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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 04-17-14, 05:09 AM   #1
Colorado Kid
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Hills

I was wondering how many on this list use a Fixed Gear in a area that has a lot of hills?
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Old 04-17-14, 05:26 AM   #2
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You can do it, you'll have to gear down and be ready to spin and control your descending speeds. I wouldn't want to be taking on 5+ mile, 7+ degree climbs all the time, though, but I personally don't have great power reserves. Where in CO are you, and what kind of "hills" are you talking about?
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Old 04-17-14, 06:32 AM   #3
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Ooooo foooking heck I do.

My commute starts with a slight downhill run into a roundabout and then onto a major road. By 'slight', it doesn't look like a hell of a lot but going down hill, I'll be pulling 40km/hr in no time on the geared bike. Now, bearing in mind that I'm stone cold at this point and have an aversion to tearing muscles, that first km or so takes a bit of self control on the way out - on the way home when you're tired, it's just hard work. The next 5km are steady rolling hills that aren't a huge challenge in themselves except that once again, you haven't warmed up until well into it so you have to be careful not to try too hard going up the things or spin out too much going down. I usually feel properly warmed up and supple about half way along it. The last km of that stretch is a fairly solid uphill pull that fit riders on good bikes tend to work up without an issue but you do see a lot of lesser riders struggling upon it.
This brings you to a big roundabout that is always very busy and, thanks to its size, has two wide lanes you have to cross so, although it's flatish, is a challenge in itself. The road tends downwards for a bit, the ducks down enough to let the legs wind right up until a slight climb before starting the downhill run on Flagstaff Hill.
Flaggy Hill proper starts with a shortish downhill that is enough to wind you up to a decent cadence regardless of your gearing.
Then it drops down - it's an 8% downhill run for the next 2km though it eases at the bottom of this. On the geared bike, I take this at 70km/hr, on the fixed gear, I'm pulling and maintaining a cadence of 180, regardless of the gearing (the S3X gives me a top gear of over 90gi and I'm still pulling 180). There's a very short false flat and then you hit a 1km run that is 10% - a whisker less for half of it, then it kicks down to over 10% for the rest of it. You have to ride this in heavy traffic because it's a major road and there is no bike lane. The side of the road is pretty rough so it's better on the geared bike where you can stick with the cars and take the lane, on the fg, you can only spin like blazes and avoid the worst of the bumps. Immediately at the bottom of this run is a brief 100m to a set of traffic lights on a major road (4 lanes of always heavy traffic, only the dead run a red there) so it's off the bottom of the steep bit and hard on the brakes for a gasp at the lights. The next 2km are relatively straight forward - straight, sort of smooth, bike lane and steep enough to hold 40km/hr on the fg and 50 on the geared.

That is the first 9kms of my commute to work ... and, indeed, any ride that takes me towards the bulk of the city.

On the way home, I get to do it all in reverse. The bottom slope is steep enough to get the heart up and to take the sting out of your legs, then the first climb up Flaggy Hill just hits you in the face. I tend to walk a lot while leaning over the bars having a gasp makes sense some days.

It's an intense ride, even with gears and to be honest, doing Flagstaff Hill on a fixed gear is just stupid - they invented gears for a reason. But why should I forgo the joys of riding fixed for only a small part of my riding? I'd like to claim I'm a hard, highly tuned, cycling hero but apart from developing a good technique and the ability to hold stupid cadences, I'm just an average cyclist.

I run a gearing of 66gi on the fg. That works for me as I don't mind revving out a bit on the flat anyway.
My geared bike has a 30-52 triple on the front and 11-32 on the rear. This helps tremendously on that hill.

Going down hills is a matter of learning how to sit ON the saddle ie, your weight must be on the saddle, not your pedals. This allows you to spin your legs - if you're bouncing, you can guarantee you're putting pressure on your legs, probably by trying one of the ridiculous roadie pedaling techniques (notice how they can't spin past 110?).
Getting back up, I'm learning, is not a matter of putting ****loads of power onto the pedals. This is, in fact, counter productive. Similarly, if you're pulling and tugging at the pedals, you're wasting energy and spoiling your action. I do like to concentrate on the part of the stroke across the bottom of the circle but only because I find by doing so, I'm removing the tendency to push hard on the way down then pull up. Like a high cadence, the secret seems to be a smooth, fluid rotation of the pedals. You may have noticed that if you stop on a hill and have a rest, when you start up again, it seems stupidly easy and that's not all leg recovery, it's largely technique. Unfortunately, on a steep climb, sooner or later, it becomes difficult not to start forcing the pedals and I'm this is counter productive.

