singlespeed commuting and hills

Discussion in 'Fixed Gear and Single Speed' started by tombolaprize, 30 Jun 2008.

  1. tombolaprize

    tombolaprize New Member

    I am looking to upgrade my bike to something lighter and faster as my present bike feels too clonky.

    I test rode a single speed round the block and it felt great! However, before I buy I need sound advice on how a single speed will work for my 8.5 mile commute from Hackney to South Ken.

    Can anyone advise on:

    start from the lights when you can't drop down gears and then change up

    hills: pentonville road/margery street/percy the killer circus. Is singlespeed too hard work

    cycling into head winds

    Singlespeeds are really cool - but are they really a sensible commuter option for a reasonably fit but not boy-racer fit woman?
  2. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    I left a singlespeed bike at my mum's house in the midlands so that I have something to ride on my frequent trips back there. I've done about 200 miles on it in total now so I have an idea of what riding s/s is like...

    I chose a 39/15 gear and can pedal that comfortably up to about 23 mph which ought to be okay for a commute.

    Riding into a headwind can feel like a bit of a slog, but doesn't it always?

    I find hills upto about 10% are okay. I've (just) managed 15% but it felt like really hard work and I wouldn't like to make a habit of it. I don't know what the hills in that part of London are like.

    The worst thing for me is trying to get off to a quick start. There is a big roundabout on my usual route and it has fast moving traffic going round it. It's okay on the s/s if I can hit it at speed, but I hate trying to sprint off from a standing start because it takes me a few pedal revs to 'get on top' of the gear. I always seem to end up with some idiot accelerating towards me and then having to brake because I can't get out of the way fast enough.

    If you don't need to ride as fast as 23 mph on your commute (or if you are happy with a very high cadence) I'd suggest choosing a lower gear such as 39/17 or 42/18 to make hills, starts and headwinds easier.
  3. OP

    tombolaprize New Member

    Thanks ColinJ, really useful insight - especially into the difficulty of a quick start.
  4. yorkshiregoth

    yorkshiregoth Master of all he surveys

    My fixie has a ratio of 42/17 which is fine on flats and up hills but going down a long hill I find the cadence too fast and have to use the brakes. As I ride it fixed rather than single speed it can't be doing my brake blocks any good :biggrin:

    Also as mentioned it isn't as easy getting off to a quick start as my road bikes are but it is easy to adapt and anticipate for such things.
  5. peejay78

    peejay78 Well-Known Member

    well, there aren't any hills from hackney to south ken, so a 39:17 would be ridiculously undergeared - respect to colin who i think lives in hebden bridge though, where there are indeed hills.

    i ride a 44:15, which is around 76", and it's a big gear, on my other bike i ride 47:17 which is about perfect for london. honestly - percy circus - just stand up, ride up it, it will take about 50 seconds. rest at the to, you will be fine. if anything, the lack of choice of gear makes climbing easier.

    i think the perfect gear for you would be around a 68/69. anything less and you'll get frustrated, anything more and you'll really notice it.
  6. gkerr4

    gkerr4 New Member

    i ride peejays favourite langster in fixed mode - it has std gearing which I forget what the cogs are at the moment.

    I find that the fixed offers me faster starts than my geared road bike - mainly cos you just have to work hard at it where a geared bike you will often take the easy option and knock it down a couple of gears.

    the fixed feels lightening quick in traffic - mainly due to it being very lightweight - i'd say go for it

    - what was the singlespeed you were looking at by the way?
  7. peejay78

    peejay78 Well-Known Member

    don't they have a 44:17 or something like that?
  8. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    Thanks, but my singlespeed bike 'lives' in Coventry where there aren't any Yorkshire-type hills :smile:! I have managed to find a few short steep hills a few miles north of the city.

    My rides oop north are mainly done on my Basso which has a triple chainset and a 28 tooth granny sprocket :tongue:!
  9. feckless

    feckless Über Member

    Not all that close
    I run a 39/14 on my (weighty) fixed commuter.

    That's good for a pace of 30kmh or so on the flat, and tolerably quick starts (keeping up with Auckland traffic) are possible with a bit of effort. Hills are slow, but less hard than I had expected, and mostly steeper than anything between Hackney and South Ken.

    Singlespeeds are completely brilliant for commuting and will certainly help your general fitness level. Do it, you know you want to.

  10. Chuffy

    Chuffy Veteran

    Tombolaprize - try doing what I did before I converted my road bike to singlespeed (not fixed!) Use your existing bike and set your gears into a configuration that you think might translate into a sensible singlespeed setup eg middle chainring x 16t rear sprocket. Using gear inches to check gear size will help, there are a number of easy to use gear-inch calculators around online. Then, just ride your bike for a week or so without changing gear. That should answer all of your questions and will allow you to work out what would be a sensible gear setup when you do splash some money on the new bike. Mind you, changing the gear setup on a singlespeed is very easy, you'll just need a few spare rear sprockets in different sizes and a bit of extra chain to allow for the difference in sizes.
  11. gkerr4

    gkerr4 New Member

    just looked - 42:16 is what they say...

    seems ok to me - 100rpm is around 20mph I think -
  12. OP

    tombolaprize New Member

    Big thighs!

    Thanks for all the useful and encouraging advice about single speed.

    One more question: Big Thighs!

    Yeah - great on guys, but I am a girl, so not really after that look!

    So - singlespeed's extra effort on hills and at lights - does this make your thighs grow and grow?
  13. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    Seconded - that's what I did to choose my singlespeed's 39/15 ratio. I rode a West Yorkshire route which avoided the 20% to 25% monster hills round here and found most of it okay so I knew the s/s would be right for the flatter midlands lanes where it was going to be used.
  14. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    Unless you start taking steroids, it is highly unlikely that you will grow big muscles - see this interesting article.
  15. peejay78

    peejay78 Well-Known Member

    think victoria pendleton, not chris hoy.
    you'll be fine.
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