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  1. #1
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    Single Speeds and Old Knees?

    I love some of these new Single Speed bikes out there. So simple, so pure in form and function. Plus, being back in a Bike Shop selling and wrenching again, I like to stay current with the trends in the business.

    So...

    I am thinking about buying a Bianchi San Jose SS/Fixed. It's a very basic bike, and I'll probably toss on a Carbon Fork and a Brooks saddle on it just to make it more "ME".

    I intend to really study my local rides and figure out which gear combo I'll get the best training with. I've always had good legs and a fair cadence so I know once I get my legs under me, that this bike could be a really good training piece and one that would be inexpensive enough to ride this Winter.

    I have made too many excuses the past 5-7 years for NOT riding, and now that I am back I want to keep things fresh and think long term with a large dose of stress relief along with a large dose of fun. Another thing to consider is that this will be my first real Road/Cyclocross bike in a long time. I've been on MTB's and Recumbents for the most part since the 80's.

    What do you folks think?

    Chris
    A Mess of old bikes...
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  2. #2
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    old knees

    I recently built a single speed out of junk parts in my garage. I have a 60 inch gear (40x18) with 27" wheels and it works fine for most riding I do close to home. I have a daily 9 mile exercise route that this works perfectly on. I used an old Raleigh Technium frame ( glued aluminum and steel) and it works fine. You will find yourself spinning more and pedaling slowly up some hills so the rhythm of the ride will be different. You won't be able to hammer at high speed all the time but instead, you will be spinning at higher rpm's on the flats or riding easily at about 15 mph at 90 rpm's or you will be cranking up hills at 40 rpm's. On my bike I find myself coasting down hills, spinning on flats and saving my energy for the climbing. It works fine, if you don't have huge hills. Most of the time, you can find a gear in the mid sixties that will work for most routes. If you are light and in shape you can make this work over more hilly terrain but you just have to pace yourself differently. I recently rode a short 24 mile group ride on flatter terrain and I did it just as fast (actually faster) on my single speed because I was spinning efficiently, rather than pushing too high of a gear like I usually do. My average speed on most rides is 13-15 mph so I picked a gear that would allow 15 mph at 80 rpms on flats but still allows me to climb modest grades. Downhills are a time to rest for the upcoming climb. You may want to build a bike with a double (ENO) freewheel and a dual crankset. This allows two ratios about 10 gear inches apart with the same axle position in the dropout. Doing this is a good way to go since you have a lower gear for when you get tired and a higher gear for flat sections. If your ride starts out flat and ends with a climb it works great. You still get a simple setup that is easy to service and a more usable bike. You may want to consider a Rivendell Quickbeam also. I ride a recumbent as well and wanted to try single speeding. Haven't tried fixed and have no plans to do so. Single speeding is fun and relaxing and works great as a commuter bike.

    My single speed is posted on
    www.cyclofiend.com
    and on my page

    My page

    http://www.myspace.com/eccentriccyclistcharlie



    Quote Originally Posted by ang1sgt
    I love some of these new Single Speed bikes out there. So simple, so pure in form and function. Plus, being back in a Bike Shop selling and wrenching again, I like to stay current with the trends in the business.

    So...

    I am thinking about buying a Bianchi San Jose SS/Fixed. It's a very basic bike, and I'll probably toss on a Carbon Fork and a Brooks saddle on it just to make it more "ME".

    I intend to really study my local rides and figure out which gear combo I'll get the best training with. I've always had good legs and a fair cadence so I know once I get my legs under me, that this bike could be a really good training piece and one that would be inexpensive enough to ride this Winter.

    I have made too many excuses the past 5-7 years for NOT riding, and now that I am back I want to keep things fresh and think long term with a large dose of stress relief along with a large dose of fun. Another thing to consider is that this will be my first real Road/Cyclocross bike in a long time. I've been on MTB's and Recumbents for the most part since the 80's.

    What do you folks think?

    Chris

  3. #3
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Somewhere on Sheldon Brown's site there's an article (or maybe a link to one) about SS/fixed gears and knees; the gist being, there's nothing inherently "knee-unfriendly" about them. Unless, of course, you do lots of skid stops (where you lock your knees at speed to stop) on fixed like the kids on the SS/Fixed forum. Or unless you have insanely high gearing more suited to velodrome racing.

    There's tons of good info on Sheldon's site; spend some time perusing it.

    The 40/15 on my fixed bike cruises nicely at a good cadence on the flats around 18-20mph. I'm 54 and my knees are still in pretty good shape.

    Also, do a search for "fixed gear" and "singlespeed" on 50+. There are a good number of us who have posted useful stuff in the past (including my own eloquent paens to riding fixed .)

