Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Another fixed-gear ride

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I got out for my second ride on the fixed-gear configuration of my Little 500 bike. Speaking of which, it’s Little 500 week/weekend, and there’s been tons of talk about Little 5 on campus. Shockingly little of it has anything to do with cycling, however; first and foremost, it’s a huge week for partying. Since I live off campus, I don’t really see much of what’s going on. That’s probably fine.

Anyway, this ride was a lot longer than my first fixed-gear ride, with more hills, but nothing too crazy. I rode about 15 miles, out to the Water Works facility and back. Riding fixed still felt awkward at first, but I started getting the hang of it. It’s amazing how fast the pedals get turning when going downhill, or even on flat ground with a tailwind. It’s fun, but once the RPMs get above a certain rate, I have trouble keeping up.

I’ve gotten a bit better, and smoother, at using my legs to slow down, but when I’m really going fast or need to stop quickly, the front brake seems to be my best bet.

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There’s a nice view of Lake Monroe from this ride, which looked beautiful with things turning green.

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I stole the idea for this next shot from Doug — framing the view with the bicycle frame.

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One issue I’m having with this bicycle is that it can’t decide what it wants to be. For a while I was riding hard and relatively fast, and it felt pretty good as a go-fast bike. But then I slowed down to more of a mosey, and that may have been even better. Most bikes I’ve ridden seem to be clearly better at either fast or slow riding. This one seems good at both.

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When I stopped to take the photos above, some roadies went by.

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I assumed I’d never see them again, since I was stopped for a few minutes, and they were moving at a good clip (and they had, you know, gears). But, a few minutes later, I caught up with them on a long-but-gradual climb. Toward the top of the hill, I passed them. Now, they weren’t pushing hard at this point, but this reinforced that I might have a hope of keeping up with geared bikes — at least on climbs.

I finished the ride surprisingly tired. I felt a little beat up, kind of like I feel after I go mountain biking. I’m not sure if this is inherent to fixed-gear riding, or if that feeling goes away, once you get used to it.

I got a bit more comfortable with the different fixed-gear style along the course of this ride. I don’t feel quite as awkward, most of the time. But, I have yet to really see any advantage over free-wheeled single speed riding.

Oh, I did try something Chris suggested: slowing down gradually by just pedaling lightly (as opposed to putting back-pressure). This was pretty fun, and when I didn’t need to stop quickly, I found it to be a pleasant way to stop.

I need more experience with the whole fixed-gear thing before I decide if it’s for me or not, but I will say that this ride was a lot of fun!

5 Responses to “Another fixed-gear ride”

  1. Jon Grinder Says:

    I don’t think there is any real advantage or disadvantage to fixed gear riding versus freewheeling on a singlespeed (unless you are in a hurry going downhill: You can coast much faster than you can pedal). It’s just another way to ride…something different…and that’s why I enjoy it.

    Off-road fixed riding really improves your ability to read the trail and pick lines, because you have to worry about pedal-strike and that sort of thing. And, it’s easier to modulate speed on off-camber gravel surfaces, if you don’t have to use the brakes. Other than that, there is certainly no performance or speed advantage.

    It’s fun, though.

    I’ll bring you that front wheel, if you want it, btw.

  2. Wil Says:

    Two benefits that you will find with frequent use are: you will soon develop a tolerance for a higher cadence. It is forced on you because you can’t just stop pedaling. The second is the ability to climb better. You will see that the momentum of the rear wheel turning will get your pedal over for the next stroke far more efficiently than a freewheel of the same gear. Just enjoy it and add it to your options of riding.

    Its a great rig to just ride up to get a couple of things at the store of a haircut, etc.

  3. John Romeo Alpha Says:

    It definitely feels different, and maybe enjoying something different, like Jon says, is a kind of advantage.

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  5. Myles/ rattrappress Says:

    When I first started road riding I remember reading magazines that suggested training on fixed gear bikes during the winter to smooth out your spin and improve your endurance. Riding a fixed gear bike will definitely force you to be smoother.

    Why don’t you try leaning way out over your front wheel, suddenly stop pedaling and skid to a stop like the cool Kids. Crazy.

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