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SS for LD Training/Riding

Old 10-21-11, 08:01 AM
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MikeOCS
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SS for LD Training/Riding

Has or does anyone out there use a SS or FG to train for or ride in LD events?

I ask because I have had to use my SS more over the last month because of issues with my geared bike. I have been surprised by how well I am able to perform (no real drop in speed) and how much fun I am having on it. I won't be ditching the geared bike any time soon, but I am certainly going to split time more between the two.

If you have used SS/FG, what benefits have you seen?
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Old 10-21-11, 08:38 AM
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I've been riding fixed almost exclusively for the last 3 years on long-distance events (including 3 1200Ks and some pretty nutty stuff). My observations:

--Riding SS/FG sounds tougher than it is. Fixed-gear arbitrage, baby! Frankly, you get more "bad-ass" points for riding SS/FG on distance events than you deserve, though I'll take 'em!

--It's all about gear selection. You know you've got it right when your gear is inappropriate for *both* climbing and descending.

--SS is actually tougher than FG on very steep climbs. I find you get a little dead space in the pedal stroke on a SS. Because a FG bike, on the other hand, is still moving forward, this puts that next pedal in the proper position so that you can drive it down with your body weight. On a SS, you've got to bring that pedal around entirely on your own effort. Of course, going downhill, SS is obviously quite a bit easier, especially on long, gradual descents. Descending the Sierra to the west on the GRR was pure hell on a FG bike.

--Distance benefits include a very simple bicycle on which it's just about impossible for anything to break (without also breaking the rider). As long as your chain-line is straight and your chain is properly tensioned, you're pretty much locked in for a drivetrain that's not going to give you any issues at all. On every 1200 I've done, I've seen someone with a serious derailleur problem. That will never be you!

--Training benefits include that you'll be an animal when you get back on a geared bike. Riding SS/FG, you're teaching your body to work efficiently at a variety of cadences. If you're riding in groups, you're forcing yourself to learn how to ride efficiently, where to be in the pack, how to read the terrain, how to handle your bicycle safely.... It's very tough to be a part of a fast-moving group if you're the only one riding SS or FG. Very tough. I was a strong rider before I began riding FG extensively. The training benefits of the single cog for me have been dramatic. Of course, it's fun to bring the geared bike out every now and again and kick everyone's butt.

--Back to the LD stuff.... I think a single cog saves you from yourself. You're forced to ride your own ride, whether you like it or not, and that ride in large measure gets dictated by the gearing you're running. You can't go do something stupid like ride with the big boys and girls at the front and then after 200 miles wonder, "What the hell did I do that for?" Of course, this means you might be riding more by yourself than you're otherwise used to. I think the bike helps you make good decisions about your pace, and pretty much everything else in a LD ride flows from that.

--Biggest benefit, by far: it's a ton of fun. I liken riding fixed to telemark skiing.... I enjoy alpine skiing but for me pretty much any conditions are better on tele gear. Same with cycling: I love riding geared bikes but if given the choice, I'll pick the FG over a geared bike.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:31 AM
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I haven't done anything considered LD on my SS, yet, but I have had similar observations. No, it is not as hard as you think it will be. My cadence naturally adjusts to match the terrain (I'm not struggling to keep my cadence in some sort of "sweet spot"). When you aren't concerned with shifting, you can enjoy your ride more.

The first ride I did on my geared bike after a month on the SS, I think I shifted about a 1/3 as much as I normally would have.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:45 AM
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Octopus:
Out of curiosity, I led a SS/FG ride series one winter. Most of us didn't have a real SS/FG bike, so we just picked a gear and took an oath not to shift. Most of us rode 67-71 gear inches. I laid out a series of hilly courses of about 60 miles, though I kept the gradients down to 10% or less, and we rode one every weekend. Some of our regulars wouldn't go along with it, and rode with us geared. By the end of the series, I found I had gotten pretty good at pulling at 110 and drafting geared guys up to 130 or so, and also good at climbing long steep grades at 35 cadence seated. I'm not a great climber. Our average speed on these familiar courses wasn't too much slower than we did geared. Since we were really training to improve our performance on geared bikes, I thought it was better to ride SS and learn to pedal through the dead spots.