The alternative is to stand and climb. Grant Petersen talks about standing and only placing your body weight on the pedals. It all sounds so easy in his book. My experience has been that standing drives my heart rate upwards however, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm doing it wrong. Something to work on (always something to work on).

I do have an alternative to the Flagstaff Hill part of my route (only the one alternative outside of taking the car). That's longer, starts with a very long 8% climb followed by a few short climbs and ramps, then a very nasty and steep climb that peaks at over 10% only to ease into another long 8% climb. I refer to Flaggy Hill as the 'lazy man's route'.

I'm considering moving down to the flats ... but would do a lot better if I rode more often than I have been, lost a lot of weight, sorted out my technique ... and moved down to the flats.

There are no heroes on hills, just people fighting their own wars in their own fashion.
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Old 04-17-14, 08:57 AM   #4
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You can do it, you'll have to gear down and be ready to spin and control your descending speeds. I wouldn't want to be taking on 5+ mile, 7+ degree climbs all the time, though, but I personally don't have great power reserves. Where in CO are you, and what kind of "hills" are you talking about?
I'm from Boulder, CO but I'm living in South Central PA for the time being. (Boy do I miss home!!!) It's very hilly around here. (Rolling hills) Grade are anything from nothing to 7-10 %. Ouch!!!
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Old 04-17-14, 09:06 AM   #5
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I have about 1.5 miles of a steady incline at the end of my commute. It's not too terrible once you get used to it, just figure out the proper gearing and learn to spin
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Old 04-17-14, 09:21 AM   #6
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I have a nice big hill on the way home from work each day. Takes me about five minutes to get the entire way up. (I'll have to confirm that; I've actually never timed it.)

I'm running 48x19 on my steamroller (66.5 GI), and that seems to be plenty fine for flats (18mph more or less at 90rpm cadence) and it's a nice burn up the hill.

It gets pretty spinny going down that same hill on the way in, but I run front/rear brakes, so I can keep it in check.

So, anyway, not sure what I'd run if I had a whole mess of hills, so take it for what it's worth.
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Old 04-17-14, 09:58 AM   #7
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My commute is 7.5 miles, with about 450-500 feet of climbing that is really just constant rollers rather than one or two big climbs. I run 46x17 (71 GI), which is a nice compromise between ease of climbing and descending. I have a couple descents that I easily hit 30+ mph on, which is about 150rpm cadence, but only for a few seconds. Any climbs below like 8% grade aren't a big deal, but once I hit about 10%+ (not on my commute, but pretty much unavoidable for me on any non-commute ride), that's where I start to struggle.

I'd say that on my commute and around the area I'm about as fast running fixed as I am on my road bike, but fixed I'm way faster than on my heavy CX commuter.
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Old 04-17-14, 12:07 PM   #8
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I ride up them and down them, with the right gear it's really not that hard or complicated.
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Old 04-17-14, 01:50 PM   #9
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I do but my work commute is relatively flat and I only ride to work because I'm a loser.
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Old 04-17-14, 03:50 PM   #10
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They have hills in San Francisco and they have hipsters in San Francisco therefore people ride fixies on hills
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Old 04-17-14, 04:11 PM   #11
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I was wondering how many on this list use a Fixed Gear in a area that has a lot of hills?
I ride a 48X18 (70GI) in the Texas Hill Country w/ two brakes & proper foot retention.

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Old 04-17-14, 04:19 PM   #12
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Love the hills
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Old 04-17-14, 09:35 PM   #13
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46x16 and I stand up - you get used to it. Getting a good head of steam beforehand helps, but just gut it out.

You may need to weave a little bit to keep speed up, but just pay attention to who is around you.

Never had to walk. Puke, yes, walk no.
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Old 04-18-14, 07:34 AM   #14
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My regular commuting isn't too hilly, but I use my fixed gear for weekend road rides that have hills, and also use it for brevets which sometimes have lots and lots of hills.

