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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 04-17-12, 05:02 AM   #1
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Training on fixed gear. Would I be faster on a road bike?

Hi all,

My Bianchi Pista has been my main bike for the past 5 or so months. I commute to work/school on it, do long rides and speedwork on it and did two duathlons on it. I run a 48 x 16, which I feel is pretty high, but I used it because I wanted to get my leg strength up.

I got an Argon 18 Krypton a couple of days back, because I felt I was ready enough to be serious in duathlons/road races.

Has anyone who's in the same boat as me feel any marked improvement in their avg speed going from fixed gear to a road bike? Any other inputs would be great too!
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Old 04-17-12, 05:28 AM   #2
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The improvements that roadies usually see are a result of improved spinning and they usually use a lower than normal gear to get their turnover speeds up. That said I would think that 48 x 16 is probably pretty close to the gear that one actually wants with a 20k time trial. There was a short period of time when it was fashionable for triathletes to have their time trial bike be fgss. I think this was mostly because at the time there weren't specially designed time trial bikes and track bikes had better geometry for being down on the TT bars. They still have duathlons in Singapore? Those pretty much died out here.
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Old 04-17-12, 07:28 AM   #3
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training fixed has helped my road riding dramatically over the years. better spin, yes (though plenty of roller time helps that more)...but more apparent (to me at least) is the additional power (think seated climbing and acceleration).

adding a fixed to the stable (in ~'89? back in the day when 'conversion' meant spot-welding a freewheel) changed the way i ride a lot, in that it really forced me to focus on conserving momentum (ie: don't coast into a hill / gear down / spin, rather get on the power / hold speed / pedal over) and it taught me to pedal almost continually.

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Old 04-17-12, 08:22 AM   #4
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Put on a hefty gear and go climb hills. Your quads/calfs will start to scare you.
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Old 04-17-12, 08:40 AM   #5
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Put on a hefty gear and go climb hills. Your quads/calfs will start to scare you.
Or put on a small gear and work on spinning. That's what the road racers that I know do.
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Old 04-17-12, 08:44 AM   #6
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Buy a flipflop fixed/fixed and do both. Low gear/high gear.

Win/Win
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Old 04-17-12, 08:55 AM   #7
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Put on a hefty gear and go climb hills. Your quads/calfs will start to scare you.
Well this is actually the reason why I wanted to ride fixed in the first place. I purposely put a slightly uncomfortable high gear to train my legs to get used to pushing big gears. Thing is, I'm not too sure if this is a good idea.

I'm a pretty small guy, about 5'4' 128 lbs, and on my previous road bike 3 years back, I was basically stuck in the small chainring. The big ring was way too hard. So I was hoping riding fixed would change that.

So some roadies put on lower gears on their fixed gear to practise spinning. But would spinning on a low gear at 90 rpm mean that you could spin that same cadence on a higher gear? That is something that I can't seem to wrap my mind around.
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Old 04-17-12, 08:56 AM   #8
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Or put on a small gear and work on spinning. That's what the road racers that I know do.
+1

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Put on a hefty gear and go climb hills. Your quads/calfs will start to scare you.
-1

This only works in theory.

Grinding up hills doesn't make one a better cyclist. Just because it's hard doesn't necessarily mean it's beneficial. EDIT: Maybe as part of a bigger training program, but not as a primary exercise.

Improving one's pedal stroke and increasing one's effective cadence ranges undoubtedly improves cycling performance.

All things being equal, the guy who learns to grind away at 60-80RPM will be beaten by the guy who can function at 90-140RPM. They use two different energy systems.
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Roadies can run tempo all year as that's what humans were designed for. If you want to be a cheetah, lay around and lick your paws more.

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Old 04-17-12, 08:57 AM   #9
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Well this is actually the reason why I wanted to ride fixed in the first place. I purposely put a slightly uncomfortable high gear to train my legs to get used to pushing big gears. Thing is, I'm not too sure if this is a good idea.

I'm a pretty small guy, about 5'4' 128 lbs, and on my previous road bike 3 years back, I was basically stuck in the small chainring. The big ring was way too hard. So I was hoping riding fixed would change that.

