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  1. #1
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    SS racing vs Geared Racing

    For those who have raced SS and geared, I am interested in some of the differences between SS racing and geared racing. How do tactics change? What about training?

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    I race SS and geared endurance. Tactically, when I'm on the SS, I try and make sure that I don't get on singletrack climbs behind geared riders that are going to sit on the 22x34, or else I'll be walking. Training-wise, I do most of that on the road bike, so not much changes there.
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    as the other poster said, you don't want to get stuck behind geared riders who spin at high cadences. this can be a problem particularly on hills where you have to motor up them on a ss at a good clip. one obvious difference: you have to consider gearing for each specific course. as for training, i'd say work on developing strong bursts of power. all racers develop this, but in my opinion you especially need it when you race on a single speed unless you're willing to walk. people also say that you should work on maintaining momentum and being smooth, the point being that you don't want to be stopping and accelerating on a single speed. it's just not efficient, especially if you're running a tall gear.

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    For singlespeed racing I try to do the fade, in other words I take off hard and try to put distance between myself and the competition and hope I can hang on. When riding gears I will wait until closer to the end and then make a move.

    Also, the shorter the race the better I do on the singlespeed. Over the years I have won more times on singlespeeds than on geared bikes (in the open/expert class). The personal satisfaction of winning/placing well on a bike with one gear is something that will make you smile for years to come.

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    Excellent thread!

    Its really strange, when I first started riding my rigid SS I was extremely slow on it. But this fall I've ridden it a lot, just having fun, and i seem to get faster and faster, and enjoy it more. I think its because I'm just learning to ride rigid better. I know I'm still faster on my geared softail, but I'm getting tempted to try a race on the SS sometime.

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    I don't think I use any tactics with my single speed - I just ride it. I think that's one of the things I like about it. I also don't really use a racing mindset. It's more like a big group ride.

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    depends on how in shape I'm in. When I'm feeling good, I try to get out front and hold on. When I'm not feeling good, I find a spot where guys are riding more or less my speed and I try to survive.

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    Gearing

    Great replies... anyone have specific advice going to 24h ss from geared? Do you run a slightly larger cog if you are going 24h or marathon than if you are spending a few hours on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120
    I don't think I use any tactics with my single speed - I just ride it. I think that's one of the things I like about it. I also don't really use a racing mindset. It's more like a big group ride.
    This.
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    I let the rabbits go.

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    And then I just time trial it.


    If were gonna use tactics, and I was serious about winning, I would ride with gears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cholopolitan
    Great replies... anyone have specific advice going to 24h ss from geared? Do you run a slightly larger cog if you are going 24h or marathon than if you are spending a few hours on?
    yes, that sounds right. i've done a couple of 6-hour races recently on my single speed and made the decision not to run a tall gear. i think it depends on the course, too. if the course has lots of climbing, you might consider running a larger cog in the back because after 6 hours or so on the course, you will want to spin more and may not have the snap you need to motor up the hills on your ss.

  13. #13
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    I raced 8 hours this summer and went from a 19T to a 20T. One tooth doesn't sound like much but I really felt the difference. It made me go a little easier on the flats and also not cramp up by over-exerting on the climbs.

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    Several thoughts,

    Good tactical advise on having to content with slower geared racers on the climbs.

    If it's a race you really want to do well in. Try to find a comparable training loop to ride. Train on as tall a gear as you can push. Lighten it up 1 maybe 2 teeth for race day. 12-24 hour race courses usually start to get loose on climbs as well as your own power fade. If your use to running a bit taller gear it will (should) pay some good dividends late in the race.

    Training, Many years ago a coach told me.. Train hard, Race hard.

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    Great thread.

    I typically try to push the tallest gear I can on my geared bike - high cadence spinning has never been my thing. I am putting together my first SS and have considered running it in a race or two next season. My biggest change moving to a SS is going to be trying to carry more momentum so I don't have to accelerate as often so I don't fade out near the end.
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    find riders w/ gear and draft them on the flat.

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    Great replies everyone. I am considering doing some SS races next season. As far as training goes, I was thinking that hill repeats, pushing a higher gear than normal, would be of the most important and functional of the training I do. Do you guys agree with this?

    Also, for those who race SS, do you find it common to run with your bike up the tougher inclines? I ask because when I ride my SS there are always some climbs that l can't make.

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    I think that the best way to train to ride SS is to ride SS.

