Saturday, March 30, 2013

The S.O.B. Rides Gears!

Gears or Single Speed, Which is Faster?

Yes, it has happened. I rode gears, but unlike Katy Perry kissing a girl, I didn't like it.
Finally got the SIR9 somewhat tuned up with a new rear BB7 brake (still a Juicy Carbon front), a new front tire (RaRa 2.4 tubeless), bar ends, and a manual lockout Reba RL (formerly a pop-loc Reba RL..ooh, big change!).

Other than a different rear tire, rear brake, bar ends and a shorter steer tube and no pop-loc, this is how she looks.
Took it for a test ride from the house to Manzanita trail, then up Stagecoach and back home. The first thing I realize:. Steel is indeed Real...Real F'n Heavy! Still, I had gears and suspension so the extra weight comes with the territory.  As I expected, during the ride I was awkward with the gears, not shifting correctly and rarely in the correct gear. Then on the first steep up, one bar end failed causing me to crash. Fortunately I crashed into the mountainside rather than down the ravine. So ultimately I ended up with a sore shoulder instead of rigor mortis. The ride ended with the most difficult section, the steep climb up the street to my house (seriously, we're talking 15% grade here). In all, I ended up off the bike twice in areas I normally clear. So, imagine my surprise when I get home, check Strava, and find that I had PR'd on Manzanita.* What? That can't be right.

Alright, now I need to know how this Steel framed, front susp., geared (1x9) bike that weighs ~6lbs more than my SS would perform on a real ride so that night I took it to a 'Hammerin Wheels' group ride at Granite Bay. Though I was riding with the front group, dang, I felt slow. Had to walk up a climb I cleaned last week, due to being in the wrong gear (this happened twice), and on any incline, I was definitely slower. Oh, but those flowy flat sections...I was able to fly, and the few miles of fireroad? Fuhgetaboutit! I was hitting speeds over 20 mph...speeds not doable on my SS (unless pointed down hill). Ultimately, I ended up being much faster over most of the course with gears.

So, I learned a lesson most everyone already knew. Gears are faster...most of the time. I will still argue (based on evidence/personal experience) that on rides with long steep climbs, the SS is faster. It is lighter than many road bikes (at 19.4lbs) and I often can keep up on climbs with advanced riders...only to be dropped on the fast, flowy tech stuff, but the point is the SS is a crazy climber, just not crazy fast elswhere. Now if I could just get strong enough to drop a tooth or two in the cog I just might bridge that gap a bit with the gearies, but for now 32:20 will remain my endurance gear of choice.

Now I am off to bid on a rigid fork for the SIR9 so it can become my rigid winter SS bike. Booh-yah!

*Through sheer determination, I set a new PR on Manzanita two days later on the SS. Yeah baby! Steel might be Real, but Scandium is lighter and faster!


  1. Alright, hate to sound he like an internet d*ck but...

    The SS is not a great climber. YOU ARE! It's super difficult, but you CAN ride a geared bike like an SS on the climbs - just don't shift.

    In all seriousness though, I think the real test isn't if you were faster, but how good/bad felt after the same ride on each bike at similar total times. I have found that while I feel like a badass on the SS and feel fast on the geared bike, I tire out about the same so it's really a choice of feeling fast or feeling hardcore.

    Kudos on the SS PR!

    And steel is great until you taste ti as you know ;)

  2. I've found the SS climbing carries over to gears. When I'm on the Yeti, I am flying! I can't say which would be faster in "epic" rides, but I know on local terrain I push a harder gear when on gears and I stay out of the saddle.

    You should really get a carbon full suspension to test the theory.

  3. @Matt: Thanks, and I do work at it (dropping some lbs has helped), but honestly, I tried riding/climbing the green machine like a SS, but it was not the same, and I was rarely in the right gear. I would like to think the climbing is 'all me', but anyone can become a better climber when their bike weighs 19.4lbs. The SIR9 is 25.5lbs (just weight it), and that makes a difference. Fortunately, I won the fork I was bidding on (a matching Niner steel fork), so soon this will be a rigid SS that weighs a respectable *22lbs (that's lighter than the 26er SS I started on). When Niner comes out with the TIT9 (Titanium Is Tremendous), I will be all over it. But until then it is Scandium or Steel for me. :)

    @Chris: I totally get that. If I became more comfortable with the shifting, I would be able to climb 'nearly' as fast on this bike, and then on the sections where I could mash a big gear, I could fly so much faster than the SS. I still have until late Fall before I transition this bike to a SS, so I may give it some more time as the data clearly shows that ultimately I am faster...but in the end, I am a SS'er, and doubt that is ever gonna change (unless by doctors orders).

    *SIR9 future weight claim based on 2.5lb steel fork over 4lb Reba w/poploc, RaRa front tire instead of Michelin Wild GripR, 20t cog instead of a SRAM cassette, no shifter, no derailleur, no bash guard w/chain guide (and less chain). Both the One9 and the SIR9 have nearly identical components, with the SIR9 steel frame being 1.1 lbs heavier and the steel fork being 1.25 lbs heavier and a few slightly heavier components...were talking less than 50 grams total (brakes and bar ends come to mind).

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