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freighttraininguphill 12-08-12 03:58 PM

Single speed fun (pics & video)
I have a friend who only rides his fixed gear Specialized Langster around town. He reserves his geared Specialized S-Works for the really hilly rides like the ones I always do on weekends. We are both members of the same cycling club.

After seeing how fast my friend and other singlespeed/fixed gear riders are around town, I decided I wanted a singlespeed. Last night I stopped by our local bicycle food delivery/LBS Edible Pedal. They are always putting bikes together for sale, and this time they had a bright yellow vintage Peugeot mixte frame with modern alloy components instead of the original old-school heavy steel. It was also single speed.

I rode it up and down the alley a couple times and I was hooked. I thought about it for a few minutes, then decided to buy it. It was only $450, down from the original asking price of $650. It was professionally powder coated and had the shop's logo on the bike like a regular bike brand name. Pretty convincing if you don't know that it's actually a shop and not a manufacturer.

I took it home, added my accessories (including a brand-new Lezyne Super Drive 450 lumen headlight that Mike's Bikes had on sale for $69.95), adjusted the rear brakes, and topped off the tires. Today I dropped off my Dahon Speed D7 folding bike to be sold on consignment. I really don't need to accumulate any more bikes (I have 11), so I try to sell one when I buy a new one.

After that I met my fixed gear riding friend for a ride. He was tickled pink when he saw the bike. We went and rode up and down what passes for hills around here, which is some very short steep grades in the Land Park neighborhood. I stood up and hammered up every one of them, and there was no straining. I now have a new training tool for the short local hills. I'll even ride it to Fair Oaks and climb those hills. Some of them are 1/3 and 1/2 mile long, and a couple have very short sections with grades in the teens. Should be interesting :D!

I won't use this bike on the really hilly rides in the foothills though. I need my triple on some of those climbs!

42x17 gear

Here's video of our ride.

CliftonGK1 12-08-12 06:29 PM

That's a sweet bike!
You know, for the really hilly rides you might just consider throwing a 38t ring up front instead of your 42. I've been riding exclusively singlespeed on the road for the past couple years and I haven't found anything so far that I couldn't tackle with a 42-18, although I've been more comfortable on some of those long, drawn out climbs on a 38-18 or 38-17 instead.

For comparison, my go-to gearing on my SSCX racer is 42-18. I was hammering that all year, even in the sloppy muddy courses. My fallback gear for when it's really nothing but a 3km swamp with course tape is to throw the 38t ring up front.

funrover 12-09-12 09:31 PM

I like it, I am so used to seeing SS MTB it's nice to see something different. Very clean!

jyossarian 12-10-12 11:20 AM

Sweeeeeeeeet. I like mixte frames and that one looks well sorted.

Chesha Neko 12-11-12 03:05 AM

Just wait until the urge to try it as a fixed gear overtakes you. Good times.

freighttraininguphill 12-11-12 01:16 PM


Originally Posted by Chesha Neko (Post 15037464)
Just wait until the urge to try it as a fixed gear overtakes you. Good times.

It does have a flip-flop hub. No cog on there, but that's easy enough to remedy ;) I do like being able to coast on descents though.

I have a Worksman Port-O-Trike that was originally a 3-speed. The Sturmey-Archer hub it came with was defective, as it could never be adjusted so that it didn't skip occasionally in second and third gear.

Edible Pedal is also a consignment shop (they sold my Dahon Speed D7 a couple days ago, btw), and they get some interesting bikes in there from time to time. A few months ago they got a bright yellow Sun heavy duty trike that someone had converted to fixed gear. I rode it around and thought it was fun. I told myself that I would do the same to my Worksman if I got fed up enough with the gear problem.

Well, one day I was sprinting in second gear and it skipped again. The next day I removed the 3-speed hub and all associated hardware, shortened the chain, and moved the rear cog all the way to the right for a perfect chainline. Now this bike is fun to ride and it can be ridden backwards, which is even more fun! :D

I added three hose clamps to the left of the cog for extra security, as the lock bolt on the rear cog has always had a tendency to come loose, allowing the cog to slide around on the axle. This was a problem even when the bike had gears.

The bike is now quiet and trouble-free. Now I see why so many people around town ride single speed bikes, both cruiser and road.

freighttraininguphill 12-14-12 10:21 AM

Took my yellow singlespeed up some longer, steeper hills yesterday. Even though I still had the platform pedals on, I made it up every one of the hills. I had to traverse up part of a couple of them, but only for a few seconds.

I rode with my fixed gear riding friend. He has a Specialized Langster with a 48x17 gear. I lent him my GoPro HD Hero 960 on a handlebar mount so he could record his climbs. I used my ContourHD on my helmet. My cheapy Casio digital camera came in handy to record him climbing up the last steep hill of the day when the battery in my Contour died as he started up the climb.

I am loving this bike more and more! After our ride we went to Edible Pedal, where my friend had some Shimano SPDs on consignment. I bought them for $25, put them on my Sirrus, took the pedals with toe clips off the Sirrus, and put them on the singlespeed. I prefer toe clips and straps on bikes that are ridden in town. Clipless is for my road bikes that are used on longer climbing rides out in the country.

