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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 09-07-06, 08:37 AM   #1
ActionJeans
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18-19 mile commute, single speed

I've been thinking about going single speed for awhile now, due to maintenance issues with my main commuter bike, a Specialized Sirrus (race face cranks from my old mtnbike, XT drive train and brakes). It takes a lot to keep it shifting/riding smoother, and is even worse when it rains a lot.

My problem is I am a bit worried about my commute. It's quite long from what I hear people saying, around 19 miles (18.54 per Google maps) one way, and is reasonably hilly, as I do live in Georgia. I'm just worried that I will be in a constant state of pain if I try to ride a single 4-5 days a week on that sort of commute.

I have also read, however, that single speeds are more efficient, due to the direct drive aspect. If so, how much more, and will it be enough to offset the difference of not having gears? I don't mind working hard, and in fact enjoy pushing myself on my commute. But, I also know the dangers of overtraining, and some days, I KNOW I should just spin, and take it easy. Can I do that on a single speed, with a moderate, to fairly hilly ride @ 19 miles?

How is it on you're knees? I know if I run a big gear all week currently, my knees can sometimes bother me. Now, my bike is not the best fit for me (a little too small), and has a pretty harsh ride (its aluminum), so that could be part of it.

I'm looking at possibly getting a San Jose, but if I'm disappointed with the bike, it's not the kind of cash I can just throw into a gutter and be okay with. I really have no use for this bike OTHER than commuting. Other bike I've been looking at is the Bianchi Veloce, as my bike is really too harsh too continue riding for much longer. Not comfortable at all, so a steel frame I am looking at seriously (can't afford or want carbon).

So I'm looking for people, who are not CAT1 cyclist, who have experience in longer commutes with a single speed, and what sort of difficulties I might be in for on a commute that is hilly AND long.

Thanks.
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Old 09-07-06, 08:44 AM   #2
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Why don't you just find your most comfortable gear, and ride
to work for a few days without ever switching gears? If it's
too much for you, then tool around with the gearing and find
something that works. If it still never comes around, then
you should probably stick with derailers.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:03 AM   #3
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Ahh, but that's just it. My bicycle is not a good test bed for that. It's very harsh, and very uncomfortable for me to ride extended periods. It doesn't fit me well, and as mentioned, it's aluminum. I think it was designed for about 15 miles per day, not the 40 I put on it.

Any testing I do of that sort would be automatically biased by the bicycle itself, and I don't think indicitive of what a true steel single speed would be like. As I also mentioned, I was wondering on the efficiency of the drive train on a single speed vs. a multi-speed bike. So again, the test would not be valid.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:06 AM   #4
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forget all that. single it and ride the bike.

you mention possibly over training. yer body will eventually acclimate to the ride as it is the same every day. in other words, after a few weeks, and if yer not doing any other riding, this ride will eventually be stale as far as yer body is concerned even if mentally it gets you pumped.

mix in some interval days after the ride home and twice per week take the long, really long, ride home. extend the 18 to 36. keep the intensities of yer rides varied and you won't have to worry about the over training issues. now's a good time with race seasons coming to an end.

one thing i've learned mtbing on a ss is that sometimes you have to walk. you may have to walk - or want to walk - if yer not feeling a certain climb one day. so be it - don't be a hero.

you'll be fine.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:09 AM   #5
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My longest commute on a SS has been about 10 miles. It is a great and cheap machine that I love dearly, but 19 miles with hills might be pushing it for me. It isn't that the hills or my knees would scare me (I love climbing on a single speed- I feel so strong) but rather the sweat when I get to work. If you have the time and facilities for a shower it could work great.

I would consider a SA 3 speed hub as an alternative if you want ease of maintenance (which is great). I would find an oldie-but-goodie steel frame and get a wheel built laced to an internal geared hub. If you are careful, you can probably bring the project in for a reasonable cost.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:10 AM   #6
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I never raced above CAT3 and I can commute SS just fine. The above is GREAT advice. Find a gear that feels good and spend a week or two riding in it, and see how you feel. My cross bike has one up front and nine in the back. I never shift on my way to work. The only reason I keep the other nine in the back is because I'm toooo lazy to swap out my rear sprocket for different cross courses (I think I shifted once last year).

Your knees will be fine. Brakeless FG's are what you have to look out for if you want to keep your knees in good shape. And even then if you start easy your knees should be ok. All that said... bike fit is EVERYTHING. If you have knee problems when you ride in a big gear, your bike isn't fitted to your body.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:13 AM   #7
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...boils down to a lifestyle choice, I reckon. ~jg
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Old 09-07-06, 09:18 AM   #8
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SS is the way. When I was messenger in DC back in the early 90's I had a Kona Fire Mountian that I converted to a single speed and rode to work from Alexandria, did runs all day and rode home. 10 years later after I stopped running the Dc streets I still single speed and work in Springfield Va which is 8 miles each way for me. Believe it or not, back then and now I run a 48/15 and after the first week all was good. Christ get all the extra weight of the bike and see how much easier it is to go up hills.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:26 AM   #9
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10-4

Thanks for the advice. I also didn't think about race season, so I was thinking about getting a new race rig, and possibly use that as a commuter (Veloce), but couldn't afford both a single and a multi. Doesn't look like I need to now, as I can save up all winter.

Also, winters here are pretty rainy, so the maintenance problems are compounded further in the winter. I am ALWAYS sweaty when I get to work, and just go to the bathroom and clean up. Take a clean set of clothes with me, and it's fine.

Thanks for the advice, looks like I'll be SS'ing it this winter.
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Old 09-07-06, 11:11 AM   #10
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If you want to know what it will be like just pick a gear on your geared bike and stick to it for your entire ride. If you are worried about your knees pick one you can still make it up the hills on without mashing excessively.
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Old 09-07-06, 06:06 PM   #11
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I don't race, way too slow. But I have been riding 50 miles round trip on a fixed gear bike over the summer. Now that teaching has started I am back to just one way. I have had no knee problems. The only difficulty has been bike handling when tired and carrying student papers home.
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