Sunday, November 13, 2011

In search of that new route…

Every weekend I know I’m riding somewhere, I just need to figure out what to do and where to go. I can only ride the same rides, the same roads, for so long. I need to explore like a lone wolf. After I read the Bike Snob by Christopher Koelle, a must read btw, I knew I was and will forever be a Lone Wolf.

From Bike Snob... you will love this small book!

I needed a new ride, my ride of the last 6 weekends, 50 miles on the Platte, Cherry Creek, Highline Canal, Sand Creek, and Clear Creek was getting old. I started with Google maps and narrowed it down to an area I liked- an area with at least some dirt roads. I settled on Pike National Forest.

Click here for my Garmin route.

During the summer you’ll find a constant stream of motorcycles riding from Pine Junction to Woodland Park for this beautiful stretch of road. There were a few riders out yesterday. I put together a loop of 40 miles, 25 miles of pavement and 15 miles of gravel, just over 3,000’ of climbing, and fuel/coffee stop in Deckers. Aside from being the windiest day of the year it turned out to be a fantastic route. Wide shoulder along Deckers Rd, Co Rd 126, an epic 7 miles of  8% climbing, and one of my favorite dirt roads in the state. I’ve ridden motorcycles in the area since 1982 and knew it would be perfect for long adventures on the right bicycle.

Deckers Rd looking back as you climb, the burn area from the Hayman Fire is on my left to the West.
That’s a welcoming sign, 8% grade for 4 miles! It would have been a blast had it not been for the winds yesterday. At one point, I was doing just over 40 mph and a gust of wind instantly slowed me down to just over 20 mph and about threw me off the road. Any other time I’m sure you could set a top speed record on this decent.

My buddy Brian Smith, a relatively new rider that I talked into joining me. That’s the beauty of new guys, they don’t know any better and if they have an adventurous spirit like Brian you can talk them into new rides. He’ll never look at this blog… he does have a cool Masi!

Town of Deckers, supplies and coffee if needed. Here you bust a left.

Transition to gravel! I road with 35c cross tires and was comfortable all day, Brian used a 28c Continental Top Contact that he said was a little squirrelly on the gravel. Of course he had 90 psi in those tires. It's hard to convince some people more air isn’t necessarily faster.  

You ride along the South Fork of the South Platte River... it’s really spectacular through here!

Historic South Platte Hotel. Built around the turn of the century by the Zang Brewing company. Once the town of Symes, now the South Platte Hotel  is the only building still standing. It was once a railroad stop on the Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad. Just like Phantom Canyon on the Gold Belt Century, old railroad grades that are now dirt roads make for ideal cycling.

The North fork of the South Platte.

Even though the town of Foxton shows up on the map you won’t find any supplies here…

The old post office in the town of Buffalo Creek, a welcome sight after a 5-mile ride up river in a vicious head wind. There is a little store in the old building where you can get sodas and things if needed.

For the first time out, I drove to and started in Buffalo Creek. Now that I’ve done the ride, I would recommend driving down Foxton Rd from Hwy 285 and parking in one of the many pullouts when you get to the Platte River Rd. We rode the route counter-clockwise and got the climbing done early. If you park where Foxton Rd meets the Platte you could ride it in either direction!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gear Ratio's

So you want to build or gear your fixed gear with that money gear, the one gear that does it all, for every rider, in every condition. Does it even exist? Sure it does. 70 gear inches. Go ahead and test me on it... given enough miles I believe you’ll concur. After 4 years of hard core Fixed Gear and Single Speed riding, that would be my gear if I could only choose one. If I had to ride coast to coast, that would be it. It’s the gear I’ve seen more veteran fixie riders choose, especially ‘century’ riders. So if you’re looking for a starting place use a gear calculator like you’ll find at and set yourself up with 70 gear inches. You can get there 20 different ways, so before you buy a new chainring or rear cog/freewheel, check and see if you can make it work with something you already have... chances are you’ll get close enough. How close is close enough? 68-75 to start.
Just one of the cool things to come from Surly, the Dingle Cog.

If you're stronger than all your buddies combined, go a little on the big side, or if your just starting out, a little less. After you get all jiggy with it you can optimize your skid patches too, the more the better. Example, the most common fixie ring is probably the 48t, combined with a 18t cog/freewheel you get your 70.1 gear inches, right on the money but only 3 skid patches, ouch. I chose a 49t ring, combined with the 17t, 18t or 19t, for 75.8, 71.6, 67.8 gear inches, and 17, 18 and 19 skid patches. So some combos are better than others. But I’m not going be skidding you say, not yet… Just the power decelerating hard is enough to spread that energy to more than 3 places on the rear tire. In a perfect world you’ll need/want a couple gear ratios, given your frame can take up the chain slack and your brakes can reach. I use a 2 tooth swing from my low to high gear on my White Industries ENO hub.

2 teeth difference in a rear cog is equal to 8 gear inches with my front ring and enough to cruise all day at 17-21 mph and climb at mountain at 7-9 mph. I have a White Industries freewheel that has both a 17t and 19t side by side, you must use a 3/32” chain with these, not the 1/8” track chain. I use a 17t cog for fixed riding, I rarely climb in it, just rolling hills and flat land rides up to 100 miles. The 19t freewheel for climbing and when I’m tired, and the 17t freewheel for fast group rides and centuries.  

White Industries DOS Freewheel. Hands down, the nicest, and last, freewheel you'll buy! Rebuild able too!! Only available in 16/18t or 17/19t so plan accordingly...

A good combination for those with flip-flop hubs and old road bike conversions is a fixed gear on one side and a freewheel 1-2t larger on the other. Most frames can handle a 1t tooth jump as well as the brakes without a need for re-adjustment. Then you can climb hills, descend and have a bailout gear if you're far from home and spent with a freewheel. If you have only a fixed gear hub you can still use a freewheel in place of a cog, just not the other way around.
Here is a fun one, the Sturmey Archer SX3, a 3 speed internal fixed gear hub introduced in 2010. With a 52t ring and a 16t cog I have a 53.6", 64.3" and 85.7" gears! Spaced a little far for my liking, and this is considered as a close ratio. The original, extremely rare, Sturmey Archer ASC fixed gear 3-speed hub was a true close ratio racing hub built in the early 50's.

With the right gear ratio you can go on a group rides and not get dropped on the hills or the flats, and that’s when you know you’ve found your right gear ratio! If you can keep up on the climbs but get dropped on the flats you need a taller/harder gear, if you can’t climb but do fine on the flats you’ll need a shorter/easier gear. My fixed gear is the ultimate riding workout, but I’m limited to a top speed of just over 30 mph, and only for a short period, and that’s where I find my freewheel comes in handy, just tuck into someone’s draft on a downhill and there is no top end limit…

If you look closely at my rear wheel you'll see my new custom 'knock-offs'. Still a work in progress, it allows me to make a quick gear change or flip the wheel without the use of tools.