Single speed in the hill country....why- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Single speed in the hill country....why

    Does anyone ride rock gardens, steep inclines, and just harsh trails with there single speed? Currently I live in Austin and I am thinking about building up a 29er single speed but Im not sure if they can handle the conditions out here. What are your opinions of SS compared to geared bikes?

  2. #2
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    The riding where I live is very technical and steep. I was skeptical about the utility of a singlespeed for our trails, but I just picked up a Jabberwocky and am pleasantly surprised at how fun it is. I've found that I can still climb most of the the rocky steep stuff and the decending is a blast. I'm running a 20T rear cog with a standard 32T chainring, 180mm cranks.

    I don't think it's a matter of the bike being able to "handle" the terrain. As someone once said...it's not about the bike. YMMV
    Last edited by mtnwater; 07-01-2009 at 11:05 AM.

  3. #3
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    Plenty of A-towners are on SS, some even fixed all the time. I've done BCGB plenty of times on a rigid SS. Just find a gear that works for you and enjoy

  4. #4
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    Does anyone ride rock gardens, steep inclines, and just harsh trails with there single speed?
    Absolutely. Its a little more challenging at first, but thats just because its a different riding style than geared. Once you get used to it its a blast. I'm so used to riding SS at this point that I have trouble riding a geared bike.
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  5. #5
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    No problem...

    If I (and many others) can handle Utah's Wasatch mountains, and Colorado's Rockies on a singlespeed, the Hill Country should be no problem for you! In fact, there are several people (albeit crazy ones) that have raced the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico on singlespeeds, and fixed gears!

    Really it isn't about the bike, it all about the motor (YOU). It will take some getting used to, but you will love it once your muscles are trained to stand and hammer instead of sit and spin. The 29" wheels will help also. Glad you decided to drink the Kool-Aid, be careful, it's addicting!

    frog

  6. #6
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    Definitely. My favorite trails are the slow technical ones, often with significant climbing. My bike is geared very low to handle this, and I've come to sort of "put up with" riding trail sections that are too easy (read: 'uninteresting').

    My girlfriend and my 9 year old son both mountain bike also, but they don't call what I do fun. "...there goes your Dad again, playing in the rocks. [rolleyes]"

    I guess it all depends on your perspective. I have heard mountain biking compared to playing chess... I'd rather ride like Shirov or Tal.

  7. #7
    local trails rider
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    I don't know how steep and rocky it gets in Austin. I just think that some of my favorite trails have plenty of rocks and roots, and some steep spots. No real mountains. Average speeds here, for us mere mortals, tend to be around 10 to 13 km/h (call it 6 to 8 mph) and that tells me they are not the easiest. Group rides tend to be slower because there's always somebody who gets stuck on one rock or another.

  8. #8
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    I can ride anything on my SS that i can on my geared bike, and here in CA we have our share of rocky steep terrain with huge elevation gain. Sometimes i actually feel better on rides with the SS because my heart rate stays lower.

  9. #9
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    It's definitely all about you and your capabilities.

    I'm not going to say a single speed bike does it better, but you certainly enjoy it more!
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  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the info, just talked to some guys at my LBS and decided Im going to buy the kona unit 2-9 in 2010 when they come out. This should be a good decision since I just replaced a chain, F derailer, and the R derailer on my geared bike today. Im going to put the Reba SL or Fox F29 fork on. Going to run tubeless tires also so if anyone knows of a good rim let me know?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by cndoane
    Going to run tubeless tires also so if anyone knows of a good rim let me know?
    Stans Flow

  12. #12
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    I've been riding single speed here in Austin for over 5 years. Surly 1x1, Spot, On-One, and now Vassago Optimus Ti. This is at BCGB, Reimer's Ranch, Rocky Hill Ranch, City Park, etc.

    Like Fat Bob said, just pick a gear you are comfortable with and have fun.
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  13. #13
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    Yeah for sure, it's even more fun I'd say. Especially with a rigid fork it forces you to pick better lines and really hone your skills. Go for it, you'll love it!

  14. #14
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    SS works fine in front range mountains...in fact i prefer my SS on slow speed technical trails. anything high speed and ROUGH or really extended climbing can take a lot of effort.

    but it's always fun!


