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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 10-03-10, 03:53 PM   #1
silverwolf
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Touring: SS or Fixed?

Anyone done a tour on a SS/FG?

I've got a bike that i'm setting up for touring that has a single speed drivetrain, which needs a rebuild. The question is, freewheel or fixed? The freewheel would help when tired or when going down long hills/gradients, but fixed could help with cadence and hillclimbing from what I understand.

Also, there's the question of gearing, which could also vary depending on whether it's ss or fixed. My road gearing is about 70 gear inches, and my off-road/bad weather gearing is ideally about 55. What's a reasonable medium to adjust for long distances on the road, but likely minor forays into bad weather, light offroad, etc? I've heard a 10% reduction from road gearing works best but I'm not sure.
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Old 10-03-10, 04:14 PM   #2
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Gearing is arguably a more personal than saddle choice. Nobody can tell what a good gearing is for you or for your route.
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Old 10-03-10, 05:00 PM   #3
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Gearing is arguably a more personal than saddle choice. Nobody can tell what a good gearing is for you or for your route.
Tell that to the touring forum, they all seem to agree, 'the lower, the better.'

On a SS, it's different, and it depends largely on how much stuff you are going to bring. If you have a light load, plan on eating out, staying in hotels and the like, you can probably make due with your current gearing. If you want to haul around camping gear, then you're going to be in for some compromises. You might have to settle for something in the high 50s or so, or maybe even lower depending on the route.

I suggest get a pack-list, then figure out how you're going to carry it, and plan your gearing from there.
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Old 10-03-10, 08:53 PM   #4
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Great topic! I have a single speed right now but planning on getting it replaced with a lighter ss or fg. And I also want to tour with this new bike and definitely traveling light.
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Old 10-04-10, 12:55 AM   #5
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What you need is a flip-flop hub : one side with a fixed sprocket, the other with a freewheel. I personally run 43/16 fixed and 43/17 freewheel. Miche makes very nice, cheap flip-flop hubs.
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Old 10-04-10, 09:11 AM   #6
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By "touring" do you mean loaded touring, where you carry all your gear and food with you on the bike, or credit card touring from one motel to another?

If loaded touring, I would advise against SS/FG at all; you will want and use as many gear ratios as your bike can handle.
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Old 10-04-10, 09:43 AM   #7
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By "touring" do you mean loaded touring, where you carry all your gear and food with you on the bike, or credit card touring from one motel to another?

If loaded touring, I would advise against SS/FG at all; you will want and use as many gear ratios as your bike can handle.
This.

If you for some reason need to use SS (which really doesn't make sense for covering a lot of ground on open roads), I would definitely not go fixed. I rode 30 miles yesterday fixed, and even though I ride every day, I was good and sore. I was also cramping up. They invented freewheels (and gears) for a reason, and those reasons apply most of all to touring.
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Old 10-04-10, 09:53 AM   #8
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ive been waiting for hipster tarck touring bikes for a long time.
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Old 10-04-10, 10:24 AM   #9
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ive been waiting for hipster tarck touring bikes for a long time.
Ha, agreed. I've seen plenty of people who say they're going on a fixed/ss tour, and very few who actually go through with it. That's not to say the OP can't pull it off, but it is to say that single-gear touring seems to attract a lot of folks who haven't previously toured. Having only done fairly light touring myself and never ss/fg, I would strongly advise against doing so to the OP if it's your first touring excursion (is it?). Try it geared first, even for a quick weekend trip, to see if it's really for you and, if so, to figure out your gearing. As mentioned in earlier posts, I think it might be doable for a fairly light rando / credit card approach, but completely ill-advised for anything approaching loaded touring unless you're talking about super-flat terrain.

