Riding a single speed mountain bike

4 03 2011

I’ve decided to try a different way to ride off road this year. No gears, or ‘single speed’ as it’s known. I’ve always sworn that I’m happy with my gears when off road, never had any trouble with them, but something changed quite suddenly and I wanted to have a go without them. So after what feels like too long, I finally stripped the gears and other clutter off the Soul and headed out to give it a go. The plan was to ride from home in Balsall Heath out across the hills and fields of North Worcestershire to Bewdley where if I had time I’d pick up the Worcestershire way and ride to Malvern (that last bit did not happen – another day).

Well, it was quite an experience! One word, punishing! I’ve been riding bikes off road since I was about 8-9, and with the exception of my Raleigh Grifter and its 3 speed hub I’ve had plenty of gears to play with. Clawing your way up a muddy hill on one gear with tired legs, your arms burning, trying not to lose traction or put a foot down is hard work, very hard work! The payoff is a light, silent bike, no gears to grind in the mud, no chain slap and nice clean lines. Don’t laugh but, I love how the bike looks.

The main reason I’ve decided to go down this route is that I’ve entered two races this year and I’d like to be a little bit competitive, but I lack the bike to really do that with. No carbon, titanium or aluminum for me. Then it occurred to me. I ride thousands of miles on my fixie each year, I’m used to grinding up endless steep, shitty roads in Wales with one gear and tired legs, then spinning like a mad man down the other side whilst trying to avoid wheel busting holes and sheep. Actually, I rather like the experience. So I figured, why not play to my strengths and race in the single speed category? Who knows, I might do OK.

So with the exception of a few long road rides, over the coming months you will find me mainly mucking around in the dirt of North Worcestershire getting used to the bike set up. I might even make it over to the Long Mynd, well that’s if I can find someone to go with me.

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