Soul searching on singlespeed.

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Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby adaml » Wed Aug 08, 2012 2:50 pm

I broke the right shifter on my commuter hack, which has turned it into an impromptu three-speed. As is always the case when this bike needs major drivetrain work, I'm playing with the idea of single-speeding it. The problem is, riding my "three-speed" for the last two weeks seems to show that I am unnaturally awful at riding single speed.

The lowest available ratio, and the one I've been using 95% percent of the time, is 28:14 (51.5 gear inches or a gain ratio of 3.8 with my current setup). I understand this should be a low, easy gear but for me it isn't. My commute, for those who are familiar with the area, is from Brunswick to the Melbourne CBD, which means a gentle downhill grade on the way in and vice-versa on the way out. Riding in is fine, but riding out I have to mash the pedals and riding is noticeably slower and more difficult than on a geared bike. Furthermore, I hurt my knee mountain biking two weeks ago, and riding like this aggravates it. Indeed, I believe it would have healed by now were I riding on a geared bike.

Moving up to the next ratio, 38:14 (69.9 gear inches, gain ratio of 5.2) is difficult enough that I barely use it. I feel overgeared almost all the time, which is obviously a problem given that this much closer to a 'standard' single-speed ratio.

I don't know what on earth is wrong with me. It seems that practically anyone can buy an off-the-peg singlespeed with 42:16 etc, and ride it happily. I'm not old (30), overweight or sedentary, and I've been commuting by bike for three years.

I'm still trying to decide what to do with my commuter. The sensible thing to do would just be to get another shifter and keep it as a geared bike, but I wonder if I should single-speed it to force myself to become a better cyclist. Maybe keep the commuter as a geared bike and look at building up a SS as a training tool...
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by BNA » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:53 pm

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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby Alistair » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:53 pm

Riding a hybrid or commuter POS in one gear isn't really going to give you the SS experience.

I think there is more info needed - aim for around 70 inches if you live somewhere flat like brunswick and are on a roadie.

If you need to spin a tiny gear it is probably best to drop hipster aspirations and stick to gears.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby BRLVR.v2 » Wed Aug 08, 2012 5:43 pm

adaml wrote:I broke the right shifter on my commuter hack,
The sensible thing to do would just be to get another shifter and keep it as a geared bike.


Condensed your post , and solved your problem for you
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby bychosis » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:04 pm

You could possibly set your rear derailleur to a lower gear using the limit screws and keep it three speed. A little of maintaining a geared bike and a little of harden up. Keep your granny gear for when you are feeling sluggish, but try to ride the SS gear when you can. I rode a two speed for a while on MTB. Single rear with derailleur up front. I needed a big gear for commuting and a smaller gear for cruising with the kids. SS wasn't going to cut it. Went back to gears after a while, but am now readying to build a proper SS road bike for occasional use.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby high_tea » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:14 pm

I dunno, when my road fixed-gear bike wasn't in pieces, it had a 66" gear (42x17). If I didn't have to pedal downhill, I would rather something a bit smaller, like 42x18. I have no trouble believing that 52" is too small, nor that 70" is too big. Maybe split the difference (so: low 60") and see how you go?
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby ldrcycles » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:32 pm

I've got a couple of singlespeed road bikes, i started off with 52-16 (and yes it hurt!) then 42-16 (which is much easier on hills but frustrating on the flat), 44-16 which is pretty good all round as long as it's not too flat, and 46-16 which is great when there aren't many hills.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby waramatt » Wed Aug 15, 2012 8:24 pm

I love my single speed, and took the Felt Dispatch to Wanaka last December. There are some mighty big hills around there. I was riding 46:16 but swapped to 46:17 before the trip.

To be honest, about an hour after arriving I wished I'd taken my geared road bike. I love my SS, but that's because where I live it's reasonably flat with the odd hill with 8-10% gradient. Anyway, in Wanaka I did a 60k ride out to Lake Hawea and found myself having to grind up a long steep rise from the Clutha River onto Hawea Flat and cursed my stupidity for packing SS for the trip. :evil: :evil: A week later I did a 110km community ride (Telstra Clear Challenge) north-west of Auckland and it was hellishly hilly. Not fun. At all. :cry: Several riders watched me grind those hills, shook their heads and loudly questioned my sanity (which I was also doing). :oops:

It's true that riding SS can improve your pedalling form, but I say save that for the flat and slightly undulating terrain.

Why punish yourself? There's nothing wrong with you. The way you describe your commute, it's better suited to a geared bike. Save the SS for flatter terrain.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby HLC » Thu Aug 16, 2012 12:33 am

I ride 80gi fixed/brakeless (49:16), and have for over 18 months now... Perth is fairly flat but I do go searching for hills... Spinning out at 65-70kph downhill is mental ha ha especially when I can only manage 75kph downhill coasting on my roadie.

Cup of concrete and she'll be right.

65-70gi is ideal for Melbourne. Going smaller is just stupid.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby boyracer » Thu Aug 16, 2012 12:53 am

^^^49/17 in Adelaide for 45k roundtrip commute. And i am old! I don't remember any real 'up' from Melb CBD to Brunswick.
What about a flip flop hub? ride to work/flip,ride home. rinse, repeat.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby PeteV » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:37 pm

boyracer wrote:^^^49/17 in Adelaide for 45k roundtrip commute. And i am old! I don't remember any real 'up' from Melb CBD to Brunswick.
What about a flip flop hub? ride to work/flip,ride home. rinse, repeat.

This! Or get a new shifter... Gearing is a very personal thing, what some people push easily is a nightmare for others. I enjoy spinning & have crunchie knees so I am very content on 44/18 all day, everyday, others might like 52/14 etc.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby sb944 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:12 pm

I'm only about 2 months into cycling, and have a single speed. I've gone from walking 1/2 a hill, to grinding all the way up the same hill, to passing many geared bikes up that hill in that short time. I certainly imagine it's not for everyone though, it's not much fun grinding up a hill or walking it.
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Re: Soul searching on singlespeed.

Postby boss » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:09 pm

I ran 46/17 for a few months before stumping up the $$$ for a gearie.

Found it easy to ride, could still smash climbs up to 10% without knee issues.

My main gripe was is wasn't quick enough on flats or descending.
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