What makes singlespeeds fast, or are they?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    What makes singlespeeds fast, or are they?

    I just replaced a full suspension relic (Giant Warp) with a Trek Rig SS and am shocked at the difference it has made in my lap times.

    I expected to give up some downhill speed and some speed in the flats and hoped to gain some speed on SOME hills. That may be the case but it seems that I have gained much more than I lost.

    Now I'm wondering if I would have had the same experience going to a geared hardtail. Maybe more so? Maybe less so? Clearly the SS causes a rider to have to buck up and charge the hill, is that all there is to it? My SS wieghs more that many geared hardtails do.

    I know there was much efficiency lost in the full suspension bike, especially when standing. I have ridden several premium full suspension demo bikes and none have had the impact this single speed has.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    SS Pusher Man
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    You are faster on the climbs because you have to be.

    On your geared bike, you tend to get to the bottom of a climb and shift into and easy gear and spin slowly up the hill.

    On your SS you have attack the hill so you tend to get up faster.

    I know I am faster uphill on my SS.....but it doesn't translate to my geared bike....however I find that I do push a bigger gear on my geared bike than I used to.
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  3. #3
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    I boil it down to average speed. On a geared machine while climbing a steep section on the 32t cog say, you are spinning and usually sitting with speeds around 3-6 mph. Same hill on a SS you are standing and rolling 6-9mph. That adds up pretty quick.

    A hardtail (geared or SS) requires that you avoid smaller obstacles (like rocks sticking up less than 3 inches) where on FS you roll into them, which when thinking about basic physics takes energy away by dispersing some of it into the obstacle and into the actual rear shock. That is energy that is not being used to propel you forward. The speed gain here is not quite as dramatic, maybe a mph or so-but once again it adds up.

    This is just what I have learned from riding 26 HT, then a 29SS front susp, then a FS26 and back to a 29SS front susp again and looking at my results. Of course, if one is not in shape or rides inefficiently, a single speed can be much slower. That is my totally non-scientifically sound theory!
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  4. #4
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    Ok, same boat here but (cover ears) I still like my FS, however after 4 rides on my first SS Im PRing every ride around:/ Have not taken it and done the hard climbs yet. So trying not to hijack this but how does one transition that SS riding and mentality into FS riding/racing or can you?

  5. #5
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    I seem to hear the argument a lot that singlespeeds are faster but it's more accurate to say that "I am faster on my singlespeed".

    As mtbbikej said, in some cases (on SS) you are forced to climb faster than you might normally- or get off and walk, whereas you might bail to the granny on your geared bike. If you want your geared bike to be as fast as your SS just pick a gear that is the same as your SS and leave it there. If you want to be faster than your SS than learn how to use gearing options to your (speed, not comfort) advantage. If you just want to have fun don't worry about any of this and ride whatever is the most fun for you.

    Individual results may vary.

  6. #6
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    Right. Which is more like a hard tail single speed, a geared hard tail or the Lenz Milk Money?

    I'm guessing that it's hard to find the full suspension bike that doesn't bob heavily under mashing conditions.

  7. #7
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    Instant gear engagement!....especially at the start of climbs, while geared riders are downshifting (coasting). It may be just a moment but its significant. This was the first thing I noticed....

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by a6rnner View Post
    Ok,... how does one transition that SS riding and mentality into FS riding/racing or can you?
    As others have stated, hold onto a bigger gear when climbing on the F/S.
    For me, it's never the same ratio as the rigid SS - 17t, always lower like a 20t or 23t.
    Imagine this is due to X weight, and pedal bob.
    And yes the F/S is sure sweet bombing over the rocks & roots.

    When climbing, pick a gear, do not downshift, and just suck it up Buttercup!
    So I say yes, this ^^^ can be done.
    Last edited by Flyin_W; 10-20-2012 at 09:45 AM.

  9. #9
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    what makes singlespeeds fast?
    you do, or you don't.
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  10. #10
    surly inbred
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts View Post
    what makes singlespeeds fast?
    you do, or you don't.
    This.


    ps. It ain't just about climbing. Fast riders use momentum, choose lines & stay off the brakes... no matter what sled they're on.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I seem to hear the argument a lot that singlespeeds are faster but it's more accurate to say that "I am faster on my singlespeed".

