Are you faster on a single speed?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Are you faster on a single speed?

    I have been riding and racing a single speed for many years now and I truly love it (it feels the most natural to me). During this time I have built several geared bikes, both hard tails and full suspension all very nice high end builds. Every time I build a new bike I do direct comparisons with the single speed that I am riding at that time and every time I am faster on my single speed. Obviously on single track, not double track or road because who really cares about that crap anyway. Not only am I faster I feel less fatigued on the single speed. I live in Maine and our trails are fairly technical with plenty of roots and rocks so in theory and according to all my friends the FS should be faster, but I just canít make it happen.

    Am I the only one? Thoughts...?

  2. #2
    Low speed, High Drag
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    Well, I have set more PR's on STRAVA with my single speed, but my other bike is a 150mm travel, 32 pound beast.

    But, I do get around our trails a lot faster on my SS. It also gets me in shape faster, since it doesn't allow me to be lazy!!
    I need a cool saying to put here.

  3. #3
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    A) I have nothing to compare it to, and
    B) progress on my riding is measured in smiles, not speed.

  4. #4
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    Depends on trail


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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by claystrick View Post
    Depends on trail


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    True, I am referring to a pedaly XC single track not a gnarly down hill run.

  6. #6
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    No Iím not. I tried one once...I had to walk all of the tech sections; single speed is not for me.

  7. #7
    Always in the wrong gear
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    Are you faster on a single speed?

    All day.

    Iíll admit. It might well be solely due to familiarity. Iíve ridden a 29+ singlespeed with a 100 or 120mm fork as my only bike for like 4 years now. Iím very comfortable on it.
    Without sounding pompous, it takes some really ugly sections of trail for anyone to truly leave me behind. I suspect theyíd do it on any bike, being rider and not rig. The MBAA state champion in Expert class (racing SS) is a good friend of mine and I can almost hang with him, but heís got better lungs.


    I recently inherited a 26Ē wheeled 140mm FS Trek and Iíll be honest... it feels foreign. Wrong. Slow. But plush. Time and Strava will tell the tale. A 32x42 bailout gear whispers ď give up, itís fine. Just spin and recover.Ē That 34x19 screams ďRide or die mother-effer!Ē
    Donít modify the trail to match your skills, modify your skills to match the trails.

  8. #8
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    I built up a geared HT earlier this year and found that I had to ride it different than the rigid SSs I had been riding for the last 13 years. I really noticed it on the climbs. I have always felt that I am a strong climber and figured going to gears and a 130mm fork would just make me faster. What I found was that the out of the saddle, over the bars and mashing technique does not fair so well on a HT. On steep climbs, gearing down, staying seated and shifting my weight forward on the saddle has worked best. Because of the different technique and I am guessing different muscles involved in this change, this seriously wore me out. It has taken me several months to feel strong on the HT.

  9. #9
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    No. Hilariously no. On rolling intermediate singletrack it's close, and the average speed is often higher. More fun, too. On doubletrack i find my 85rpm happy place and the SS gets dropped. On our numerous/inevitable steep 1000-3000' climbs the SS is a joke and i take it out to suffer with my unfit friends. On descents being able to pedal in to the expert features means i'm not scared to hit the big boy line.

    There are rides and trail systems where i trend faster on the SS, but if i push the geared bike is faster. I split my time somewhat evenly between them.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
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  10. #10
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    Yes and No
    It depends on my mood and and on the day.

    One gear, one speed and one wheel = a load of fun

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  11. #11
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    I have had a couple of my riding buddies mention in passing that I am faster on my SS. I think there's a couple reasons for that; the biggest one being familiarity. It's what I put most of my miles in on and I feel more comfortable clearing things on a bike that I know how to handle properly. The other is that we have mostly short, punchy climbs here which means I am out of the saddle a lot. My sit and spin quad muscles aren't as strong as my other leg muscles, so when I get on a geared full suspension bike I lose a bit of time spinning up those punchy climbs (as opposed to getting out of the saddle and mashing up them).


