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Old 02-28-11, 02:19 PM   #1
BikeArkansas
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Rode a single speed

Yesterday I rode a single speed for the first time since I was 11 years old. I bought the bike new from a local shop. It is a Jamis Sputnik. Steel frame, carbon fork, some Ritchey stuff, FSA crank, Alex wheels and it is set up single speed only, no fixie, per my request.

It was actually fun. I have a 46 crank with a 17 freewheel. Easy to set on 20 MPH on the flats. I did climb a fairly small hill called Fort Roots in North Little Rock. May ride it fairly often.
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Old 02-28-11, 02:52 PM   #2
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I still enjoy riding a single speed at times. Like if I'm not in a hurry, or plan on being on mostly flat trail. My wife and I both have single speed Cruiser type bikes with Coaster Brakes (I think 44 18 gears certainly not speedsters). I installed a caliper brake on the front wheel of both bikes for safety reasons. Prior to riding the cruisers the last single speed I had rode was nearly 37 years ago when I was riding my old 20 inch wheeled Huffy Stingray type bike.

Riding a single speed can be a joyful experience under the right conditions, and can be one hell of a workout under the wrong conditions. At the tender age of 50 though, I find my knees vote for gears, and a lot of low gears to boot, spin, spin, spin.
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Old 02-28-11, 04:11 PM   #3
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Yes, they are fun aren't they!

A couple of years ago, I got the chance to put together a good single-speed bike (not fixed) for the princely sum of £25 (~$40). A friend had had enough of Yorkshire winters and decided to move to a warmer part of Europe before he felt too old to make the break. He didn't have the heart to sell his old steel-framed Basso so I agreed to look after it for him. When I mentioned that I was thinking of making a single-speed bike, he kindly donated his frame, forks, and wheels. I had most of the other parts in my junk box.



It turned out to be a really nice bike! It resides in my sister's house in a flatter part of England (Coventry) where riding a 39/15 gear isn't a problem. It wouldn't be much use where I live in Yorkshire with its rugged hills.

I find it a nice change from a geared bike. It's a bit slow from a standing start, tough to ride uphill, under-geared riding downhill, but it is light, simple, reliable and efficient - fun!

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Old 02-28-11, 04:28 PM   #4
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What's the difference between a single speed and simply keeping your multi-speed bike in one gear and not changing out of that gear? BTW, I grew up on SS bikes.

Nice bike.
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Old 02-28-11, 05:42 PM   #5
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Go ahead and give fixed a whirl. Sure, there's a learning curve, but you won't regret it. I haven't. Been riding fixed since 2000, and My knees are just fine. The "You're gonna blow your knees out!!!!" stuff seems to come from people who have never tried one. The Late Sheldon Brown rode fixed almost all the time, and until his MS got the better of him, his knees were also fine. (He's the one who I caught fixed fever from) There is nothing I like better than riding my fixie on a warm summer evening. It's almost like a state of light euphoria. That's the best way I can describe it.

I also do not participate in that "brakeless" garbage. I'll leave that for the 20-somethings. (Love being over 50!)

So, have I totally blown off geared bikes? No, not at all. If I want to go single speed, I do have the freewheel and If I need it, it's simply a matter of re-installing it.

46 x 17 gives you a gear of ≈73 inches. This might be a little high if you have really steep hills in your area.
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Old 02-28-11, 06:16 PM   #6
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I could see riding a SS like a Bowery because unlike a Fixie it still allows for the joy of coasting down long hills. I consider downhill a reward for riding up hills. What I don't like about fixed is just a few things, you can't coast while you get both feet clipped in. You will get lifted off of the saddle if you try to coast around a corner. You can’t coast anywhere even coming to a stop and you can’t coast to clip out. A SS is about as simple and it has none of the disadvantages of the aforementioned fixed gear.
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Old 02-28-11, 07:02 PM   #7
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A few years back I converted my 35 year old 10-speed to fixed and really fell in love with fixed gear riding. It's different than geared or free-wheeling because of your heightened awareness of your direct connection to the bicycle and to the road. The simplicity and elegance of a fixed gear (and SS too) is also very refreshing.



Modern geared bikes are wonderful machines but for pure riding enjoyment the fixed is hard to beat.

