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Archive for the 'Singlespeed' Category

Not much riding this weekend

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I was hoping to get out for a long ride this weekend, but I have multiple large projects going on simultaneously for school, so I almost didn’t get to ride at all.

I was in a rotten mood earlier today. After spending some time with my wife, while simultaneously working on a photography project, I started feeling a bit better. Then, I managed to sneak out  for maybe 30-45 minutes on the singlespeed. It wasn’t a long ride, but it helped clear the mind and I felt ready to focus on my next project afterwards. Sometimes, it’s surprising how much even a little ride helps.

I’ve made some changes to the singlespeed. The Brooks B17 wasn’t working for me, so I took the saddle off my 29er and put it on the singlespeed. It’s a lot better, although this saddle isn’t great if I’m not wearing biking shorts. So, I still need to figure out the best course of action.  The saddle change also forced a saddle bag change. This saddle will need to go back on the 29er, so I’ll have to buy a saddle for the singlespeed; now I’m leaning toward a WTB like I have on the Trucker.

I also put clipless pedals on it. They’re OK, but my foot placement feels a little awkward. I feel like I’m sitting too far back, maybe, even though the saddle is as far forward on its rails as it will go. This problem might actually be related to the stem, which I haven’t been able to change yet — it’s too long.

Those issues are noticeable, but I really wasn’t bothered by them, or even thinking about them, during my ride. I “just rode” for probably eight miles or so. I didn’t even bring the GPS, which is unusual for me, even on a short ride. Here are a couple of photos from the ride. I was in the 50s today so it killed me that I couldn’t ride longer, but I made the most of the time I had.



Shilo on a singlespeed

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

On Sunday, I got out for my longest ride in weeks, and also my longest ride on the Little 500 bike to date. I had ridden it around my neighborhood and an adjacent area a couple of times, but my main intention is to use it is a singlespeed “country bike.” Since I had never ridden a singlespeed a significant distance, or in the hills, I wasn’t sure if I would find it (a) doable or (b) fun. I am happy to report that the answer to both questions is a resounding “yes!”


Here is the route I rode.

I had varied terrain immediately and so I was able to get a good sense of how the singlespeed handles various situations. My first impression was that I was surprised just how doable most things were with just one gear. But, I had a strong tailwind, which made me wonder if I was feeling a little too confident.

The beginning of the ride involved a decent downhill, a climb, some flat riding, and a bunch of rollers. It was a bit of a grind up the first largish hill, but the bike handled the rollers impressively well. In fact, in some ways I felt it was easier to push over each hill. Rather than shifting extensively, I spun on the downhill until I couldn’t spin any faster, then hammered up the other side. This involved a lot of out-of-the-saddle climbing, more than I’m used to, but it was absolutely a blast.


After a while I reached the first truly large hill, on Mount Gilead Road. The road dropped sharply some 200 feet. I went very slowly on the downhill; the rear brake felt a bit soft, and there was a lot of sand on the road.



The moon was out and quite beautiful.


Once at the bottom of the hill, it was flat for a bit. I found limits to how fast I could go on flat ground, but nothing that really bothered me. I’m no racer anyway.



It was interesting to see how much snow the valley still had. It was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest it has been here in quite some time. Most of the snow was gone, except in shady valleys like this one.


Now I had a long climb. My first major climb on the singlespeed. I had to do most of the climb standing — which I don’t do often normally, but on the singlespeed there’s no other choice. I was pedaling really hard — feeling the pedal digging into my shoe, in fact — and it was more tiring than usual, but I did make it up the hill — possibly faster than usual. Since I didn’t have the option to put the bike in a super low gear and spin, I just had to grind it out in a much higher gear than I would normally use.

Frankly, I was a little astonished at how doable it was. I was surprised to realize just how little I actually need all those gears I normally use. There are bigger, steeper hills in the area, the steepest of which I might have to walk, but this hill was a good benchmark. Yes, I can ride in hills with just one gear.

Soon, I was on Tunnel Road, with some more flats and rolling hills. Once again there was a noticeable upper limit to my speed, but I got in a great rhythm with my pedaling, and I really enjoyed not having to think about shifting.


I reached Shilo Road, which would give me two miles or so of twists and turns, mostly downhill, but with a couple of brief, sharp climbs.


Occassionally I’d spin out or struggle up a steep climb, but mostly I didn’t think about gearing at all during this time. I just rode, and it was wonderful. With the sun on my face, the pavement faded away beneath me.