So some roadies put on lower gears on their fixed gear to practise spinning. But would spinning on a low gear at 90 rpm mean that you could spin that same cadence on a higher gear? That is something that I can't seem to wrap my mind around.
It works on your form, not your power.
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Old 04-17-12, 09:08 AM   #10
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Well this is actually the reason why I wanted to ride fixed in the first place. I purposely put a slightly uncomfortable high gear to train my legs to get used to pushing big gears. Thing is, I'm not too sure if this is a good idea.

I'm a pretty small guy, about 5'4' 128 lbs, and on my previous road bike 3 years back, I was basically stuck in the small chainring. The big ring was way too hard. So I was hoping riding fixed would change that.

So some roadies put on lower gears on their fixed gear to practise spinning. But would spinning on a low gear at 90 rpm mean that you could spin that same cadence on a higher gear? That is something that I can't seem to wrap my mind around.
I'm working off of limited information here but...

Maybe you need basic leg strength. Gym work like a proper low-bar back squat will help. Not leg extensions or ham curls.

Training to spin in a lower gear does not mean you'll be able to spin in a higher gear. It just means you'll improve your spinning form and efficiency as well as be able to spin faster.

Don't get hung up on bigger gears. The first things that people notice when they happen to actually ride with a pro (local group ride or whatever) is:

1) Pros cadences are much higher than normal people.
2) They don't stop spinning.


I see people grinding away on their big chain ring every week on my local trail...at 60RPM. I'm in my small ring averaging 95-105 RPM.
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Old 04-17-12, 09:10 AM   #11
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There is a reason this guy doesn't win the Tour.
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Old 04-17-12, 10:25 AM   #12
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I think there is a lot of voodoo, myth and mysticism to the whole fixed for road training philosophy. For one thing, I don't think that riding a bike that has the natural tendency to roll the back stroke of your pedal stride 'for free' as a fixed wheel does is going to help your road bike pedal stroke. In fact it's quite the opposite. To pedal smoothly on a road bike you need to consciously pull back on the back stroke. Getting a free ride with a fixed wheel will train you to do otherwise.

Having said that I've used fixed bikes for road training in the winter ever since I started racing more than a decade ago. I started off doing it for all the reasons mentioned in this thread but later determined that it just aint so. If you want to get a slow power work out then all ya gotta do is switch to a hard gear on your road bike, no benefit to fixed there. If you want to learn to spin real fast on your road bike then just shift to an easy gear and go go go, no benifit to fixed there either.

Why do I still do it? Because the winter is extremely boring and cold and I'm typically all burnt out from racing road and cyclocross. When it's time for a ride it's easy for me to look at my road bike and just say 'screw this' and go play Doom3 instead. But with a fixed bike, hey, that's something different, it's actually kinda fun, maybe I will go for a ride. And then you can make all sort of stupid challenges with your buddies like doing fixed centuries and climbing the biggest hills fixed etc... So basically what I am saying is, it gets me on a bike in the other wise un bike friendly time of year.

One other benefit I notice too is that it does in fact teach you that you don't need to switch gears for every roller or tiny adjustment on your road bike. Just apply a bit of power over a crest or stand for a second and you maintain a much smoother flow then switching back and forth gears all the time. It does also, depending on where you live, force you to do power work outs when climbing, that's slow cadence high power output which is beneficial to road biking. Notice I said 'force you' because like I said earlier you can do slow cadence power work outs on a road bike but most people hate doing it and fixed pretty much forces you to do it.
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Old 04-17-12, 10:36 AM   #13
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Concurring with Carlton and JFMcKenna. The benefit of training on a FG is, paradoxically, that you are almost always in the "wrong" gear. With a tailwind or downhill, you are in too small a gear, forcing you to spin. With a headwind or uphill, you are in too big of gear, forcing you to mash. The former trains your form, the latter trains your power. Together you will widen your effective power band. You'll no longer have to drop a cog to hold on to a surge, or up a cog to get over a roller. Perhaps this doesn't matter if you just like riding around by yourself, but if you race or do hard group rides, it could mean the difference between holding a wheel and getting dropped.
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Old 04-17-12, 10:49 AM   #14
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The idea that there is a "free stroke" is just as real as the idea that people with geared bikes coast. People tell me all the time "I can pedal as long as you!" and then think I don't notice the cheating. It's human nature to cheat - hence the benefit of riding a bike that eliminates that ability.

