Humbled by my first SS ride- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Humbled by my first SS ride

    I just bought a Karate Monkey and took it for a quick spin. It was fun but I felt like a beginner not being able to make basic technical climbs. I had the strength for the climbs but wasn't able to carry the speed/momentum to get over small obstacles.

    I think I need to work on attacking the terrain and carrying more speed to get over rocks and logs. I'm also wondering if I should try a 33:20 gear ratio instead of 33:17 to give more torque. The bike started to feel pretty good as the ride went on so I think it'll just take a couple rides to get used to.

    Anyway, did you have a similar experience your first time out? Any suggestions for speeding up the learning curve?

  2. #2
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    Simple word...

    Yes, but I also had 5 yrs from my last bit of trail time.

    But most definitely Yes!

  3. #3
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    33:17 is about 56 gear inches. Did you see any of the other posts about what other people are using? I would go with the 20 and try that.

  4. #4
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    I began riding an SS last spring and love it.
    You may want to run a slightly easier ratio for a month or so
    You will get stronger as you ride
    Your riding style will change as well, you'll brake less and work at preserving momentum.
    Riding out of the saddle is a big part of it.

  5. #5
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    when i first started, i got a SS mtb with a 32/18 ratio. I thought it was too spinny so i put a 16t freewheel on and it was way too hard! i roll 32/18 most of the time now but i have 20 and 16t cogs in case i am going to ride something very smooth (16t) or very technical with lotws of climbing (20t).

  6. #6
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    It takes a little time to find that happy medium where cadence feels right without spinning out on the flats. My first time out on my SS 26er I went 32:16 and quickly realized it was a grind. Changed to 32:18 and it was ok but eventually settled on 32:20.

    A few cogs and a little time in the saddle is all you need.
    Rollin just to keep on rollin'. I don't want to leave this heaven so soon. - Mark Lanegan

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies. I think a 20t will help a lot. 33:17 on a 29er with 175mm cranks seems too challenging for me on the technical hills. At leashed this point.

    Any recommendations on a good 20t freewheel or a good place to buy one?

  8. #8
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    The Surley 20 is good if you want steel and durable. If you want aluminum and light, Niner would be the way to go.

  9. #9
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    Acs make the best you can get for your money. White industries make the best period but very expen$ive(last forever). Dont know where to buy em. Make sure you buy one for your specific hub. I just ordered a ACS "flip/flop" freewheel for my SS roadie that diddnt fit on my "english threaded" flip flop hub. I learned the hard way.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bank5
    Any recommendations on a good 20t freewheel or a good place to buy one?
    Check out <a href="http://www.homebrewedcomponents.com/store.php"> Home Brewed Components</a>. ISuckAtRiding is a constant poster on MTBR and makes some delicious looking components.
    Just one more rep and I get the toaster!

  11. #11
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    I think I need an english threaded freewheel and not just a cog. I have a shimano freewheel on there now. Maybe I'll stick with shimano so I don't get something that doesn't fit

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bank5
    Thanks for the replies. I think a 20t will help a lot. 33:17 on a 29er with 175mm cranks seems too challenging for me on the technical hills. At leashed this point.

    Any recommendations on a good 20t freewheel or a good place to buy one?
    Did you mean cog or freewheel?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120
    Did you mean cog or freewheel?
    Oops you were typing while I was. Yeah go shimano or acs until you find what you need.

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    If you feel that you have the strength to ride 33:17, just not the feel for carrying momentum, I think you may find 33:20 way too easy. Get an easier gear, maybe, but not a three tooth increase. That's huge. You'll have far less speed to carry, which may actually slow your learning in that regard. Have fun!
    True North custom chromoly SS Rigid 29er. FUN+

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pg3317
    If you feel that you have the strength to ride 33:17, just not the feel for carrying momentum, I think you may find 33:20 way too easy. Get an easier gear, maybe, but not a three tooth increase. That's huge. You'll have far less speed to carry, which may actually slow your learning in that regard. Have fun!
    Well I have the strength to make the climbs but am going so slow that I don't have any speed to get over rocks and trees. I'm having a tough time finding 20t freewheels so maybe I'll stick with 17 for a bit and see if I get better