    And yes, pushing happens.
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    the one time I raced on a SS I was out of it before the first holeshot - the start was a fireroad for a few hundred meters, but that was enough for the geared guys in their big rings to basically pull out of sight...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by elf28p
    Great replies everyone. I am considering doing some SS races next season. As far as training goes, I was thinking that hill repeats, pushing a higher gear than normal, would be of the most important and functional of the training I do. Do you guys agree with this?

    Also, for those who race SS, do you find it common to run with your bike up the tougher inclines? I ask because when I ride my SS there are always some climbs that l can't make.
    I don't specifically train with a larger gear than I race; I train with what ever gear is appropriate for the terrain I'm riding, which is often larger than I race.

    You do end up running from time to time, but really not much more than geared riders.

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    Now we are getting into proprietary race information......

    As a suggestion because this will not work for everyone. On pre-ride I try to determine what the very tallest gear I can push for the entire effort. This most certainly will result in hiking/running the patchiest climbs. I've learned that in most cases if your climbing so slow due to your gear choice that you can read the information on your tire your better off to hike it. Many times this will conserve your battery. Running a taller gear than most others in the field can be a huge benefit. Again this is not for everyone, as with most cycling performance tips your own fitness and strengths play a big part of it.
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    I have raced both this year and I have found that my times seem to be the same or better with my SS then my geared bike.

    I would have thought differently, but not by a lot. I guess I tend to end up riding in a smaller gear on some of the climbs then I would need to because I am trying to not blow up and on the SS the only choices I have are riding or walking.

    Also, I have found that if you can learn to climb real slow on your SS, it will help when you are getting shot. It is not easy to explain, but seems to work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by justonegear
    Now we are getting into proprietary race information......

    I've learned that in most cases if your climbing so slow due to your gear choice that you can read the information on your tire your better off to hike it. Many times this will conserve your battery.
    I have a different experience.

    Yes, I can get to where I am ready to pop while climbing and that is not good for the battery. But, I have also found a sweet spot much slower then that speed that actually will let me recover while climbing.

    I don't really push hard on the pedals, but just keep the pedals turning just enough to keep rolling and my heart rate will decrease along with my breathing.

    Running may work better for some, but I am not a runner and do much better if I am on the bike and not next to it.

    It does not make sense, but does work for me. At that point, I am usually not going any slower then I would be in my granny gear.

  24. #24
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    I usually ride/race 47 or 49 gear inches and only get routinely dropped by my riding partners/competitors on downhill paved roads. I also race and ride on the road and consequently have a good spin and good wheel-sucking skills, so if it's truly fast I can tuck in the draft and stay there with occasional bursts of high speed spinning. So this missing the "hole shot to geared riders" is not something I've experienced. I can and do get dropped on downhills, but that's more a reflection of my nerve and modest-to-poor technical skills than the lack of a tall gear.

    If the trail is going up and I can stay on my bike I feel like that's when I make time on my competitors (sport category). I've only won three mtb races in my life (out of about 100 total races), all using the single speed, with probably only a dozen ridden on the SS. In those three races my "winning move" came on the steepest climb on the course, one where I could just make it over the top without dabbing. My strategy was to apply pressure to my geared competitor on the shallower part of the climb and when they downshifted for the steep I would stand up and charge the hill, largely because I had to but also knowing how it would feel when being attacked on the steepest section (happens to me a lot in road racing).

    My greatest success on the SS is in hour or hour-and-a-half length XC races, but I've also ridden an endurance race on the SS a couple of times, the Laramie Enduro (111 K, about 6 hrs). I haven't figured that out yet -- I've definitely had more success in endurance races based upon overall placing using a multi-geared bike, but would very much like to translate my better results using a SS in the short races to doing better at long races on the SS. So I'll be looking for nuggets of wisdom here regarding endurance racing on a SS...
    Last edited by Ptor; 11-16-2010 at 10:43 AM.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT
    I usually ride/race 57 or 59 gear inches
    That is a huge gear. The only guys I know who run any thing like that are in the pro class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2
    That is a huge gear. The only guys I know who run any thing like that are in the pro class.
    Oops, you're right -- fixed it. "47 or 49 gear inches" is what I should have written.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT
    My strategy was to apply pressure to my geared competitor on the shallower part of the climb and when they downshifted for the steep I would stand up and charge the hill, largely because I had to but also knowing how it would feel when being attacked on the steepest section (happens to me a lot in road racing).

