Riding Flats Single Speed- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Riding Flats Single Speed

    Hi Guys,

    Recently I entered a four day stage race, averaging 43-70km of off-road a day.
    Tuff...
    Now the race attracts alot of roadies because off its mainly fireroadness and long flat sections.

    Out of over 1000 competitors I think there was three of us Single speeding it.
    Now I felt I was rocking it on the uphills and downhills, and was getting destroyed on the flats. average speed for stages was around 20kmph, flats around 30kmph.
    My Gearing was 32:19, On a 29er of cause.

    Now I would have not been surprised about being passed on the flats but...
    I was hanging with the other single speeders on the hills (ratios; one the same, the other 32:18) but when it came to the flats they just took of with all the gearys leaving me spinning like crazy and coasting, spinning like crazy and coasting..... and eventually slowing to a respectable cadence, and getting passed like crazy.
    This sort of riding really stuffs me too, give me hills all day please.

    How are these guys doing it???
    they are spinning around 130 cadence for good half hour sections.
    Where I was comfortable around the 110 cadence for those sort of k's

    Are they just freaks or is this years of training and dedication paying off.
    If I had what they had, gears would not even tempt me.

  2. #2
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    After riding fixed and single for years, both on the road and off, I can confidently answer BOTH.

    Practice and more practice -- combined with careful attention to position -- will allow you to get your cadence up higher and keep it there longer.

    But, there's an upper bound that's partly determined by not just fitness, but by your personal physiology.

    One of the reasons that single-speeding continues to fascinate me is this endless exploration of the combination of gearing, setup, and the ranges and limits of my own body in relation to the bike -- all of which keeps shifting as I get older and more or less fit from year to year.

  3. #3
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    My go to gearing is 36x22 so it tends to be on the low side but works very well on twisty single track.

    I do a lot of flat fire road and even pavement on my single speed. With mental focus it is possible to maintain some pretty high cadences but it is not all that much fun. In a sense it is as much mental as physical although I become a lot less efficient at really high cadences and as such will become tired quicker.

    If your day has lots of flats running bigger gears help but then you will be walking more so it is a trade off. For racing it makes sense to pick the gearing based on the course. Picking gearing is a big of an art for making the perfect trade.

    Going up to a 32x18 is a big enough jump that it will make a difference. You can also go half way up by running 36x21 or keep it simple and just swap the front ring for 33x19 to make a smaller change.

  4. #4
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    I find that at higher cadences I spin more smoothly when I focus on lifting my knees and relaxing rather than trying harder to bring my feet around. It becomes pedaling with my hip flexors.

  5. #5
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    One thing to add is that shorter cranks help give you a wider power range. I am 5'11" and run 170mm cranks rather then the more typical 175mm cranks. The slightly shorter crank helps me spin more and does not really impact my ability to mash lower cadences. Gerry Pflug is also 5'11" and on 170mm so it's not like this is just my idea.

    Gerry Pflug has more tips here:
    Singlespeeding: Pflug’s Way | Salsa Cycles

  6. #6
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    Bike set up, pedaling technique, lots of practice- you can improve your cadence range, a good thing! However you will never keep up with a strong rider on a geared bike on flat terrain. Reality.

  7. #7
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    A few months of commuting with a 29er with 34/18 fixed gearing did it for me. At regular cadences the speed is so low I get frustrated and want to go faster - gotta spin to get there! When I reached a point where I couldn't spin faster, I tried different things: toes down, focus on lifting, imagine circles... At some point I made a lot of progress by stopping conscious thought on technique and just decided to go faster. The human brain is quite clever at finding ways to reach a goal if you set one. (The principle is the same when climbing in a rock garden: look forward at the point you want to reach, not at your front tire or each rock you hit or pass.)

    My commute route is 10 clicks in one direction, which means 2X 20-30 minutes of cycling depending on the bike and day. It's a short enough distance and time to tease myself with such short gear ratio, so I didn't get frustrated as a whole. I used a cheap speedometer to track my progress. When I reached a bit over 46 km/h on flat - which means the cranks were turning 187 rpm - I decided that it's enough for my needs.

    My philosophy for riding bikes is that it must be fun, so I rather incorporate something in my daily routine that makes me better, so when I'm on trails I can just enjoy the ride. Learning how to spin like crazy wasn't a painful process at all, because I did it little by little each day.

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys, I guess I need more practice.
    I usually avoid fire roads because they are so boring, I guess it makes sense now. lol.

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