Category Archives: Single Speed

Guinea Pigs

One gear, one GPS, one Power-Tap, one rider...

One baggie of mashed potatoes and carrots - post Thanksgiving ride food - yum...

Yesterdays ride food was a baggie of Mac n' cheese. That went down very, very well too - yum. I'm experimenting with new ride foods. If it fits in a baggie, I'll give it a go. Stuffing - check that one off the list... yummy dinner food does not always make yummy ride food.

I'm my own best guinea pig. When I have the urge to learn something I find the best way is to leap in with my own two feet and do it. It's not only new ride food I'm teaching myself about - I jumped on the single speed learning curve 9 weeks ago and have only pedaled gears three times since then. Some adapting and lots of learning happening. Lots of pouring over power files and playing with data.

Apart from it being heady fun, I wanted to learn what this single speeding is really all about - the nitty gritty. What it does for you? What it does to you? How to train myself for it? How to coach single speeders? How to use the single speed riding as a training tool for my gearie athletes? Roadies have been claiming the benefits of single and fixed gear winter training for years.

Now with coaching, I have a belief never to schedule a workout or a block of training I have never tried at least one time myself. I've raced all kinds of events from Ironman triathlons to Trans Rockies, 24-hour team events, duos and solos, supported and unsupported, 100 milers, cross country, downhill and short track. Nothing beats a good dose of experiential learning. I believe the best coaches have done what they are teaching you to do. How can you really appreciate the full love of a 24-hour solo until you have kissed that angel yourself?

Sooo right now I am in the middle of a 4-day single speed binge. About 4-5 hour per day - lots of climbing. He, he, when I have ticked this off without killing myself that gives me permission to schedule it for one of my athletes should the opportunity arise ;-) But really, one of the ideas floating around the bubble is to do Trans Rockies single speed this year. Currently having only a vague idea of what kind of impact that would have on my body I thought I'd spend 4 days educating myself. I'm halfway there...

SS analysis: strength or power?

Pure single speeders are a passionate bunch.  After doing a bit of  lurking on the mtbr SS forum and observing the SS related comments here it's obvious the top reasons SSers do what they do come from the heart.  As it should be.

Perhaps I will find that happy SS nirvana in time, but right now I'm a geared rider having fun on a SS.  It's my analytical nature that has me analyzing the demands of SS right now so that I can make a better plan to train for a SS event or two (or three or...  ;).  Nirvana is directly proportional to speed, 'tis a proven fact - so this quest is worthwhile.

There are two obvious paths to go when considering how to train for SS:  target specific aspects of SSing (on the road or MTB), or just go ride your SS.  On the geary, my long-standing paradox has been that to really improve, I have to do specific work - intervals and the like - usually on the road but not always.  So, I'm going to choose the former cause it's worked best for me in the past.  SSing 6 days/week might not be sustainable for me, it's hard stuff!

So then, what are the aspects of SSing that need special attention?  Power Tap to the rescue....the first step is to install the PT on the SS, go ride, then take a look at the ride data through the various tools available.  The most valuable of these has been Quadrant Analysis developed by Andrew Coggan.  Chances are that if you train with power you know the good Doc.

QA simplified:  every data point in a file represents a power output and cadence.  Knowing this in addition to the crank length the data is further broken down to the constituents of power - pedal speed (CPV) and average effective pedal force (AEPF).  In lay terms, how hard you are pushing on the pedals and how fast your feet are moving.  Crosshairs are then drawn with the intersection at the pedal force and cadence that represent what is  normally done at threshold power.  This divides the plot into 4 quadrants with these relative characteristics.

  • I:  high power, high cadence
  • II:  high power, low cadence
  • III: low power, low cadence
  • IV: low power, high cadence

Obviously, SS requires one to push darn hard at low cadences and really fast when spun out.  But where are the limits?  And are they trainable??  Key questions in my quest.  I'll be sharing my random thoughts along the way of this process.  They evolve daily ;)  But first, let's look at that QA plot again and see what it can tell us.  Note:  57 is not my preferred cadence so the QA crosshairs are misaligned in this plot...preferred cadence is about 96 so just about all points are in QII in reality.

There is a lot going on here.  Yea, it'd make a nice tattoo M but I'm not sure I have the bicep to pull it off so I'll stick to the geeky stuff ;)  The points here are from two different rides, one on a 32x18, the other on a 32x16.  The route is rolling, some steep short climbs, some fast descents.  Overgeared and undergeard, like every SS ride I've done.  The pace was moderate (not hard), but where it tilt's up I went hard enough so as not to walk.  IOW, L6 power levels. 

There is also some test data from 2 types of efforts:  maximal standing starts, one set is done seated, the other done standing.  It turns out the maximal AEPF-CPV relationship is linear, so getting some good points along this line allows one to extrapolate the maximal curve out to max force and max pedal speed.  That's what the 2 straight lines represent.  Those lines are the highest pedal forces I can achieve for any given pedal speed - I wanted to establish these lines to see how close SS low cadence stuff came to maximal. 

That's enough background.  Here are some things I see:

  • normal cadence range for SSing is 45-130.
  • typical pedal forces go up 550 N.  In geared riding they rarely go over 275 N (I'll post a comparison geared QA at some point) and for the most part are below 225!
  • pedal forces occasionally bump right up against that maximal force/cadence line 
  • pedal forces routinely go to (and above) 75% of max AEPF in a moderately paced SS ride.  This is in comparison to ~ 25-30% in a geared ride.
  • the ability to put out power at low and high cadences are equally important (but have very different demands!)

