SS vs Multi-speed - is the MS really faster?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    SS vs Multi-speed - is the MS really faster?

    Rationally, I can't come up with a reason why a SS would be remotely as "fast" as a multi-speed bike. But, after riding for years and only recently (3 months) getting into the SS thing... I'm beginning to think I'm faster on my SS than my MS. On group rides - with the same group, I'm further out front... but this could be a product of having been riding the SS - and just getting stronger. See, like many of you, I haven't been on my MS since building my SS. Yeah - I know... not so scientific.

    But, more non-scientific data... One of my regular riding buddies just built a SS. On the very first ride, he was considerably faster - okay, sure... excited about the new build, great conditions... I know even less empirical.

    So, has anyone tested this - riding the same loop (and timed it) on the SS and MS enough to add any bit of subjective data here?

    I do think a lot has to do with "riding mandates", e.g. MS guy can downshift and crawl a steep hill... SS guy must sprint/hammer the same hill - thus going "faster". But then there's that whole fatigue thing that we're supposed to feel for hammering that hill... hmmm

  2. #2
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    Depends on the terrain and power of the SSer I think. With more climbing the SSer will not be spinning like mad and crawling up a hill like the MS guy. Fatigue only really comes into play with a TON of extended climbing and then its up to your fitness.

    Smart folks will be quick to point out that a MS guy can leave it an equiv. gear to the SSer on climbs and still have the advantage of the big front little rear on the flats.

    Wiser folks will be quick to point out that fatigue makes cowards of us all, and I've met very few who can resist the temptation of the easier gear. Not having the option means your breaking point is when you have to stop and wheeze and that is far beyond when folks tend to shift down.

  3. #3
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    Didn't some guy say, it's not the bike.

    If you've got the strength and stamina, you'll be faster on a climb because you have to ride fast enough to keep turning the pedals over. I've also noticed that riding a rigid 29er SS, on a moderate climb over a rough trail, I seem to be using less effort than my 26er MS FS buddies. Of course, optimal tire pressure, gearing, grade, etc. play into this.

    But, things change on the flats and downhill. As long as I can stay close or keep them in sight, I'll make it up on the next climb.

    I think of it as getting closer to your maximum performance potential or using most of the "gas" in your tank. Maybe you use 80% of your performance potential riding a MS bike, but you definitely get closer to 100% on a singlespeed. If you keep hammering those climbs, your tank gets bigger. Plus, mentally you've got no other choice but to hammer.

    -Chuck

  4. #4
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    I'm faster. Haven't timed any loops but I know I feel faster on the SS. I think the only real area I'd be faster geared is long, smooth, straight downhills and flats (for obvious reasons). If it gets techy then the gearing really has nothing to do with it. With rocks, roots, switchbacks the more gears, even going downhill, aren't really an advantage. It also depends on your gearing. I ride a 32x17 and can usually keep up with my buddies on the geared bikes. I switched to a 32x20 for a race and left it on for a couple weeks and those same buddies dropped me on some fairly short straights. But I'm having more fun and they all want SS's so I guess it really doesn't matter.

  5. #5
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    My first data point -- about 3 years back at the end of the race season, I converted my Rohloff-equipped custom 29er to SS. Everything else was the same and I rode the same trails. On a multi-geared 26er and the Rohloff 29er I averaged about 10.5 mph on a 20 mile ride time-after-time on those trails. I went SS and suddenly I'm averaging about 11.4 mph -- nothing else has ever given me such a speed boost.

    My second data point -- first race this summer at the local race series I rode multi-geared and finished middle of the sport class field. Two weeks later I rode my SS and won against the same field -- my first win ever in any type of organized race. I got kicked up to the open class and got beat pretty handily, but I toed-the-line on the SS to keep it respectable. I know I'm faster on short to middle distant rides on a SS, but I'm not sure if it that's true at longer distances. My one experience on a longer race was the Laramie Enduro 111 Kilometer -- it went pretty well, but I still don't have enough data.