  16. #16
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    shouldnt be too hard to find a 20t freewheel, i have one kicking around here. Check out acs or ditka.
    33t-17 on a 29er is a ***** of a gear. Even if you can push it, it's generally counter productive in the long run, unless you live in Florida.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISuckAtRiding
    shouldnt be too hard to find a 20t freewheel, i have one kicking around here. Check out acs or ditka.
    33t-17 on a 29er is a ***** of a gear. Even if you can push it, it's generally counter productive in the long run, unless you live in Florida.
    What about threading? I think I need english threading -- will acs or ditka freewheel work with that?

  18. #18
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    One tooth

    You'd be surprised what one tooth can do to make a SS easier or harder. I'd try an 18 and give it a couple months. I have a set of Shimano's I got from Pricepoint I think it was - happy with them.

    I like to tell people that my SS has 3 gears: seated, standing, and pushing. There are hills on some of the courses I've ridden and raced that at first I'd bail 1/3 way up. Pretty soon I'd get 3/4. Now I mash my way up - no sweat. Keep trying and give it some time. Note if you're getting further each time on that hill. SS riding especially on hills is about momentum and becomming a stronger rider. You will learn quickly that momentum is your biggest friend on a SS.

    I know exactly what you're talking about regarding uphill obstacles. Learn to be light on the front to "lift" over them while having that weight back to keep traction while standing/pedaling. Works for me. Be mindful of your pedal stroke as well, I became better when I mastered a strong stroke - an efficient pedal stroke is huge for SS on hills in my opinion.

    As a side note about hills, If you race or ride with others get in front as you approach hills. If you cannot - back off that gearie b/c if you can't pass him on the hill and he/she gears down you'll brake and then you're done. If you have to bail don't fret. I've been in races where I've run my bike up a hill passing gearies spinning away.

    Good luck.

  19. #19
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    started SS seven years ago.
    The first five were on a 26er beginning with the 2:1 ratio of 16/32 and for starts, it was kind of a grind. Standing on most inclines spending far too much time out of the saddle so after six months of grinding I went down to a 32/18 and that was a perfect ratio for me. Rode that ratio for the remaining four plus years then ended up on my steel 29er which I started out @ 32/20 and that felt very comparable to the 32/18 on the 26". Rode that for almost a year and dropped to a 32/19 on the 29er and I have found my comfortable ratio! It's just a matter of saddle time until you find a sweet ratio. I do prefer the freehub style SS rear hub over the thread on freewheels as it is a simple cog change for a different ratio.

  20. #20
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    it's not supposed to be easy.

    stay with it, you'll get strong, and it will feel natural.

  21. #21
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    32/18 is a great "all around" gear on a 26" SS. Lotsa people running 34/20 I'm guessing you'll like the 33/19. Yes, you will suffer for awhile. but, you will learn to ride differently. I've ridden with several firSStimers, and they say that riding with someone else on a SS is helpful.
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  22. #22
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    My 1st single speed was a 26er 34:16. I bonked on every climb that I was able to nail on my 1X9, technical or just a straight shot. I didn't want to change my ratio because I did not want to spin out on the flats. I considered going back to my 1X9. You just have to practice and you will adjust your climbing for a SS. It is different, you just don't sit and spin. You pick your line and HAMMER IT. At first it feel's like you are about to rip your bars out of the stem. But as your stance changes as well as your quad, calf, and shoulder strength increases it will get easier. A strong core is very important. ( Flat leg sit ups , pike pull ups and weighted planks are some killer core routines). Now I have a 29er 34:18 which are the same gear inches as my 26er. Now a can nail most of my climbs. I train by climbing my straight shots from a standing start. I'm kinda old(51) and never had very good balance for the tech stuff. You will get better, stronger, and never run gears again.
    Good Luck, Enjoy

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISuckAtRiding
    shouldnt be too hard to find a 20t freewheel, i have one kicking around here. Check out acs or ditka.
    33t-17 on a 29er is a ***** of a gear. Even if you can push it, it's generally counter productive in the long run, unless you live in Florida.
    begging your pardon sir... but we have some nasty tuff trails down here in south florida.... markham park here on the miami side has some short but seriously wicked climbs.....

    on the tampa side balm boyette and alafia were built on old phosphorus mines and have some just silly difficult stuff....

    go to boyette and ride ridgeline..... you'll see what i mean....

    i am running 32/18 on a 29er.....