    As mtbbikej said, in some cases (on SS) you are forced to climb faster than you might normally- or get off and walk, whereas you might bail to the granny on your geared bike. If you want your geared bike to be as fast as your SS just pick a gear that is the same as your SS and leave it there. If you want to be faster than your SS than learn how to use gearing options to your (speed, not comfort) advantage. If you just want to have fun don't worry about any of this and ride whatever is the most fun for you.

    Individual results may vary.
    So true, we're naturally lazy beasts and with gears we have the option to shift down, sit down and spin rather than stand up and grind. When I switch to gears I notice how much slower I am and I regularly ride with a group on gears, I'm generally faster uphill, because at my slowest cadence I'm still faster than them because I'm in a higher gear but at the moment lack the fitness so it's a hare and tortoise act. If the hill's right length then I'm up there first but if I run out of steam near the top then they pass me.
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  12. #12
    surly inbred
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    Quote Originally Posted by drofluf View Post
    So true, we're naturally lazy beasts and with gears we have the option to shift down, sit down and spin rather than stand up and grind.
    Gears is cool... only problem I have with gears is that if I have them, I use them.


    Quote Originally Posted by drofluf View Post
    ...so it's a hare and tortoise act...
    Giv'r time... you'll be leadin' that **** soon. Mostly because riding with a pack of gearies really ****s up your chi, so to speak.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by drofluf View Post
    So true, we're naturally lazy beasts and with gears we have the option to shift down, sit down and spin rather than stand up and grind.
    Yes, and this is why you so often hear someone say they are faster on their SS, and I have no doubt that they are- however, in addition of having to the option to shift up, sit down and spin one also has the option to select a big gear (when appropriate), stand up and put the hammer down, and leave other riders behind. Those inclined to racing don't view gears as an option to bail, they see them as tools to optimize speed.

    I love SS, but there is a difference between being faster on your SS and SS's being faster than geared bikes.

  14. #14
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    Depends on the course and length of the course.

    Long, rugged courses will have most riders showing faster times on a geared bike. Shorter smooth courses are best for single speeds.

    Out of the saddle hammering will give you very fast lap times, until you redline too long and blow up.

  15. #15
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    The fastest way up a hill is to hammer.. for sure. When you dont have the option to sit and spin you hammer every hill. You learn to carry momentum into/up the hill. Actually I think it helps you learn how to carry momentum better throughout the trail.

    Funny I started ssing like a month ago and I love it. I didnt realize that I already understood how properly carry momentum so the only difference is once I burned it off going up hill i would dump in a granny gear and spin the rest of the way up. Pushing a bigger gear is faster and I feel less fatigued when I reach the top.

    Now the SS has changed my geared riding. Now Im a stronger climber so when climbing on the full squish Im more likely to push a bigger gear up.

    Im growing really fond of the rigid ss. Feel like its more my style. Ill keep the squishy bike around since theres still a few trails its usefull on but my perfered ride is rigid ss now. Ive officially come over to the dark side!

  16. #16
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    Training/riding. One thing I notice is that it is rough to do 3 days in a row on s.s. if 2.5 to 3 hr rides. But, then you are even faster next week! I ride gear bike on 3rd day now, if back to back to back.

  17. #17
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    It's impossible to say which of the two bikes is faster. But it's clear that ss makes you a faster rider. Even if not so the more fun I have riding my SS worth it.

    That's enteresting, but when I did my 1st SS conversion I didn't care about the speed, I even thought that I will be slower on SS. The main reason for the conversion was to have fun. I wasn't going to race SS.

    I'm happy that I was wrong about the speed and racing. I find racing SS is much easier than racing geared. Not phisically. It's much more easier to manage your power on ss - you don't think where to stand or seat, when to power or to have rest - all that comes naturally because you don't have much choices.

  18. #18
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    So impressed am I by the single speed, that I'm thinking about building my soon-to-arrive fatbike as a single speed. I'm a little nervous about that as the bike will be so much heavier.

  19. #19
    The need for singlespeed
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    No worries. It'll be a little lighter as a singlespeed!
    I wouldn't consider building a fatbike with gears.

