SF Randonneurs Brevet - 1/27/07
some reason, it occurred to me that it would be fun to use the Quickbeam
to ride my first brevet. Thankfully, the bike looked out for me
and helped me to finish close to my targeted time. Story & photos
Random Thoughts and Ramblings on Single Speeds -
The overarching and underpinning guideline for single speed bicycling
(and life?) -
"Don't complicate a simple system"
Wide bars are a good thing.
Momentum is a fickle mistress.
Never apologize for your gearing, or walking up a steep section.
The Singlespeed experience - You are either going very fast or very
There's a kind of diesel lope you develop after riding singlespeed
for a while. It's an out-of-the-saddle approach, and often you are
just turning over a bigger than optimum gear. It lets you loaf a
little on the uphills, when those around you with multi-geared rides
are twiddling away with a front chainring the size of your rear
sprocket. It's a lanky and deceptive movement to those who don't
ride singlespeeds, because you are actually generating significant
power even though your cadence is down in the low 30's. You can
quietly bide your time, hovering your way up the hill. Then, when
the pitch eases a bit and the others ease up to catch their breath,
you can push just slightly faster and slide out of sight. Just get
your heavy breathing done before they catch up.
The geared-rider lag appears on the approach to almost every climb.
It is especially noticeable in those who dread climbing or are reasonably
new to cycling. (Although a large number of experienced riders also
exhibit this behavior). You have to watch it when you are behind
such folks, as you with the fixed or single gear are ramping up
power and momentum to throw youself upward. Meanwhile, they have
shifted down-down-down and are madly spinning, already losing to
the incline in their minds. This arrests their speed considerably,
and the trick is to not clip them as they get the low-speed wobbles.
Of course, they will probably slap your backside as you stall on
the steeper parts of the climb, every joint locking, creaks coming
from scary spots deep within your frameset.
Someone once asked me what it was like to "slog home"
on the singlespeed. I couldn't really answer the question - it almost
seemed like something had been mistranslated. One of the things
that seems to happen with single speed miles is that you relate
very directly to the topography and conditions. You feel the effects
of weather and gravity in a way that is both invigorating and freeing.
On some descents, you simply "top out" your cadence and
move just as quickly by just clamping your knees to the top tube
and enjoying the ride. Maybe that's the key word - "enjoy."
I enjoy the humm of the knobbies, and can tell the pitch when it
makes sense to pedal. I enjoy the tailwinds when they push and let
me watch for hawks and wildlife. I even enjoy those times when it's
a long straight road into a steady breeze - there's no need to try
to find a gear that might make it easy. It just never seems to be
In the fall of 2006, while getting ready for a Cyclocross race,
I found what appeared to be cracks in the headtube of my Lemond
Poprad (geared) CX bike. As this was the day before a race, I opted
to run the Quickbeam instead. I stuck with the regular "B"
age group division, rather than entering the singlespeed specific
race. It was not as much of a handicap as I thoght it would be -
and I should remind anyone reading this that I'm a confirmed latter-half-of-the-packer.
This season has been dry and cold rather than sloppy and muddy,
so I haven't had the opportunity to zip past other riders who have
muck-encrusted drivetrins. But, I did notice in the first race that
I passed a couple riders towards the end, and seemed to have more
speed simply because I couldn't start diving for the lower gears
as I got tired.
The other night, rolling out of work, I bumped into a peson I hadn't
seen for a while. There was a time when he was a pretty serious
cyclist, and my fixed
Dawes caught his attention. To my surprise, he actually got
a bit excited about it, which led to a small group gathering, and
subsequently to non-cyclists asking why on earth I would only want
one gear on a bike. Now, these were smart folks, but probably hadn't
ridden a bicycle since Carter was president. Rather than go into
the whole nebulous-verging-on-new-agey "fixed gear experience",
I stressed the reliability of the drivetrain, how newer systems
use thin-plated chains and put a pretty good amount of stress on
the system, which tended to mean premature wear. They were nodding
along and to my suprise, "getting it". Then the first
fellow pointed out what a fixed gear means - insofar as pedaling
is concerned. Then these folks who had looked at me as a reasonable
person started sort of backing away...