There's a knack to figuring out how to find a comfortable rhythm at reeeaallly low RPM's so you can keep it up for a long time. But I'm not too proud to walk on occasion, either.
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Old 04-18-14, 08:28 AM   #15
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constant rollers on a 50-60 mile ride. elevation gain will vary with the route but ususally around 2,000 feet with most grades 5-7%. I noticed if I'm with geared riders I have to set my pace and not theirs to climb rollers. I usually get to the outside of the pace line or group and keep my speed up going up the hill. Unless they are really strong riders I usually out climb thme or keep up. But these are short rollers not climbs and not steep. I am more likely to get dropped going downhill than up. Wind not these hills is much harder for me riding fixed than on a geared bike. I haven't climbed anything steeper than 10-11% on fixed gear. I usually ride 70 GI.
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Old 04-18-14, 08:36 AM   #16
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IME it's not the up that hurts, it's wrestling the bike to a decent speed coming back down.

And yes, there are hills here.
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Old 04-18-14, 09:47 AM   #17
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hills yes mountains no
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Old 04-18-14, 06:35 PM   #18
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hills yes mountains no
People ride the big French Alps on fixed gear. I've never been too sure if the relevant question is 'how' or 'why'.
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Old 04-18-14, 06:46 PM   #19
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the biggest pain would be descending, provided that your fit and have a reasonably low gear for climbing.
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Old 04-18-14, 06:48 PM   #20
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An ex-poster here (Vireo) road the furnace creek 508 fixed: 48hrs, 500miles, 35,000 feet of climbing.

Good God.
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Old 04-18-14, 11:17 PM   #21
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An ex-poster here (Vireo) road the furnace creek 508 fixed: 48hrs, 500miles, 35,000 feet of climbing.

Good God.
I did that, twice. Walked up a good bit of Townes Pass though, both times. I think the hardest route I've ever done climbing-wise was the Appalachian Double Cross 1000k. None of the climbs were as long as the ones on the 508, but they are relentless. And since it was an unsupported ride, my bike was a good 15+ lbs heavier. I barely made it in the 75 her time limit both times.
The good part is that it's easy to prevent saddle sores when you spend so much time out of the saddle!
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Old 04-19-14, 12:06 AM   #22
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hey colorado, theres no written law that says you cant get a geared bike as well.

on the days your going to ride alot of hills take the geared machined, less hilly rides use the fixie. you might have your hipster card revoked but at least you'll have your hipster card revoked.

in all honesty, theres no reason to torture yourself, and be forced to work alot harder than necessary. Fixed gears were never intended to climb hills, they are for the track.

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Old 04-19-14, 12:14 AM   #23
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hey colorado, theres no written law that says you cant get a geared bike as well.

on the days your going to ride alot of hills take the geared machined, less hilly rides use the fixie. you might have your hipster card revoked but at least you'll have your hipster card revoked.

in all honesty, theres no reason to torture yourself, and be forced to work alot harder than necessary. Fixed gears were never intended to climb hills, they are for the track.

(sharp heated retort in 5, 4, 3...)
I think it all boils down to fun, if you have fun riding fixed up big hills, do it. If you don't, then don't, no one gives a rats ass either way.
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Old 04-19-14, 06:54 AM   #24
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Fixed gears were never intended to climb hills, they are for the track.
Although fixed gears are required to compete on the velodrome riding FG on the road has been a training staple of serious club riders for well over a century. A ~70GI is traditional so climbing & descending in moderately hilly terrain doesn't require herculean strength or hamster-in-cage spinning but it does develop a supple, powerful high cadence pedaling style. And it's fun, or not.

Riding FG on the road isn't for everyone.

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Old 04-19-14, 06:36 PM   #25
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Although fixed gears are required to compete on the velodrome riding FG on the road has been a training staple of serious club riders for well over a century. A ~70GI is traditional so climbing & descending in moderately hilly terrain doesn't require herculean strength or hamster-in-cage spinning but it does develop a supple, powerful high cadence pedaling style. And it's fun, or not.

Riding FG on the road isn't for everyone.


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I suppose my point is that gears were developed specifically for riding hills.

Sure riding fixed is great for serious training, and learning how to pedal like a pro, but In this case I dont think that is his intended purpose.

Use the correct tool for the job at hand when ever you can.
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