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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 02-01-10, 07:03 PM   #1
nahh
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thinking about a fixed mtb

hey--

So, I stripped cog a couple months ago, and since I had other bikes, I didn't bother getting a new hub and still riding fixed.

but I have this disc wheelset that I got for free, and a 90's Univega mtb. the wheelset on the Univega has some broken spokes and stuff, so this might be the right time for this bike.

I was thinking about getting a Surly Fixxer to convert this wheelset to fixed, and then just running brakeless cause...i'd be offroad.

am I crazy to consider riding fixed offroad?

also, I might want to use a different frame for this build, this one has some sentimental value and I might never actually convert it.
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Old 02-01-10, 07:16 PM   #2
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Fixed mountain bikes can be a lot of fun. I use one for winter commuting and trail riding (although I usually flip over to the coasty side for off-road stuff). A much cheaper option for converting your rear wheel would be to track down a cog that has been drilled to match a disk rotor bolt pattern (if you google tomi cog and london fixie I think you should find options). With the cog on the disk side, you can have a regular single speed cog on the cassette just in case.

For fixed off road riding, think of the lowest gear combo you could imagine riding on the street, then go one tooth lower. I have my fixed 29er set up at 32-20 but there aren't many hills to speak of where I am.

Also, if you're riding off road, PLEASE DO use brakes. At least one, two is better. Skidding all over someone's carefully groomed trail is a really bad way to impress the local MTBers.
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Old 02-02-10, 08:32 AM   #3
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Also, try to stop going downhill at speed using only backpressure. You will die. I have almost died several times while mountain biking and that was with two fully functional brakes. I am pretty sure that it is only a matter of time before the govt outlaws mountain biking entirely.
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Old 02-02-10, 08:38 AM   #4
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Flip your rear wheel backwards & slap on a Tomicog.
Use your front disc brake.

MTB-ing is the only way to go...ride roads only as the last available option.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:40 AM   #5
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+1 on the brake. Skidding should be a last resort, it will destroy the trail.

It is awesome though, although really tiring.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:48 AM   #6
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Sheldon Brown (RIP) rode a fixed MTB: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/singlespeed.html#framemtb
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Old 02-02-10, 11:51 AM   #7
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Riding fixed off road offers challenges like nothing else I have ever done on a bike... my old Gt Karakoram was an awesome bike to ride on the trail and it really flipped out other riders when they saw it was a fixed gear.

It was the second fg bike I ever built for myself.

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Old 02-02-10, 11:55 AM   #8
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Now I ride a vintage fixed mtb as a winter bike, commuter, and have it geared so I can still ride the trails unlike my GT which saw a good deal of single track and had an insanely low, trail only gear.

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Old 02-02-10, 01:34 PM   #9
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+1 on a brake.

Riding brakeless offroad is going to do lots of damage to the trails... MTB'rs have enough trouble as is keeping their trails open, let alone maintained, turning a nice trail into a rutted mess is the last thing that they need.

I've tried riding my cross bike with 42c tires and fixed wheel offroad, was fun until it got technical, then it was pedal strike after pedal strike. The ends of my crank arms look horrible now and the bottoms of my pedals are trashed...
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Old 02-02-10, 02:16 PM   #10
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+1 on a brake.

Riding brakeless offroad is going to do lots of damage to the trails... MTB'rs have enough trouble as is keeping their trails open, let alone maintained, turning a nice trail into a rutted mess is the last thing that they need.
Eh....I seriously doubt that brakeless FG riding has significantly contributed to turning any trail into a "rutted mess". Its pretty easy to ride singletrack with a FG riding brakeless, without skidding. Given the lower gear, its the one time when riding brakeless is really easy.

Anyway, having a brake or not (or even a freewheel or not) isn't necessarily going to effect how much someone skids. The bigger culprits are the newbs and clueless people who skid with a brake. These are usually the same people who widen the trails by riding around the ruts and mudholes made by the jerks who ride the trail when its muddy.
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Old 02-02-10, 02:17 PM   #11
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Fixed mtb-ing is a blast! I ride fixed on all the technical stuff I ride on my geared/ss mtb's. It's not a whole lot harder, just a different game.

