Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's Going Around: Single Speed Fever

A curious malady is making the rounds in my barn. Symptoms of single speed fever are spreading.

My true single speed, the 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II is now my favored city bike and fair weather commuter. There's a 40 tooth chainring on the front and a 17 tooth freewheel on one side of the rear hub, and a 17 tooth track cog fixed on the other side. I find that this combination is perfect for me for tooling around town tackling the typical hills in my stomping grounds. With the addition of a new saddle, I'm all the more eager to spend a lot of time on this bike.

I've gotten comfortable standing to climb, spinning on the flats and coasting when the road turns downward.

This weekend I went to clean about 100 miles of Nebraska gravel road dust and Iowa Wabash Trace crushed limestone dust from my Specialized Tricross when I noticed something odd about the cassette.

A couple of Sundays ago combined a Bacon Ride with my first century ride, and last week I did a Taco Ride. Without realizing it, I'd been riding the Tricross as if it were single speed; standing to climb and spinning when not climbing. I got into a nice pace and spent most of the time pedaling.

As I got my degreaser and cleaning rags ready, I noticed that all the cogs but one were covered with white dust. The one that was cleaner was obviously the one I'd been using for my recent rides. At 34 x 14, I was cycling at a gear ratio just a tad stiffer than on the single speed Schwinn.

This weekend, I grabbed the grocery panniers and my Trek 7300 hybrid and headed out to Whole Foods to stock up one some specialty items that I can't get at my local Bag & Save or Hy-Vee. With 35mm tires and a cargo rack, this is my hauling bike. Again, I noticed that I was doing all the pedaling in a similar gear ratio. I did have to shift down to climb out of the Papio Creek valley into my neighborhood, as I was loaded down with groceries.

Incidentally, I saw Rafal D. with Megan, and Steve O. with some friends at Whole Foods and talked for a moment with each.

So, look out. If you ride near where I ride, you might want to keep your distance. If your bike gets too close, you might find it, too, afflicted with single speed fever. I just hope single speed fever doesn't jump over to humans in the form of some kind of knee pain!


erik said...

you might consider running a 1x9 setup on the cross bike or the townie. You can lose the fuss and weight of the front derailleur setup, and simplify things a lot. I have a 39x(11-32) on my city bike now, which works really well for most anything. It's worth a try, especially when things come up to be replaced (derailleurs, chainrings, heck even cable). I'm right about 100" in the top gear, 35" in the lowest. It's hard to need either of those extremes riding in city, out of town it's nice to have the full range to better dial in ratios.

Another thing to look at is half-step gearing, if you really want to go to the dark side. A good half-step + granny is the ultimate triple derailleur setup for riding across gradual inclines or into varying headwind (you're able to dial in the gear perfectly). I'd do that if I was still in nebraska, with a granny, come chainring swap. Still might, honestly.

RD said...

don't make me call you names just ride your single speed until you chain stretches then just replace the free wheel and chain.

erik said...

i was just saying for the other bikes, it's a good direction to go.

RD said...

i was referring to me calling scott names. Everyone do whatever they want with their bikes I have enough projects at my house:D
sorry no offense meant towards you erik