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  15. #15
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    Despite what you may think before trying SS in the mountains...

    ...it's actually more efficient to ride SS when it's steep up/down with moderately technical terrain.

    Here's the formula I use where I ride (NorCal/Tahoe Area): The flatter and smoother the terrain, the more you'll need gears to keep up. In general, the steeper (both up and down) the terrain the easier it will be for you to stay at the front of the pack with your singlespeed.

  16. #16
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    Hell yes...that's what they're for. Like the man said, the flatter the terrain, the more you need gears to keep up. My knees have been keeping me off my SS, and I can feel myself getting weaker. I'm not liking this.....

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doggity
    ...My knees have been keeping me off my SS, and I can feel myself getting weaker. I'm not liking this.....
    Advice from an old rider - dump the SPDs and use flat pedals. Allows your feet more angular movement and hence varies the pressure on your knees.

    You'll have to adapt your pedalling technique somewhat, but that's better than ruining your knees.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doggity
    Hell yes...that's what they're for. Like the man said, the flatter the terrain, the more you need gears to keep up. My knees have been keeping me off my SS, and I can feel myself getting weaker. I'm not liking this.....


    Dude...I have MANGLED knees, and I'm riding my singlespeed as my "go to" bike...even doing ultra events from tiem to time. I ride TIME ATAC pedals which allow lots of float, and I'm doing quite well.


    Don't talk yourself out of this...singlespeed riding will set you free....


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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike
    Advice from an old rider - dump the SPDs and use flat pedals. Allows your feet more angular movement and hence varies the pressure on your knees.

    You'll have to adapt your pedalling technique somewhat, but that's better than ruining your knees.

    err... the first statement applies primarily to geared bikes over long distances. For short duration, high intensity efforts 'angular movement' through the pedal stroke is exactly what you want to avoid.

    The second statement is a truism no matter what equipment you are using. Assuming all of the bike-fit issues have been examined, pedalling technique is the THE thing to adapt in order to avoid knee issues... clipless or not.

    The pros have an advantage here, as they have physiologists and computer-assisted mapping and power-meter analysis of their pedal strokes. The average mountain bike does not, but you should be able to get some quality information and apply it to your practice with enough attention to detail.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike
    Advice from an old rider - dump the SPDs and use flat pedals. Allows your feet more angular movement and hence varies the pressure on your knees.

    You'll have to adapt your pedalling technique somewhat, but that's better than ruining your knees.
    Thanks, Velobike, I have done that already. Had to go to flats for all my riding, because SPD's gave me iliotibial band syndrome. It's when I stand and pedal...get this stabbing pain. Think it's simple patellar tendonitis, hoping it'll simmer down and I can ease back into SS'ing. For now, it's spin like a dork on my 1x8...

  21. #21
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    Rock gardens, steep inclines, harsh terrain and SS here. Also, fully rigid.

  22. #22
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    Cowboy trails and bootleg canyon in the vegas area. Rocky, steep, rugged, dangerous, all of the above. Singlespeed? Of course! Here is bootleg, I'm the guy with the blue frame 26" SS. There was another SS rider who often goes along on these rides.

    Just remember to not lose momentum over obstacles. In fact, just don't lose momentum period.

    Last edited by big_slacker; 07-03-2009 at 07:22 PM.

  23. #23
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    I'll second the "dump the SPD" comment - if you have knee or hip problems, TIME or Crank Bros pedals rock. I have CB pedals on all my bikes, and the same shoes work for dirt or for road/commuting, etc... nice amount of float and easy to get into/out of. Time have as much float and are really nice pedals, but I find the CB pedals easier for ingress/egress. See if you can arrange to try them and get what feels best to you. Much more efficient than flats, but you still have some freedom.
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  24. #24
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    thats interesting. i have a friend who has knee problems and had run CB pedals forever on his geared elsworth FS. he had knee surgery, and he went to a sports doctor. this guy has money, so he didnt go to a cheap one. the doctor told him to get spd's because it will help keep his legs lined up properly since they have less float. He normally does ride very bow-legged though, so his situation might be different from others.

  25. #25
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    Anything you can climb on a geared bike can be done on a SS. Just find a gear you are comfortable with and get used to attacking hills at a higher speed. The secret is to keep your momentum going. Is isn't as hard as it looks........especially with a 29er.

