9.10.2004

Single Speeds.....
why single speeds?
"If you have to ask....you'll never know."

Last weekend at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 there were far more people on single speeds than I would have expected, one of these singles turned out to be a fixed gear (this rider was in a class by himself.) Many of these people had fast finishes...many of which finished in front of me and all my gears....even the guy on the fixie finished in front of me.

For those not in the know lets get some ideas across.....
The mountainbike is a diverse as the human face, sure there are some basic similarities with each face...they all have eyes, nose, mouth, etc.....but there are different strengths and different weaknesses to each face. Since this metaphor is proving to be as complex as just explaining some different mountainbike categories I will drop the metaphor and go back to the bike itself.....

Mountainbike....basically a 26 inch wheel bike with lots of gears and knobby tires....
Well, almost....the wheels can also be 24 inches in diameter or 29 inches in diameter...I even owned a bike at one point that had a 26 inch wheel in the front and a 24 inch wheel in the back (cannondale SM600.) Once the wheels sizes are selected we look to the gears....technology gave us the 15 speed...then the 18 speed.....then the 21 speed and now the 27 speed (all factors of three, three cogs in the front ((big ring, middle ring, and granny gear)) and a rear sprocket in the back with a large number of cogs; now they normally have 9 cogs (3X9=27...I think, math like reading hurts my brain) Then there are also mountainbikes with one gear; singles speeds and fixed gears. The single speed has one cog in the front and one cog in the rear, minus the derailuer and the option to change gears/resistance. The fixed gear is similar in the single cog front and rear, but the cog in the rear does not spin freely, it is fixed, causing direct drive...like a tricycle. At one point in time all bikes with a chain were fixed gears, then technology gave the rider the "freewheel," then after that the invention of various shifting mechanisms and gears. Now the cyclist is evolving backwards with the single speed and the fixed gear, many racers putting aside any and all suspension forks and riding rigid. While at the same time there are bikes with more suspension both front and rear.....thus creating a broad spectrum of sub groups...
XC Riders: Fulls Suspension XC Bike, Front Suspension XC Bike, Rigid XC Bike, Single speed (usually rigid or front suspension almost never dual suspension,) and unicycle (more of a west coast thing)
Freeriders and Downhillers: Full Suspension Bikes....lots of travel (the shocks have lots of give for doing jumps and drops and for rolling over great big obstacles at high speed) Usually a heavier bike that does not climb well, but is built to take the abuse that these riders are ready to dish out
then there are recreational riders, commuters, road racers, recumbants....but this rant is about XC bikes so let me bring it back

To each their own...

In this world we have vanilla and chocolate and for those that look a little further there is Blackberry Crunch with Chocolate Chips and multicolored Jimmies.

It is my feeling that many of these riders and racers have ridden geared bikes for years and have taken their skills to what they may consider their personal limits and offer themselves a greater challege by moving to the Single Speed. Sure...most single speeders would say...."single speeds are just more fun!" The single speed can be fun, but I personally have a different set of rule for my use of the single speed. I only race the single speed on a course where I do not feel that riding without gears will cause me to finish significantly slower. I race the 12 hour of Lodi Farm relay and several of the Wednesday At Wakefield races in non-single speed categories on a single speed. Rode hard and finished strong, never feeling that a geared bike would have made a significant difference. But at the SM100 a Single Speed would have completely changed the event for me. I used my gears in this race....I used all of my gears in this race....the road secitions were fast...had I been on a single I would have been forced to coast which would have altered my pace....on much of the fireroad climbs I was in the middle ring while climbing....the single would have only given me the option to spin...spin....and spin some more.....
So for me...the single speed has its place...but it is clearly not in a 100 mile off road race.....honesly...it is not on a 100 mile ride.....or a ride with any significant climbing. But then again just as each bicycle has its own strengths and weaknesses so does the body of each rider. The Independent Fabrications rider, Tiffany Mann, who I was pacing with for a while was on a single speed....but...I must say that I am confident that I weigh much more than a 100 pounds than her....and my body needs to do different things to get up the hill than hers does. It amused me for Larry Camp to cruise past me on the climbs only to meet up again at the Check points...where I would be in and out while he worked on his tan.....only for him to spin his single past me again later on the course.... While at the same time I was pacing pretty well with one of Larry's Team Bike Lane teammates who was a tad discouraged and was wishing he had a geared bike.

What is my point....
there is no point.....
slacking at work cause it if friday!
I need to get some lunch and then knock out some work before the day is done!

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