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  1. #1
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    Gear help for single speed centuries

    Hey folks, I don't normally post in this forum even though I do ride fixed/single all the time. Nice to meet you all and sorry for posting the redundant topic of gearing.

    Every summer I partake in the WAM 300, its a 3-day road event, 100 miles a day, from Traverse City to Chelsea, MI. I'm hoping to do it single-speed next year, and want some advice on gearing. What is a good gearing for long distance riding? The first 100 are pretty hilly, the second and third 100 are rolling with some long, flat, fast stretches.

    I've never set this bike up for road cycling - only fixed and cyclocross. I'm kind of out in the dark on this, and would rather not pay for 3 chainrings just to try out different gearings, if it can be avoided. What do you guys think?
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  2. #2
    Goes to 11. striknein's Avatar
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    I'd do a flip-flop hub with a freewheel on each side. Something like 65GI for the flats, and 45GI for the hills. You can accomplish that with a 39t chainring, and 16t and 22t freewheels. With such a large difference in tooth count between the two freewheels, you'll probably need to lengthen your chain when you get to the flatter part of the ride.

    People with different levels of fitness will likely have different opinions regarding gear choices, and they'll all be right.
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    I actually just run calipers. Levers are for scrubs.

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    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    I typically gear up for century rides. I think I used 50/16 (82.4 gi) for the last one. No major hills though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
    I typically gear up for century rides.
    Same here. However I do this ride with a couple older guys who, while extremely fit for their age and biking experience, aren't pushing me much. I'm looking for a way to challenge myself a bit while making it easier to stay with them instead of pulling ahead. I think doing it single could be a lot of fun - also my steel single speed (Surly Steamroller) is a lot more fun and comfortable to ride than my lightweight aluminum race bike. Maybe I will end up doing it geared, but I'm putting serious thought into not.
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    Painfully average. calv's Avatar
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    How about low-mid 70's?
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    Goes to 11. striknein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    I thought about suggesting the S-RF5. I have one on my IRO and love it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nagrom_ View Post
    I actually just run calipers. Levers are for scrubs.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    hm.....

    am I in the right forum?
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    I've ridden two fixed centuries now. The route I've taken has been the same both ways--the gateway trail out of MPLS/St. Paul to some state park down a highway to Stillwater and back, then riding part of the Grand Rounds in the TC to make it 100 even; if you really want to know elevation changes holler and I'll google it for you, but I can tell you that the gateway is pretty flat (and thats probably 25-30 miles), the highway into Stillwater is rolling hills, and the hills out of Stillwater (we take a different highway out to meet the gateway) aren't terribly long but require some mashing. I didn't bother to change my gearing at all. On my first ride I set out fixed as a sort of personal challenge to see if I could do it, figuring I'd flip to my freewheel if I couldn't handle it. The rabbit gear calculator has me at 70.3 gi, 48/18. That gets you to 16.7mph at 80 rpms (and I was surprised to apparently be doing that on the way into Stillwater, so sayeth the speed limit, "you're going this fast" sign), and up to 20.9 at 100. I don't know that you'll be maintaining 100 rpms for any extended period, but I'm pretty ill-experienced with longer rides, and maybe your fitness level blows mine out of the water. If you're doing fw/fw on a flip flop hub, why not start there and drop down to 60-65 gi for the hilly rides if they're really bad? Or adjust up if you're substantially more fit than me and know what kind of mph you push based on a given gear ratio?

    P.S. This was riding with a friend who rides substantially less than me, so a pretty lackadaisical pace. I pulled ahead of him at times for funzies, but ultimately wanted to hang back with him. If you're going more uptempo with your friends, you can definitely go higher than that.

  10. #10
    M_S
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    Mid 60s to low 70s would work for me. I think 70 is a good place to start. 100 miles a day three days in a row is enough to make you want to take it easy. The gear you can push for a 50 mile one day road ride is pretty different than what you want for this ride.

    80 GI sounds insane to me, much like most of the gearing people say works for em on this forum. But hey, everyone is different. You've got to try out a few combos on shorter rides first.

  11. #11
    TEEEJ tjemitchell27's Avatar
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    I do 48/16 for centuries, mostly rolling hills with a couple good climbs, its mostly preference

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by oneeyedhobbit View Post
    \I don't know that you'll be maintaining 100 rpms for any extended period, but I'm pretty ill-experienced with longer rides, and maybe your fitness level blows mine out of the water.
    No, I'm not a maniac or anything, by the end of my training I'm strong enough to put the 300 miles in at a comfortable pace but not much more than that :-). I'm also definitely doing it single-speed, not fixed.

    M_S and tjemitchell27, thank you very much for your input as well.
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    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    I should have elaborated. My main reason for gearing up is because I've found that excessive spinning on long rides like that tends to wear me out and I'd rather be able to maintain a good speed to cover more miles, even if it means having to work a little harder to do so.

