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  1. #1
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    I'm in a conundrum.....help

    To start with I must admit that I thought that single speed bikes were the dumbest thing ever for most of the last decade. I started riding single speed to get myself ready for a San Juan Huts trip that I am doing in september. I was gonna force myself to ride it until right before I left so that I would get even stronger. Now the problem is, I don't really want to go back to gears. I am riding faster than I ever have before (been rmountain biking for almost 19 years), climbing stuff that I couldn't on a geared bike, and having a hell of a lot more fun. The question that I am throwing out is, will I completely suffer horribly at that altitude if I go out there singlespeed? I know some of you have toured at altitude but I don't see a lot of singlespeeds. The trails in Pisgah are by no means flat but what concerns me is extended climbs at that altitude. Give me some feedback or thoughts.

  2. #2
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    yes(no)

  3. #3
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    If you are not acclimated to altitude (meaning: trained at altitude not more than 2-4 weeks ago) you will suffer a performance hit when riding. Usually from sea level to 5000 feet is the first noticeable increase in perceived effort and available O2. From 5000 feet to 7500 feet is the next plateau, and then from 7500 feet to 9000 feet, and then anything over 10,000 is just plain hard even if you have been training at 9000 feet consistently.

    I don't see how singlespeed vs gears enters into this equation. If you are a hard rider, and push big gears, you will go anaerobic that much faster at altitude. This is usually not sustainable for touring. If you adopt a slower, more sustainable aerobic pace, the tour is certainly possible for you.

    One of the toughest climbs I ever did was in Colorado, and I had lived at 8500 feet for two years. Once above 10,000 feet I felt like a flatlander again. I have done that climb on three different bikes and let me tell you, the bike made no difference.

    If you do it SS, and you are up for the whole CO Hut tour experience, choose a low gear, and bring a lower one and a chain tool with you.

    If possible, I would recommend a period (~1 week) of high altitude acclimatization to enable your body to produce enough hemoglobin to compensate for the reduced partial pressure. The climbs will still be harder than you are used to, but you won't run the risk of blackouts, altitude sickness, or the mental confusion that typically results from sustained high altitude efforts without prior acclimatization. You see, the altitude affects everyone slightly differently... but the common myth is that the more in shape you are, the less the altitude will be an issue... dead wrong.

    Don't forget about the increased amount of hydration you'll be doing either. Extended climbs at altitude are going to drain your camelbacks dry in short order. Bring a filter and extra water.

    Okay... so this advice may be more than you wanted, or not... either way, I lived and rode in the high country for some time with experienced racers and noob riders alike. It isn't impossible, but there is alot more to think about and prepare for. I've seen too many people in pretty bad shape for failure to take those mountains seriously and change their routine accordingly.

    Good luck, be safe, and have fun!

  4. #4
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    Last summer I was going to ride the CO. trail (9k-12k a couple times) so I was riding everywhere SS to build up strength and stamina, since I couldn't take off enough time to acclimate first. I'm in good shape- ran a marathon in the fall, I run all the time, I bike thousands and thousands of miles every year, etc. I switched to gears for the ride. I did a test ride around 5-6k and I felt pretty decent. In fact, I didn't notice much of a change.

    The next day I we started the trail and it owned me the first day. Bike for a minute, get off and pant like mad. Over and over again for hour and hours. Saying I actually was on the bike for a minute is probably a little complimentary to myself. The next day wasn't so bad.

    Sooo... good luck...

  5. #5
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    doable but not easy

    Quote Originally Posted by cruso414
    To start with I must admit that I thought that single speed bikes were the dumbest thing ever for most of the last decade. I started riding single speed to get myself ready for a San Juan Huts trip that I am doing in september. I was gonna force myself to ride it until right before I left so that I would get even stronger. Now the problem is, I don't really want to go back to gears. I am riding faster than I ever have before (been rmountain biking for almost 19 years), climbing stuff that I couldn't on a geared bike, and having a hell of a lot more fun. The question that I am throwing out is, will I completely suffer horribly at that altitude if I go out there singlespeed? I know some of you have toured at altitude but I don't see a lot of singlespeeds. The trails in Pisgah are by no means flat but what concerns me is extended climbs at that altitude. Give me some feedback or thoughts.
    I've ridden almost all of the trails/roads on the SJ Hut system on a SS, some multiple times and a few multiple days in a row but never the whole system at once via the hut system (ride/eat/drink/sleep in hut/repeat),,,,,,,,,i'm sure someone has by now, SS are everywhere in the SW these days. Altitude is an issue but it will be regardless of gears or SS setup,,,,,,,,,I rode these trails on mostly a 32x18 or 34X20 setup, but did throw on a 32X19 on one trip because my back was illin' worse than usual. What gear do you run in your world of trails? If you run a cassette setup, you could swap out the rear cogs as needed to an easier gear pretty quickly by carrying a few tools,,,,,,,,but that will add some weight.I'm sure someone else will post some additional beta soon,,,,,,,,,good luck, it's a great system

