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  1. #1
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    Help Climbing Gnarly Trails

    I have been riding for exactly 50 years this month. I commute over 3,000 miles a year on a fixed gear track bike (48:18) here in hilly Vermont. I'm in good shape and a strong climber on asphalt and dirt, but I've only been riding mountain bikes for 9 months and I am entered in the Vermont 50 on September 30. I'll be riding my Redline Single Speed (32:18), and I'd like to get your advise on climbing rocky, rooty trails.

    Overall, I'm very happy with the singlespeed. But I have a hard time maintaining momentum on a bumpy uphill. I realize that not being able to downshift is probably the issue, but I have no interest in multiple gears and just want to know how other single speeders deal with this handicap. I don't mind running up the hill, but I know I can improve my technique and stay in the saddle a little longer before I do.

    Thank

  2. #2
    Bicycle Rider & Mechanic Trekbikedude's Avatar
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    hit the roots straight on. You want your tires to be perpindicular with the roots if they are wet. Just stay loose on the rocks, kinda let your body and elbows and knees absorb the bumps.
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  3. #3
    Official Website Waterboy born2bahick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cogdriven View Post
    I don't mind running up the hill, but I know I can improve my technique and stay in the saddle a little longer before I do.Thank
    I don't have any advise other than to say I had my arse handed to me in a race one time by a guy on a SS/29er. He was amazingly good at dismounting and shouldering the bike. It seemed as though the bike was on his shoulder before both feet hit the ground! He won the class that day so he beat all the geared riders. If you can maintain speed great,but don't spend too much time kicking a dead horse. If you think you can go faster running, do it. I do alot of trail running and average 6+ mph on long runs ( 9 miles )
    A lot of times climbing with gears my speed can drop to 2 or 3 mph. So I guess my $.02 for a SS is to know when it's time to dismount instead of trying not to!
    Last edited by born2bahick; 08-17-07 at 12:49 PM.

  4. #4
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    I did the VT 50 last year.

    I ride a singlespeed MTB most of the time but keep a geared bike for racing.

    from my recollection I say that you will be better off running most of the short steep climbs in the VT 50. and that most of the longer climbs are on jeep track/dirt road or smoother singletrack.

    As far as Climbing on a singlespeed. For me, I try and stay seated for as long as possible to keep momentum and to keep rear tire traction. Once you get out of your seat, torque the hell out of those bars and then you gotta know when you are beat so that you have enough momentum left to dismount and run up in a nice motion. Once you spin out on a loose rock or wet root, I am usually done on my SS.

    Like Born 2b said, with running, most times you will be passing geared bikes in there grannys. A brisk walking pace will be granny gear speed.

    So, in summary, I offer you no help at all. Good luck to you and I'll see you up there this year on my Dos Niner.

  5. #5
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Man, I hope I'm lucky enough to still be riding SS when I'm your age! I don't know what your terrain is like, but any momentum I can get going into a climb is gone after about 15 feet. My experience on short, steep climbs is to approach with a good line in mind. Most of the time I'm out of the saddle almost immediately, popping the front wheel over rocks, roots and whatnot, and unweighting the rear tire as it crosses the obstacle. This does result in a momentary loss of traction, but it makes it easier to get up steps and ledges. I run a 32x20, so it's pretty easy to get the front wheel to pop. As others have mentioned, it's often faster to run than ride. I tend not to shoulder the bike, since it's easier to jump off and let the bike roll unless the terrain is really rough.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mild beast View Post
    first, think MOMENTUM. you wanna hit that stuff with speed. hitting ded on (as suggested) is fine, when appropriat. of course wheeling around it is good 'cuz you don't LOSE MOMENTUM. i was always (and still do) popping micro-wheelies to get over stuff and just riding it out on the back tire.

    the other things is keeping your ass firmly planted on the seat. this keeps the rear wheel in drive / traction and you don't lose MOMENTUM.
    Good advice. Also, keep your upper body relaxed as much as possible. This will allow your front whell to roll better over the technical stuff.

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  7. #7
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    Thanks to all of you. My natural reaction on any hill is to climb standing because that is the best way to attack on a fixed gear. You want to keep your speed up as high as you can to maintain momentum. But in the woods, I'm sacrificing traction, which becomes more important as the pitch increases. I'll try to restrain myself and see how that feels.

    I also rarely pick up the bike when I'm on foot unless I'm climbing over a deadfall or crossing a brook. But I see a lot of people carrying their rigs. The monocog frame is hard to get your shoulder through, compared to my pista. Is there a good technique for getting your mtb settled on your shoulder and is it really worth it to carry all that weight uphill when you could be letting the wheels carry it? Do you carry them in a race because it's easier to pass if you're taking up less space?

  8. #8
    Official Website Waterboy born2bahick's Avatar
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    Again I don't ride SS or claim any type of authority. I do know that it takes me longer to push a bike up a hill that it does to shoulder and carry. I also rarely pick up the bike, but in a race situation I would!

  9. #9
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cogdriven View Post
    Thanks to all of you. My natural reaction on any hill is to climb standing because that is the best way to attack on a fixed gear. You want to keep your speed up as high as you can to maintain momentum. But in the woods, I'm sacrificing traction, which becomes more important as the pitch increases. I'll try to restrain myself and see how that feels.
    I've found it to be a real balancing act between power and traction. If it's really steep, I can't stay seated and keep turning the pedals enough to keep going. So then I have to sort of hover over the nose of the seat, keeping my center of gravity far enough forward so as to keep the front wheel on the ground, but far enough back that I don't spin out. I've switched to a more aggressive tire in the back [WTB Velociraptor], and it definitely helps. It's not a fast tire, but I don't break traction as easily as I did on semi-slicks.

    Quote Originally Posted by cogdriven View Post
    I also rarely pick up the bike when I'm on foot unless I'm climbing over a deadfall or crossing a brook. But I see a lot of people carrying their rigs. The monocog frame is hard to get your shoulder through, compared to my pista. Is there a good technique for getting your mtb settled on your shoulder and is it really worth it to carry all that weight uphill when you could be letting the wheels carry it? Do you carry them in a race because it's easier to pass if you're taking up less space?
    When I raced [MANY moons ago] I used to run out of gears, what with the 48/38/28 x 12-28 gearing on my bike, and wimpy legs. The only time I can recall it was better to shoulder the bike was when the trail going up consisted of 12" root ledges spaced about 5' apart. It was steep enough that I had to use trees for balance and to help me climb. In short, I don't pick up the bike unless it can't easily be rolled. There's almost always a line up a climb where it's too steep to ride, but you can sprint with your bike rolling beside you. I even lean on the bike a bit if I'm really tired. The less work your legs do, the faster and/or longer you can go - that's basic exercise physiology. As long as you can roll the front wheel along the ground, you're going to do a little less work, and your center of gravity will be lower than if you shoulder the bike, which makes it easier to keep your balance. YMMV.

    That said, I see a lot of cyclocross riders shouldering their bikes, but their bikes typically weigh less than your average mtn bike, and the terrain doesn't look quite as rough. Does anyone have CX experience they'd like to share?
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cogdriven View Post
    ...

    Overall, I'm very happy with the singlespeed. But I have a hard time maintaining momentum on a bumpy uphill. I realize that not being able to downshift is probably the issue, but I have no interest in multiple gears and just want to know how other single speeders deal with this handicap. I don't mind running up the hill, but I know I can improve my technique and stay in the saddle a little longer before I do.

    Thank
    The thing that helps me on steep climbs is remembering to put a extra "oomph" into the pedals right before the rear wheel encounters and obstacle. That will give you the extra momentum you need to get up over it without slipping.

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