I did have to watch out for sand. It was quite deep in spots.


At one point along here, I reached the steepest climb of the ride. It wasn’t overly long but the grade reached into the upper teens. It took some extra huffing and puffing, but I made it, and cracked a smile as I did.

I stopped by a creek for a rest.





Soon I turned into the wind. This part I was a little nervous about. The second half of my ride would be into the wind, and again I was nervous about lacking gears. I needn’t have worried. Apparently one gear is all I really need.




I reached another long climb — long, but not too steep. I was getting pretty tired by this point, so I didn’t climb as vigorously as before, but I still managed to work my way up the hill. From there it wasn’t far back to town. I passed through a couple of parks along the way.





And, rode on some cobblestones through part of campus.


I followed one of my commute routes home. I felt great, but sore, when I got home. When you only have one gear, your body has to pick up the slack. It uses your muscles differently.

Bicycle thoughts

So far, I really enjoy my Little 500 bicycle. It’s fun to ride, and singlespeed simplicity is all it’s cracked up to be.

However, I do have some issues with it:

  • Only has one water bottle cage (and only one set of braze-ons).
  • Rear brake is not as effective as I’d like; front still shudders sometimes, though not as badly as before.
  • Stem is too long.
  • Brooks B17 saddle is not good for this semi-aggressive posture, with frequent high-cadence spinning. Need something else.
  • Platform pedals are OK, but I may go clipless on this bicycle for stiffer shoes and more pedaling power.
  • Rear wheel appears to be a bit out of true.
  • A few odd noises now and then.

Singlespeed experience

I keep hearing things about how wonderful the simplicity of a singlespeed bicycle is, and my first significant experience riding a singlespeed a longer distance seems to confirm those claims.

One thing I love about riding is that it makes me more in touch with the contours of the land. You get to know every hill and valley, every creek bottom. This is even more true on a singlespeed, where rather than shifting to make things easier, or help you go faster, you just have to pedal harder, or faster.

There are some areas (mainly west of town) where I’m not sure if a singlespeed would be doable, or enjoyable. But then again, I had the same concerns about this ride, and they proved not to be warranted. I guess I’ll have to try more of this singlespeed stuff and see what I learn.

Singlespeed Ramble

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

On Saturday, I took the Little 500 bike out for a spin. I rode down to the bike path that follows Sare Road. I’ve ridden on that path just a couple of times. That’s kind of silly, since it’s just about a mile from my house. My impression of the trail before was that it wasn’t all that great, but I hadn’t really explored it much.


Quickly, I found this creek just off to the side.


And this frozen pond.


I made my way into a rather new subdivision that looked kind of fancy, but it was also a bit odd. The houses all appeared to be basically identical, except a few different-colored panels.


I spotted another trail running behind the houses in this neighborhood.


Considering that it ran right behind a subdivision, the trail had some nice wooded views.


The trail was snowy and icy in spots. The singlespeed has 32mm tires, wide enough to manage well enough.


The trail had been paved to this point, but the pavement ended. The trail was rather muddy, but still ridable. I rode through a field on a thin ribbon of trail.


The trail reconnected with the first trail I had been on, and I rode on. I stopped by this pond, which also happens to be outside my doctor’s office.


Here’s another pond right down the street, but this one was still frozen.


I paused by a field before heading back.


I rode home by way of Olcott/Sherwood Oaks parks. There’s a decent-sized ravine, with one park on top, the other below. This meant a good downhill, followed by a climb.



I stopped at the bottom to admire the creek. As I did, a couple of other guys rode by … both of them were also on Little 500 bikes! They didn’t stop to chat, and I didn’t get a decent shot of them, sadly. I turned my attention back to the creek.



I decided to extend my ride slightly on the Jackson Creek Trail.



Now I had a good climb out of the ravine. I was curious how it’d be on the singlespeed, and it was just fine. Very doable. The gearing on the bike is rather low, at 42×18. It may take a while to figure out the ideal gear ratio.

By the way, here’s a closer shot of the weird rear brake configuration. Mike asked about this and mentioned I might be able to install a long-reach caliper. I *think* the bike was designed with this in mind, but I don’t know. Does the photo help at all? It’s hard to tell, but the rear bridge is drilled right behind the canti straddle cable.


This was a great, if short, ride on the new singlespeed. I hadn’t intended to take it offroad, but it handled fairly well.

I put the bike to a much better test today — more about that soon.

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