I love my Salsa El Mariachi as a single speed. I have almost had the pleasure to have ridden it for a year now. I never would have thought I would have liked single speeding this much. It has really changed who I am as a cyclist. I have raced it 4 times now in marathon style races put on by San Diego’s grassroots MTB racing promoter, Racers and Chasers. Last time I raced, I placed 3rd in the Men’s Open MTB Marathon class. Below are some pictures from that event up in Julian on June 23, 2012.
I was the only one racing on a rigid single speed. It obviously works well for me.
These races have a “do as many laps in a certain period of time” format to them so I get well acquainted with the hills, flats, and terrain in between over the hours that I ride them over and over again. I usually go out harder than I really should on the first lap, but it keeps me motivated to keep up with the pros in the front of the pack. Often I am one of the first racers up the first few hills, which is good since my single speed gearing only lets me go at a certain rate up those climbs and it is not a granny gear rate. That makes sure that I don’t get stuck in a trainwreck of riders heading up a hill when one guy slows to a crawl to pace himself early on. The negative about being up front is that I burn up a few matches in my matchbook early in the race and often don’t have much left for the last few laps when it really matters if a close competitor is nearby. I also tend to run a little during the marathon MTB races. I am not a runner and couldn’t do a 10k if my life depended on it. But I can run for very short distances, especially when I can run faster than my competitors can pedal in their granny gear up hills that will burn up my matches in my matchbook when I am single speed racing. There is always at least one hill in the Racers and Chasers courses that I decide to walk/run up instead of grind out on my single speed. This saves my legs, allows me to choose a single speed gear that will keep me spinning well enough on the flats, and helps stretch a little while using other muscles when I walk/run up the hill. I often think of having gears at this point though because, like most MTB riders I know, I love being able to clear a steeper section, stay on my bike the whole ride, and stay in the groove.
I love all the benefits of single speeding and I won’t turn this into a “Pros and Cons of Single Speeding” blog post, but suffice to say that in my mind, the pros definitely out weigh the cons…at least so far. 😉
Enter the SRAM XX1 drive train the is set to be released in October 2011.
I think SRAM is heading in a wonderful new direction for drive train. Simplifying shifting to rear derailleur only duties and hopefully lowering maintenance time/costs is long overdue in my opinion. After single speeding exclusively for a year now, I have been thinking that if I ever go back to gears, which I likely will one day with some bike, but definitely not all my bikes (man I love single speeding), I will likely go to a 1x system. I do not see the need for a large or small chain ring if I have one chain ring in the 28-38 tooth range. What are your thoughts? I especially would like to know the thoughts of single speeders that prefer training on single speeds, but ride geared bikes as well, maybe even in endurance race situations.
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