Well, I’m not sure if I’d call it success or not but I rode my single speed yesterday. Rain pushed the Wednesday ride back to Thursday and the trails were just a bit soft. We parked at Gossage Cemetery and took the 2 mile climb trail first. This trail is about 6 or so mile loop with lots of superfast downhill to start and a tough climb of around 2 miles to get back out. I found I was spun out on the downhill really fast, but it made little difference I was going plenty fast, in fact it wasn’t long before I’d left my riding companions far behind.
This trail eventually levels out and has rolling climbs that were perfect for single speeding. I got out of the saddle and hammered each short climb and found that I was making excellent time. When one slightly bigger climb was approaching I jumped out of the saddle and went full steam before the climb to build up speed. The bike made a loud pop and threw the chain off, I caught myself with no problems but that’s never a good thing.
Let me tell you about the drivetrain I’d devised from spare parts laying around. The crank and chainring already in the frame are single speed specific and look to be in good shape, the chain was trashed. I found an 8 speed cog from an old cassette with 21 teeth. I had a 10 speed chain my Dad had given me and used the 8 speed master link from the original worn out chain. I really didn’t think it would work so I wasn’t surprised when it threw the chain.
I was surprised when I was putting maximum torque into a climb and it continued to pull, in fact it was really a pretty solid drive train. I threw the chain off one more time during the ride and it was a minor inconvenience, I was beginning to think I would actually finish a ride when the wheels came off.
I was turning about 20 rpm up a real steep climb and the wheel slipped in the horizontal dropout, the chain popped off and this time it was to slack to stay on. The rear wheel bolts on with a 5/8ths wrench that I had neglected to bring. It would have been an easy fix if I’d remembered to drop the wrench in my pack. Oh well. Just another 3 mile walk out back to the truck.
So what did I think of riding single speed. In some ways I loved it, I could bash through sticks and twigs without feat of ripping my deraileur off, and the drivetrain felt more responsive and quicker reacting then a geared bike. The fact that you’re in a higher gear is usually a good thing on most technical sections. The only real downfall as you can imagine are the longer and steeper climbs. Sections that I would usually huff and puff through in a 32×36 on my 1×9 became a battle to stay upright. I was far slower on had to walk more on the steep climbs.
Coach Joe is a long time Single Speeder and somehow seems to ride everything on his. He promises me that in a few rides the legs adjust to putting out power at low RPMs. Thing is that my legs weren’t a problem, my core was struggling to stabilize the power my legs were putting out, my lower back was taking a beating.
I can’t say that I was completely sold, but… I’m going to buy a single speed chain, 22 tooth cog and chain adjusters to hopefully get a bombproof drivetrain and keep at it.
In the meantime I now have a spare hanger and spare deraileur for my Bandersnatch. I really, really want to finish a mountain bike ride this upcoming weekend.