    I think you'll find it adds an enjoyable new dimension to your riding. The San Jose looks like a winner for road and gravel MUP riding.
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  4. #4
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    I really studied my potential route to work this morning. Up to the City Line it's quite workable with wide shoulders and pretty god pavement. This is also where some of the slight hills are and I would think the stock gearing at 42/17 or maybe a 42/18 would do me okay. My natural cadence is around 80-90 so that would be fair enough. My problem is the rest of the ride through the "Inner City" to Downtown. The streets are a little narrower and there is no real bike lane due to parked cars. My alternate route is longer, but probably safer in the long run, and that is to take the loop out past the airport and then hit the River Trail and head north on that. It ends less than a mile from the office.

    I've seen Sheldon's site and read most of that.

    On the knee thing. I have had some slight knee pain since being on the bike. Nothing that causes me to get off the bike or stay off of it, it's just there. Some of this could be due to my weight and I've dropped 15 lbs in 2 months so it's coming off the way I want it with a modest increase in riding time. I would never ride in the FIXED position, it will be a freewheel for me. The Bianchi comes with a flip hub so I can have two sprockets on it. There are some sweet parts I'd like to hang on it, but being I want to commute, the cheap stuff might be better off with that.

    I'll be kicking around these thoughts on this for a bit.

    Thanks!

    Chris
    A Mess of old bikes...
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    08 Gary Fisher Paragon

  5. #5
    Let it be! zymans's Avatar
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    After testing different setups. I got a Langster with 42 / 16. With freewheel on one side and a fixed gear on the other (haven’t try the fixed gear yet).

  6. #6
    dbg
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    69 gear iinches on mine, and it is my favorite training ride. But it doesn't work out for riding with others. On my last outing I was overtaking another rider (and I was pushing pretty hard) but when he saw me he clicked into a higher gear and disappeared. You'll just be working on your own pace and rhythm.
    David Green, Naperville, IL USA (Trek 5900 Superlight), (Lemond BA), (Peugeot UO8 (SS)), (Dozen other muts)

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  7. #7
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Don't fear fixed! When I built mine it was for training/technique improvement, and curiosity. I really thought it would be the bike equivalent of eating your spinach: good for you but not terribly enjoyable. Boy, was I wrong! It is no more difficult than riding geared/freewheel, just "different". It may not be for everyone but if you can, give it a try.

    I practiced at first on easy rambles on MUPs. Now, I take mine on all but the fastest club rides: up to 18-20mph. And I might even try a century on it. (But I'll see how my first century goes on my road bike in a couple of weeks.) Whether I ride fixed or geared on a given day is basically what I'm in the mood for. Kind of like the choice between flavors of pie.

    Hmmm...maybe fixed tonight.
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  8. #8
    lunatic fringe Dogbait's Avatar
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    I have three single speed or fixed gear bikes. Number 3029 in my signature has a flip-flop hub with a 16 tooth cog on the fixed side and a 17 tooth Shimano freewheel on the other. The chainwheel is 42 teeth. i have fenders on this one for winter use.

    Number 3502 has fixed, 17/19, on both sides with a 46 tooth chainwheel. This bike is lighter and faster and the frame was designed for fixed gear use.

    I also have a single speed MTB (no photos yet) with a 42 tooth chainwheel, 16 fixed on one side and a 17/19 White Industries freewheel on the other. This bike was built to use on rough pavement and gravel roads.

  9. #9
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Sorry gang, I really like my gears!
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  10. #10
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    Sorry gang, I really like my gears!
    Old gears, at that!
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  11. #11
    Muscle bike design spec robtown's Avatar
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    I have my fixie/ss geared at 39/17 until I get stronger and am only riding ss for now. It is a different style. The hill at the start of my ride kicks my butt, riding 15 - 17 mph on the level is great, and I spin out/coast on downhills. I try to commute one day a week on that bike and it always gives me a workout.
    One day, when I have time and courage enough, I'll flip the wheel and try fixie. In the meantime, I'm putting the old-style traps/cage pedals back on.
    Korval is Ships
    See my Hyperlite 411 it's the photo model on OutRiderUSA web page

  12. #12
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    I converted my old Trek tourer when I bought the Atlantis, and in some ways it's my favorite bike. I geared low for the hills around here (west of Reno, Nev.), so I'm running a 34-18--I could probably go higher now, but when I built it I was heavier and not very fit. I spin out around 16-17mph, but there are two serious hills on a couple of my normal rides.
    No problems with the knees, though. I'd been worried about that because I have a history, but no troubles in about three years.

  13. #13
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    A fixed gear, no freewheel, can be knee friendly as your forward momentum will cause the crank to move from the 'top dead center' (where your foot is pressing straight down on the axle making it hard to get the pedal around).

    A fixed/single/internally geared drive train can use 1/8", rather than 3/32", parts so it is tougher and more efficient.