    This is just a good way to win races. I think the best "tactic" to use in MTB racing is the Conan approach. "Crush Your Enemy..." yada yada yada. Without the lamentation of the women part, though. I just wanted to add that you don't need a single speed to attack on the hills. Just strong legs.

    Caveat: I have only won a handful of races over the years, all in Sport class, all on a ss. So, I am speaking more from the perspective of a person who loses a lot to dudes on ss and geared bikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fotu
    I just wanted to add that you don't need a single speed to attack on the hills. Just strong legs.
    That's very true, but I'll add that you also need to be strong mentally as well. If I have a choice of a lot of gears I find that I now almost invariably whimp-out and shift down when the going gets tough. I have just enough mental toughness to keep going on the SS under the same situation -- not having a choice (short of walking or stopping) seems to allow me to be "tougher" during hard efforts than I can be when riding a bike with multiple gears. When I was younger (and faster) I took pride in my ability to attack on hills, whether on a SS or a multi-geared bike. But now I need the enforced discipline of a single speed to put in the same effort.
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  29. #29
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    One thing that I learned in one year of SS racing is to really work on keeping off the brakes and using momentum to carry through the course. If you hit the brakes and have to repeatedly accelerate to keep up with the smooth riders, it takes a toll. An expensive, Illinois kind of toll.

    In addition, many people in the SS division in my state's race series are accomplished riders. A doormat-placing time in SS often would be mid-pack in the 30s and 40s age groups.

    But SS is the kind of fun you can't explain to normal riders.

  30. #30
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    All good advice but don't forget to use a geared rider on the flatter sections to pull you along.

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    I just raced the the Iceman for the first time on a single speed, and was about the same time as in the past on gears. Having to get off and hike up the hills because the gearies who sit and spin in a 22/34 probably cost me a faster time than my geared efforts. FWIW, I ran 61.5 GI, others ran in the 65-58 GI. I'd still be there if I ran in the upper 40's/low 50's GI.

  32. #32
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    So I havent ridden my geared bike in a month, decided to pull it out friday in prep for a race sunday. It felt all wrong, couldnt keep it pointed on the trail, lap times were several minutes slower than usual, crashed and broke my cable housing. I actually think it was the geometry/suspension more than the gears, but whatever it was, I decided to race the rigid SS, even though i heard the climbing on this course was brutal and I wouldnt get a chance to preride. Figured I'd probably end up dead last, but why not try it.

    So the climbing was brutal, ridiculous, unsustainable, silly, stupid-steep. I walked, a lot. But so did the geared riders, so no loss there. I was slower on the downhills due to the rigid factor. Only a few flat sections and they were all bumpy and slow, no blazing fast stuff, and I actually think the rigid helped here. But on the normal climbs I killed it, they were all spinning and I was either hammering or stair-stepping. Getting caught behind geared riders definitely sucked. I definitely had the wrong gearing though, if I would have had an easier gear ratio I would have shaved off 5 mins easily. Ended up about 5th of 12 in cat1 (about my avg placing on gears after 3 races in cat1) although I took 1st in my age group. Took my earnings and went and bought a 18t cog for next time!

    Oh, and my quads never hurt at all, but my calves neared cramped once. Although i think the cramping was brought on by all the mounts/dismounts and the walking. Problem is, you can't "spin out" your cramps like you can on gears.

    Now the question is, do I try an endurance race on it? I feel like there is a seed planted in my brain and this race only poured water on it.

  33. #33
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    The place I usually ride I am 1 mph faster on my full rigid SS than on my Jet. It is very technical and very steep, but the climbs are not long. There are 4 hills I have never made, but I never made them on the Jet either since they are down steep, off camber turn at the bottom and then so steep up that even on the Jet you can't climb it because your back tire usually ends up spinning out. There are only one or two guys that make these particular hills and they are less than half my age and fall a lot flying through the off camber turns at the bottom. The steering precision and the fact that I have to build speed for the steep hills and the lighter weight are the main reasons I am faster on the full rigid SS. Also, full rigid just climbs better since the suspension if always fully locket out front and rear not to mention lighter.

    I can definitely go further on my full rigid ss so I would say go for it. On a few courses, I would probably be faster on the Jet, but most courses this is not the case.

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    Is it kosher to change cogs during a 12/24 hr race?

    Great thread here -- I rode my first race on an SS last summer, loved it, and am putting together a training / racing plan that will hit several 12 hour races and then culminate with the Wilderness 101 next July.