Finally, note the 3 iso-power curves - red, yellow, and orange.  In particular, note how they tilt rapidly upward on the left side.  Where they are  horizontal on the right, small changes in pedal force have big effects on power output.  But on the left, it takes huge changes in pedal force to alter power output, or from another angle, at very low cadences it takes huge AEPF to put out any sort of power.  In theory, at a cadence of 20ish I can do no better than threshold power no matter how hard I try.  So for anyone, no matter how "strong" you are, being overgeared beyond some point is going to reduce your power on the climbs.  Physics in action.

Did I miss anything?  Requirements of the soul perhaps??  They don't show up in QA ;)

This weekend I'll be doing some longer rides with the SS.  I'm curious to see what those data sets will say about sustainability of these higher pedal forces over the long haul.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Stuff yourself silly as is our custom...gives cyclists a reason to ride more.

Single Power

My Single Speed got a new rear wheel today. With a Power-Tap hub in it. It's gonna kick off some data and tells us all what all this one gear pedaling stuff actually looks like. I don't think the powers seen are as high as others do. Shortly we will know...

One of the fun things before Trans Rockies was working with power meters to figure out how to be faster as a team than two individuals. Dave and I rode together, looked at power files, figured out what speeds and powers were good for towing. Discovered above about 12 mph drafting was more efficient - and a lot safer than towing. We learned distributing weight makes a huge difference and crunched all the power numbers to come up with a strategy that won us that stage race. The whole discovery process was a lot of fun and made me a better coach along the way. I do love a learning curve.

Now it starts over again with power meters going on the single speeds and more single speed racing on the horizon. So far I have only raced cross country distances on my SS. Maybe we can go back to Trans Rockies next year and race it single speed?? How about that...

My SS story

Well it seems now I have an SS training partner and he tends to like to take things to extremes when an idea takes hold of him. Look out. So far I have just whipped around on wee fast rides on my SS but yesterday manic enveloped me in his new found SS enthusiasm and we went big.

This climb totally spanked me on the SS and I was quivering a bit by the time I hit the top. Flamed out... My main goal was to ride everything and that I did - no hiking involved - very pleased about it. Sometimes it is hard to feel fast when my training partner is giddy and 1/2 mile ahead of me after 10 minutes but I was prepared with tunes yesterday and it was such a fab ride.

Here is the map visual. Prolly part of day 2 on Camp Lynda

So now thoughts of racing stage races, 12 hours and Kokopelli all on the SS are whirling around in the air. 2008 is gonna be some kinda fun.

So that’s how this works…

So many of my posts come across I'm sure as some desert whacko's ruminations.  Not too many folks can identify with that.

But...if I want some feedback all I have to do is look for common ground, right?  Like single speeding?

Yesterday's ride was pure bliss.  There's this climb I really like, takes well over an hour on the geary.  Plenty of steep spots on it and 2 months ago I'd have said it was an impossible SS route.  Yesterday I rode it in a 32x18 and it was purfect.  It all came together.  There are massive views off to Zion NP from this climb and I was seeing it all through rose colored glasses. 

Tomatoe you are right, I'm hooked now.  I've been looking at all manner of squiggly lines and scatter plots of old data thinking on how best to improve this game.  But I'll try the beer drinking too. 

This weekend it's off to check out a great big chunk of wilderness between Big Water (N end of Lake Powell) and Escalante.  Ion & I will have pics and stories next week.  Ya know those blog writeups that sound  like the desert version of "Into the Wild."

So many pursuits, so little time.

KISS principal

Mon-Fri the past month this is the only bike I've touched.

Darn ghetto, eh?  I've had this 9.8 frame for maybe 5 years now and it's seen all sorts of use, but has never been set up for long at any one time.  It's current lifeform is w/ the Surly singleator + SS conversion kit.  About 3 days after Moab I knew I had to get this thing singled out...had the parts since '05 just hadn't done it yet.  The surly instructions start out with "1.  Take off all that gear crap and toss it in the trash..." 

SS riding is so...different.  Maybe it's the crappy old SID noodle I'm running, but it really seems to make me pay attention to lines more.  Momentum is your friend, and losing it is costly.  Then there's the matter of torque.  Cadences range from near zero to as high as you can go.  When cadences are super low, it takes a lot of torque to get over that next obstacle.  This is unlike geared bikes where you can spin on up and keep torque fairly low.  In other words, it just might be possible that strength can be a real limiter for SS climbing - and some strength training could be in order if I was to get serious about SS riding.

Which, BTW, I am.  I'll do a Kokopelli trail ride on the SS in '08 - underground race style.  I'm considering some other big events too on the SS but we'll see how a few small ones go first ;)

So that means the powertap is going on the SS.  Some quadrant analysis will give good ideas about the amount of strength required ... once I see some of that data I'll thinker on whether or not time in the gym is going to get the nod.  It's hard to imagine as when I stopped lifting in the winter I started to get a lot faster.

What's the consensus in the SS crowd?  Y'all do any strength training?  Looking at Dicky I'd guess not, but hey looking at Kenny Jones maybe so.  2 fast SS guys with opposite builds.

What started as a whim is sparking new interest - and that is a ton of fun.  Something new to deconstruct/reconstruct. 

Just hope the knees and elbows hold out.