    I think it was Travis Brown who flat out claimed that in cyclocross racing he was faster on a SS, and he noted that it made him work harder and ride more aggressively than he could make himself do when he had more gears to fall back on. I think that's pretty much how it is for me...
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

  6. #6
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    I'm sure I'm faster on my steel Bianchi SS than I was on my 3lbs lighter Litespeed Ti geared bike. But it definitely isn't the better chain line or anything like that....it's mental. It's the way I attack a climb rather that just settle in and spin, the way I bomb a short downhill 'cause I need my momentum for the following climb rather cruise down it knowing I can just shift down. I tend to exhaust myself earlier on in the climbs, but I'm still getting my SS strength up. I've only done a few really long rides. Much more of a work out. HOWEVER, after busting my butt on some SS rides, I went for a 5 mile hike while camping with some buddies and my quads were BuRnInG....You gotta cross train!

  7. #7
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    For races that last about 75 minutes or less I'm faster on a singlespeed on most courses. If courses are all up and downs OR are mostly flat. BUT, if the courses have several climbs AND several flats the geared bike is faster. In the last two years I have won 6 races, four of them were on singlespeeds. The four races I won on the SS were courses that I could gear for and courses that I knew really well. Both are important on singlespeeds.

  8. #8
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    I have to say that I'm faster on the geared bike. I love singlespeeds and ride them 90 % of the time, but after a bunch of rides pushing that one gear, I get on a geared suspension bike and just seem to be able to crush the pedals.

    Alas, my comparison may be skewed, as my geared bike has suspension, whereas my singlespeeds are rigid, so it may just be that I can mash the pedals and ride over and thru everything, where on my SS I do have to pick a line and slow down a bit for technical stuff.

    I will say that I agree with the mental aspect, I now find myself downshifting a lot less on climbs with the MS, I didn't realize how much I was wussing out by constantly downshifting on hills. Now that I take a more of a SS attitude towards my geared bike, I ride it much faster. Not to mention that I am definitely stronger from riding the SS.

  9. #9
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    I just turned my SS into a 2x5 and I an definitely lazier when it comes to the climb. I will downshift it in a heartbeat. I have even tried to keep it in the same SS gear on easier trailks but I just don't have the disipline it takes to keep it there! I am definitely faster on the flats with more gearing. I am getting soft it think. I think I'm going to make it a 3x5. Merry Christmas to all!

  10. #10
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    at my local hard effort loop(seven oaks in boone iowa) i'm faster for about a single lap on the SS. after that fatigue becomes a factor. so 45 mins or so of steep up and down is enough to shell me out and make me want gears. granted my geared bike is 1x9 so i can't drop to a silly low gear but i'm nearly as fast on a single lap with that bike and for 2 or more laps i'm much much faster.
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  11. #11
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    I keep asking the same question to myself. I have a loop available to me, I just hardly ride the geared bike anymore. Only on group rides, and since they are group rides I don't have the option of doing the loop I do on the SS. Most of the time we do the loop we do it backwards which is pretty much useless for comparing. I did time myself on the SS, pretty pathetic really, 37 min 34 sec for a 6 mile loop, about 29 min of which was climbing for atleast half of the loop. But that wasn't bad, first time I did the cflimb without stopping.

  12. #12
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    About that fuel tank thing: don't forget that with a SS you have something like an effort limiter on the flats, so you end up by sparing yourself for the hammering on the climbs.
    A friend of mine, who's registered here by 350Plus, is going to do some tests with a SS and a MS. Maybe he will be able to have some answers with GPS data, etc

  13. #13
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    Hmmm, I think gears are probably a bit faster, BUT if you like riding your bike, why not extend the enjoyment by riding SS?

    It's the engine that decides if a bike is fast not the attachments.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike
    Hmmm, I think gears are probably a bit faster, BUT if you like riding your bike, why not extend the enjoyment by riding SS?

    It's the engine that decides if a bike is fast not the attachments.

    I agree it's the engine - that's the "constant" in this with the SS and MS being the "variables". The bikes are different enough that they dictate, to some degree, the riding style... so, the outcome is different. Faster or slower is the debate.

  15. #15
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    In my experience, in situations where ss is faster its because you are forced to go the speed of the gear you have on the bike. You can't down shift and stay in the saddle. You have to stand up and mash. You are encouraged to maintain your momentum too.

  16. #16
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    I'm probably faster on my SS. It makes sense to me that I'd climb faster standing and pushing 32/18 on the SS rather than sitting and spinning 32/34 on my geared FS bike. That said the really really really fast guys I've seen and/or ridden with run geared setups and actually use those gears to climb faster rather than more easily.

  17. #17
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    OP:
    did you really need to post this to realize that SS is slower then MS?

