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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 12-01-10, 08:17 PM   #1
erichkopp
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Single-speed/fixed long distance riders

I've been doing bunches of shorter rides, usually no more than 30 miles, on my single-speed lately. Today I set out to do another quick ride, but kept seeing more and more inviting roads to ride, and ended up with 70 miles by the time I got home. Needless to say, I'M HOOKED! I haven't had a ride that was this fun in ages. I enjoyed the ride way more than any geared long ride I've done because I wasn't trying to push a hard gear the whole time, which seems to be a natural impulse for me when riding gears - I can't just spin and relax.

So now I'm curious, what gearing do you all ride on your SS/FG rigs? I rode a 39/18 today, which felt incredibly easy in the beginning, but was comfortable at the end of the day. I'm thinking a 17 would be really nice, maybe a 16 if there weren't many hills or headwinds. What factors do you use to determine what gear you intend to ride?
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Old 12-01-10, 08:32 PM   #2
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i'd think that the determining factor would be the terrain and how fit you were. a 39/17 sounds like a pretty comfortable gear to push-- i know i spin something like a 55-60 inch gear most times (on my bike that usually works out to a 44/21 or a 34/15). looks like a 39/17 is about the same-- and it's pretty hilly round these parts.
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Old 12-01-10, 08:53 PM   #3
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I've ridden several centuries and a 200k on my Worksman cruiser, which is single-speed and geared 2:1.

I'm thinking more often than not, SS/FG guys are going to be pushing a hard gear more so than spinning out- I was thinking most of them were geared a lot higher than the Worksman.

At certain times, the Worksman was about as fast as my Sojourn- specifically, riding into a headwind at about 12 mph. But riding with a tailwind at 23 mph was something you just couldn't do with the Worksman, and riding uphill at 6 mph required multiple stops along the way, so overall, it was a pretty sucky way to try to ride long distances. I took almost 2 hours off my Hotter-n-Hell 100 time switching to the geared bike.

One of the big problems in riding longer distances is that you don't always know what the terrain or weather is going to be like. Riding into a stiff headwind for 60 miles straight sucks with a geared bike, but would suck even more so with a singlespeed that was geared wrong.
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Old 12-02-10, 12:20 AM   #4
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I don't know... I rode a year's worth of monthly centuries on a FG with 39x17 in quite hilly terrain and felt reasonably comfortable. I also toured with it in France in 2007 with two panniers, a tent and handlebar bag, and again it was no big issue.

I would suggest anyone starting out in FG/SS from a geared bike opt for a lower gear than the hipsters would tell you. When my cycling sort of went into a hiatus back in early 2009, I felt I was just about read to fit either a 42T front ring or a 16T cog or both. I like to guard the health of my knees.
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Old 12-02-10, 06:18 AM   #5
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I ride a 42x16 FG, which is about as much as I can manage in the hills around here. Anything more than a hundred metres long with >10% gradient and I'm walking. I haven't yet done a century on that bike, but I've been over 70 miles a few times. Not sure I'd choose to tour FG/SS, but if I did I'd gear down to 42x18 or maybe even 42x20 to cope with luggage and more severe inclines. I agree with the OP about the fun element, though, there's a lot to be said for riding fixed.
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Old 12-02-10, 07:24 AM   #6
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Gearing is pretty variable, and will depend on terrain, training, person, luggage, etc.

I've done some fixed dirt long rides 80-100 miles and I used 42x17 and 42x19. Steep loose stuff was tough, but everything else was fine.
I was running 32mm tires. When I ran narrow tires I was running 42x16. If you want a bit of insurance - pick up a Surly Dingle Cog - run a single ring up front and have 2 options in back (assuming you can slide your wheel) - or run 2 rings up front and you'll be able to change things up mid ride. At one point I had a my cross check set up with a flip flop hub and was running 42/17 42/19 40/19 fixed and 40/22 single speed on the flip side.

2:1 might be OK for really steep stuff, or touring - but I'd spin out on that too quickly for rolling terrain. I used 2:1 when trailering the little one and running 35 knobbies.

Pictured is my 42/40 up front with 17/19 in the rear:



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Old 12-02-10, 07:45 AM   #7
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I ran a 42x17 fixed gear last summer. A lot of my riding was in the mountains.
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Old 12-02-10, 09:08 AM   #8
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I've ridden three fixed centuries (1 in '09, 2 in '10) and a few friends have ridden fixed double centuries, but that's just too long on a fixed gear for me.

My gearing is 42 x 15, which is a tad higher than those noted above. Climbs and flat bits are no problem, but since the descents have been beating me up I've been thinking about going a tad higher still, i.e. 42 x 14.

