Thursday, June 30

Why Singlespeed?


I get asked directly or indirectly all the time, "why singlespeed?" Why give up modern gearing when it's so good, so wide ranging, so fast? Hell if you stick with XT level components it's not even that expensive, though XTR and XX1 are as pricey as ever.

It's a valid question in this age of Di2 capable, 10-, 11-, and 12-speed mountain bikes. I'll attempt to put some words to the issue here though they represent my feelings alone. I don't promise your satisfaction in my answers or reasoning. 

For me singlespeed all started as I got sick of breaking Trek Fuel frames and maintaining rear derailleur cables in the dusty Front Range of Colorado. I got a Redline Monocog for Christmas from my wife one year long ago and quickly grew to love it's simplicity. There was nothing to adjust and minimal maintenance besides the occasional tightening of the chain and some lube. I just got to hop on and ride. When I moved to Boulder from the flatland triathlon scene of St. Louis, MO I tried to keep the climbing at bay. I stayed to the east, getting promptly thrashed by the hills anytime I ventured west. But something unexpected happened when I started riding that heavy 26" Monocog. I got faster. I became a better climber. The better I climbed, the more I began to love mountain biking. I ventured into longer rides in more difficult terrain. Probably a year later I ditched my front suspension for a rigid fork and haven't looked back since. To be frank, the lack of front suspension is a far bigger detriment to my speed on the local XC and Endurance scene then the lack of gears ever has been.

So what logical reason is there for riding and racing a singlespeed, especially down the 2700 mile Tour Divide? Well there are a few. First it's lighter by a couple pounds. My rig was one of the lightest out there despite me carrying more weight in gear than I did on my 2009 run. Second it's weather resistant. In 2009 the weather was pretty horrendous by comparison to 2016 and the mud was out of control. The singlespeed trucks right on through most of the time without any major issue. A straight chainline and some steel drivetrain components stand up to conditions that put a pretty serious hurt on geared bikes. My drivetrain this year went from Banff to Mexico without needing anything but a few shots with a hose and chain lube. Too bad I can't say the same about PF92 bottom bracket bearings. Third a singlespeed is cheap. I'm not sponsored in any serious way and pay for the vast majority of my gear and parts. Cheap drivetrain components are nice when you put serious miles on your gear training and racing. Most of my steel cogs are a decade old, the chainrings last thousands of miles, and chains are replaced for $30 or less.

People's biggest misconception (I think) is that a singlespeed is just so much slower than a geared bike in the vast majority of terrain. With proper training I'm not sure that's actually true and looking at Strava segments of quite a few pieces of the Divide seems to at least support my theory. I turned in the 3rd fastest all time segment (that's uploaded to Strava...) for the final 105 miles of Tour Divide in terrain that should punish a spun out single speeder pretty severely. While most geared riders train to optimize power in a preferred cadence range and then gear their bikes to keep themselves there, I chose a gear and trained my body to produce power over a wider range of cadences. I can make reasonable power for long time periods from 25 rpms all the way up to 110 rpms. Would I be faster I could stay at 85 rpms all the time? Maybe but I'm not totally convinced of that. My Tour Divide moving average speed was 11 mph, not a whole lot different than Mike Hall's. He still kicked my butt but probably not because I was on a singlespeed. 

At the end of the day though, none of these what-ifs, how-comes, or whys even matter. 

I just flat out love riding my singlespeed. It excites me. I'm passionate about it. Every time I throw my leg over my singlespeed and mash down on the pedals, the direct drivetrain connection feels so good. 

Long ago I gave up any hope of being a "professional" athlete. Giving up that fantasy gave me the freedom to do what I want, ride what I want, and race what I want. (Again) this year singlespeeders in the Tour Divide have shown that they're more than capable of being competitive, no matter what the conventional wisdom might say. And with that maybe the why doesn't matter. Or maybe those who ride one gear are just so passionate about riding their chosen bike that it overcomes any obstacles the single gear brings. Either way I'm not likely to give up my singlespeed any time soon.

Friday, May 27

Stay Tuned...

Tour Divide updates coming soon...

Saturday, September 28

Another space

The blog is certainly not something I have time for at the moment. Find me on Facebook or message me for Twitter/Instagram info as it's semi-private.

Sunday, April 8

Finally Official!

My job for next school year is finally settled and official! I'm teaching 6th grade math and science at Henry. Woohoo!

12 more weeks of DTR to go!

Thursday, March 15

Progress


Marni and I had a date night on the home wall tonight. It was 60 degrees out and almost too warm for anything slopey but much nicer to hang out in between burns without wearing a down jacket. And it was beautiful out during my lunch time run at work. After JJ was in bed I warmed up on a handful of problems and then got to work. I finally made the second ascent of Pink Tiger V4 (FA Chad) after my 2nd night of projecting it. To celebrate, cake!

Marni did a great job cruising the green traverse several times and sending the leopard traverse for the first time. Now to link them into the circuit ;)







Next up is getting these guys into a regular rotation to get some endurance back...

Tuesday, March 13

Sore all over

Climbing, running and more climbing over the past few days. So awesome. My road bike is almost ready for commuter duty as well. Hopefully I will know about my job for next school year this week and things will finally assume some positive stability.

Fatty can't wait to train more and get back to the alpine! More to come...

Sunday, February 26

The light gets brighter

As my semester ramped up (and my blogging vanished) I was given a chance to get my final long stint of student teaching done early due to some unforeseen issues for another resident in my program. What that meant was a full throttle month of teaching and graduate school throughout February with less than a week to prepare by the time my "plan" was approved by the powers that be. Nevertheless I jumped on the opportunity to tackle the "known" ahead of time rather than wait and deal with an unknown load of spring classes.

The last month has not been easy. Burning the candle at both ends with limited exercise (just enough to stay sane) is trying on a person and a family. Marni has been fantastic as always, supporting a stressed out and tired spouse. I'm grateful JJ is so young. He won't remember that I had to lock myself downstairs to work instead of play with him. With the month almost over and very successful, everyone is looking forward to respite. My winter evaluation at school was very good. For the first time in a long time we have a family vacation planned to Moab for spring break and our sweet lodging should be finalized this week. With "only" grad school to look forward to for the next month and a half, I feel like a big weight is lifted off my shoulders and another chapter of these crazy 13 months is finished.

There is more to go. The paper writing will not be finished until June 30th and June itself promises to be a whirlwind month of hard work with both of us teaching summer school, a final mini-semester of classes, plus two endorsement tests. The battle for the job I want is just beginning though so far prospects look promising for me. But Marni and I have Friday off to spend with JJ and the light at the end of the tunnel seems a whole lot brighter.

And damn I can't wait to climb, ride, and run outside a whole lot more in March and April!