    So a quick question to experienced endurance SS racers: is it kosher to change cogs during a pit-stop in a 12 or 24 hour race? It occurred to me that it might be nice to run an 18T in early laps when I'm strongest, and then fade to a 19T or 20T on later laps.

    It would make the decision of which cog to use a lot easier knowing that I can change it if I'm redlining too much on the hills, but it runs a little contrary to the run-what-you-brung nature of single-speeding.

    Are there rules on it? Opinions?


    Thanks

  35. #35
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    For me changing cogs during a race runs contrary to the SS ethic. If I cannot push the same gear then I may as well run multiple cogs and a derailleur.

  36. #36
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    lots of debate on that. I feel like you should pick a cog and go with it.

  37. #37
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    It's racing damn it! If changing cogs mid race gives you an advantage do it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Biff242
    Great thread here -- I rode my first race on an SS last summer, loved it, and am putting together a training / racing plan that will hit several 12 hour races and then culminate with the Wilderness 101 next July.

    So a quick question to experienced endurance SS racers: is it kosher to change cogs during a pit-stop in a 12 or 24 hour race? It occurred to me that it might be nice to run an 18T in early laps when I'm strongest, and then fade to a 19T or 20T on later laps.

    It would make the decision of which cog to use a lot easier knowing that I can change it if I'm redlining too much on the hills, but it runs a little contrary to the run-what-you-brung nature of single-speeding.

    Are there rules on it? Opinions?


    Thanks
    I say if you are racing 24hrs you can do whatever the hell you want (unless there is SS class, then you might ask the organizers).
    But, I would have to think that if you are starting with 18t, you might pay for it later, even if you change.

  39. #39
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    You just have to plan on spending a little time in the "Pain Cave" when racing a SS. Defninitely a bit more suffering. As many of you have posted, the gearing depends on the course. I typically use a 32/19 but if it's a longer race, I'd swap out to a 20t. As for racing tactics, I typically let the guys go at the start since there's almost no way a ss can keep up with a geared bike. I usually spend the next 7 or so laps slowly reeling them in.

  40. #40
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    Funny thing, but in my limited experience racing on a SS, I have found it to be less painful than on geared. Granted, I have yet to try an endurance race.

    On gears I think I sometimes just keep the cadence rolling and never let my legs slow down. The SS really forces me to take a rest. The one weak link I've found is my calves cramp, and those are particularly hard to get rid of.

  41. #41
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    I'm with the others on changing cogs during the race. I think if you want gear choices during the race use a deraileur. I have competed against a few guys that have tried the mid race gear change in 12 hour plus events. If you spend that much time off the bike and want to race in the mix.... you will pay dearly for it. Pick your gear and go to battle... but have fun doing it.
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  42. #42
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    Here in TX for the TMBRA XC series, they usually let the Open SS riders start first of the Cat 2 groups to ensure we have a cleaner field for hitting the climbs and technical stuff. If you can manage to stay ahead of most of the faster Cat 2 geared age group riders, it makes a huge difference. I've never raced geared. When I bought a SS and mentioned my desire to start racing and figured I'd do the SS class, the most common reaction from other racers I knew was "Ooooh, are you sure? Those guys are FAST" That's when I knew nothing else would do.

    As for training, I spend 80-90% of my training time on the road bike chasing some pretty fast guys and look at SS riding as more of 'practice' or just plain fun rides. I will also occasionally train on a smaller cog (1 or 2 teeth at most), but generally run the same gear for training as I do for racing a particular course. I also try to do some hill workouts on the SS for really long high HR intervals. They hurt. That's why they help so much.

    I have to agree with others that changing gears mid-race, even if technically legal or in a 24hr race, just doesn't jive with me. Run what you brung!

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biff242
    So a quick question to experienced endurance SS racers: is it kosher to change cogs during a pit-stop in a 12 or 24 hour race?
    Absolutely. It's actually a great idea. Especially for that 3-4am lap that makes you want to die.

    24 hours is a long, long time. It would be stupid to go out, realize you chose the wrong gear on your first lap, and just stick with it out of some ridiculous "Single Speed code of Honor."

    I know some guys who win a lot of races on singlespeeds. They are somewhat superhuman. Their tactic is to run the biggest gear they can, and run the stuff that they can't mash.

    Myself, I like to run a gear that will allow me to clear 98% of the trail. I hate running.

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