Also, fixed helping your "cadence and hillclimbing" is debatable; imho it's bogus once you have decent technique, but others will certainly disagree. (I mostly ride fixed, fwiw.) Regardless, it's of little relevance to touring. When you find yourself whooped and riding with additional weight, the advantages of a freewheel (and multiple gears) become abundantly clear.
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Old 10-04-10, 10:46 AM   #10
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Ha, agreed. I've seen plenty of people who say they're going on a fixed/ss tour, and very few who actually go through with it. That's not to say the OP can't pull it off, but it is to say that single-gear touring seems to attract a lot of folks who haven't previously toured. Having only done fairly light touring myself and never ss/fg, I would strongly advise against doing so to the OP if it's your first touring excursion (is it?). Try it geared first, even for a quick weekend trip, to see if it's really for you and, if so, to figure out your gearing. As mentioned in earlier posts, I think it might be doable for a fairly light rando / credit card approach, but completely ill-advised for anything approaching loaded touring unless you're talking about super-flat terrain.
There are a lot of long distance riders who run fixed, every year there are quite a few people doing Paris-Brest-Paris fixed. A light touring load is only a few pounds heavier than a heavy randonneuring load. If you do your best to keep your load light, think use a tarp, not a tent, a light down bag, don't use a stove, minimal luxury items, maybe one change of clothing. If you throw 20 some-odd pounds of gear into a saddlebag, you could reasonably do it on a fixed gear.

Of course, the people of who the long distance fixed riding are a special set of hardcore.
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Old 10-04-10, 12:14 PM   #11
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Single speed all the way!!

I just did my first century on my stock dawes sst. My goodness I can not imagine doing that on a fixed gear bike. I don't recall my gear ratio, but I took a beating and a half on the hills. Down hill was the time to rest and grab something to eat.

If you decide you want to do the flip flop hub, I'd vote for a quick release hub in the back, 90% of the ride you'd be fine with one gear. But I'd imagine if you wanted to switch to a lower gear it would be helpful to not lose your momentum. I walked up a steep hill twice, i'd need to weigh an extra 100 lbs to get enough weight on the pedals to go up that hill.
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Old 10-04-10, 12:15 PM   #12
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Of course, the people of who the long distance fixed riding are a special set of hardcore.
Hardcore or insane.
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Old 10-04-10, 12:25 PM   #13
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I have to say gears would make the trip much more enjoyable but If your stuck with no gears, run a freewheel.
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Old 10-04-10, 01:08 PM   #14
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i rode 60miles fixed the other day and was surprised that i wasn't sore at the end of the day or the next, i ran a brake so obviously that helped, especially on the downhills, there was someone who commented on a hill that he didn't envy us(there were 4 of us riding fixed, but when we ran into him at a coffee shop later he basically said "it got you here as well as my bike got me, if i were 20years younger..."

just make sure your bike is the right fit, find a gearing that works and make sure to balance your load(i had a 15# mess bag with water and tools and tubes on my back) and you'll be fine, i should have put panniers on my bike rather than the bag but otherwise no regrets
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Old 10-04-10, 03:12 PM   #15
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Tell that to the touring forum, they all seem to agree, 'the lower, the better.'
Are you talking about multi-geared touring bikes or SS? If you're talking about multi-geared bikes, yeah, the obvious choice is to have the lowest gearing possible, along with as wide a range as possible. I wasn't talking about multi-gear setups—gearing choice isn't so personal when you always have between 10 and 30 gears at the ready.

If you're talking about single speed touring, I really doubt anyone in the touring forum is going to tell you to ride on 25 gear inches.



In any case, we have no idea where this fellow is going to be traveling through mountains or across plains. We don't know how far he wants to bike and we don't know how quickly he wants to go. We don't know what his load is going to weigh. We don't know his weight or his fitness level. We don't know if he's a spinner or a masher.

And even if we knew all of this stuff, our suggestions for gearing could be way off.
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Old 10-04-10, 03:33 PM   #16
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If loaded touring, I would advise against SS/FG at all; you will want and use as many gear ratios as your bike can handle.
+1000000000

as someone who has ridden fixed, SS, and done my share of touring, i agree wholeheartedly. what you do have going for you is that houston is super flat (as you know), but an extra 50 lbs of gear on the bike makes a completely different ride. when on flat ground, the weight works somewhat to your advantage, provided there isn't a strong wind. you can get some good momentum going and will want a higher gear to keep going on flats or after a downhill. however it works against you heavily on even the slightest incline.

as for riding fixed, that is even worse. there is no ****ing way that you are going to have a gear ratio that allows you to climb a hill with all the extra gear and not completely spin out on the back side. i generally climb at about an 8-10mph pace on tour, and i descend those hills at 30-35mph.