  14. #14
    Fresh Garbage hairnet's Avatar
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    Since you have until summer I dont think you have much to worry about. While training on a single speed you will find which gears work for you. The longest I have gone on a fixed ride was about 70 miles with some rollers at 48/19 (I can only guess ~18mph average)and I was really spinning along. Others seem to prefer higher all-around gears to help conserve. I guess I am repeating what the others have said - find what's comfortable. But, if you can train yourself to keep up with a low gear you will have an easier time with changes in terrain. plus, if you bonk you wont be stuck on a hard gear
    Last edited by hairnet; 11-25-11 at 10:54 PM.
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  15. #15
    Happy go lucky trevor_ash's Avatar
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    I've ridden two or three fixed centuries in Traverse City that were VERY hilly. It's far from flat out there guys. Most people wouldn't make it through a century there with ~80 gear inches. You have an advantage riding SS in that you can coast down the mountains.

    What do you use today when you ride SS? Do you consider yourself a spinner? Are you a strong rider compared to most or are you fairly casual? Will you be sucking someones tail at all or will it be mostly solo?

    My gearing for that area was the basic 42x16 but that was only 100 miles in one day (not 300 over 3 days!) and I probably had a friendly paceline for some of it. If you can't spin, then 70 gear inches is going to seem too short with a draft. But you'll appreciate it when laboring for 20 minutes up a hill. You'll be able to actually pedal and put some power into it going downhills (as fast as it may be).

    If you're going to be a part of a paceline, I would gear so that my comfortable spinning pace is at about 20 mph (or whatever speed your paceline is on the flats). Chances are that'll put you in the 70 to 75 range. I would try REALLY hard to stick to the 70 side of things. Even going as low as 68 on that first day. For days two and three you should gear up.

    TL;DR
    Day 1: Run about 70 gear inches (lower or higher depending on your strength and whether you're doing it solo or not). Warning: You will be seriously laboring up a few of the hills depending on where the ride goes (as in one complete pedal rotation every few seconds).
    Day 2: Run something taller, like 74 to 76 (assuming there's no major climbs, just rolling hills)
    Day 3: Listen to your legs
    Last edited by trevor_ash; 11-25-11 at 11:41 PM.

  16. #16
    M_S
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
    I should have elaborated. My main reason for gearing up is because I've found that excessive spinning on long rides like that tends to wear me out and I'd rather be able to maintain a good speed to cover more miles, even if it means having to work a little harder to do so.
    That is an interesting point. I have found I am overall faster even in groups of people on road bikes at around 42 x 15, I think 74 or so GI with 25mm tires. Fast enough to keep up in a mellow paceline up into the high 20s (26.4mph at 120 rpms). Obviously in flat sprints or downhills I get dropped. And riding solo fixed I often drop it to 39 x 15.

    Anyways, it is mashing a big gear that really wears me out rather than spinning, so it is interesting to hear your experience. For me I am noticeably less worn out in everything from SS cross racing to mountain biking to longer road rides if I consciously choose a gear on the low end of what I feel is an appropriate range. BUT my strong point is aerobic capacity more than leg strength, so maybe that explains why we have found that the opposite works for each of us. Like I said, everyone is different. Just because it sounds crazy to me doesn't make it wrong... maybe it makes it right.

  17. #17
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I also vote for low 70's as a starting point. Adjust as comfort requires.
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  18. #18
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    i think its really personal, some ppl can spin longer and others are better at mashing...

    i've done several fixed centuries, with 66.6 GI and 77 GI.
    i have way felt better during/after with the 66.6 (48x19) than with the 77 (48x17)
    altho, i was way faster with the bigger gear ratio (at least 1.5hrs faster (but i was on a tear that day))
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  19. #19
    I fear angry birds Santaria's Avatar
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    White Industries double/double or dos freewheel cog? Wouldn't have to fuss too much with chain adjustments (both supposedly are adapted to deal with the same chain length) but it would give you the hill variable+flats.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    I have found that 76ish is a good generic gear for me for just about any distance. I can climb with it and hold a fairly high speed without excessive spinning. When riding with fast roadies and/ or flat terrain I will bump it up to the low 80s. Any lower and the excessive spinning gets annoying and tiring. Any higher is good for sprinting, but more fatiguing during long distances.

  21. #21
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    Ok, thanks for the advice everyone. Guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and try out a couple different combinations. The White Industries double freewheel sounds like a good idea if I need it, a bit pricey though! I'll start around 70-75ish (hopefully can hobble something together from parts laying around just to see how it works out) and go from there. Thanks again.
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  22. #22
    Happy go lucky trevor_ash's Avatar
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    Sounds good Alan. One thing you can try is figure out the ride, find the steepest hill, and then find something local that's about as steep and give it a shot.

  23. #23
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trevor_ash View Post
    Sounds good Alan. One thing you can try is figure out the ride, find the steepest hill, and then find something local that's about as steep and give it a shot.
    While i think this is a good idea, I wouldn't base your gearing decision one one hill unless that one hill constitutes a significant portion of the ride, or if there's a bunch of similar climbs. Base your gearing decision based on what you will be riding most of the time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cocchiarell View Post
    Obviously the most logical solution in this thread.
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