I believe that once you get out of that habit, via a FG, that would be the biggest benefit of training on a FG bike.

Otherwise, I ride mine because I'm a PBR swilling, chain smoking hipster who thinks tight pants are cool...or

I enjoy the challenge of riding without gears because I'm not in a race to get anywhere, like the look and feel of riding my bike, not talking **** about everybody elses. One of the problems with the roadie scene that I continue to see when I'm out with them is that they're always striving to get "more" out of their bike instead of just riding it for what it is, fun.

Maybe, in the end, that is the biggest benefit of riding fixed to train for road riding, you stop worrying about what your next big upgrade is and just have fun.
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Old 04-17-12, 10:50 AM   #15
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It works on your form, not your power.
+1

also GMJ riding an over geared fixed gear up hills is stupid if you already own a road bike.
plenty of people do "big gear" intervals over the late winter with their road bikes.
just don't downshift
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Old 04-17-12, 10:52 AM   #16
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I enjoy the challenge of riding without gears because I'm not in a race to get anywhere, like the look and feel of riding my bike, not talking **** about everybody elses. One of the problems with the roadie scene that I continue to see when I'm out with them is that they're always striving to get "more" out of their bike instead of just riding it for what it is, fun.

Maybe, in the end, that is the biggest benefit of riding fixed to train for road riding, you stop worrying about what your next big upgrade is and just have fun.
While you can make generalizations, remember that your equipment is separate from, and not necessarily related to, one's performance or attitude.

How many fixed riders do you know that can't wait to buy those Omnium's, 75's, DA hubs ects...?
How many need them?
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Old 04-17-12, 11:10 AM   #17
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+1

also GMJ riding an over geared fixed gear up hills is stupid if you already own a road bike.
plenty of people do "big gear" intervals over the late winter with their road bikes.
just don't downshift
I don't own a geared bike. I ride with a couple of people who do and they also usually stick to the highest gear. I always ask them why don't they just ride fixed, and its usually because when they're boozing, they like being able to chill on a small gear.

I used to be into weight training, but found it pointless and a mostly vain pursuit. I still like the challenge and noticeable progress over time, which is why I obsess over tall gears. I want to push the highest gear I can, as fast as possible, for as long as possible. I got smoked and dropped recently in a race, and he was riding fixed with a taller gear, faster.
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Old 04-17-12, 11:26 AM   #18
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Hi all,

My Bianchi Pista has been my main bike for the past 5 or so months. I commute to work/school on it, do long rides and speedwork on it and did two duathlons on it. I run a 48 x 16, which I feel is pretty high, but I used it because I wanted to get my leg strength up.

I got an Argon 18 Krypton a couple of days back, because I felt I was ready enough to be serious in duathlons/road races.

Has anyone who's in the same boat as me feel any marked improvement in their avg speed going from fixed gear to a road bike? Any other inputs would be great too!
You seem to be asking a different question than whats being answered.
Most of the responses are about whether or not a FG is a good training tool (i.e. makes you a faster rider).

Is that what your are asking? Because it seems to me like you are just asking if you can go faster on a road bike than a FG (for example, given a particular fitness level). I do a lot or riding on FG and road bikes. There isn't a big difference in my average speed regardless of what bike I choose. My FG is geared 49:16, which allows me to sustain speeds on a flat surface well over 20MPH.
People I have ridden with have commented that I am faster on my FG. Its possible that the FG forces me to push harder up hills and doesn't really give me a chance to relax, causing me to ride faster. However, if I am going 100% it shouldn't make a difference, unless long and/or steel hills are involved. Then the road bike is ultimately going to be faster.