once again, this is all based on what "touring" is to you, OP. we need more information.
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Old 10-04-10, 04:16 PM   #17
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Looking at bicycle history, it is interesting to note that tourists were the first to embrace multi-gear and derailleur drivetrains. Racers continued to use fixed gears for many years after multi-gear systems became available and reasonably reliable. Derailleurs weren't even *allowed* in the Tour de France until 1937...
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Old 10-04-10, 06:49 PM   #18
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More info (thanks for responding)- I will be "camping" but in the lightest way possible- about a 30-35lb at most pack, probably less- apart from the bike, which has my water supply and toolkit/spare parts on it, I will be carrying a sleeping bag, change of clothes, basic firestarting equipment in case of a campsite, a folded bota bag incase I need water when away from the bike, music player and spare batteries, flashlight, radio, poncho, small length of rope, swiss army tool, two knives (one for general use, one for protection), probably about 5 or less lbs of food at a time, and shelter of some kind (this being my most irritating issue; I don't have much money but it isn't fun to sleep in the rain, in the open).

I do have previous experience doing touring (150-300 miles) on a geared bike, and lighter touring (70 miles over 2 days) on a single-speed, though it was a mountain bike and ridden on trails. I also have experience "ultralight" or lightweight camping, though tent/shelter choice is perplexing me currently- I had previously toured with someone else who could carry a much larger pack containing a foldable tent.

I assumed as much about the SS versus fixed- I will definitely get a BMX freewheel rather than a track cog.
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Old 10-04-10, 07:02 PM   #19
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More info (thanks for responding)- I will be "camping" but in the lightest way possible- about a 30-35lb at most pack, probably less- apart from the bike, which has my water supply and toolkit/spare parts on it, I will be carrying a sleeping bag, change of clothes, basic firestarting equipment in case of a campsite, a folded bota bag incase I need water when away from the bike, music player and spare batteries, flashlight, radio, poncho, small length of rope, swiss army tool, two knives (one for general use, one for protection), probably about 5 or less lbs of food at a time, and shelter of some kind (this being my most irritating issue; I don't have much money but it isn't fun to sleep in the rain, in the open).

I do have previous experience doing touring (150-300 miles) on a geared bike, and lighter touring (70 miles over 2 days) on a single-speed, though it was a mountain bike and ridden on trails. I also have experience "ultralight" or lightweight camping, though tent/shelter choice is perplexing me currently- I had previously toured with someone else who could carry a much larger pack containing a foldable tent.

I assumed as much about the SS versus fixed- I will definitely get a BMX freewheel rather than a track cog.
Well then, it sounds like you have a pretty good sense what you're in for. As for gearing, why not simply figure out what works empirically? Assuming you have even a few days to play with, just try riding loaded and experiment. If you're at all uncertain, I would keep an extra, bail-out freewheel on-hand. That's obviously easiest if your hub is threaded on both sides, but also doable depending on which tools you plan to carry.
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Old 10-04-10, 07:08 PM   #20
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Ok, it sounds like you have at least some idea of what you're getting into. That's good.

If you're not expecting rain to be a major part of the trip, you can always just use sleeping bag, sleeping pad and ground cloth. If it does happen to rain when you're out, just wrap yourself up in the tarp and you'll stay dry enough in a brief rainstorm. Or you can even get fancy and set it up as an A-frame over a ridge line.

If I were you, I'd ditch the Bota bag, all the knives (swiss army included), and the radio. You can also leave the music player and batteries to save a little more weight. I'd try to get it down below 25 pounds if I were you. Most any bike can handle an extra 20 pounds without trouble, but more than that and it starts to have an effect on handling. You don't need a low gear of 22 gear inches to haul a light load up a hill.

Personal preference is to avoid the pack, I can't stand it myself, but if it works for you.