Bike Ride Profile | Singlespeed ride to Fair Oaks with Matthew near Sacramento | Times and Records | Strava
Singlespeed ride to Fair Oaks with Matthew by freighttraininguphill at Garmin Connect - Details

ThermionicScott 12-14-12 11:10 AM

Good on ya! :thumb: Hill climbing is a way different experience with a FG/SS bike -- it's one thing to try not shifting your geared bike, quite another not to have the option! Strangely, I've found hill climbing to be way more fun on my FG, even though it's harder...

freighttraininguphill 12-14-12 11:39 AM


Originally Posted by ThermionicScott (Post 15049536)
Good on ya! :thumb: Hill climbing is a way different experience with a FG/SS bike -- it's one thing to try not shifting your geared bike, quite another not to have the option! Strangely, I've found hill climbing to be way more fun on my FG, even though it's harder...

Thanks :) You know what? I agree with you! I had much more fun climbing on the singlespeed yesterday than I normally do on my much heavier Trek 7000, with its rack, kickstand, and huge pannier. I had to do 90% of the climbs out of the saddle, but it was much easier to do that on the lighter singlespeed. It's even easier on the singlespeed than it is on my geared road bike.

I think it will be an excellent training tool for climbing. I spent almost all my time seated on my geared bikes. This bike forces you to learn how to climb out of the saddle efficiently, and it's pretty fun :D!

jyossarian 12-14-12 01:58 PM

Try climbing w/ a heavy FG that's got a rack, kickstand, fenders, pannier, lights, etc., aka my FG. Then try descending w/ that same FG. Fun times!

Chesha Neko 12-16-12 12:08 AM


Originally Posted by jyossarian (Post 15050290)
Try climbing w/ a heavy FG that's got a rack, kickstand, fenders, pannier, lights, etc., aka my FG. Then try descending w/ that same FG. Fun times!

Don't forget the trailer loaded with groceries!

freighttraininguphill 12-29-12 02:25 AM

I replaced the cheap and heavy 700x35c hybrid tires with the much lighter 700x28c Continental Gatorskins, which are less than half the weight of the original tires. I also replaced the ribbed black and brown grips with all-black locking smooth grips, which look and feel much better.

I sold my Dahon Speed D7 to the shop I bought the singlespeed from, so I put the stock pedals back on that bike and put the ones with the toe clips and straps that were on the Dahon on the singlespeed, which made a big difference in pedaling efficiency of course.

I took the bike on another ride around town with my riding partner Matthew, and either I'm stronger or the bike is faster now. All the short steep hills were easier this time.

Matthew had his GoPro HD Hero on his helmet. His footage looked and sounded much better than my ContourHD's, which was full of wind noise as usual. Here's his footage of our ride.

I think I'm going to start using my GoPro on my helmet too. The only reason I haven't yet is because it's much more conspicuous than the lower profile ContourHD.

bbeasley 12-29-12 08:11 PM

More fuel on my SS fire. I've got a flat 5 mile one way commute to the shop that's just begging to be ridden on a new SS. My excuse for not using my roadie is the shoes/pedals are too much hassle. N+1 :)

freighttraininguphill 02-15-13 04:11 PM

I've stripped the singlespeed down even more. The handlebar-mounted bottle cage was a fail, due to the bottle bouncing out while riding over rough pavement. I took it and the seat bag off and got a Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV instead, which solves the problem of lack of proper bottle cage braze-ons on the mixte frame. I can now carry 100 oz of water, so that hydration pack will also be used on mtb rides. My old Camelbak Rogue is only 70 oz and doesn't have as much storage.

Lately, every time I've ridden this bike I've earned PRs on climbs, even when the previous ride on a particular climb was on a geared bike.

This is the most difficult climb I've done so far on this bike, and I won't be doing it again because I value the health of my knees! My left knee started to hurt a little near the top.

This was part of a 77 mile ride with 3,194' of climbing. The climb in this video is 3/4 mile long with a 9.5% average grade and a 16% max. There's a long 12% section too. Roadies on geared bikes all regard this climb as a tough one.

On my 42x17 single speed it required traversing, which lengthened the climb considerably. On my geared road bike it takes me about 9 minutes to climb. On the singlespeed it took 11 minutes and 34 seconds due to the switchbacking across the road.

Plenty of heavy breathing in these videos, so be forewarned!

We got caught in rain 30 miles from home on our next singlespeed ride, but we managed to get a climb in before the rain started. This is Whitney Blvd in Rocklin, which is .4 miles long with a bit of 8-10%.

Last week we rode to Rocklin again and climbed Park Drive, which is .6 miles long with a 7.1% average grade. This one has a bit of 10-11% also.

Two days ago we rode to Fair Oaks and climbed the usual hills, plus a couple of short steep ones that I haven't recorded yet. The second hill was the toughest, and it was also the first time I've climbed it on the singlespeed. It required traversing due to steepness, but since it's short I'm not worried about damaging my knees.

This was the first moderately hard ride since my 2/8 outpatient surgery under general anesthesia to remove a large 20 cm by 17 cm, 8 ounce lipoma (fatty tumor) from my right side. I credit all the hill climbing for the fast recovery. I got PRs on all the good climbs on this ride.

Here's video of the two short steep climbs. The first one has a max grade of 19% near the top. I haven't measured the second one yet.

iforgotmename 02-15-13 05:52 PM

Nice! I love riding SS...pedal and break that's all there is to it.

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