Last edited by mihlbach; 04-17-12 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 04-17-12, 11:29 AM   #19
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My FG helped me get faster on my road bike because it trained my muscles to keep a good cadence, rather than coasting a bunch. I never really noticed how much I was coasting on a freewheel bike until I gave it up. YMMV
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Old 04-17-12, 11:32 AM   #20
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A taller gear will give you a higher top end for a few seconds. but over a longer course or with just normal stoplight starts and stops, a lower gear will be faster over all. You are going to be your most efficient around 100rpm, with sprints going to 130+

Your buddy was probably just drafting to save his engeryg and then mashed the big gear when it got to the end (or maybe he was just stronger).
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Old 04-17-12, 11:38 AM   #21
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A taller gear will give you a higher top end for a few seconds. but over a longer course or with just normal stoplight starts and stops, a lower gear will be faster over all. You are going to be your most efficient around 100rpm, with sprints going to 130+
Depends on the course and the rider. I am fastest with ~81 gear inches (49:16). Any lower than that, and I spin out on slight downhills. Any higher and I struggle getting up the steepest hills that I ride. I have tried other gear ratios and they are slower, even though my average cadence @ 81 gear inches is probably well under 100 rpm, it is still my fastest gear ratio.

Gearing doesn't seem to impact my acceleration at stoplight starts and stops. However, if I were riding in a dense city, I would probably gear down just because the opportunity to achieve 40+ mph speeds isn't there.

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Old 04-17-12, 11:39 AM   #22
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Hi all,

My Bianchi Pista has been my main bike for the past 5 or so months. I commute to work/school on it, do long rides and speedwork on it and did two duathlons on it. I run a 48 x 16, which I feel is pretty high, but I used it because I wanted to get my leg strength up.

I got an Argon 18 Krypton a couple of days back, because I felt I was ready enough to be serious in duathlons/road races.

Has anyone who's in the same boat as me feel any marked improvement in their avg speed going from fixed gear to a road bike? Any other inputs would be great too!
If you want maximum speed on the road, 9 or 10 speed road bike. No question.
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Old 04-17-12, 12:34 PM   #23
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While you can make generalizations, remember that your equipment is separate from, and not necessarily related to, one's performance or attitude.

How many fixed riders do you know that can't wait to buy those Omnium's, 75's, DA hubs ects...?
How many need them?
You're right, for the most part my statement is a generalization. But I think Jaytron was able to summarize my key point best, so I'll just quote him directly.

Quote:
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My FG helped me get faster on my road bike because it trained my muscles to keep a good cadence, rather than coasting a bunch. I never really noticed how much I was coasting on a freewheel bike until I gave it up. YMMV
I am constantly asked by Border Patrol agents who ride how I can beat them up the levee and on the top end of speed. My answer is always the same, because I can't be lazy on a FG without being punished. After your mind is adapted to being, for lack of a better word of reference "afraid," you can easily go back and forth. I took second recently in a triathlon against some seriously hardcore riders. I'm not nearly the premiere athlete that they are, but where I lack the almost religious zealot-like regiment of "eat, train, sleep," I make up for in the fact that I can ride long distances at a solid pace without needing to coast.

On the upgradeitis front, I agree. There are plenty of fixed gear riders who dream of upgrades, but the reality is that after a certain point, there is a glass ceiling for technology because, by design, fixed gear riding is built on outdated technology. After I get White Industry/Paul/Phil Wood hubs, the best rims, saddle, seatpost, frame, stem, bb, crank, pedals - while it seems like a lot - what are we talking? $3-4k - at the deep end of the general riding community's "desires." I know roadies who will never even come close to being mildly competitive that own $14,000 road bikes for charity riding and still are looking at upgrades. My long winded point is that there is a much larger curve, but there is a curve of need/want for both.
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Old 04-17-12, 05:13 PM   #24
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Thanks for all the inputs guys/girls.

The reasons why you guys ride/train on fixed is the same for me.
- Always being a little undergeared/overgeared so it forces you to work (Though I'm also an advocate of "no pain, no gain"
- Not being able to coast, hence eliminating that laziness factor (When you ride 40km, you know inside that every pedal stroke when ino that distance)
- On the two duathlons that I did so far this year, I was the only FG/SS among all the bikes, and I still got a pretty decent bike split compared to the rest (before I destroyed them on the run, hahaha). So I guess it's for that additional HARDCORE points)

mihlbach commented that his average speed doesn't change whether on a FG or a road bike. I think this makes sense because speed is still dependent on your body. But I guess it's the overall perceived effort that you have to churn out in that's different for a fixed gear and a road bike, with the latter being 'easier', no?
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Old 04-17-12, 06:06 PM   #25
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I'd say you got it.
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