And +1 on using a brake or two. I only use 1, have never needed more than just backpressure on the rear or hand-brake in the front.

Here's a picture of my current fg-mtb, my '99 Gary Fisher Kaitai:




And here's a pic of my fg-cx bike I raced on a couple of seasons ago (actually placed very well with the right gear choice):




Another shot of the fixed mtb, different parts on it, taking a break on a ride:

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Old 02-02-10, 02:29 PM   #12
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Where do you live? That trail looks like a lot of fun!
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Old 02-02-10, 02:34 PM   #13
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Where do you live? That trail looks like a lot of fun!
That's Memorial Park in Houston TX. Kind of "meh" actually, there's a lot better riding to be had out towards Austin.
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Old 02-02-10, 02:59 PM   #14
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Eh....I seriously doubt that brakeless FG riding has significantly contributed to turning any trail into a "rutted mess". Its pretty easy to ride singletrack with a FG riding brakeless, without skidding. Given the lower gear, its the one time when riding brakeless is really easy.

Anyway, having a brake or not (or even a freewheel or not) isn't necessarily going to effect how much someone skids. The bigger culprits are the newbs and clueless people who skid with a brake. These are usually the same people who widen the trails by riding around the ruts and mudholes made by the jerks who ride the trail when its muddy.

I'm just saying that at least from my experience riding the trails around here, you are going to be doing a lot of skidding and ripping up the trails (which will lead to accelerated erosion). Having a brake will most definitely effect how much you skid. Maybe if you have smooth gentle trails you can get away with running a brakeless MTB, but around here it would be a) Jackass and b) A good way to get yourself hurt - bad.
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Old 02-02-10, 03:22 PM   #15
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Yes, you are crazy to use fixed offroad - esp brakeless - if you mean offroad as any trail that isn't paved/MUP style.

Just to second some things already mentioned above, if you are really riding a MTB trail, go freewheel (pedal strike on tree bits/etc to clear is the thing I would fear) and use brakes.
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Old 02-02-10, 03:24 PM   #16
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This looks a lot like the rolling trails we have here... they can be a blast and aren't that hard to do on a fixed gear and I have even ridden stuff like this on my fixed road bike.

The technical stuff takes mad skills and huge cajones... or a death wish
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Old 02-02-10, 03:27 PM   #17
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I'm just saying that at least from my experience riding the trails around here, you are going to be doing a lot of skidding and ripping up the trails (which will lead to accelerated erosion). Having a brake will most definitely effect how much you skid. Maybe if you have smooth gentle trails you can get away with running a brakeless MTB, but around here it would be a) Jackass and b) A good way to get yourself hurt - bad.
My argument was based more on quantity...there aren't a lot of FG singletrack riders out there and most of them are probably skilled and experienced enough to know to protect the trail. But I see your point, if there's a lot of steep and/or technical stuff a brake may be necessary just to keep things under control.

Its worth pointing out that riding a FG on an otherwise ho-hum trail can make that trail seem much more interesting, especially if its a really winding or hilly trail that demands a lot of speed modification with the DT. My rule of thumb is if most of the trail allows me to ride if fixed, with a good sense of flow and allowing me to control everything with the drivetrain, without using the brake, then I'll ride it fixed. If the trail starts to get too rough and technical...to the point that a brake is absolutely necessary, then I usually just ride it SS. I've tried riding rough-technical trails fixed, and while I can do it, it just seems annoying and tedious to me. I'd rather blast through the hard stuff as fast as I can on an SS, rather than *****foot through with a FG.
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Old 02-02-10, 03:32 PM   #18
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Our river valley trails are clay so we take a lot of issue with people who can't ride them without tearing them up from skidding... there's nothing like doing trail repair to have some dip**** tear through it after a rainstorm.

We have trails that are graveled and fine for post rain rides but the nekkid trails need a little more respect.