  18. #18
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    bike doesn't matter.

    few years back, when racing my friend Buck on his ss, me on a geared hardtail....sometimes he'd win, sometimes I'd win.

    Then I started racing ss, and again, sometimes he's faster, sometimes I am...

    ride watchya like.

    and Dicky rolling gears? did I miss something....

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by gotboostedvr6
    OP:
    did you really need to post this to realize that SS is slower then MS?
    Did you really need to chime in with such a useless comment?

    If you don't think it's an interesting topic, go play video games or something to entertain yourself.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomimcmillar
    bike doesn't matter.

    few years back, when racing my friend Buck on his ss, me on a geared hardtail....sometimes he'd win, sometimes I'd win.

    Then I started racing ss, and again, sometimes he's faster, sometimes I am...

    ride watchya like.

    and Dicky rolling gears? did I miss something....
    Yeah, you missed that was not really Dicky, just some guy using the same avatar!
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  21. #21
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    Im fatser on my SS then I was on my custom built geared C-Dale.After riding full suspension for years my buddy talked me into going ss.I had a brand new FS bike that after I rode the ss got sold because I never rode again.Im so much better at climbing and spinning it's unreal.Im about 2 minutes fatser on all trails that I ride.I blow guys away on geared bikes.If it's a real long ride with a lot of flts gears are going to have an advantage but I make it up on climbs and single track.I get back up to speed instantly.I started with a front suspension ss and ended up going full rigid.Im 6-8 260 lbs and hammer the 18 year olds.I have had a bad back for years and thought a rigid bike would kill me but Im out of the saddle most of the time and my back feels great when I ride.GO SS and never go back PS I just built up new 29er ss and LOVE it no more feeling like Im going to endo and the bike is almost a 1/2 lb lighter then my 26er It came in at 21.25 lbs

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manicmtbr
    Yeah, you missed that was not really Dicky, just some guy using the same avatar!

    huh, no sh!t.

  23. #23
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    Strange things happen.

    I own a Cannondale Prophet, really great bike. Had several bikes before. This one is it. Has Rohloff, Lefty Max, Hope Mono M4.

    It was the first bike I said "really great! Feels so nice, I don't have to change ANYTHING".

    After this, I built up again my "old" Cannondale F800 (Furio frame, the one metallic-blue with flames on it, with Lefty Jake). Built it up completly Shimano XT.
    I found that rear derailleur sucks, again.
    I hate this, its really crap, compared to Rohloff. Don't like it.

    Then the thing happened that changed my life: I built up again my old (my first!) MTB. Raleigh Bebop.

    Fully rigid, Magura HS33, and stuff lying round here. Only thing I had to buy was the adapter so SS, chainring, chain, and seatpost.

    I found myself LOVING this thing. I was just a bike, put together from old stuff. Really thougt, this would be rubbish.
    Strange thing, I really like the handling of fully rigid, of no-shifting.

    I find myself be really faster on SS. When I ride with my buddies, on my CD HT, I'm as fast as they are. Nothing special.
    When I ride my SS, I'm really faster. Then, the call me a "poser" - for joke, of course. Because I'm always waiting for them to come around.

    I really can't understand it.
    My Raleigh is 13Kg, my CD HT only 12Kg.

    It must be because of this thing the others mentioned.

    You don't have a single option on the SS. You HAVE to hammer the hill, else, you'll fail.
    So, you HAVE to go faster, if you want or not.
    I always thought I use shifting, because, I need it so get up the hills, because I don't have enought power.
    I was wrong.

    I was to lazy Thats all about being lazy.

    I'm really asking myself if it makes sense so sell the nearly new stuff on my CD HT and get is SS.

    Should'n be a problem. I stiff have a geared bike.

    I really like the feeling to ride on my first MTB, where it all began.
    This old CrMo frame, about 2,7Kg. Bombproof...

    reno

  24. #24
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    Well said when I first rode the ss I couldn't belive how much energy was lost in the suspension and then after going fully rigid it was like a new bike again.After bashing 29ers and saying the people were crazy that they would be slower and heavier I finally tried one and it was like the feeling I got from my ss the first time. I got the bike down to 21.25 lbs and it flies.I rides way better and handles way better then the 26er I rode.All the crap you here about 29ers is just that crap.I don't know if I would want to ride a 29 lb bike but I built the bike the way I would want it and it came out better then I thought.I was expecting to come in at around 24lbs and was shocked that is was almost 1/2 lighter then the 26er .I had a brand new C-dale geared biike that I built up for the longer starigt trails because I thought I would get burnt on the longer rides with alot of flats,WRONG Im faster then I was on my old bike.I hammer the whole trail and burn up the hills.It's funny guys you ride with will pull away on the flats and you pass them on every hill and they can't figure it out .Good luck keep up ss-ing

  25. #25
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    "Im 6-8 260 lbs"

    Wow, that is one big dude. Custom frames?