  24. #24
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    Are you the same Bank5 from TMTB? I passed a KM out at BC yesterday, while hiking w/ the dog - maybe that was you.

    Anyways, I'll be converting one of my frames to SS soon. First timer so I'm going to go with 32x20. If you're looking for someone to get out there with, PM me.

    Matt

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ncfisherman
    Are you the same Bank5 from TMTB? I passed a KM out at BC yesterday, while hiking w/ the dog - maybe that was you.

    Anyways, I'll be converting one of my frames to SS soon. First timer so I'm going to go with 32x20. If you're looking for someone to get out there with, PM me.

    Matt
    33:17 is a pretty tall gear on an SS 29er. Around here, I'd only run that for a race on a course with no huge climbs. My favorite "all-around" gear on a 29er is 34:20.
    Check out some of our local hills: CDRC (Capital District Road Climbs)

  26. #26
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    Much better today

    I went back out today and felt a lot better. I was making most of the things that were tripping me up yesterday. Part of it was just getting used to the bike and the conditions were also better today. I also really tried to hammer through everything, really use my upper body, and tried not to think but just keep pedaling. I stayed out for about 90 minutes but took a lot of short breaks -- I forgot how nice breaks can be

    This bike will definitely cover the things I was looking for:
    1. it'll be a completely different experience from my other bike (RIP9)
    2. it'll be a great workout, especially if I just have an hour or so to ride
    3. it'll make me a stronger and better rider

    One of concerns though is how well the bike will be able to take the abuse. My riding weight is 200lbs and the front bearings are already starting to feel loose.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by ncfisherman
    Anyways, I'll be converting one of my frames to SS soon. First timer so I'm going to go with 32x20. If you're looking for someone to get out there with, PM me.
    I've been on a 32:20 on my 26" wheels for 2 years. Lots of logging rd climbs here, followed by fast singletrack descents. Many hard-core SSers scoff at me, but I have more fun and do more laps! No shame in going easy. None.

    When I travel I often swap to a 32:18 when there's more pedally singletrack.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISuckAtRiding
    shouldnt be too hard to find a 20t freewheel, i have one kicking around here. Check out acs or ditka.
    33t-17 on a 29er is a ***** of a gear. Even if you can push it, it's generally counter productive in the long run, unless you live in Florida.
    33:17 is a **** of a gear on real trails, you're right. For me, that's the point. Riding a rigid SS with a tall gear on real trails at the same or close to the same speed as my fully suspended, 27 geared riding buddy (who does well in races) is a big challenge and a satisfying accomplishment, when I can do it. To me, there's nothing counter productive about that! I get pretty beat up and run down sometimes, but as mountainbikers, isn't finding that "happy" level of punishment part of the thrill?
    True North custom chromoly SS Rigid 29er. FUN+

  29. #29
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    I run a 32/18 on my first and only singlespeed. I too was humbled by how hard my favorite trails were to ride compared to my geared bike.

    Instead of messing around with different gear ratios, I just keep riding.

    It's still not easy, but I keep getting stronger and better technically.

    Each time I ride it I go farther and clean more obstacles than the previous time.

    The biggest I kick I get from my SS is when I do ride my geared bike is how easy it is to ride! I changed it from a triple to a double crankset (28/42) because I felt like the granny was useless!

    Keep riding, it gets better.
    I'm unique, just like everyone else....

  30. #30
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    I ride a 32x20 on my rigid 29er and like many here wish I didnt spin out so readily but in my area I have rather steep hills to climb and for me its more important to be able to make those ascents than to go fast.

