Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ride report

If only Life were this simple

Age, apathy and the single speed.
Now that’s a unfortunate cluster of terms to come to grips with. Take one away and the other two issues become somewhat bearable. Combine all three and a perfectly good single speed bicycle gets decommissioned into the spare room. 
A reappraisal of the situation was in order.

The faithful 16T freewheel (32T chainring up front)


Dicta 18T freewheel installed with new KMC Kool chain

Ready to roll  

The troll would now like to present a ride report. But this isn’t a ride report about a Dicta freewheel or a KMC Kool chain (the troll discloses that has no affiliation with either KMC or Dicta - the seller had to pry the full $25 out of the troll’s determined but miserably weak grip) only because the troll has nothing to compare them to. This ride report is about the experience of changing the gear ratio on an off-road single speed: something the troll has done just once. Sure, single-speeders have being doing this for many years, in fact, since the advent of the safety bicycle 120 years ago. But one perk of having a blog site (as opposed to a respectable and validated resource webpage) is the privilege of passing off as “vital knowledge” ideas and information that could easily have been sourced elsewhere (ie from books, magazine articles, bantering with family and friends, the post-ride coffee shop hero talk, the occasional toilet graffiti)

Before beginning a ride report some background is in order as so many variables come into play when trying to assess these things. Why most ride reports don’t include this is completely beyond me.
Background on the ride: a 3 hour loop that starts with a half hour of road riding including a 2.3km climb with an average gradient of 9.4%. When the pain and tarmac ends the ride enters typical Australian bush: ie predominantly dry hardpack, rock and scrub. About 90% is well-maintained, somewhat technical, undulating single track. And the weather was perfect (goes without saying - the troll doesn’t venture out in anything but perfect weather).
Background on the troll:  173cm, 68kg, with a VO2 Max not much better than a hibernating toad. A frat boy by education yet not one of them - not by choice, but by exclusion. He would like to go the other direction and be a hipster but his bigoted ways, middle age and total un-awesomeness preclude this. Instead, he wanders the vast abyss of social oblivion bouncing off rejections from every mainstream group. 
Background on the bicycle: 2002 On-One Inbred SS that I posted in Feb 2009.

You looking at me? Wazzup? 