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Old 12-02-10, 01:02 PM   #9
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I've done a few 200ks on my single speed. Some have been flat-ish, others fairly hilly (8,000 ft in 200k). I always ride 44/18 which works out to about 65 gear inches. That gearing works well for me. Every once in a while I'll have to use my granny gear (walking). I prefer a slightly higher gear when I'm riding fixed, but I don't ride fixed much anymore.

And yes, long rides on a single speed are loads of fun. It's--dare I say--very zen like.
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Old 12-02-10, 09:59 PM   #10
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Hahah I think the word "zen," especially in reference to cycling, has been completely cashed.

It's a ton of fun. When I ride with gears I hardly ever stop to check out anything cool I might pass by. Riding single-speed turns my ride into more of a journey, and less of just another ride. That's all personal, though.
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Old 12-02-10, 10:59 PM   #11
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48x17 here for my fixed gear. Right on the borderline that I can struggle over a short 10% grade and but large enough that my legs aren't a total blur coming down the other side. Pretty comfortable at 100 miles.
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Old 12-03-10, 12:09 AM   #12
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I use a 42 with a 16/18 double freewheel, 15 cog on the flip side for going fixed. Double centuries of moderate climbing are a joy. But then again, the bike itself is an absolute joy, so gearing isn't the only factor here.
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Old 12-03-10, 10:54 AM   #13
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I have a 42/16, which is the stock gearing on that bike. My commute to work has 1400 feet of ascent and descent each way. My issue is not so much the climb; those are palatable, even carrying a full load. It's the descents that give me some trouble. Since I can turn this gearing even on the most brutal climbs I've had around here, I am contemplating something steeper so that I don't spin out on the downhills. But everyone is different.
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Old 12-04-10, 08:56 PM   #14
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I did the 200km brevet, mostly flat but with one good hill (10-15%). My ratio is 47x17|16.
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Old 12-05-10, 08:37 AM   #15
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48/17 here-- and my bike has over 22000 miles on it over the last 5 years-- including Ride the Tockies in 2007-- with a ride to the Maroon Bells (out of Aspen) followed the next day by a ride over Independence Pass (22 MILES of climbing...) I broke it into segments, and just concentrated on getting to the next rest stop. It was actually loads of fun. The downhill on the other side, however, was tough-- I used my 2 brakes just to keep my legs from over-spinning. Did top out at around 38 mph, which on that gearing is WAAAAAY too fast.

I have also done a few centureis and a double metric on it. It is my primary commuter and my route has hills. I love riding this bike

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Old 12-06-10, 03:15 PM   #16
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I did a 200k 48/19 fixed and while climbing was easy the decents were downright scarry spinning at 236 rpm's. I have currently put the rear cog to 18 and feel much better. Have done some long rides but not anything like the 200k of last season.
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Old 12-07-10, 01:45 AM   #17
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Using brakes does mean you don't have to spin at excessively high speeds.

FWIW, however, high-speed pedalling does teach you (well, at least me) to keep the pelvis horizontal throughout the stroke.
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Old 12-08-10, 04:54 PM   #18
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build up very slowly - it's not as forgiving as a geared bike. I think of it as somewhere between running and cycling - move faster to go faster, never stop moving, and you earn every mile. Evolve to longer/harder miles slowly or you will risk injury.

I live in the CA Bay Area and we have a fair amount of climbing. As a general rule, start with 42x17 and go up (or down) from there - it's a great general purpose gear. A 16T or 15T might be better if you plan on group rides with geared bikes, or as you get stronger. The longer the ride, the more forgiving your gear should be - it's much easier to run bigger gears on shorter rides (when you're fresh).

Spinning as a high cadence take some time to "learn" as well - your brain doesn't learn as much as your body. You'll get smoother and more efficient over time.

Your brakes (better to have front AND rear) should be in a very comfortable position - you many need to "drag" them on long descents (unless you have money and knees to burn by skidding). You may also want to consider adding "cross" brake levers to give you another option - it's also a little more upright.

Riding fixed is a great way to simplify your riding experience - especially for winter!

Spin faster, not harder...
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Old 12-09-10, 11:30 AM   #19
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Currently, I'm running the largest gearing I've ever used on a fixed gear. I have a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket with 60x13 (93 gear inches). The 60 is equivalent to a 46 on a 700c wheel. Most of my riding, at the moment, is flat and fast. This gearing is working great for me. I will probably try a 15 tooth for some longer hilly rides. But, I think I will go with my current gearing for Cross Florida which is a 170 mile ride.
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Old 12-10-10, 12:21 AM   #20
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I go 42/16, SS. It's perfect for nothing but pretty good for everything, and it's not going to kill you if you have to crank it into a wind or up a hill (not that I ever see one of those in Chicago).

You might want to keep both brakes on if you try fixed, by the way. There's absolutely no reason to take the back one off other than style points, and if you're riding distance there will come a time when you'll want it.
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