How much to ride SS in the steeps???????- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How much to ride SS in the steeps???????

    Got a new SS rigid last fall. Finally riding more and am absolutely loving it now. I live in the spine of the Appalachians. The problem is that the only trails by my house are steep climbs and steep drops. I have to travel for a rolling trail on the weekends. I have been getting better at clearing my old little ring climbs--but when I am done, especially in the evening, my legs and back are crushed and still tired the next day. I think this proves a great workout, but I have cut back the riding some for more recovery. I guess the question is, will I ever get strong enough doing this that I will need less recovery time and ride more? Any similar scenarios? Riding a 32-20, but it would be a pain to go bigger on the back since I have to ride a little on the road to get to the trails.

  2. #2
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    How about converting to dinglespeed?
    Ride more!

  3. #3
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    Recovery time varies from person to person. There are quite a few variables that go in to this. I'm sure if you keep at it though and feed your body healthy and protein enriched foods your recovery time will shorten. Just imagine if you keep riding these steep trails how much faster you are going to be on the rest of the trails. I say keep doing what you're doing, just keep a close watch on your body for any serious injuries.
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    Nice to hear that... I guess that is the good thing about being 47. Years ago I would have just kept going until I hurt myself. I think I will re-eval my protein uptake--I have cut back on that dramatically over the years. Thanks for the input!

  5. #5
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    if you're on a 29er, 32-20 can be hard on some of the steeper stuff. Just watch your knees, if they start hurting, you may really want to reconsider regearing before you do some damage.

  6. #6
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    Think about active recovery as well - Ride SS one day, do an easy hour spin the next day.

    And don't be scared to walk. Walking is one of the mystical 3 gears of Single Speed.

    Sit
    Stand
    Walk.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by forkboy
    And don't be scared to walk. Walking is one of the mystical 3 gears of Single Speed.
    Got to agree with that - steep or long enough (or some combination) has me walking even when I am in really strong condition. Guys who are better climbers than I'll ever be get off and hoof it every once in a while on the SS. After coming off a rough 7 months of injuries and a hellacious bug that took a couple of months to feel like it was finally gone, I had converted my SS over to a 1x9 just to let me ride. I converted back a couple weeks ago and my lack of fitness/extra weight is making itself known! I just made the decision to "deal with the gear" and ride my SS. Had me pushing about 1/3 of a 2-mile fairly steep climb last weekend - but I made it. Rode where I could, and realized after the second steep pitch that I killed myself to try to get up, that getting off earlier and walking the nasty pitches is faster than hammering up them, and then stopping for a minute to let my pulse rate drop back down into the 200's! FWIW I ride a 32x20 in NorCal and (when I am fit) can ride most of the stuff here that I hit - It's a nice gear, but I have thought about a 32x22 combo for longer rides in places like Henry Coe, etc... Only you can decide that. ISuckAtRiding makes some very nice rings and cogs, SS-specific stuff if you are looking, I got a chainring from him last year and it is nicely made, great finish and just about any size or color you might want, he can do. Hard to find 1/8" SS stuff in a lot of sizes - he's got it or can make it!
    R.I.P. Corky 10/97-4/09
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  8. #8
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    If your back is wasted after a ride, you should really pay attention to your form. You can really injure your back riding SS if you are not careful. If you always keep your legs bent when climbing, you are less likely to load your back.
    "Gone are the days we stopped to decide where we should go. We just ride." - Robert Hunter

  9. #9
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    Good info!

    Yes, I have not had "hurting knees," but they are usually stiff the evening after a ride. I sort of expect that, and I factor that in as part of the recovery. Always been injury prone, especially my back, but I did a lot of research. I should have said that my hips were cooked, not my back--the back is feeling pretty good. Took me years to figure out that tightness at the top of my hips turned into all my back problems. Stretching that area religiously has helped, and with the extra strain, it is very important. And don't get me wrong--I am not afraid to get off and walk. I have to do that as I cannot (probably never will...) clean all the steep sections. The rides here are totally interval workouts: you go from absolute effort to bouncing down a hill to another hill, so you are all-out or nothing. Makes me wonder if that will impact maintaining pace on a flat section. Guess I'll find out when I am back on the road a little more. I originally got the SS to help me get the most out of limited riding time--and it has sure done that!

  10. #10
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    Stretch, stretch, stretch stretch, oh and did I tell you to stretch. You should stretch 5-10 minutes, not 1 minute at the trail head. At 55 I still push myself as much as I can, but I plan better when I push my limits. On your next ride, set a base level and target the tough areas. Start increasing your effort with these tough areas, with the goal to clear 40, than 50 then 60% of the climb; take your time and be consistent. If you find you hit a plateau, give it a little more time, but don't over do it. I have a chronically bad back, which fortunately for me rarely affects my riding. Still I stretch before a ride, sometimes during a ride, and just as important as before a ride, stretch after your ride. I am retired now and can ride as much as I want. The last thing I want to do is injure myself so I can't ride! Also, my knees are always a little sore. Not so much a hindrance, just a warm reminder how lucky I am to be riding.

