Monday, November 6, 2006

I'm all out of gears, AKA another thing you can do with a Voile ski strap

Two weekends ago a crashed out pretty bad on my cyclocross bike: Right off the start line and into a pile up. I dented my top tube on my thin-wall aluminum Cannondale frame, frayed rear shift cable, and busted my rear shift lever. This last Saturday I finally started to fix the dang thing for Sunday's race when I finally realized the extent of the damage.

I called up the folks at cyclesmith and I converted my bike to a single speed. Before the crash, this was my last bike to still have gears. But gears grind, bend, and eventually break before anything else does on a bike and so the single speed is a natural progression (regression).

In a cyclocross race gears confer only a slight advantage and this year the Utah cyclocross series has a single speed category that runs with the B male category. The single speed fields are about 10 people and the B men run about 40. The leaders of the SS category are usually in the top 10 of the B category (I got 6th overall last Sunday).

To make the single speed I bought some lightweight non-shift break levers and a Surly singlelator. The Surly singleator works to keep the chain tension on the rear cog. Rather than fiddle with jingus spring system I just used a good ol Voile ski strap to keep the chain tension. It works well and its bright orange! Ben also helped me out with a 18-tooth BMX rear cog: Muchas Gracias Ben!

I'm running a pretty tall gear: 48 chainring X 18 cog X 700c wheel X 32mm tire giving me ~72 gear inches. This seems to be a good choice for the flat winding courses of Wheeler farm that don't have too many hairpin accelerations.


  1. Ed tells me that Shimano shifters are not a good choice as the devices are disposable whereas campy stuff you can rebuild yourself.


  2. Right on, Will.
    48x18 seems like a tall gear for Cross, that's what I run for city-fixed riding. But you are manly. I run a wimpy 38x16 for cyclocross.
    Aesthetically, I like the Campy hidden shifter cables much better than the antenna-like Shimanos. The new SRAM road stuff also looks very clean. If you're into that kind of thing.


  3. I think for wheeler farm et al 48 X 18 is a good choice. The technical sections are windy not hairpin and the long flats you must go fast if you want to do well. There were a few sections that were a grunt with that gear, but those bits are short compared to the long flat stretches.

    The new sram stuff looks cool. I'd wait a season or two to see how it fairs though. For road biking I think gears would be my preference. On the road even my 190 lb. carcass can be relatively gentle on a bike. For all other disciplines one gear is the way.