28 September 2010

Fixed Gear – Training

OK, you've built your fixed gear bicycle or you're considering building it and you want to know what it's possibly good for. Fair enough, here are some benefits:

  • RESTING - On a fixed gear, you'll get less of it. Since you can't coast, each ride will seem like it's about 30-40 percent longer than it really is. If nothing else, this is testimony to how much we all coast during a regular bike ride. This is also cool because the longest fixed gear ride you will ever have to do is about 40 miles.
  • TECHNIQUE - Hopefully, riding a fixed gear will improve your pedal stroke. It is of course possible to ride a fixed gear bike for months and not improve at all but you'd really have to work at it (not improving that is) or just never ever go down a hill. And that would be a shame. The idea here is to get better as time goes by. To try and 'flow' while on the bike, to move one foot out of the way of the other, to become more relaxed in the saddle, to loosen your grip on the bars and to feel more at home while you ride. Don't fight it, change is usually good.
  • STRENGTH - It will improve. Think about it, you will never be able to shift down for a hill. This may sound intimidating at first but it's actually very liberating once you try it. Removing the stress of thinking about what gear to shift into when a hill approaches is HUGE. You now only have two choices, sit down or stand up. Whew, what a relief... Seriously, too many people run for the granny gear when they start every little incline. A fixed gear will require you to push harder on your pedals thus making you stronger. And like Martha says, "It's a good thing."
  • SPEED - Yeah baby, leg speed WILL increase. Once again, you can't coast. This will make you see descending your favorite hill in a whole new light. In fact, riding a fixed gear bike has been known to make people that used to abhor climbing into hill fanatics. Increased leg speed has SO many benefits. It allows you to spin along at higher cadences on climbs saving your strength for when the hammer really gets dropped, it allows you to close those gaps in a fast-moving paceline much more quickly, it gives you a better jump in a sprint and it means you will last that much longer on those killer descents before you actually spin out and have to coast. Heck, you might even be able to drop your friends the next time you return from climbing a mountain pass!
  • SKILLS - You'll get some. You won't be able to coast to get a drink, to look behind you, to take off clothing, etc. Hey, is there a theme here...? You guessed it, YOU CAN'T COAST.
  • PACE - It will become more consistent. There is nothing like riding a fixed gear in a pack of geared bikes to make you realize how damn jerky everyone else is in terms of maintaining the same pace. You can't coast so you are always applying either forward or backward pressure on the pedals. This is an enormous aid towards being really smooth. Your paceline buddies will love you all the more. And isn't love what it's all about? I'm getting verklempt, discuss amongst yourselves...
Right, but what about the drawbacks? Well sure, there are some, like:
  • Your geared bike may actually seem like a huge burden to ride. Who can keep track of what gear they are in all the time anyway... And there's so much stuff to maintain and clean and lubricate and replace, what a HASSLE!
  • Unless you have a DAMN nice geared bike, it may actually be heavier than your fixed gear. Seriously, think of all the crap you removed from the frame to create your fixed gear. Practically the whole drivetrain! That's not insignificant when climbing believe-you-me.
  • You may end up like me, spending the whole fall and winter calling friends up on the phone asking them to go for fixed gear rides and having no luck... Oops, did I sound bitter? My apologies. Then again, perhaps this web page will help change that.
  • You'll start to collect lots of links from esoteric web sites that promote single speed bikes and fixed gears. You'll get all cocky and 'indie' and try to out-geek other cycling friends with talk of gear inches, killer descents and how long you lasted before you had to grab your brakes. Oh well, once a nerd always a nerd I suppose. Riding a fixed gear won't change that.
Riding a fixed gear is just coming full-circle. Most of us started out on a fixed gear tricycle and this is just another attempt to return to that state of innocence.

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