    I had to veer away from playing "hero" and going with a ratio that would have given me more speed because as much as I want to push and get stronger like the next guy damaging my knees is not worth it. Pick the right ratio for your trails/terrain spend time get better then drop a tooth in the rear and see how that goes. rinse and repeat.

    to contradict myself a bit, I'm actually contemplating going 32x22, there are some hills that I have never been able to climb all the way up on my SS and have on my geared bike albeit with struggle and busted lungs rockin' the granny but this has restricted where I am able to reliably take my SS to. It will be painfully slow on flats, annoyingly so I suspect but I think I have to give it a shot and see how she feels.

  31. #31
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    Hell, I think we all got a little slap with reality when we took our maiden voyage on an SS. For me I knew it was going to be hard but only from time spent on a fixed gear road bike years earlier. But you quickly get stronger and things get better. Best of all, your bike handling skills will improve for sure.

    I thought I had things going pretty well buy my first SS ride in the snow this past weekend pretty much put things back into perspective for me. The snow might as well have been sand. It litterally just sucked the energy out of me. Not that the cold air helped much either mind you.

    Gearing wise I started out with a 32:18. Basically, that is what you have. I also have a 16t Shimano fw that I will be switching over to in the early spring and plan on doing most of my riding on that this year. The goal is to get stronger and not be as spun out on the flats as I was this year.

  32. #32
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    Did I miss it in the reading but didn't see anyone mention changing your chainring out. I run a freewheel set up and have several chainrings I change depending on the trail.

    Bank5 try seeing if you can find a 32 chainring. You can get a steel surly for about 25-30 bucks.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1SPD
    Hell, I think we all got a little slap with reality when we took our maiden voyage on an SS.
    Heh - yep. After the first ride I mothballed my SS for 6 months before I thought it might be "fun" to try it again.

  34. #34
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    Show Bank5 that picture

    Somebody had a really funny fake picture/advertisement of guy w/ giant legs(I'm too lame to post pictures yet). Thats what your legs will look like.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1SPD
    Hell, I think we all got a little slap with reality when we took our maiden voyage on an SS.
    I still get slapped regularly on my SS - which is my only MTB. I admit I really like it, though. 30:18 on 29er wheels for reference.
    Responds to gravity

  36. #36
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    Ride what gear works for you. I ride a gear that many people think is insanely low, but I like to spin and have a bad knee. No reason to kill yourself on a climb because you are trying to ride a bigger gear to prove you have a bigger schlong. Also, think about how much you actually pedal on the downhills.....

    But, yes, there is a "fitness curve" after about a month your lungs will stop exploding at the top of climbs and you will be able to feel your legs again.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by skankingbiker
    Ride what gear works for you.
    Best SS advice ever. So many variables involved that it's impossible to tell anyone else what is the "right" gear. Just ride. try some gears ratios, see what works.

    Sometimes I call my SS the "lie detector". It will always tell you if you're lying to yourself about your fitness.

    Just ride and smile.
    b

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by skankingbiker
    Ride what gear works for you. I ride a gear that many people think is insanely low, but I like to spin and have a bad knee. No reason to kill yourself on a climb because you are trying to ride a bigger gear to prove you have a bigger schlong. Also, think about how much you actually pedal on the downhills.....
    I'm with you on running an easy gear, but there's no such things as flats here. You're either grinding up, or coasting/shredding down. If I had lots of flats, then I'd probably run a taller gear. I totally agree - gear for where you live.
    My girlfriend stole my hipster jeans.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van-Go
    I like to tell people that my SS has 3 gears: seated, standing, and pushing.
    Mine has a 4th speed: passed out on the side of the trail

  40. #40
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    I find along with the gear that works where you live, and I live in SoCal. I switched to drop bars, this may sound really odd, but I think I climb better, and maybe even faster (along with my gearing) with my drop bars. I rode for the longest time on my hardtail 29er that was geared, and thought nothing of it. But I bought a SS 29er steel frame totally rigid, and put drop bars on it. Maybe 6 to 8 months to get used to the SS thing. Took one day off from riding it, and rode my geared, and I thought it was more difficult to climb the same hills with the geared 29er than the SS. In MHO

  41. #41
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    I agree about the climbing. I find some hills more difficult to climb with gears. I think the efficiency of the SS drive train is a huge factor. IMHO.

  42. #42
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    Im quickly getting more used to it and stronger. I ordered a 19t freewheel which should be a good combo with the 33 up front.

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