However . . . all this didn't improve our performance on our geared bikes after this 3-month series was over. We climbed the same grades in the same gears as the year before. So I'm a little surprised that you had such a different experience. Do you think 3 months wasn't long enough for the training to take effect? There is that specificity thing which would say that the way to get better at riding geared is to ride geared, etc.
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Old 10-21-11, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
However . . . all this didn't improve our performance on our geared bikes after this 3-month series was over.
In fairness, I should clarify my earlier post about the training benefits of SS/FG:

--Iíve seen the ďdramaticĒ physical fitness benefits I mentioned above more on shorter, intense rides than in my LD riding. Iíve been riding a FG bike on training rides for a few years with some pretty serious roadies. Iíll be out there on the FG bike trying to hang with all these young studs on bling-bling racing bikes. Itís a brutal workout, and itís whipped me into really good shape, better shape that I was ever in when I did the same rides on a geared bike. I think Iím getting a much more effective workout riding with these guys weekly or twice weekly on a FG bike than I would be were I riding with them regularly on a geared bike. Itís easy to loaf on a training ride on a geared bike. Itís pretty much impossible on a FG!

--I imagine Iíd see comparable benefits in power and speed in longer rides, if I rode LD events aggressively these days. I really havenít ridden distance for performance since I began riding fixed. Iíll be taking a whack at the Sebring 24-Hour in 2012 (on a FG time-trial bike), and looking to go pretty big, so Iíll keep you posted on how the training for that, and my result, goes.

--The benefits I have seen to my LD riding from using a FG have mostly been ďintangiblesĒ rather than an increase in speed. I think riding fixed has helped me dial in an effort that I can comfortably maintain, pretty much forever. Itís tough to separate this out fairly from just being a more experienced rider, but I can complete 600s and 1200s now like itís just not that big of a deal. Lots of aches and pains have gone away, as have some digestive and stomach issues that used to vex me on long rides. Iím a lot more comfortable on the bike since I began riding LD rides fixed Ė I canít recall the last time I took a pain reliever on a bike ride -- and I think thatís mostly a function of the bike helping me to discover an effort thatís sustainable for me. I guess the fixed-gear bike helped me to become more ďdurableĒ on long rides rather than ďfaster,Ē per se.

-- I said above that riding FG isnít as tough as most people think, but if weíre talking performance Ė riding for time, especially with other people on geared bikes trying to do the same Ė then I need to walk that statement back. Other than in extremely rare situations (like riding an indoor velodrome; doing sub-10K TTs), trying for peak performance on a FG is much, much harder than trying to do the same thing on a geared bike. For example, as far as I know, no one has ever come close to a Charly Miller time at PBP on a FG bike, and several very strong riders have tried it. No one has ever even attempted solo RAAM on a FG bike. A much less extreme example is a club century here that the organizers make the mistake of putting a clock on so a lot of people tend to race it. Itís got a few steep climbs, so I ran 49x16 on it last year and wanted to see if I could hang with the big boys. I got dropped from the lead group only 30 miles in on a descent Ė you get zero rest and recovery on a fixed-gear bike (especially when youíre topping out at 45mph!). Had I run a taller gear, Iíd have been dropped on the ascents. Had I run a geared bike, I don't think I would have "won" this thing -- I suck at sprint finishes -- but I would have stayed with the lead-group for 100 miles, no question.

--Oh, and did I mention that FG bikes are a ton of fun?
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Old 10-21-11, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeOCS View Post
(I'm not struggling to keep my cadence in some sort of "sweet spot"). When you aren't concerned with shifting, you can enjoy your ride more.
I totally agree. This is one of those "intangibles" I blather on about, above. I used to find myself on long rides on geared bikes running through the derailleurs looking for some kind of Goldilock's porridge of a gear... you know, the one that's "just right." The longer the ride got, and the more tired I was, the more I'd tend to be unhappy with whatever gear I was in. Riding fixed, all that crap -- which is mentally draining -- just goes away (as does the hand and wrist pain from working the STI!). I find it to be mentally liberating to just have one gear available. It is what it is; ya gotta find a way to make it work.
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Old 10-21-11, 06:48 PM
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Octopus has nailed just about every aspect I could think of. Those intangibles are what make geared riders who have never tried FG or done so only briefly shake their heads in disbelief.

