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RBW Quickbeam
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200K SF Randonneurs Brevet - 1/27/07

For some reason, it occurred to me that it would be fun to use the Quickbeam to ride my first brevet. Thankfully, the bike looked out for me and helped me to finish close to my targeted time. Story & photos here.

Reasonably Random Thoughts and Ramblings on Single Speeds -

- The overarching and underpinning guideline for single speed bicycling (and life?) -
"Don't complicate a simple system"

- Wide bars are a good thing.

- Momentum is a fickle mistress.

- Never apologize for your gearing, or walking up a steep section.

- The Singlespeed experience - You are either going very fast or very slow.

- There's a kind of diesel lope you develop after riding singlespeed for a while. It's an out-of-the-saddle approach, and often you are just turning over a bigger than optimum gear. It lets you loaf a little on the uphills, when those around you with multi-geared rides are twiddling away with a front chainring the size of your rear sprocket. It's a lanky and deceptive movement to those who don't ride singlespeeds, because you are actually generating significant power even though your cadence is down in the low 30's. You can quietly bide your time, hovering your way up the hill. Then, when the pitch eases a bit and the others ease up to catch their breath, you can push just slightly faster and slide out of sight. Just get your heavy breathing done before they catch up.

- The geared-rider lag appears on the approach to almost every climb. It is especially noticeable in those who dread climbing or are reasonably new to cycling. (Although a large number of experienced riders also exhibit this behavior). You have to watch it when you are behind such folks, as you with the fixed or single gear are ramping up power and momentum to throw youself upward. Meanwhile, they have shifted down-down-down and are madly spinning, already losing to the incline in their minds. This arrests their speed considerably, and the trick is to not clip them as they get the low-speed wobbles. Of course, they will probably slap your backside as you stall on the steeper parts of the climb, every joint locking, creaks coming from scary spots deep within your frameset.

- Someone once asked me what it was like to "slog home" on the singlespeed. I couldn't really answer the question - it almost seemed like something had been mistranslated. One of the things that seems to happen with single speed miles is that you relate very directly to the topography and conditions. You feel the effects of weather and gravity in a way that is both invigorating and freeing. On some descents, you simply "top out" your cadence and move just as quickly by just clamping your knees to the top tube and enjoying the ride. Maybe that's the key word - "enjoy." I enjoy the humm of the knobbies, and can tell the pitch when it makes sense to pedal. I enjoy the tailwinds when they push and let me watch for hawks and wildlife. I even enjoy those times when it's a long straight road into a steady breeze - there's no need to try to find a gear that might make it easy. It just never seems to be a "slog."

- In the fall of 2006, while getting ready for a Cyclocross race, I found what appeared to be cracks in the headtube of my Lemond Poprad (geared) CX bike. As this was the day before a race, I opted to run the Quickbeam instead. I stuck with the regular "B" age group division, rather than entering the singlespeed specific race. It was not as much of a handicap as I thoght it would be - and I should remind anyone reading this that I'm a confirmed latter-half-of-the-packer. This season has been dry and cold rather than sloppy and muddy, so I haven't had the opportunity to zip past other riders who have muck-encrusted drivetrins. But, I did notice in the first race that I passed a couple riders towards the end, and seemed to have more speed simply because I couldn't start diving for the lower gears as I got tired.

- The other night, rolling out of work, I bumped into a peson I hadn't seen for a while. There was a time when he was a pretty serious cyclist, and my fixed Dawes caught his attention. To my surprise, he actually got a bit excited about it, which led to a small group gathering, and subsequently to non-cyclists asking why on earth I would only want one gear on a bike. Now, these were smart folks, but probably hadn't ridden a bicycle since Carter was president. Rather than go into the whole nebulous-verging-on-new-agey "fixed gear experience", I stressed the reliability of the drivetrain, how newer systems use thin-plated chains and put a pretty good amount of stress on the system, which tended to mean premature wear. They were nodding along and to my suprise, "getting it". Then the first fellow pointed out what a fixed gear means - insofar as pedaling is concerned. Then these folks who had looked at me as a reasonable person started sort of backing away...


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Simple Setup for a Singlespeed
From a Post to

The simple way to go single speed:
f you just want to run a singlespeed on that bike, you can get a handful of cassette spacers and a Shimano rear BMX sprocket, plus some method for tensioning the chain, such as the Soulcraft Convert - or the Surly Singleator - (click on 1 x 1 singleator) Line up the cog with your middle ring, take off the other two, shorten your chain (or set up a new one) strip off the unnecessary shifters, cables and derailleurs and have at it... Most folks start their singlespeeds at around 2:1 (36x18, 34x17, 32x16) and then adjust from there.

White Brothers ENO hub is another way to tension it, but you've got to build that up into a wheel --
and since you're heading there, read this -

I'd recommend using the BMX sprocket as they fit onto Shimano Freehub splines, and they also tend to have longer teeth which are designed not to help you shift. The first sprocket I used was just the 16T from the original cogset. It was reasonably finicky to keep connected, and the teeth cooked down to almost nothing quite quickly. The chain began riding over the top under load. This is a condition which have you a little too intimate with your top tube.

This is more or less the way I ended up setting up mine. My original plan was to run it until things started to fail. However, a curious thing occurred - unlike my multi-geared drivetrains which seemed to run on reasonably consumable bits, the parts on the singlespeed kept on running. So, a number of years after the initial setup, this spaced standard freehub with tensioner is still the drivetrain.


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Resources & Guides on the Path -

If you haven't been to Sheldon Brown's Single Speed section, take the time now and read through it. Since not everyone is lucky enough to be near an LBS that speaks single speed, it's important to support those resources that do so. He is also an excellent source of info for Fixed Gear bicycles and equipment.


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