    If you do strain or sprain a muscle, and you know you will, besides ice and anti-inflammatories, double the time it takes to stop hurting before you go 100% again.
    Just one more rep and I get the toaster!

  11. #11
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    I pound ice cream, burritos and beer in some order after the longer rides. It is the only way to stay in SS shape.

  12. #12
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    Mmmmmmm...... Ice Cream!

  13. #13
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    It takes time to adjust to the steep climbs. You will be OK after some more weeks of riding.

    Heed the above advice and invest in a foam roller to massage out the IT bands and other areas post-ride.
    Last edited by Ryan G.; 05-05-2010 at 05:05 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by baycat
    Heed the above advice and invest in a foam roller to massage out the IT bands and other rides post-ride.


    Yep - definitely a great post ride tip. Massage out IT, quads, hamstrings, glutes and back with the foam roller. This will reduce recovery time and soreness. Speaking from a 46 yr. old that beats up my body a bit too much sometimes...

  15. #15
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    That sounds really good. Read about foam rollers a while back. I'll have to invest in one of those and use it with the stretching sessions.

  16. #16
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    Make your recovery more effective.

    After a hard ride, drink some whey protein, and mix in some creatine and glutamine to give you muscles the needed material to rebuild. Also, take two Aleve to reduce the inflammation.

    Apart from stretching before hand, also stretch afterward. Also be sure you're eating properly to provide the fuel your body needs, in the quantity it needs it.

  17. #17
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    That sounds like a really good idea. Since it feels more like a weight training workout in the muscles, I thought a recovery regimen more in that discipline would be the way to go. The legs have been feeling a little "tingly," and when I went out to do some riding (with climbing, of course...) my legs just didn't have it today. I'll probably being doing a long geared ride on a grande climbing course. Then I'll hit the SS hard next week and work in the whey protein et al. Thanks!

  18. #18
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    "Stretch, stretch, stretch stretch, oh and did I tell you to stretch"

    Not to be overly argumentative, but there is absolutely no good studies that show that stretching helps injury prevention in even the smallest way.

    On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that aggressive stretching can be a direct cause of injury. I know you're probably not advocating anything but gentle stretching, but everyone takes advice differently.

    If it makes you feel better, go to it, but I'd rather spend my time riding.

  19. #19
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    Lots of good advice from everyone so far! I would say try a freind's bike with a 32x22 setup (if possible) on your steeps and see if it makes a difference before you dismiss the idea totally. I have a 29r rigid SS and I have a 32x22 setup and I couldn't be happier. I uderstand what you say about having to ride it on the road. That 20T is good for that, but the way I see it, use a 22 or something and take your time on the roads. Use the road travel time as part of you recovery if you want. You would still be working (on hilly roads, I presume) just not super hard.

  20. #20
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    i live in the same place for the time being. i do just fine in the steep stuff around asheville w/ a 32/16 gearing. some of the climbs can be a little strenuous but depending on the day and the ride i will walk some of the steeper climbs just to preserve myself.
    Ride & Smile

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by slacks
    "Stretch, stretch, stretch stretch, oh and did I tell you to stretch"

    Not to be overly argumentative, but there is absolutely no good studies that show that stretching helps injury prevention in even the smallest way.
    .
    All the studies I have read show stretching prior to exercise or physical activity is bad because the muscles are not warmed up and by stretching without proper warmup you injure your self.

    But after a good run or bike ride stretching does feel good, increases my flexibility and never had an injury from proper post stretching.

    Usually end up drinking beer post ride anyway.

  22. #22
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    I stretch in general but especially after rides. Lots of protein, veggies and fruit in my diet. Trying to lay off the junk food.
    Fuel up and ride but when you feel like it hop off and walk. I usually take a liberal amount of breaks on my SS rides. Kinda nice since I'd just power through everything on my geared bike.
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  23. #23
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    32x16 -- 32x22

    Wow--I can't imagine riding a 32x16 on my 29er where I live. I should also point out that none of the trails are bike trails. They are all old double track fire roads. I have not ruled out a 32x22 though. Seems like it would be simple enough to try, and if I always wanted to "hurt more" I could go back to the 20. Seems like the most important thing the 22 would do would be to give me more riding time--especially on the weekends when I could pay a visit to real bike trails. Could maybe ride for 3+ hours instead of 2- 2-1/2 hours.