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Old 02-28-11, 07:07 PM   #8
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Go ahead and give fixed a whirl. Sure, there's a learning curve, but you won't regret it. I haven't. Been riding fixed since 2000, and My knees are just fine. The "You're gonna blow your knees out!!!!" stuff seems to come from people who have never tried one. The Late Sheldon Brown rode fixed almost all the time, and until his MS got the better of him, his knees were also fine. (He's the one who I caught fixed fever from) There is nothing I like better than riding my fixie on a warm summer evening. It's almost like a state of light euphoria. That's the best way I can describe it.

I also do not participate in that "brakeless" garbage. I'll leave that for the 20-somethings. (Love being over 50!)

So, have I totally blown off geared bikes? No, not at all. If I want to go single speed, I do have the freewheel and If I need it, it's simply a matter of re-installing it.

46 x 17 gives you a gear of ≈73 inches. This might be a little high if you have really steep hills in your area.
+1

riding fixed is something you will LOVE. Like trackhub says, there is a learning curve, but it is GREAT. I've been riding mine for close to 7 years now-- and have over 22000 miles on it. Hills are not bad once you get in shape, although the downhills can be tough (steep downhills).

Like they say, don't knock it until you've tried it... and in the case of fixed, try it several times before you give up on it

I also use brakes...front and back. It will also make riding your regular bike easier, as the fixed forces you to be efficient.

At any arate, enjoy the bike... and don't believe all the stuff about the knees. If the gearing is not too high, you will not hurt your knees.

train safe-
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Old 02-28-11, 07:07 PM   #9
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I rode a fixie in 1951, for the first, and last time..(Quick study)after that single speeds till the first 3 speed hub..

Bud.
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Old 02-28-11, 08:25 PM   #10
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I forgot to calculate the gear inches. Also a friend of mine told me today he has an 18 freewheel I can try when we ride some hills. I will calculate the gear inches for that combo.

There is already talk of riding my favorite ride, a metric century, with a bunch of friends on the single speed bikes. Yes, a couple of them will ride fixie, but most will be single speed.

I have a couple of really nice road bikes with the full gearing. I like those bikes and plan on them being my main rides. The single speed is just fun for a change. The real fun is the simplicity. No shifting. No thinking about when to shift up or down. Just pedal the bike.
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Old 03-01-11, 02:26 AM   #11
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Slightly OT, but I ride a singlespeed mountain bike all the time. It's an outstanding workout that really improves your mountain biking skills as it forces you to conserve momentum and stay balanced when climbing out of the saddle.
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Old 03-01-11, 04:56 AM   #12
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I have a couple in my " bike stable " right now that I ride once in awhile. A 1962 Schwinn Tiger, & a late model repo Schwinn Corvette. The old saying, " it rides like a Cadillac , " applies !
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Old 03-01-11, 07:31 AM   #13
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Currently I have a road bike and a beater mountain bike. N+1 = carbon fiber road bike, N+2 = folding bike, and N+3 = single speed fixed gear.
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Old 03-01-11, 12:21 PM   #14
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I too have a great single speed. A Fuji OBey Track Bike . 46x19 gearing and works well on the moderate hills around here. I use it mainly as a training bike on morning club rides. I have it set up with a free wheel , just too old for the " fixed" . I really enjoy this ride a lot.
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Old 03-01-11, 01:37 PM   #15
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Regarding riding fixed, I agree that you should try it; you might really like it. I know I do.

Still, I couldn't get my wife to ride fixed, even after (or especially after) she tried it. That said, she does like riding single speed, and has put far more miles on her SS than I ever expected she would when I built it up.

Rick / OCRR (still riding fixed at 60+)
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Old 03-01-11, 04:00 PM   #16
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The last time I rode single speed was on a rental bike along the Wildwood NJ boardwalk. Even then, I was wishing for a three speed. I do think there is something about the simplicity of a single speed that is very attractive, but it's really hard for me to get into that groove. I am glad, however, that you enjoyed it.
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Old 03-04-11, 04:37 PM   #17
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Been riding fixies since about 1973, mostly in the winter when I was racing, but for the past few years all of the time (except when I'm on the tandem). I did a randonneur series in 2009 on a fixie, and have done centuries and stuff. I don't find riding a 10-sp carbon fiber road bike on a century very challenging at all, but riding the fixie puts the challenge back into it, especially up the hills. Also nice to blow past guys on fancy road bikes, plus there's no shame in getting dropped when you're on a fixie! A real win-win.

