I live in Missouri where even our mountains are really only big hills. I think you would be surprised what you could accomplish in only one gear if you absolutely didn't have the option to switch to another.
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Old 10-28-11, 03:05 AM   #14
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I've gone up hills in 3rd gear on my 3-speed on occasion that normally I'd use 2nd or 1st if I'm tired. You have to stay 'on top' of the gear, which basically means going like hell into the hill and cranking as hard as you can to stay at a high enough cadence. Still, when I'm tired at the end of a ride, loaded up with lots of stuff, I'm glad to have a couple of lower gears.

I think an IGH setup has many of the advantages of SS/FG (no derailleur to get bashed or clogged up with mud/snow, single fixed loop of chain etc) but gives you more options at the expense of a bit more complexity. Apart from the 3-speeds, they're also difficult to repair. For flat areas a single speed is perfect.
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Old 10-28-11, 07:43 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
. . . the simplicity of a single speed bike really, REALLY appeals to me, but because my commute route takes me directly along the stupidly windy shores of lake michigan, i just don't know how a single gear ratio could work comfortably and enjoyably for both 30 knot headwinds and tailwinds.
I'd suggest taking a look at (if you haven't already) the SA S3X FG hub. I poo-poo'd it when I first heard it was coming out, took a second more serious consideration of it when I had a little arthritis flare up in my knee, and for the past year of every-day commuting use, have found it to be a revelation.

Last edited by f1xedgear; 10-28-11 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 10-28-11, 07:54 AM   #16
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I really like the idea of a fixie, but have never ridden one. I have to ride a lot of hills both on my commute and other riding (averaging about 100ft per mile), and I don't like having to mash or spin too fast. The most extreme gearing I'd go is probably 1x7. I grew up with a few heavy cruisers that had 1x3 and 1x5 and they weren't too fun.

I once fantasy spec'ed out a fixed gear ratio, checking the gear inches, etc. and ended up with something similar to what Lance Armstrong apparently rode which makes sense since it's a lot of hills. But I would hate not being able to coast when going down some of these hills. And for commuting, forget it, no way I'm sacrificing acceleration or top speed when I'm in first in a line of vehicles at a red light taking the lane.

The big difference I would like to experience for myself is the feel of a tighter chain and having no derailleur. Riding a geared bike without changing gears is not the same, I imagine.

One day I will probably just get a BMX/trick bike (always something I've wanted for my "stable") and that will quench my fixie thirst.
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Old 10-28-11, 07:59 AM   #17
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for people wanting to try SS/FG, find a good gear ratio, then don't touch your shifters. Try to live with that for a season and see if it floats your boat.

On long rides, +2 hrs., Shifting to me is second nature, just a flick of the fingers. From my experience, I tend to "free my mind" when I have perfect cadence, otherwise I focus too much on spinning and not lose my footing if the gearing is too low on a long downhill or i focus too much on pushng the pedals and suppressing leg and lung pains when gearing is so high on long uphills.
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Old 10-28-11, 08:03 AM   #18
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I converted one of my bikes to fixed/single speed several years ago. Although I enjoyed riding it, the lack of gearing options was very hard on my knees and I had to reinstall gears. You learn how to ride differently when you only have one gear. My problem was that I found that I had to attack all of the hills (and my commute route is very hilly) and that led to knee injuries -- probably because my legs were not warmed up enough for that kind of riding while commuting. My knees started hurting within several weeks of converting my bike to SS and I stupidly did not relate it to the gearing change until I had damaged my knees, which took about 6 months of rehab to clear up (and they still aren't 100%).

However, if you commute in an area with flat terrain, I can see the appeal of riding SS/fixed.
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Old 10-28-11, 09:19 AM   #19
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Just curious, but how do people ride up hills with SS/FG?
Basically, you stand up and pedal harder.
It takes a bit of adjustment but it's not as bad as it sounds. Somehow this kind of riding feels easier on an SS drive train, though I can't put my finger on why.

I find I can climb moderate hills just as easily on my FG as on my geared road bike, although it gets tiring to keep your momentum up on very long hills. However, past a certain threshold of steepness I can't maintain a reasonable cadence anymore. At that point, climbing on a fixed gear just flat-out sucks. But such hills are rare in my area and I can usually route around them.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:28 AM   #20
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Well the whole appeal of a fixie, for me, is that it is a simple as possible. Adding anything would seem to defeat that ideal.

z
This is nonsense. Adding a front and/or rear brake to a fg is merely prudent for commuting under any kind of load or riding in any kind of traffic. Locking one's drivetrain is a nice trick and definately works to stop a given fg, but to commute brakeless is to invite calamity by a substantial percentage. One can choose to ride brakeless as it does look cool. But, the ground is cool @ a constant 55F. Save it for the track.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:40 AM   #21
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everyone keeps mentioning hills in this thread, but i live in chicago, one of the flattest places on our globe. the only "hills" we have here are expressway overpasses.

the enemy me for me on my commutes is the wind that often obnoxiously blows along the lake michigan shoreline. on wednesday when the 30 knot winds were blowing, i had to drop down to the 4th gear (52 gear inches) on my alfine 8 IGH (6th is my normal cruising gear (75 gear inches)) to make headway against that awful, awful wind. and unlike hills, wind like that doesn't stop, it just kept blowing and blowing and blowing at me all the way up the lakefront. i can appreciate getting up out of the saddle and powering a SS/FG up a nasty hill along a commute route, but i don't have the realistic option to stand up and power through a 30 knot headwind for all 14 miles of my commute!

i could of course just gear down a SS/FG into the 50 gear inch range, but that doesn't really work all that well for tailwind or wind-neutral days. on wednesday i had that same wind as a tailwind on the ride home, so i bumped my alfine IGH all the way up to 8th gear (99 gear inches) and I was FLYING with the wind all the way home at god only knows what speed. there's no way i would have been able to take advantage of such a ridiculous tailwind like that if i was locked into a 50 gear inch on a SS/FG.

i guess the real point of this thread is that it would be nice to live on a planet without wind. why does the air in my little corner of the world frequently seem to be in such a damn hurry to be somewhere else?

Last edited by Steely Dan; 10-28-11 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:59 AM   #22
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Gears were invented for a reason.
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Old 10-28-11, 11:02 AM   #23
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My normal commute route is quite flat, and my primary commuter bike is a single-speed. I like to coast, so I don't run fixed.

If I have after-work activities that take me further east, then I have a few hills I have to deal with. Very ride-able hills, but enough of them in a week and my knees feel it.

If I need to haul anything heavy, I'm riding a geared bike. I made the mistake once of hauling 80lbs of pet supplies in a trailer towed behind the single-speed. Even tiny hills became a problem.

I did ride a 100K populaire with a group of strong riders earlier this year. I was the only bozo on a single-speed. It was a moderately hilly route. I did fall behind, but still made the time cutoff.

My SS is geared about 65 gear-inches. I completely understand the wind being an issue. However, I don't live next to a big lake.
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Old 10-28-11, 11:03 AM   #24
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everyone keeps mentioning hills in this thread, but i live in chicago, one of the flattest places on our globe.
Yeah, but we still have the heavy traffic to deal with. Being able to take off from a full stop and gain speed quickly is a must, IMO. As mentioned, that's harder to achieve with a fixed gear.
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Old 10-28-11, 11:29 AM   #25
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It takes a bit of adjustment but it's not as bad as it sounds. Somehow this kind of riding feels easier on an SS drive train, though I can't put my finger on why.
Perhaps the lack of a derailleur and shorter chain leading to a more direct transfer of force. But I'm just guessing, I've never ridden a FG.
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