  24. #24
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    More enjoyable riding time is always a good thing!
    Quote Originally Posted by forkboy
    And don't be scared to walk. Walking is one of the mystical 3 gears of Single Speed.

    Sit
    Stand
    Walk.

  25. #25
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    Be sure you are riding the right size and that the cockpit is setup right.

    Stretching is good, plyometrics before and static after. Also, when not riding, stretching and exercises that involve stretching is good for mobility.

    Exercises that involve core strength: Dead lift, planks, turkish get-up, push-ups, pull-ups...these and others will allow you or teach you to engage your core in exercise. Developing your core and learning how to use it in activity will help you not stress your back as much.

    gearing is important, but doing that and none of the other things will not solve your problems, IMO.

    Best of luck.

  26. #26
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    My Monocog 29er came with 32x20. This was tough for me at 48 and little riding for years and years. I tried the 22 on the back. Now I made further up the hills and really went into O2 debt and couldn't catch my breath. It was actually faster and easier with the 20. Knee pain and winter have kept me off the Monocog, been trying to get fit on the road and will try the Cog again this summer. Stretching before a ride or run didn't do much for me, but always feels great after excercise.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by phpeter
    Be sure you are riding the right size and that the cockpit is setup right.

    Stretching is good, plyometrics before and static after. Also, when not riding, stretching and exercises that involve stretching is good for mobility.

    Exercises that involve core strength: Dead lift, planks, turkish get-up, push-ups, pull-ups...these and others will allow you or teach you to engage your core in exercise. Developing your core and learning how to use it in activity will help you not stress your back as much.

    gearing is important, but doing that and none of the other things will not solve your problems, IMO.

    Best of luck.

    It really seems that you can't have too much core work for this. And exercises for all-body power like the squat and deadlift I think would help tremendously.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by phpeter
    Be sure you are riding the right size and that the cockpit is setup right.
    The stock 33x20 on my XXIX is pretty much perfect for my terrain in N.Cal and the XL size fits me great but I would second the cockpit comment. Since I spend so much more time out of the saddle, I need a little taller and shorter stem than the stock to keep me from "hunching" too much when climbing and having a sore back after a long ride. Any knee soreness comes when I don't warm them up before climbing. I plan my rides so that I spin for a few miles before putting the hammer down.

  29. #29
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    arphaxhad - I agree with you on the XXIX stem setup. My Medium had a 110mm stem on it, and I changed over to a 90 after a few rides (same amount of rise tho...) and it was dramatically better. About 18 months ago I went over to a Titec "Jones" J-bar and put on a longer/taller stem to get the right position for me. I set my bike up for standing and climbing, and it's comfy for the trail and for technical. Stock gearing was OK too - but when I replaced my chainring last fall I put a 32t on. Effectively the same - not even sure if it makes the climbs easier.
    R.I.P. Corky 10/97-4/09
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  30. #30
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    There's nothing wrong with riding a 32/22 combo for a while on the steeper stuff. Your strength will likely increase and find you can start dropping teeth to 20 and even 18t for the tamer stuff. I hate it but there are times when you're just gonna have to suck it up and push.

  31. #31
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    I'm riding a 32/20 as well. It's just about as low as I want to go since I also have to ride on the road to get to trails.
    I've been doing the same loop over and over just to get my fitness back. It's kinda nice since it's easy to do it multiple times. Well not easy but it will be a good indicator of my fitness. Once I can clean the whole thing I'll go back to the 32/18.
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  32. #32
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    Strength Imbalance

    It also seems that the SS exposes and magnifies weaknesses. I have finally come to the conclusion--with the help of my SS--that I am much stronger on the right side of my body than the left. Most notably the hip and glute--probably from 20 years of tennis. Today I climbed all the neighborhood paved steep climbs and concentrated on form with the left leg and keeping my pelvis perpendicular to the top tube. It really helped my climbing considerably, and pretty much erased the back pain. I am wondering if this strength imbalance my be the root of a lot of back pain for folks.

  33. #33
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    I struggled with terrible back pain for most of my life and have two bad discs in my lower back. I've been doing routines like this for a while now, probably every 10-15 days or so. Also, lots of plankwork and stability ball pushups, bent knee pullups and the like. My back pain has been eliminated. Not to mention, I've made huge gains on my ss in regards to power.
    Clean & pushpress x 10, legraises x25 - 5sets
    Front squatpress x 10, pullup x 10 - 5sets
    Overhead squats x 10, dips x12 - 5sets
    all w/ 95lbs no breaks - less than 30 minutes
    Finished w/ deadlifts liesurely pace:185/5, 205/5, 225/3, 255/3, 225/3, 205/5, 185/5
    Shut up and enjoy the ride!

