Last week’s night ride was a less relentless pace to the previous week. With the gears on my Inbred continuing to play up, preventing me selecting the granny ring, I started to toy with an idea I alluded to in my 11 things for Mountain Bikers post.
The rationale has always been that running a bike sans gears gives you a more reliable set up since there’s less to go wrong, a lighter bike because you haven’t got the paraphenalia of gearage to lug around and improved fitness since the only motive power available is you alone. If you want to go faster, you pedal faster, simple as that.
The downsides are obvious and inventive minds can find many. Suffice to say, no gears equals hard work equals knackered knees. And people think you’re strange.
So, in keeping with my advice I’ve briefly considered trying the singlespeed route. I tried keeping the Inbred in the middle chainring and middle gear at the back to see how it felt and I was surprised to find it wasn’t too bad. Uphill meant out of the saddle efforts were required and given my level of fitness there’s many an uphill I wouldn’t be able to manage at all. Downhill made no difference since our dear friend gravity was in charge anyway while riding on the level resulted in a much more consistent pace.
The real eye opener was how much it made you look at local trails differently. I normally have two geared bikes, a hardtail and a full sus both of which I ride regularly, but my approach to the trails is the same – just sit and spin it out on the climbs and hoon the descents. But the singular approach makes the climbs totally different and makes outright speed on the level bits irrelevant. You literally go as fast as your legs can carry you and that’s that.
I can definitely see the appeal. Over distances up to ten miles I could argue that there’s a real benefit that would quickly build fitness so I’m not going to dismiss the concept at this stage. You end up using your upper body a lot more as well as you need to bully the bike along a bit more. But having even some gears open to me made it too tempting to change up or down when I wasn’t thinking.
So I’m thinking about building my old Marin Muirwoods frame up into the kind of bike an ascetic monk may find attractive. It’s a hardtail anyway, it’s steel with a stiff back end. But add some carbon forks to the front and carbon riser bars, maybe even a carbon seatpost and with a singlespeed arrangement it could offer a real contrast to my other bikes.
Now there’s a plan…