I usually ride 42x16, a good compromise for moderate rolling and for up and down hills. I've maxed out at about 67 kmh on a descent in 42x16. Not recommended, though, unless your chainline is perfectly straight!

Fixies are a big advantage in winter, as you can feel if the road is the least bit icy when you use the rear brake (I always use two brakes, although I like Sheldon Brown's recommendation to use only the front when it's dry). It's also nice at night as you don't have to worry about what gear you're in when it's pitch black (a problem with the tandem - I look back at the rear cluster at night and it's too dark to see it!).

Here's a photo of my Rodriguez "Shiftless" street track bike (ordered in 2009 with couplers) at the top of Hurricane Ridge, a long climb just south of Port Angeles, WA:

I had the double-sided hub on the back. I used the fixed side going up, then reversed the wheel at the top so I could freewheel down on a single-speed. I'm not stupid! Well, not THAT stupid!

L.

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Old 03-04-11, 06:49 PM   #18
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That is a fine looking bike!

What I try to get across to people, is that there is a learning curve, but that it is well worth going through the learning process. When you ride a fixed gear for the first few times, you will do what most people do: Pedal along for about fifty strokes, then get the urge to coast. You will be quickly reminded that no, you cannot do this. A few rides, and you'll settle in.

Where the "fear" comes from is another matter. In the 1890s, people, both men and women, rode fixies all over the place. Oh, for lack of a time machines.....
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Old 03-04-11, 07:15 PM   #19
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I can't get into the fixed/ss craze. I've tried but where I live it doesn't work. I have two for sale cheap. I just never use them.
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Old 03-04-11, 07:43 PM   #20
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As the OP I did not intend for this to be about fixed gear riding, but I do find it interesting. However, I find many subjects interesting, and will never actually indulge in that interest, I just find them interesting.

No fixie for me. Never. I have seen too many problems other old guys have had. Single speed some, no fixie.

Not since this thread started have I even been on a bike. Work has taken over my life at this time. Making a living is such an inconvenience for cyclists. Oh well.
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Old 03-06-11, 08:27 AM   #21
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I started riding fixed in 2000, it was a craze, and I liked it. I was riding a huge 52x16, it was like being a freight train, take forever to get to speed and forever to brake. Then I started commuting by fixed gear, and shortened down to a 48x16, and a flop hub with an 18 or a 20. I was commuting 25 miles one way, and loved it. I currently have three fixies, two of them are track frames, and a converted road frame.
I have fallen riding my geared bikes in the snow and ice of winter, but seldom fall on the fixed gear, everyone says it's the direct drive, and feeling the road. I'm not sure why, I just know I like riding fixed. I know there are people who tour on a fixed gear, or at least a SS, not sure I'm willing to join them.
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Old 03-06-11, 07:28 PM   #22
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Haven't ridden a single speed since I was 12-13. I've never tried a fixie though... I think I'll stick to gears.
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Old 03-06-11, 08:26 PM   #23
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I'd like to try a single speed MTB. I rode with a guy who had a single speed rigid steel 29er once (Salsa El Mariachi). It looked liked a lot of fun and a real challenge.
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Old 03-07-11, 07:01 AM   #24
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I'd like to try a single speed MTB. I rode with a guy who had a single speed rigid steel 29er once (Salsa El Mariachi). It looked liked a lot of fun and a real challenge.
My younger brother rode a single speed Gary Fisher mtn. bike for a few years. Now has a 1 X 9 Salsa. He says the single speed taught him how to pick a line. Both were 29er hard tails.
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Old 03-07-11, 09:44 AM   #25
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My wife got me a Schwinn Cutter ss for Christmas a year ago. It's one of my favorite rides. The approach to riding is a little different on a single speed- you have to think about the terrain a little more, but you also get to simply coast down the hills and yell WEEEEEEEE because you max out your gearing more frequently. A lot of fun all around.
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