  26. #26
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    I borrowed a Karate Monkey to ride the BCGB with the "Monday Night SS Ride" and it was a blast! Even with a stiff gearing I had a strong ride and enjoyed every minute of it. Lots of guys on rigid SS bikes in the Austin area.

  27. #27
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    i live in austin too and have been riding some fixed mountain lately so i'm sure you will have a blast ss. there is a pretty decent amount of ss and even fixed gear riders around town. check out bikemojo.com if you havent already and ask around, todd is the fixed gear guru around there.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by D1PHAM
    Anything you can climb on a geared bike can be done on a SS.
    While that may be true, there are several trails near my house that I can't get up in anything other than a 24x34 or lower, and I damn sure don't want to pedal that anywhere else.

    On the flip side, I can SS up steep rocky loose stuff that most others can't on any bike, regardless of gears.

    I may be a badass, but YOU can ride single in Austin.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ATBScott
    I'll second the "dump the SPD" comment - if you have knee or hip problems, TIME or Crank Bros pedals rock. I have CB pedals on all my bikes, and the same shoes work for dirt or for road/commuting, etc... nice amount of float and easy to get into/out of. Time have as much float and are really nice pedals, but I find the CB pedals easier for ingress/egress. See if you can arrange to try them and get what feels best to you. Much more efficient than flats, but you still have some freedom.
    I had TIME pedals on my road bike and still had knee issues.

    When I bought my Roubaix road bike, I switched to Look pedals (less float) and had the bike professionally fitted. Knee pain gone. In fact, some of my knee pain returned when I forgot my road shoes at work and I had a weekend ride and so I put the TIME back on the road bike.

    Seems the added float is a double edged sword. If you have your knees tracking in the right position, you don't need float. In fact, the float allows your knees to wander and cause pain.

    I've since switched to SPDs on my mountain bike because of its ease of clipping out. I also got my mountain bike fitted and no knee pains.


    Now...about that SS on hilly, technical trails. In terms of "can you do it?" yeah, the 29-er and SS go very well together since it's all about maintaining momentum. I have, however, developed some sore knees again.

    I believe the knee pains stem from the exersion levels of riding the SS. I basically went from mid-pack in my group ride to the front of the pack on the SS.

    So I think I need to give my knees some time to acclimate to the new stress levels. I've geared my bike down from 32/18 to 32/20 and that has helped immensely. A couple more weeks of mixing it up between my geared bike, road bike and the SS should have me back in strong form.

    BTW, just went on a ride that had about 2000' of elevation. There were many times I wondered if I could clear the ride on the SS. I found myself spinning in the lowest gear. But occassionally I had to stand up and change the position a bit. Guess what gear I was when I as standing??? Guess which bike I wish I had at the time?

  30. #30
    Let There Be Dirt
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    Check out the vertical on the Breck Epic stages

    then ask the guys and gals in the SS classes how they feel about riding singlespeed in "hill country".

    SS riding has taught me that my mind is weaker than I thought and my legs are stronger than I thought.

  31. #31
    skillz to pay billz
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    finding that the SS efficiency trumps the gears, even here at 8300' in the rockies

  32. #32
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    Sometimes SS doesn't bite your butt too much when you are doing climbs. Other times... well, SS taught me that prolonged walking in my cycling shoes gives me blisters.

  33. #33
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    Everything I do with gears I do with my SS, If I am going on a family cruise or a laidback slow cruise I bring the geared rig...

  34. #34
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    I ride the new england rocky/rooty/ steep trails on my ss 29... no problems so far

  35. #35
    Daryl
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    I ride Colorado Front Range (think STEEP) and can tell you that SS rocks. I too find that i am faster on SS. However, long gradual downhills is what sucks if riding with geared friends. Fortunately, not much of that around here.

    On the float issue. I find that float gives me knee pain. On SPD pedals (and nail-in cleats for clips-n-straps (old-timers will nod)), setup IS important. If you have not worked it out by trial and error (...old timers) it would be worth it to get your cleats set up at a shop that does Fit Kit fitting. This is usually considered a roadie thing, but is worthwhile for the cleats.

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