Trading a 16T freewheel for an 18T on a single speed should have obvious consequences. The hills should be a tad easier and riding on the flats a tad more frustrating. (The downhills don’t really count simply because off-road SS gearing is simply too low to be meaningful on anything but the slightest and smoothest of negative gradients - *insert contemptuous snorts* directed at the occasional fixie rider that has blundered onto this blog site). And it proved to be so. 
One would also expect that a gain of two teeth out the back would allow one to motor through some obstacles that one might otherwise step over. And indeed, as it turns out, it proved to be so. So much so that the Inbred’s low-slung bottom bracket becomes the limiting factor for grinding over logs & trail debris. The Inbred has always worn a chainring guard. It’s been a revelation to remember why it’s there.
And that brings us to a discussion to the On-One Inbred SS frame itself. All Inbred’s (whether they be Reynolds 853/ DN6/ or titanium tubed with slotted/ sliding/ swapout/ or derailleur-ready dropouts) appear to have the same Brant Richards’ inspired geometry. A stretched out top tube (allowing for a shorter stem) with a relatively slack head tube and a steep seat tube gives the bike absolutely cracker handling. And Inbred’s have a deserved reputation as no nonsense trail bikes. Well-balanced for climbing and predictable on descents the rider has a lot of room to maneuver his body and finesse or otherwise muscle his way out of technical sections.  This early version has the no compromise (that’s the schmuck’s way of saying “no option”) non-suspended geometry with slotted dropouts and cantilever mounts. The long, low top tube provides ample clearance and the low BB adds stability and confidence when the going gets tough. 
Well at least that’s how the story goes. And makes the assumption that the troll ain’t involved in the setup of the bike. Not least attempting to manage the cockpit and engine room.
But this bike does belong to the aforementioned troll and somewhere down the the track the chain has stretched leading to a gradual lengthening of the effective chainstay (ie the rear wheel sliding further back in the slotted dropouts to keep the chain under tension). When the chain was changed it was replaced with one that “kinda matched” the length of the previous chain but in doing so the troll appears to have added a couple of extra links. A long rear-centre has benefits such as  increased stability and greater comfort but only up to a certain point. Beyond that handling becomes compromised. A wheelbase that is too long (in particular a long rear-centre) makes for heavy handling and, in this case, difficulty with unloading the front (and to a lesser degree the rear) wheel. Over the past few years the troll has steadily reduced the tire pressures (down to <25 PSI up front and <30 PSI at the back) in an attempt to manage the jarring ride from an increasingly ponderous bike and ascribing the lack of finesse to his age, his apathy and his lack of fitness to crunch a single gear. These factors are still relevant but you can now add another: the troll is a mechanical moron. 
A 18T freewheel and a new chain have improved things. But, in this particular case, so much more than expected. Tucking the rear wheel closer to the BB (ie by keeping the same number of links on the chain and adding two extra teeth to the rear cog the chainstays are effectively shortened) brings the geometry back to where Brant Richards always intended it to be. And with that the welcome return of the simple pleasures of riding a rigid single speed - an experience (wrt sensation, exertion and feedback) that the troll enjoys so very much. Back to 28-32 PSI up front and 35-40PSI out the back, add a little bit of speed and chuckability, and the troll is once again caught squealing with the unbridled excitement of a preteen girl unwrapping her first barbie doll. 
It would be nice to end this “ride report” by saying that riding a bicycle is not about acquiring new stuff, rather one should reflect on the importance of a well set-up bike, or even, more nebulously, the concept that, once in a while, we need to re-evaluate any established idea/ formula/ routine that is starting to run dry. But this blog has the moral grounding and introspection of your average internet porn site. 
And the Dicta freewheel crapped itself after eight or so rides.
So porn and material gratification it is. 

Inbred now fitted with Mavic Crossmax SLR's (ahem, note the ceramic rims) and Maxxis tubeless tires

Keeping porn subtle 

A Surly 18T cog, QR wheels and a chaintug with the capacity to open beer bottles

On ebay, cycling's equivalent of a "special cuddle" with a "happy ending" can be bought for just under $500.


Anonymous said...

Wow - the whole bike for under $500! Thats the beauty of the singlespeed, I guess. With the pedals and rim brakes, new wheels etc the frame must have cost you -$1000 or so?

wingnut said...

Hi anon. The “just under $500” was in reference to the Mavic wheelset (NOS via ebay), 18T Surly cog, and tubeless tyres (via Wiggle). The Inbred itself was purchased as an unused bike about 5 years ago for USD $500. But that was back in the days before the global financial crisis and the printing of a whole stack of money wasn’t called “quantitative easing” - it was called Zimbabwe. At that time AUD $100 bought about USD $75. But shipping from the US was “only” USD $120 (as opposed to approx USD $800+ to “ship” a bike US to Australia nowadays) but it was actually by ship, and it took 6 weeks to arrive. New RaceFace XC crankset and rings set me back AUD $350 including fitting at the LBS. Worn headset replaced with a Chris King version bought through ebay for USD $120. Can’t recall how much I paid for the XTR brakeset (ebay) but the XTR pedals cost AUD $150 (Wiggle). Overall it’s been a stack of money spent upgrading a frame that sells new for a couple of hundred dollars. And this particular Inbred may now be a little battered and dinged but this is one bike the troll will be taking to his grave.

Anonymous said...

Those Mavic Crossmax SLR's are so sweeeet. Great looking bike, no nonsense.

wingnut said...

Yes, and thanks. But if you forget to run ceramic-specific pads (as the troll did) the brake squeal will unleash the Hounds of Hell. Kool-Stop Tectonic to the rescue again