Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Grew a Tooth.

Navy Mike on his trial run.
It is no secret that I love riding single speed 29ers.  They are harsh and cruel mistresses, but aside from the whipping you get, there is a reward too.  Sometimes the reward wins and sometimes the whip wins, but there it is.  You get what you get.

The other day a fellow SS rider took his gearing from the somewhat typical for where we live 32x20 to a 32x18.  Big step up, that.  He did that to accommodate a local XC race series where the flats are long enough to be difficult with hill climbing gears.  And he found that he was surprised by how he was still able to ride most of the normal stuff too, it just took more effort, sometimes a LOT more, but in many cases he was going very fast uphill without a lot more stress on the body.  He is also a strong and determined rider by nature.

So he suggested I do the same...go to a taller gear, and he offered his 20T rear cog to try it out.  Now I run a 34x21 gearing as I find that, even though it is not much different that a 32x20, that I like the bigger chainwheels.  They feel smoother to me and smoother feels faster as well.  It may not be truly so, but I like it.

Let us look at some numbers.  Gear Inches is a way to represent the result of gear combinations.  It tells you how far in inches that one revolution of a crank gets ya'.  The bigger the number, the farther you will go per pedal stroke and the taller the gear makes it harder to pedal uphill too.

32x20 = 46.6

That is what Navy Mike had when he began.

32x18 = 51.8

This is what he has now.  He gained 5 gear inches.  When we went riding he would match my cadence and just pull away from me.  Hmmmm.

I was running...

34x21 = 47.2

Pretty close to a 32x20 actually.  Slightly taller.  Now I have...

34x20 = 49.5

That is still way off a 32x18 so maybe halfway there in relation to the change that Navy Mike made to his old gearing.  And I have been running this for two rides now.  They have been somewhat hard rides and routes that I am very familiar with.  It has been interesting as to how it has felt.  It felt harder in some cases.  When I was in a situation where I was really under a gear, grinding it out, it hurt a lot, maybe to the point where I could not make the hill or obstacle.  But when I was pedaling well, it was fast.  Quite a difference.

I could tell that, more than my cardio, it was stressing my leg strength.  It was squats at the gym more than running stairs.  Interesting.  As long as my knees hold up and I can rise to the occasion, I should grow stronger and get faster.  In short, I will adapt.

Guitar Ted says that you should go up one gear tooth at a time as the season brings your fitness up until the point where you simply cannot move that bigger gear, than go back one.  Your fitness will rise to the challenge.  Could be.  Wise person, that GT.  What I have not done yet was a long, grinding climb where it just beats you down over time.  That may be an issue as I will only get sooooo fit here but I also know I have lots of room to grow so we shall see.  We shall see.  And if nothing else, my walking gear is still the same. :)

But it was a lesson to me in being willing to push things a bit instead of letting the status quo keep me comfy.  If an SS is ever comfy for any time at all.