    I am with a couple others here though, in that I don't really care how fast I am these days. I am more interested in having fun.

  12. #12
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    I'm with the OP. I'm faster on the SS HT and also less fatigued at the end of rides.

    Geared FS: Slow on the ups, fast on the downs.

    SS HT: Fast on the ups, pretty close to fast on the downs.

    So overall, faster on the SS.

    ...plus it's more fun.

  13. #13
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    Interesting, thanks for the input. I love the cartoon posted earlier!!

  14. #14
    Life's a Garden, dig it!
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    It's been so long since I've ridden a geared bike, I guess I can't honestly say anymore. When I was riding them both, I was always faster on the SS.
    "And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called, The Human Race..."

  15. #15
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    For pedal heavy XC singletrack, yep, absolutely faster on my 29+ rigid single speed than on a full suspension XC bike or on a more trail geometry single speed (140mm fork, slack angles, etc.).

    For me, like a lot of others here it seems to be in part comfort in that I know exactly what a rigid bike is going to do when I choose the wrong line and I know exactly how hard I'm going to have to push to get up a given climb. It's also terrain. XC riding on rolling terrain = awesome single speeding, but start throwing huge climbs or really gnarly descents in and I'd rather have gears and/or suspension.

  16. #16
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    I'm less slow on my single speed bikes. I believe all my PR's on trails I've ridden on both my geared and single speed bike...are on the single speed.
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  17. #17
    Rod
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    No, I'm not and it's not even close. I'm minutes faster on my full suspension bike on longer segments. It's fast, you have to be in 34x18, but it still doesn't touch my 24 lbs marathon rig.

    When I'm climbing the gear is too hard so there's no recovery, on the double track the gear isn't big enough, and if it gets too tight and twisty 34x18 is too big again.

    All the above problems are remedied by a simple shift and changing a couple teeth. This doesn't take into the fact that when the trail gets rough I'm forced to slow down on a hardtail.

    Don't get me wrong I love the SS, but it's not nearly as fast as an xc fs if you have the discipline not to downshift.

  18. #18
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    Yes and no, depends on the trail system and conditions. I am not on Strava and my only feedback is my buddies I ride with. Their opinion is I am faster on the SS on fast and flowy trails. When riding these they want me to lead (if I ride my SS). On rocky technical trails, I'm in the middle of the pack on either my SS or FS. Now if I ride rails to trails with the g/f, no way as I'll spin out especially trying to catch her on her commuter bike.

  19. #19
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    I'm more often faster climbing on the SS - it depends on the terrain though. I'm rarely doing anything flat so that helps. My SS is certainly slower downhill on a lot of trails - it's a Raleigh XXIX with a pretty low grade suspension fork by today's standards so it's not really fair to compare it to a well set up Spark.

    I ride both lots depending on the day and depending on the terrain and depending on who I'm riding with. One thing I do find is that if I've been riding one bike more than the other and I'm a bit fatigued, then riding the other bike feels like a rest.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod View Post
    No, I'm not and it's not even close. I'm minutes faster on my full suspension bike on longer segments. It's fast, you have to be in 34x18, but it still doesn't touch my 24 lbs marathon rig.

    When I'm climbing the gear is too hard so there's no recovery, on the double track the gear isn't big enough, and if it gets too tight and twisty 34x18 is too big again.

    All the above problems are remedied by a simple shift and changing a couple teeth. This doesn't take into the fact that when the trail gets rough I'm forced to slow down on a hardtail.

    Don't get me wrong I love the SS, but it's not nearly as fast as an xc fs if you have the discipline not to downshift.
    I tend to agree. I've been riding SS almost exclusively for the last 4-5 years and there's no way a geared FS bike is slower. It's faster in technical sections, downhills, and on the flats. As noted above, it's all about the bailout gears. If you have the "discipline not to downshift" then it's impossible for the SS to be faster. That being said, I recently put gears back onto my SS because I felt it was faster. Just this week I removed said gears due to that lack of discipline. Ride what makes you happy!
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  21. #21
    Armature speller
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    It's taken 9 months of geared, full suspension goodness to get near my rigid single speed PB's. I don't get 'air' or slam through 'chunk'.
    I can ride harder and for longer on the Anthem and not be as sore after.