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    I've raced the Brian Head Epic 100, which was 100 miles at 10,000-12,000 feet altitude i believe, on my single speed. It was deffinately more painful at alt., but from my experience, i run a lower heart rate on the single speed so i think it would effect me less than if i were on a geared bike. I didnt see anyone suffering much less than myself.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replys. It sounds like the bike being geared or not is less of an issue than me just not being acclimated to the altitude. I live at 3700 ft so I am not coming from sea level but I still haven't ridden anything even remotely over 10000 ft.. I am still new to SS so I was wondering if anyone else notices that it seems almost easier than gears once you get used to climbing standing most of the time. I got a new Lynskey at the same time that I started riding SS but I really don't think the bike has as much to do with it as making myself adapt to the different riding style. BTW I am running 32X20 here in Pisgah.

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    [QUOTE=cruso414] I am still new to SS so I was wondering if anyone else notices that it seems almost easier than gears once you get used to climbing standing most of the time. QUOTE]
    Well like i said, my heart rate stays lower with a slower cadence, so in altitude where oxygen is sparse, it could help you. However, it depends on the hill. If you're really struggling to make it up the hill due to the grade of it, you may have more issues on the SS.
    My suggestion is go up a day early and do a shorter pre-ride on some steeper hills and really get your lungs going. Get to near puke zone (it wont take much, trust me).
    I did this for the Brian Head race and the same hill that kicked my ass the first day i got there was actually fairly easy the next day during the race. My pre-ride sped up my acclimation so i suffered less.

  9. #9
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    I have been riding and living in Sacramento and took a trip up to Salt Lake to ride and I felt better on my SS than the geared. The geared is heavier but still.
    I like to ride Bikes. This might be turning into an obsession, not sure?

    http://blog.cyclng.com/

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    I'm curious to see how much of an effect altitude has. I've always found my legs to tire well before I have any kind of shortage of air.

  11. #11
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    Not much altitude at all here in Oz. Most of my riding is below 1000ft. I did a SS ride this week up a small mountain to about 4500ft, but I only noticed the oxygen dropping after about 4000ft. It's all relative I suppose.

  12. #12
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    I can't notice any difference..

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevob
    Not much altitude at all here in Oz. Most of my riding is below 1000ft. I did a SS ride this week up a small mountain to about 4500ft, but I only noticed the oxygen dropping after about 4000ft. It's all relative I suppose.
    when I go up to 6000 ft which is about as high as you get around here but I may just be used to it. I think I will try and ride a pretty hard ride in Durango the day before we actually start the San Juan Huts. We are supposed to do a day trip with Hermosa tours that day.

  13. #13
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    Alfine

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cruso414
    when I go up to 6000 ft which is about as high as you get around here but I may just be used to it. I think I will try and ride a pretty hard ride in Durango the day before we actually start the San Juan Huts. We are supposed to do a day trip with Hermosa tours that day.
    I think it would be better to save your energy. Overdoing it at the beginning will probably only make the rest of the trip worse. As far as I know the acclimation mostly just takes time

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomn
    I think it would be better to save your energy. Overdoing it at the beginning will probably only make the rest of the trip worse. As far as I know the acclimation mostly just takes time
    Don't forget, it also takes effort. You can sit around for a week at altitude and still get dizzy walking up the steps... or you can go ride, hike, rock climb - and the more active you are, the more acclimatizing will happen.

  16. #16
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    Just ask Dicky...your neck of the woods and suffered desperately in the Breck Epic.

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