My FG has been in pieces for quite a while (parts were pirated for an emergency build of another bike). I think I need to refurbish it and get back to riding it a bit more.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:27 PM
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What about fixed gear tandeming? Could Dorte and I have the same benefits during the winter by making our training on a fixed gear or SS tandem?
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Old 10-22-11, 12:46 AM
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So what Octopus and Rowan are saying tallies pretty well with my experience. I did enjoy riding SS, but not having any geared bikes in the group would have made it more fun. Our group used to have a 2 that would come out with us in the winter on a FG. LD record holder. He'd get POed at us sometimes because we'd be off on a 60 mile hilly ride and hammering along and it would really be over his head, and he was a frigging 2 and who were we. He'd usually peel off after 35 miles.

OTOH, I've ridden in the mountains with a friend who is maybe some stronger though not a UCI racer, just an LD ultra guy. He rides a 90" gear in the mountains and I never saw a geared rider ride away from him. He has some FG records. Big legs, a heckuva sprinter, and always a smile.

So there's kind of two ways to look at it: It's a way to dial it back and enjoy the purity of an older way of riding, or it's a way to wear a hair shirt and make it harder for yourself just to show or prove you can. Both things have appeal to different people. I don't think it improves one's geared LD riding. If anyone's interested, Nashbar (or maybe it's Performance) has a conversion kit to make a geared bike SS, very cheaply. Saves just wearing that one cog in the cassette, works with vertical dropouts.
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Old 10-22-11, 02:10 AM
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Fixed on a tandem is very different to fixed solo. Unless you are absolutely matched with your tandem partner all the way round, it'll be a tough ride. More so if big hills are involved.
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Old 10-22-11, 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So what Octopus and Rowan are saying tallies pretty well with my experience. I did enjoy riding SS, but not having any geared bikes in the group would have made it more fun. Our group used to have a 2 that would come out with us in the winter on a FG. LD record holder. He'd get POed at us sometimes because we'd be off on a 60 mile hilly ride and hammering along and it would really be over his head, and he was a frigging 2 and who were we. He'd usually peel off after 35 miles.

OTOH, I've ridden in the mountains with a friend who is maybe some stronger though not a UCI racer, just an LD ultra guy. He rides a 90" gear in the mountains and I never saw a geared rider ride away from him. He has some FG records. Big legs, a heckuva sprinter, and always a smile.

So there's kind of two ways to look at it: It's a way to dial it back and enjoy the purity of an older way of riding, or it's a way to wear a hair shirt and make it harder for yourself just to show or prove you can. Both things have appeal to different people. I don't think it improves one's geared LD riding. If anyone's interested, Nashbar (or maybe it's Performance) has a conversion kit to make a geared bike SS, very cheaply. Saves just wearing that one cog in the cassette, works with vertical dropouts.
90gi in the mountains -- that is impressive.

And yes, both aspects of the purity and hair shirt have appealed to me together.

I am not sure what the PB/Nashbar conversion kit provides, but if for vertical dropouts, it needs a chain tensioner... unless it's used with a half-link chain. I have a conversion kit and half-link chain ready to go on a new commuter based on an MTB. The one disadvantage over a true SS/FG set-up is that the wheel still has dish because of the freehub.
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Old 10-22-11, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by LWaB View Post
Fixed on a tandem ...
I've had visions of riding PBP on a FG tandem for years.
Still looking for a stoker as crazy as I am. Mrs. The Octopus (a very experienced tandem cyclist) wants nothing to do with it. Smart woman.
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Old 10-22-11, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
90gi in the mountains -- that is impressive.

And yes, both aspects of the purity and hair shirt have appealed to me together.

I am not sure what the PB/Nashbar conversion kit provides, but if for vertical dropouts, it needs a chain tensioner... unless it's used with a half-link chain. I have a conversion kit and half-link chain ready to go on a new commuter based on an MTB. The one disadvantage over a true SS/FG set-up is that the wheel still has dish because of the freehub.
This gadget here:
https://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...7#ReviewHeader

It has umpty-ump spacers to get the chainline right. Shimano cassette hubs only. One could mount this on a triple and have a 3-speed for late in the ride . . .
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Old 10-24-11, 10:22 AM
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Thx, I enjoyed the insights on this thread.
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