    If I only had one bike?
    It'd be the rigid single speed Kona Unit.
    Damn that thing puts a smile on your face

  22. #22
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    The fastest bike I have is my FS Specialized Epic. However my steel single speed is pretty fast and I have some Strava PR's on that bike over my Epic. Others where there is only very small difference in speed. It is on the flatter terrain and rockier terrain where the Epic is faster due to gears and rear suspension. However in XC race between both SS and Epic the speed difference is often pretty minimal. The reason the SS is so fast is because there is no "easy" button. I have to push hard all the time. On the geared bike I can relax some. Even in races I can relax and that can be bad. This less about the bike and more about the mental state and physical state that SS riding forces you into.

    Where the geared bikes are really faster is for longer rides. I love my SS, but don't like it as much on 40-80 mile rides as there is no way to change the effort. The effort is based on gear selected and trail where as on a geared bike I can choose how hard to go for any given bit of trail. Plus as the miles wear on the FS help reduce overall fatigue.
    Joe
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  23. #23
    I am Walt
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    Where the geared bikes are really faster is for longer rides. I love my SS, but don't like it as much on 40-80 mile rides as there is no way to change the effort. The effort is based on gear selected and trail where as on a geared bike I can choose how hard to go for any given bit of trail. Plus as the miles wear on the FS help reduce overall fatigue.
    ^^This.

    The Enchanted Forest course really took a toll on me on the SS, as the laps and miles added up, to the point where I swear my body was subconsciously flinching on the downhill the last few laps. But I was very jealous; not necessarily about having gears, but about having suspension to take the edge off.

    That's why I want a fast short-travel FS bike for 12/24-hour, marathon and stage racing, when the course or event doesn't suit a SS.
    Ride more; post less...

  24. #24
    Rod
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    The reason the SS is so fast is because there is no "easy" button. I have to push hard all the time.
    This statement is why threads like this. Pushing a big gear hurts and subconsciously we want to gear down to make the pain subside.

    In a nutshell, thats why SSers appear to be so fast. You have to "run what ya brung."

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod View Post
    This statement is why threads like this. Pushing a big gear hurts and subconsciously we want to gear down to make the pain subside.

    In a nutshell, thats why SSers appear to be so fast. You have to "run what ya brung."

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    Also, you gotta smash those steep bits. It's good interval training, and fellow riders are gonna see you on their ass as they struggle and go 'wtf SS superman!' SS is awesome training, but it shouldn't be faster. IMO
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
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  26. #26
    Rod
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg View Post
    Also, you gotta smash those steep bits. It's good interval training, and fellow riders are gonna see you on their ass as they struggle and go 'wtf SS superman!' SS is awesome training, but it shouldn't be faster. IMO
    We rest on the flats and attack the climbs. The interval training is why a ss will whip you into shape very fast.

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  27. #27
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    The riding where I live is smooth forest singletrack with no chunk, no tech, and big climbs and descents. 2000-5000 vert every ride. Riding SS for the past couple years has really improved my fitness. Itís like learning to ride all over again. Iím very psyched on it right now. And it provides a second life for my old salsa el mariachi. I fell in love with that bike all over again after the conversion.
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  28. #28
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    I am definitely faster on my SS than when geared. I have used the same bike, both geared and SS, as a reference when testing this out. There are some sections I'm faster with gears but overall times are shorter with SS. Mostly, though, I feel like it's largely due to the fact that I have no choice but to hammer the climbs and use momentum as much as possible when riding SS... Too easy to be lazy with gears in many ways.