    You can allign the chainline and get ride of effeciency reducing parts.

    Basically while you only have one gear, you get more out of it than a similar gear on a derailer bike.

    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/fixed.html
    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/singlespeed.html
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
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  14. #14
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    I had a Track Bike in my youth. Man, don't know how old it was, but it had that skip tooth crank and wood rims with sew-ups on it. What a PAIN that was. Left it home when I entered the USAF in 1974, and when I came home the bike was long gone.

    But, I think nothing good will come of this! LOL! I was looking over the site that Dogbait has his bikes on and I am amazed by some of the stuff on those pages. It's one of the few things I've not tried recently and I need to do this for my own understanding. I mean what's not to like about where I'm going with this? Maybe a steel framed Bianchi Pista in the optional "Gang Green" paint, cut the bars down, add a front brake to make the wife happy, find someplace that has Soma "Green Camo" bar tape, and find an old school Shimano 600 crank from the 70's and I'd be happy!

    Chris
    A Mess of old bikes...
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  15. #15
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    track or road frame

    Quote Originally Posted by ang1sgt View Post
    I had a Track Bike in my youth. Man, don't know how old it was, but it had that skip tooth crank and wood rims with sew-ups on it. What a PAIN that was. Left it home when I entered the USAF in 1974, and when I came home the bike was long gone.

    But, I think nothing good will come of this! LOL! I was looking over the site that Dogbait has his bikes on and I am amazed by some of the stuff on those pages. It's one of the few things I've not tried recently and I need to do this for my own understanding. I mean what's not to like about where I'm going with this? Maybe a steel framed Bianchi Pista in the optional "Gang Green" paint, cut the bars down, add a front brake to make the wife happy, find someplace that has Soma "Green Camo" bar tape, and find an old school Shimano 600 crank from the 70's and I'd be happy!

    Chris
    If you are an old track racer and you are still agile you can probably get away with a higher geared, fixed gear,short wheelbase track frame. I would rather have a more relaxed frame design with room for fenders and a longer wheelbase for comfort. In addition, I prefer a freewheel for some very practical reasons. Riding on the road is way different than on a track. My SS (not fixed gear) bike is very handy for most riding if there are no great climbs. Mild rollers or something as steep as a freeway ramp is about right for me in a 60-68 inch gear. I can comfortably spin at 80-90 rpm at about 15-17 mph and its great. I find myself climbing faster because the gear is higher but since I am coasting downhill and spinning on flats, my knees/legs have something left for the climbing, in a higher gear, than my usual. The rhythm of the ride is different and on mildly variable terrain, its not any slower. I just picked a gear that was comfortable to spin at 15 mph on flat ground and figured since my average for longer rides is about that, I would be fine most of the time. I occasionally walk real steep hills and thats o.k. too!

  16. #16
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    I'm running 42x16 on the Europa (avatar) and that's fine though 42x18 is very relaxing if you're only riding quietly or have lots of stopping and starting.

    Trying to find the right sized gear by using your geared bike seems to make sense on the surface, but it's not horribly reliable. You'll find that because your feet are being driven by the pedals all the time, you can build up and hold momentum in your pedalling much more efficiently than the same gear with a freewheel. For example, there is a creek crossing here that is steep in, steep out and always has my geared bike down on the bottom end of the gear set. With the fixie, I just cruise up the other side and have to stand for one or two pumps of the pedals near the top.

    Downhill is fun too. With my gearing, 30 mph is a cadence of about 145. At those revs, it's easy to bounce on the saddle but if you can get yourself pedalling through the stroke, it smooths out to a real turbine like feel - it's magic. On the other hand, fighting the steep hills in my area is just exhausting, but it's improving my 'stand to climb' no end.

    They're a different world, and if you find yourself working too hard, fit a smaller gear.

    Richard
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  17. #17
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by ang1sgt View Post
    I love some of these new Single Speed bikes out there. So simple, so pure in form and function...What do you folks think?
    There's a good fairy whose job is to help cyclists' old knees.

    TCS
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  18. #18
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    I'd say try it out. If you hate it you could always run a brake and use a freewheel hub. If you hate that get a internal gear hub. If you hate THAT, sell the bike and get a derailler bike.

    If you keep the gear down (I agree you should look into a flip flop hub with maybe a 60-65 inch gear and a 45-50 for little hills and headwinds) you should be fine. I would love to still be using a ss or fixed but I mostly ride to commute and I have to go over a bridge twice a day - it got to be too much for my knees. Now it's all deraillers all the time for me.....if I ever move someplace totally flat I'll def look into a ss or fixed again. (Man, I wish I still had my old track bike!)
    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
    People whose sig line does not include a jsharr quote annoy me.

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