hill gearing or strictly speed?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    hill gearing or strictly speed?

    So I'm in a spot that I assume a lot of beginning SS riders get into with regards to what gear to choose.

    I was riding a gear that was pretty solid - could get a lot of climbs done, and it was fairly decent on the flats. I decided to gear down so that I could sustain the climbs more, not have to walk as much, and - most important - not to blow my legs out and be forced to take recovery days when I don't want to.

    Now I'm frustrated bcs I'm spinning out on the flats.

    I realize that the very nature of SS is that you will NEVER be in "the perfect gear", but if you could choose between the two, what would you prefer in a gear ratio -

    1.) better for climbing
    2.) better for speed & flats

  2. #2
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    better for climbing (I live in the mountains)... learn to enjoy coasting or just spinning along.
    if i lived east of denver, i'd probably go for a higher gear...

  3. #3
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    Reputation: Pooh Bear's Avatar
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    I gear for 80% of the riding around here, which means ups and downs. Uphills mean out of saddle mashing, flats mean spinning.
    f you're riding for fun and on your own, change gear according to what you are riding this day. After a while you'll get lazy and grind out everything in the gear you're just running. Then you've got it!

  4. #4
    Is that Bill rated?
    Reputation: Lord Humongous's Avatar
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    Nobody ever says, "You rode that flat on an SS."

    I gear so that on a good day I can clear every climb on my local trails, for me that means about a 1.6:1 ratio on a 26 or a 1.5:1 ratio on a 29. Even with a 2:1 ratio you are going to be slower than anyone who runs a double, and there is no way to even try the game with people on a triple.
    Also, I've never seen anyone get off their bike and walk a flat section because they had the wrong gear.
    Well, it was a good try.

  5. #5
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    I'm fortunate enough to live in Florida where climbing isn't common at all. All of the local "fun" trails are old phosphate mines so they are flat land with big pits cut in them. So we have 50' climbs, but only because we just wend down a 50' drop.

    So the climbing that I do is just the last few strokes to get back up the hill. There are a couple of climbs that I can't make with my gearing, but I can also move along pretty well on the flats.

    But I agree with Lord Humongous. There's no glory in riding the flats. Gear for the hills, and use the slopes as cooldowns while coasting.
    Tampa Florida

    07 Iron Horse Warrior 1.3
    07 Redline Monocog Flight 29er 1x9 (The Snot Rocket)

  6. #6
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    I'd plan to gear just a little higher than you'd want for the steeper hills on your route. That way it'll make you work for those hills but it won't be so rediculously low that you spin out on anything flat or downhill. I ride with a gear that gets me up the hills i ride (with a lot of work) and still lets me push a little on the flats and downhills just in case i start slowing down. It'll make you stronger too.

    Also if you gear too low you'll have your rear tire sliding all over on the hills.

  7. #7
    local trails rider
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    I want a gear that lets me climb most of the stuff I have locally. Coasting the downhills is usually fast enough for me. On flats, the fastest way is to alternate between furious spinning and coasting.

  8. #8
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    I'm new to SS and was wondering the exact same thing. I'm running 34/16 right now. I geared lower so I wouldn't be all spun out. Seems to work for most of the trails I ride I don't have to walk any climbs but I'm also not able to ride the same distances I used to when I was running gears. I'm thinking 34/17 or 34/18 would probably be a better overall choice for the types of trails around here though.

  9. #9
    Occasionally engagedů
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    I've never had the emotional need to clean every hill on a SS that I do on a multi-geared bike, and it just seems to work out that I'm faster on any given hill on a single speed with my chosen gearing (roughly 50 gear inches) -- even if I have to get off! The rest of the hill works out to be faster on a SS and I've figured out how to get off and back on petty quick (working on those cyclocross-style mounts). So, I gear for overall speed and that's more a function of my fitness than of terrain. I find it interesting that the guy who has finished second place in the SS class at the Leadville 100 the last two years has dropped a couple of teeth off his cog (he used a 34x19 on a 29er last year, I believe) and cut 20 minutes from his time, making most of that savings on the flats and losing nothing appreciable on the climbs...
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

  10. #10
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    I gear on the principle that you can always find a few more revs of spin on the flat, but can never find that extra ounce of grunt on the steep stuff when you're stuffed.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57║36' Highlands, Scotland

  11. #11
    make mine fixed
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    I started ss'ing overgeared (32x18) for my abilities and didn't like it; came from a a full squish sit and spin. Eventually came back to ss'ing with a 32x20 (46" gear) and my quads still complained but it was doable. Ran 32x22 for the steep trails. I've been ss-only offroad for almost 2 years now and my gearing is getting taller, having become much better at climbing out of the saddle. Now I like a 38x18 (61") on the flatter trails and a 38x21 (52") for the steep trails. Would be faster geared a little lower but speed isn't top priority. Having enough rpm's to spin downhill on the fix gear is.

    The more ss I rode, the more I could stand and climb. I like to turn 40-50 rpm's standing and have enough resistance so I don't spinout. That cadence feels like I'm resting, though I eventually fatigue after a couple minutes.

    What style of riding do you like or want to get better at: sit and spin, or out of the saddle? I started where I was at, spinning an easier gear. Slowly I worked up the gearing in order to strengthen the muscles and ligaments. The amount of time out of the saddle lengthend too. Try to stretch everyday, especially during and after ride.

    For me, being overgeared is worse than undergeared on a ss, especially in the beginning. After a little over a year of ss, I switched to fixed offroad. Still learning and adapting but I think being undergeared is worse on a fix. Whatever the gearing, enjoy the ride.

    I guess to answer your question, gear to climb out of the saddle and you will have more gear to spin on the flats.
    Rigid keeps you one with the ground vertically. Fixed keeps you one with the ground horizontally.

  12. #12
    Come see me after class
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    i ride 32/15. we don't have many hardcore climbs here in south texas, but there are enough hills to get you standing. i prefer to just stand and hammer (and sometimes walk), than to be left behind on the street or on the flats by all the gearies.

    i can tolerate spinning out to a certain point, but i don't think there's any way i'd ride a 32:20 on the street. ever.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
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    Some figures (I ride in the mountains):
    26" normal 32/20
    26" for races 32/22 so I can keep going when I'm knackered (24 hours etc)
    29" normal 32/20 - seems to climb as well as the 26" on the same ratio!
    29" 32/18 for overland rides
    Road bike 48/18
    I'm an ancient relic, so younger riders should manage higher gears.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57║36' Highlands, Scotland

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