Headquarters for the Slender Fungus Cycling Association

Headquarters for the Slender Fungus Cycling Association
Brewers of Hardy Rides.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Singlespeeding versus Geared bikes. What do you think??

Singlespeeding to freedom. 42x18  and 42x15 fixed on the other side. 700x33mm Rivendell Jack Browns. Rivendell Quickbeam bike.

So I was having this thought while riding the Demi-dirt a couple of weeks ago. I started the ride quite stiff and feeling kind of painful at the start at 330 am. Soon enough my legs started to loosen up as I went up and down the hills. I spun out the gear and was churning at about 18 miles per hour. I had a little fear in thinking of tackling 200 miles in this way. I truly thought I would have a horrible day with my cocky, dumb decision. Who was I kidding? Who was I trying to impress? I guess I just wanted to see what would happen. 
In just 3 hours we had made it to Sycamore and my legs were fresh. No pain, no nothing. At around mile 150 I got sick and tired of spinning my legs off. We had a slight tailwind and I just wanted to get home. So I flipped my wheel over to the fixed side which is 42x15. It felt great to have a higher gear and I instantly brought it up to 20mph. 
I felt awesome riding this way. My feet were killing me with my old shoes and the Flite Max saddle that I was trying out was killing my behind. I should not experiment with a saddle on a 200 mile ride but I should did find out the Max is a no go. 
This past Sunday I rode 105 miles on my Gunnar Geared Cross bike. This bike has a 34x45 in front with a 11x34 in rear. All day my legs felt heavy. All day I searched for the right gear with no avail. I spun out and I mashed the heavy gears. I arrived home tired and sore. I went straight to bed and fell asleep. 
Why is this? Why did I end the 200 mile ride on the singlespeed fresh?? Does not thinking of shifting have something to do with it? Does having only one gear  condition the legs to work with that gear alone???  Is it easier to ride a singlespeed in long distances??? 
These are the questions I have and am working on. IF you have any ideas let me know. Ben Shockey, Troy Krause, Jay Barre and others have finished Trans Iowa on singlespeeds.  
I need to find out. Soon. 



SW said...

I've found the same thing, especially when riding SS on the road or gravel. Riding geared seems so much more tiring, in the end, than riding single, over long distances.

Here's my theory: my body (and perhaps human bodies in general) doesn't groove on sameness, especially repetitive sameness over long periods of time. Riding geared lends itself to sameness of cadence, effort level, and position. Riding SS sends cadence and effort level all over the place, and makes you change your position more by getting out of the saddle, or moving back and forth, etc.

I'm pretty sure now, in fact, that the knee trouble that knocked me out of Trans-Iowa this year are due in large part to the fact that I chickened out and switched to riding geared a couple of months prior, because I tended to gear way down and spin, spin, spin up any incline, instead of climbing in the way that I'm accustomed. Especially after riding SS almost exclusively for the entire winter and some of the fall prior, including a lot of SS fat-biking.

Now, I'm not saying I'd have finished TI had I ridden singlespeed. But I probably would not have dropped out for the reason that I did.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I have a theory. So generally when geared, we keep our legs spinning with the same rythm and resistance the entire time, no matter what environmental factors we encounter. Thats working the exact same muscle group, most likely our strongest which is why it feels comfortable. But with SS there is a lot more differentiation. We are forced to leave the "comfort zone" and spin faster with less resistance or try to maintain momentem when pushing up a hill. Those changes work your body in a completely different way by activating faster and slower components to your muscles giving the other parts a break now and then. Also I've noticed a lot more in and out of the saddle with SS, which changes the muscle groups completely.

I really don't think it improves the overall speed of a ride, but I think it can reduce muscle fatigue during certain types of rides. Basically I think SS is better for rides that aren't at either extremes such as completely flat the whole time (since it would be purely spinning) or monster hills the whole time (because it would pushing super hard and occasionally get a short break to coast).

Those are my unresearched thoughs!


Ari said...

Thanks SW and AG. Those are the same line of thoughts I was having. I thought that after 200 miles I would be completely trashed but I was wrong. I would like to here some more comments if anyone has any.
thanks again.

Rob Delaney said...

I believe that singlespeeds help you conserve energy in that you can only go so fast on the top end of the gear. Mentally I think you also stay a little sharper when riding hills because you need to ride them with a little more thought instead of just dumping a gear every time it gets a little tough.
Best to all you guys in the SFCA-Rob Delaney

Ari said...

I also believe that as you get tired with a geared bike one tends to shift up to a harder gear. Cadence drops and you push harder digging deeper into your legs. By the end of the ride I believe the rider arrives more tired. What about the Tour de France riders of the early 1900's? How did they ride hundreds of miles with one gear??