    "l the crap you here about 29ers is just that crap"

    I didn't know there was an anti 29" movement here. I've seen friendly joking (clown wheels) but never someone bashing.

  26. #26
    Mark
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    Depending upon the terrain and short length of a ride you MIGHT go faster but for long rides with mixed terrain clearly the geared bike wins.

    Otherwise we would see TDF and Giro being won on Single Speeds.
    ===============

    Mark

  27. #27
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    Nope

    I didn't say youre faster on SS. In fact, you can only be slower, because there is never the perfect gear.

    It all about being lazy - shifting down => being slower.

    Pro aren't lazy like us, that's the point...

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by RenoRulez
    In fact, you can only be slower, because there is never the perfect gear.
    You are not assuming that the 20 odd gear ratios on a geared bike is perfect for any condition either, right? The truth is, there is never a perfect gear, whatever that means...

    Ali

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by RenoRulez
    Nope

    I didn't say youre faster on SS. In fact, you can only be slower, because there is never the perfect gear.

    It all about being lazy - shifting down => being slower.

    Pro aren't lazy like us, that's the point...
    Well, you can be pounds lighter, with much of that coming right off the drive train, so you CAN be faster. Racing is burining matches until you are out. On a singlespeed you burn them on the hills and save them on the flats.

    Last year one of the biggest mtb races in the country (as far as entries) was won on a singlespeed against many pro racers (Lalonde at Chequamegon).

  30. #30
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    Mhhh my English is not that good, so I'll try to explain....

    For sure, everyone of us has a optimal pedalling frequency.
    This one is different from the one buddy to the other.
    But it is a range for everyone.

    With a SS, you can only stay in this range at a certain speed.
    If youre using the full potential of a geared, you will be faster. At least in very steep terrain with many hills/descents.

    What I wanted to say:

    It's about using the full potential (geared) against being to lazy to hammer up the hill.

    I never found myself hammer up the hills with my Cannondale. It's a KG lighter.

    I guess most of us need the "I-have-to-go-fast-else-I-don't get up the hill" of the SS ...

    we all know: If we are going slow, it's only getting harder.

    Do you know what I mean?

    Damn thats complicated to explain whats on my mind...

    reno

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by RenoRulez
    Mhhh my English is not that good, so I'll try to explain....

    For sure, everyone of us has a optimal pedalling frequency.
    This one is different from the one buddy to the other.
    But it is a range for everyone.

    With a SS, you can only stay in this range at a certain speed.
    If youre using the full potential of a geared, you will be faster. At least in very steep terrain with many hills/descents.

    What I wanted to say:

    It's about using the full potential (geared) against being to lazy to hammer up the hill.

    I never found myself hammer up the hills with my Cannondale. It's a KG lighter.

    I guess most of us need the "I-have-to-go-fast-else-I-don't get up the hill" of the SS ...

    we all know: If we are going slow, it's only getting harder.

    Do you know what I mean?

    Damn thats complicated to explain whats on my mind...

    reno
    I think you nailed it Reno - ironically (given the language barrier) in very few words.

    it comes down to getting over the "I can shift when I want to" when on the MS and adopting the "I have to hammer" mentality of the SS.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldZaskar
    ...it comes down to getting over the "I can shift when I want to" when on the MS and adopting the "I have to hammer" mentality of the SS.
    or, to paraphrase you,

    it comes down to getting over the "I can shift when I want to" when on the MS and adopting the "I CAN DO IT" mentality.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldZaskar
    I think you nailed it Reno - ironically (given the language barrier) in very few words.

    it comes down to getting over the "I can shift when I want to" when on the MS and adopting the "I have to hammer" mentality of the SS.
    Thanks a lot!

    I'm happy that you understood what was on my mind

    reno

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