  29. #29
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    The reason I ask is because I use Strava as a way of keeping track of useable fitness by watching how fast I do segments vs pervious attempts. Every KOM or PR I have is on a single speed, I truly try and break my PRís on a geared bike but seem to never be able to (on the longer segments); sure I can in the downhill rippers but that has less to do with gearing and more to do with suspension I only said a FS geared bike because there are not many geared HTís any more. I certainly donít downshift too much, I donít think but Iíll start paying attention to that. I am not trying to say I am all that fast, but an example of what I am talking about is at some local 12 hour races I race the SS class and normally win that class but also would finish on the podium of the menís open class (several times I have beaten the 2nd place open rider), these guys are not slow riders last year the open winner was coming off a 16th place finish at Leadville. Again I am not trying to say I am anything special, but I canít ever match my speed on a SS with my FS bikes.

    Thanks for all the input so far...

  30. #30
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    If SS HT was the fastest bike type then all the world cup racers would be using them. They are not, but when riding a SS HT it forces the rider to do things they may not do on a FS geared bike. Thus they may ride faster. At the end of the day speed is about cornering and watts of power. Watts are watts, but I think you will find that those who are faster on SS HT vs gears are simply putting out more watts and losing less watts (maintain momentum) when they ride SS vs gears. So it not about the bike, but what the bike forces the rider to do.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    If SS HT was the fastest bike type then all the world cup racers would be using them. They are not, but when riding a SS HT it forces the rider to do things they may not do on a FS geared bike. Thus they may ride faster. At the end of the day speed is about cornering and watts of power. Watts are watts, but I think you will find that those who are faster on SS HT vs gears are simply putting out more watts and losing less watts (maintain momentum) when they ride SS vs gears. So it not about the bike, but what the bike forces the rider to do.
    I completely agree.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    If SS HT was the fastest bike type then all the world cup racers would be using them. They are not, but when riding a SS HT it forces the rider to do things they may not do on a FS geared bike. Thus they may ride faster. At the end of the day speed is about cornering and watts of power. Watts are watts, but I think you will find that those who are faster on SS HT vs gears are simply putting out more watts and losing less watts (maintain momentum) when they ride SS vs gears. So it not about the bike, but what the bike forces the rider to do.
    Well stated. Can you imagine Nino on a SS!?
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  33. #33
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    I'm faster on mine on trails that are not too rough and just have short, punchy climbs and descents and tight, twisty terrain where the speeds don't get too high. And even then only for up to about an hour. After that, it's just too damn tiring and boring IMO. That said, I've got lots of PR's on local short sections on my Les SS.
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  34. #34
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    I'm faster on a lot of rides, short or long - climbing 50 metres or 1000 metres, as long as it simply isn't so steep that it's beyond my physical limit, or so flat that I'm ridiculously spun out. Maybe I shouldn't be but I am - and my SS is still about the same weight as my FS trail bike. Maybe because it forces me into a style of riding that works better for me. On my SS the descents can get pretty rough compared to my FS trail bike though.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    If SS HT was the fastest bike type then all the world cup racers would be using them. They are not, but when riding a SS HT it forces the rider to do things they may not do on a FS geared bike. Thus they may ride faster. At the end of the day speed is about cornering and watts of power. Watts are watts, but I think you will find that those who are faster on SS HT vs gears are simply putting out more watts and losing less watts (maintain momentum) when they ride SS vs gears. So it not about the bike, but what the bike forces the rider to do.
    Hammer, meet Nail.

  36. #36
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    I've done races where the track could have been designed with a single speed in mind and one particularly memorable 3hr where the aim seemed to be to maim any single speeders and make them want to give up the sport.

  37. #37
    Rod
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    I've done races where the track could have been designed with a single speed in mind and one particularly memorable 3hr where the aim seemed to be to maim any single speeders and make them want to give up the sport.
    I found a similar 3.5 hour event. Spin till i puke mixed with mud, climbs, and f150s stuck in the mud on the course.

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  38. #38
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    - depending on the trail and the day, I can ride the SS faster on the rare occasion, but mostly, the geared bike because I ride a lot of trails with some steep sections.......
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