Single Speed - Really high gears

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Have been racing (TT's) on fixed for over 25 years. Usually start off the season riding a 50x15 (88"), then move up to 50x14 (93") as I get fitter through the season and very occasionally use my 50x13 (101"). Nowadays, I only ride our club 10's and our course is a grind to the turn and a flyer on the way back, depending on the winds. There are no hills, but there is a bridge over a rail line, which feels severe, but is over in about 30 seconds.

Riding the 88" is comfortable, but I feel on some stretches it is a bit too low. The 93" is probably the fastest, although does hurt a little more. The 101" feels really good on the fast return, but probably lose time on the grind out.

So logic says I should stick with the 93" gear, but I've always had an urge to try something really extreme. I have a 54T ring in the garage and a 54x13 would give a 109".
My cadence at my age is not as high as it was and I probably rely on pushing against a tall gear rather than twiddling.

So has anybody experimented with really high fixed gears?
 
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simongt

Veteran
Location
Norwich
I would suggest that you 'listen' to your knees. Obviously the higher the gearing, the more work your knees will have to do. Although I've not ridden fixed for many a year, when I turned sixty, being of the 'pushing big gears is good' vintage and eventually having occasional knee issues, I 'listened' to my knees and lowered the gearing on my bikes so was spinning rather than pushing in any given gear and my knees are a lot happier - ! :okay:
 

SkipdiverJohn

Deplorable Brexiteer
Location
London
I would suggest that you 'listen' to your knees. Obviously the higher the gearing, the more work your knees will have to do.

I would ask whether I wanted functioning knees well into my old age. if you don't then grind away. If you do, keep the gearing down.
An old boy I regularly drink with was a keen fixed rider in his younger days. He didn't race but he did do long day rides, sometimes as much as 200 miles in one day. He rode a high gear, 52 x 14 IIRC he told me and rarely got off and walked gradients unless he absolutely had to. Now at 80-odd, his knee joints are pretty fecked up and he's had to have them washed out more than once. Now that might not be entirely due to cycling abuse alone but I reckon at least it's a contributory factor.
Another thing to consider is if you do wreck your knees and suffer in later life, the NHS is reluctant to spend money doing joint replacements on old people, so you might be stuck with it.
 
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Sharky

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
My experiment, should I be brave enough, will just be for a 10 mile time trial on a flattish course. It will not be an extended duration riding a high gear and I would agree that long term use of such gears could damage knees. On the course, there is a couple of sections where I drop down to less than 15 mph and these are in deed a strain. But quickly followed by fast descents where cadence is rapid. On the return leg, I nearly top 30 mph for a few miles. The fast boys almost do 30 mph average for the entire 10 miles! The latter is certainly not me. The gear I'm contemplating is 54x13 which is actually lower than a 50x11, which is now common on most road bikes.

If I do try in the next few weeks, will let you all know what happens. Only recently started to use Strava and it will be a useful comparison tool to compare segment times.
 
I used 48 x 14 (90") because there was a slight downhill from the start (which you didn't have to go up again). 48 x 15 would have been better for most of the course but I couldn't get any power down on that first bit.

A local guy was apparently winning open TTs on a 125" fixed gear.
 

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
As said, listen to your knees.
It's not that they grind away due to a high gear.
It's that on a fixed there is no warm up.
It's from nothing to hard in one time.
It helps to do some knee exercises just before start.
But such a discipline is easy to dump because it sucks.
I rode 15 years on 52/16 and 4 on 48/16 and 47/16.
When going up or stronger headwind, stand up to limit the corner the knees bend. Put the saddle higher.
When temperature drops alot suddenly, wear pants that go just below knee.
For the rest, it's a matter of training everyday. Some weeks nothing, to then ride fixed with high gear, is probably a recipe for knee problems.
A reliable warning is when a knee feels like all of sudden no power, just for a short moment. It lets you know the limit.
 
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Sharky

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Update:
Rode our 10 last night. Wasn't brave enough to go for the 54x13 and also thought I might have needed an extra link in the chain, so slipped on the 13 sprocket, with the 50 ring, giving a 101" gear.

It felt really good. The "bridge" in both directions is a killer, but only lasts for about 20 seconds, where I drop to about 12mph.
My time last night - 30:02. Other rides this year on the lower gear where between 33:18 - 29:36, so in the top end of the "zone", especially considering I've only done two rides of an hour each in the last 5 weeks due to other commitments.

Using the "Bikecalc" calculator, my cadence was - Min 40 rpm, Max 93 rpm and 66 rpm avg.

Will keep to the same gear for next week and see if I can do better.
Next week will be a "special" as it will be my 500th time trial!
 

swee'pea99

Legendary Member
YeGods! Just stumbled across this thread and...you really must have thighs like tree trunks. I always thought I ride an unfeasibly high gear, with a 48/17 combination. Where do you ride? Motorways? :wacko:
 
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Sharky

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
YeGods! Just stumbled across this thread and...you really must have thighs like tree trunks. I always thought I ride an unfeasibly high gear, with a 48/17 combination. Where do you ride? Motorways? :wacko:
Thighs like tree trunks? If you could take a cross section, you would find over 70 "rings"!

We are talking about a typical time trial course, which is fairly flat. Most riders riding TT's would be using gears in excess of 90" and up to 120", so my modest 101" gear isn't that high, but it is a bit too high going over the "bridge". I'll probably gear down to a 95" for my next season.
 

simongt

Veteran
Location
Norwich
Apparently, the legendary Beryl Burton often rode a 56 with an 11as the small cog on her freewheel ( five speed, one tooth increments ). Gave her a serious edge for years, but at what cost to her legs and wellbeing though - ?
 
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Sharky

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Apparently, the legendary Beryl Burton often rode a 56 with an 11as the small cog on her freewheel ( five speed, one tooth increments ). Gave her a serious edge for years, but at what cost to her legs and wellbeing though - ?
I don't think you can get an 11t with a screw on freewheel. In my day, a 13-17 block was the smallest you could get.

This would mean that BB could have been riding a 56x13, giving 113"
Yet new bikes now come with a typical 50x11 top gear, giving 119"

So inspite of BB's reputation as a big gear pusher, it was probably lower than a lot of us are riding now.
 

palinurus

Velo, boulot, dodo
Location
Watford
YeGods! Just stumbled across this thread and...you really must have thighs like tree trunks. I always thought I ride an unfeasibly high gear, with a 48/17 combination. Where do you ride? Motorways? :wacko:

On most TT courses likelihood is you'd quickly get on top of 48x17 and struggle to maintain cadence for the duration- depending on the sort of speed you might achieve. 48 x 17 is roughly 74" (assuming 700c/ typical tyre) and at 20 mph cadence would be around 91 rpm, 25 mph about 114 rpm, 30 mph about 137 rpm.

And time-trials are often run on A-roads- almost motorways sometimes (majority of courses- there are courses which are more varied and hilly also)
 
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Sharky

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
the legendary Beryl Burton often rode a 56
There is perhaps another reason for using such a large ring. Assuming a 13-17 block, to get a good chain alignment, a bigger ring was often used, so that when on the middle sprocket (the 15t), it ran smoothly. So a 56x15, giving a 98" gear was probably her cruising gear and giving two changes up/down for head or tail winds.
 
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