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewheeldrive
    I struggled with terrible back pain for most of my life and have two bad discs in my lower back. I've been doing routines like this for a while now, probably every 10-15 days or so. Also, lots of plankwork and stability ball pushups, bent knee pullups and the like. My back pain has been eliminated. Not to mention, I've made huge gains on my ss in regards to power.
    Clean & pushpress x 10, legraises x25 - 5sets
    Front squatpress x 10, pullup x 10 - 5sets
    Overhead squats x 10, dips x12 - 5sets
    all w/ 95lbs no breaks - less than 30 minutes
    Finished w/ deadlifts liesurely pace:185/5, 205/5, 225/3, 255/3, 225/3, 205/5, 185/5
    Nice workouts. The stress of the singlespeeding has made me want to get back to weight training a little more seriously. Especially come winter time. I tend to put on weight really quickly when I lift though, so I am careful about that.

  35. #35
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    Tried the 22

    Quote Originally Posted by masterofnone
    There's nothing wrong with riding a 32/22 combo for a while on the steeper stuff. Your strength will likely increase and find you can start dropping teeth to 20 and even 18t for the tamer stuff. I hate it but there are times when you're just gonna have to suck it up and push.
    I was getting very tired grunting out the climbs 3-4 days a week. I went ahead and ended up with a 22-tooth cog (by accident, wanted the price only, but the LBS guy ordered it...). It really helped me in those steep sections, especially when they come "one after the other." I was able to ride almost 3 hours continuously, only having to dismount for a crazy steep and loose section. Plus, I am sure I am still gaining strength, and looking forward to going back to the 20 by the end of June. I had been working on a nice spin for the road for years, so buzzing along at about 105 is fine for me. Hoping I can go to a 20 and still buzz along at 105...

    Also, the smaller gear really helped in the rocks too. You are able to do a couple of quick spins of the crank to get through a big rock section instead of just having to ratchet.

    I just can't believe how I don't want to ride my other bikes now. Even got my 29er Reba back from Push for my 29er geared bike--works great--but I don't want to ride that bike!

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by slohr
    It also seems that the SS exposes and magnifies weaknesses. I have finally come to the conclusion--with the help of my SS--that I am much stronger on the right side of my body than the left. Most notably the hip and glute--probably from 20 years of tennis. Today I climbed all the neighborhood paved steep climbs and concentrated on form with the left leg and keeping my pelvis perpendicular to the top tube. It really helped my climbing considerably, and pretty much erased the back pain. I am wondering if this strength imbalance my be the root of a lot of back pain for folks.
    Coming from someone with semi-annual knee injuries, I can agree with this. I havent ridden my SS mtb since february since I still favor my right knee in climbing situations. I built a 1x9 that I've been using to focus on form and rebuilding strength/coordination/flexibility in both legs. I've finally decided that I'm good enough for the SS, so its getting put back together for a group ride in 2 weeks.

  37. #37
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    I suppose when I move up there I'll have to ditch the 32-17 then, huh? Crap. I really like 32-17 because it's the perfect combo to be able to make most climbs and also go decently fast on the flats...

    Maybe I can get away with 32-20 then?

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob
    Coming from someone with semi-annual knee injuries, I can agree with this. I havent ridden my SS mtb since february since I still favor my right knee in climbing situations. I built a 1x9 that I've been using to focus on form and rebuilding strength/coordination/flexibility in both legs. I've finally decided that I'm good enough for the SS, so its getting put back together for a group ride in 2 weeks.
    Best of luck. I had back problems so bad about 3 years ago, I seriously thought about just running. Kept reading up and found some excellent stretches that have helped tremendously. Some interesting core ENDURANCE exercises--not just strength. You probably already have, but check into core strengthening, and especially hip stretches--that is primarily where the misalignment starts that causes a lot of knee injuries. Good luck!

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by pointerDixie214
    I suppose when I move up there I'll have to ditch the 32-17 then, huh? Crap. I really like 32-17 because it's the perfect combo to be able to make most climbs and also go decently fast on the flats...

    Maybe I can get away with 32-20 then?
    Probably depends on where you end up. Surprisingly, out in this rural end of the state, there aren't that many trails. I have to travel 25 or 40 minutes by car to get to a real bike trail. I ride mostly fire roads, and they really don't supply a whole of of rhythm, so it's hard to carry momentum like on a good trail. Good practice I guess. The further east you head toward Hagerstown, Frederick, and Baltimore, the options open up considerably. Same way west: half an hour is Big Bear, WV, then Coopers Rock. I ain't skinny. Years of weight training have left me between 175-180 for someone who is 5-8. Hence the enjoyment of the 22. Guess when I get back down to 155 I'll switch back???

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