With a load like that, it's definitely doable to tour fixed over moderate terrain, but it will be a challenge. As long as you don't mind walking some hills, and likely having lower mileage than if you toured with gears.
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Old 10-06-10, 09:16 AM   #21
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The music player and swiss army knife are small and weigh a very negligible amount- I could carry them in my pocket with no adverse affects. 25lbs would be nice, but I'm not sure what the tent would weigh- anyone know the average weight of walmartopia or another cheap store's foldable tents?
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Old 10-06-10, 10:31 AM   #22
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More info (thanks for responding)- I will be "camping" but in the lightest way possible- about a 30-35lb at most pack, probably less- apart from the bike, which has my water supply and toolkit/spare parts on it, I will be carrying a sleeping bag, change of clothes, basic firestarting equipment in case of a campsite, a folded bota bag incase I need water when away from the bike, music player and spare batteries, flashlight, radio, poncho, small length of rope, swiss army tool, two knives (one for general use, one for protection), probably about 5 or less lbs of food at a time, and shelter of some kind (this being my most irritating issue; I don't have much money but it isn't fun to sleep in the rain, in the open).

I do have previous experience doing touring (150-300 miles) on a geared bike, and lighter touring (70 miles over 2 days) on a single-speed, though it was a mountain bike and ridden on trails. I also have experience "ultralight" or lightweight camping, though tent/shelter choice is perplexing me currently- I had previously toured with someone else who could carry a much larger pack containing a foldable tent.

I assumed as much about the SS versus fixed- I will definitely get a BMX freewheel rather than a track cog.
Some gear packing tips from my experience on tours and backpacking trips:
1.) You don't need a "protection" knife. Just carry a Leatherman or similar multitool with sturdy, strong blades. I like my old Leatherman Wave for its external, locking blades.
2.) Fires are dirty for you (makes everything smell like smoke and dirties anything cooked over it) and dirty for the environment. I carry a flint/striker in my emergency kit on extended back-country tours and backpacking trips, but it's only there for emergency fires if I were to become stranded, hypothermic, etc.
3.) For tents, look for 1 or 2 person 3-season backpacking tents on sale. They can be had pretty cheaply. Or consider a Hennesy Hammock or similar hammock. Bivy bags are uncomfortable for general use, and I've never camped in an area that was bug-free enough to use a tarp shelter.
4.) Ditch some of the electronics: no need for a music player (enjoy the sounds around you), and there's nothing good on the radio. The only personal electronics I carry on tour (besides bicycle accessories like lights and computer) are a battery powered head lamp and a digital point-and-shoot camera. My cell phone and charger get packed away and are only used to check in with family periodically, and for emergencies (assuming I'm in an area with cell reception in the first place).
5.) Depending on where/when you're riding, your rain gear should be the best you can afford. Period. Hypothermia is bad.


Another option to consider with your SS drivetrain is a dingle setup. White Industries Dos Eno and a two-ring setup up front will give you two very different gearing options. If you've got a day with a ton of climbing, switch to the lower gear in the morning and leave it there. Otherwise, enjoy your normal gearing most days (I'd shoot for low-to-mid-60's high and a low-50's if possible). 36/18 : 17/19 or 16/18 and 38/40 : 17/19 all fall in this range.
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Old 10-07-10, 01:58 PM   #23
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2.) Fires are dirty for you (makes everything smell like smoke and dirties anything cooked over it) and dirty for the environment.
LOLed at this. Fires are so horrible. Everyones little campfires are really f'ing up the ozone real bad.

Otherwise +1 on everything else. Hennesy hammocks are the real deal for sure, and dingle cogs/ freewheels are a really good idea for keeping your bike SS but adding some versatility.
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Old 10-07-10, 02:03 PM   #24
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LOLed at this. Fires are so horrible. Everyones little campfires are really f'ing up the ozone real bad.

Otherwise +1 on everything else. Hennesy hammocks are the real deal for sure, and dingle cogs/ freewheels are a really good idea for keeping your bike SS but adding some versatility.
The environmental remark about camp fires I made was geared more towards clearing out a fire ring and leaving behind the burned out wood, ashes, and evidence. Doesn't really follow the leave-no-trace style of backpacking/camping I find ideal.
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Old 10-07-10, 02:13 PM   #25
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The environmental remark about camp fires I made was geared more towards clearing out a fire ring and leaving behind the burned out wood, ashes, and evidence. Doesn't really follow the leave-no-trace style of backpacking/camping I find ideal.
Ahhh. Meaning taken. Too true. Campfires can be made and cleaned up in a
low impact fashion. But on a tour, that's the last thing I would be worrying about...
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