If you have to skid down and entire descent you don't belong on that piece of trail.
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Old 02-02-10, 03:48 PM   #19
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I run a fixed mtb setup but wouldn't dream of doing it without a front and back brake for what that is worth. (my main city ride is brakeless for what that is worth as well)
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Old 02-02-10, 03:51 PM   #20
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If you have to skid down and entire descent you don't belong on that piece of trail.
Yes, that is true regardless of you bike setup, but I doubt that the worst offenders are brakeless fixie riders.
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Old 02-02-10, 04:04 PM   #21
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My first reaction is that a fixed mountain bike would be super irritating to ride and almost dangerous. After thinking about it more though, it seems like on the right trail like the ones in Edmonton like 65'er mentions or in FKMTB07's pic it could be a ton of fun. Learning another way to control the bike is never a bad thing in mountain biking so if you weren't bashing into stuff all the time than I bet it could turn out pretty well.

On tech trails though? F-that. Give me a freewheel. If I can't place my pedals just so I'll bash 'em cornering and anywhere remotely tech. No way I want to compromise that much.
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Old 02-02-10, 04:04 PM   #22
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Eh....I seriously doubt that brakeless FG riding has significantly contributed to turning any trail into a "rutted mess". Its pretty easy to ride singletrack with a FG riding brakeless, without skidding. Given the lower gear, its the one time when riding brakeless is really easy.

Anyway, having a brake or not (or even a freewheel or not) isn't necessarily going to effect how much someone skids. The bigger culprits are the newbs and clueless people who skid with a brake. These are usually the same people who widen the trails by riding around the ruts and mudholes made by the jerks who ride the trail when its muddy.
Troof!

I ride w/a dood who wheels fixed on his MTB/cross/townie, front brake only & he hardly ever skids.
Skillz it be...we pedal the trails of the Rocky Mts, so we may have encountered a steep rocky trail once or twice.
as for pedal strike, hop & pause your stroke a sec, practice, practice, practice.
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Old 02-02-10, 05:09 PM   #23
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alright. thanks guys!

In this case, i'm going to wait for a bike at an auction with a disc brake front, and then convert that to fixed. I don't need this until spring anyway, too much snow on the trails now!

I underestimated how much brakes would help I guess. I've ridden fixed on road, and even though I always had a brake, I never used it. I've also ridden weird bikes on trails, like my 650c road bike...with thin slicks. that was fun, but I felt like I was trashing my wheels.

thanks for the advice! will return with pics in a while...
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Old 02-02-10, 05:19 PM   #24
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My first reaction is that a fixed mountain bike would be super irritating to ride and almost dangerous. After thinking about it more though, it seems like on the right trail like the ones in Edmonton like 65'er mentions or in FKMTB07's pic it could be a ton of fun. Learning another way to control the bike is never a bad thing in mountain biking so if you weren't bashing into stuff all the time than I bet it could turn out pretty well.

On tech trails though? F-that. Give me a freewheel. If I can't place my pedals just so I'll bash 'em cornering and anywhere remotely tech. No way I want to compromise that much.

Here are some pictures of my favorite trail system, FOMBA in the Manchester area of NH. Some really techy stuff that is a blast to ride fixed.

You learn to anticipate and even use pedal strike to your advantage (think pole vaulting) to get over some bigger rocks and obstacles. You also learn to time your pedal strokes to avoid striking when possible. My pedals are scratched to hell and my black cranks are silver on the ends, but it's really fun.

Just because you're on a fixed mtb, doesn't mean you can't ride techy trails.



A neat little stone bridge:





The Log Roll, very intimidating on a fixed, but fun once you commit. Involves skidding most of the log part and spinning like mad when you get back into the dirt. That long skid mark in the dirt is actually not mine, btw. People love to lock it up at the bottom of the log roll, as there's a tight turn right afterward





A challenging climb with a rock obstacle right at the top, very hard to get over on a fixed gear:

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Old 02-03-10, 12:27 AM   #25
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I would not go brakeless. I would probably not go fixed, either. It sounds like you don't know anything about mountain biking. That's fine. But starting with a fixed gear would probably be a terrible idea.
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