  20. #20
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    I think everyone hit the nail on the head with the comments here.

    As many know most races are won on the climbs so that's the main reason ss can be faster, especially if you get lazy like me with a bailout option, gears, that is.

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  21. #21
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    After a while on a SS, I forgot how to "use" gears on my 1x9.

    I'd use 2-3 gears:

    "Normal" gear was about the same ratio as my singlespeed. I'd use it in the same way.
    "High" gear was one higher ratio than my singlespeed, I'd use it for high speed flats.
    "Low" gear was one lower gear ration than my singlespeed, I'd use it for steep hills.

    The one thing that using low gear got me was slightly quicker recovery time at the top of the hill. I wouldn't have to use the "pull handlebar - push pedal" technique with quite as much intensity; it was less of a max effort ordeal. Slower, yes but slightly easier to maintain momentum when it was easier to mash the pedal.

    One thing I stopped doing when riding a 1x9 though: sit and spin. SSing has removed that from my toolbox. It just doesn't work for me, I feel like I'm trying to pedal while folded up inside a small box, knees in chest.

    Stand and mash works wonders; the real benefit (for me) of riding with gears is that it makes stand and mash a little less intense. The problem with going to granny gears is that stand and mash overpowers those gears too easily - the wheel spins out and neither traction nor momentum are conserved.

  22. #22
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    It's the mentality when riding SS. Like others said, with gears, you rely more on gears, but on SS, you have to use more momentum and just pedal like a madman. On up/down hills, I do ok on SS (often faster than others on gears, unless they are 130 lb who know what they are doing), but on a stretched out flat, I get passed by 12 yr old girls on pink bikes with baskets in front.
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  23. #23
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    You. You are what makes a singlespeed faster. Cheers!
    Thanks to www.weavercycleworks.com for my awesome bike frames!

  24. #24
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    Ha ha, Manicmtbr! Let me guess what makes the squishy geared bike slower...

  25. #25
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    Technique on the flats and downhills goes a long way. Many have mentioned picking smoother lines. The other huge one is pumping through bumps and dips in the trail. Master this and on the right trails you've got a good chance to keep pace with your geared friends even if you're spun out

  26. #26
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    I ride a 29er hardtail 1x9 and a 29er rigid single speed. The single speed taught me to push a higher gear on my 1x9 without question. I had the SS for about 1 1/2 years before I built up the 1x9.

    Which is faster...depends. Like others have said, I think I push harder / work harder on the SS because I know I have too. However, on flats on the same course, the geared is faster. When I get to a hill...I feel faster on the SS. My friends say I'm faster on the SS...but really...I don't know. I think that's because they spin while I mash.

    It's ebb and flow baby. A sprinkle of this a dash of that.

    When I'm maxed out from work...stressed from home...want to shut it all out...I pick up the SS. Everything else just melts away.

    ...

    One more time.

  27. #27
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    Who cares, they are fun to ride and I never have to adjust my derailler, carry an extra hanger, worry about chainsuck, etc.

    Plus I kinda like the idea of an affordable fun bike. I was in my LBS the other day and they had a hi-spec carbon Niner FS for $7000... MTB prices are out of control, in my opinion.

    I guess maybe if you are a serious racer...
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin_W View Post
    As others have stated, hold onto a bigger gear when climbing on the F/S.
    For me, it's never the same ratio as the rigid SS - 17t, always lower like a 20t or 23t.
    Imagine this is due to X weight, and pedal bob.
    And yes the F/S is sure sweet bombing over the rocks & roots.

    When climbing, pick a gear, do not downshift, and just suck it up Buttercup!
    So I say yes, this ^^^ can be done.
    Modern F/S bikes deal with pedal bob- some better than others. I can hold my own against lighter hard tail riders on my 3+ lb heavier F/S bike

    Part of the equation boils down to power to weight ratio. SS definitely made me a stronger rider in general plus more agile and less LAZY (because you have to commit unless you wanna walk) ehehe.

  29. #29
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    I find myself maintaining more speed around the corners now on a ss then geared. Maybe it was I just had bad form before? Climbing by far, I am better on a ss.

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