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Single Speeds vs Gears

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
A few months back there was a discussion here about which was faster...single speeds or gears...I can't find the thread at the moment so I'm starting a new one, but yesterday in NorCal we had our first mountain bike race of the season and some of the results were pretty interesting.

Like any other MTB race the categories are Beginner, Sport, and Expert all divided into 10 year age groups each and there is also a Single Speed Open category that is not divided by age.

The course is a swoopy 7 mile course and Beginners do one lap, Sport does 2 laps, Eperts do 3 laps, and they have the Single Speed guys doing 2 laps.

Since they have the Single Speed category only doing 2 laps (14 miles), many of the top Single Speed racers race in the Expert category, against all the geared riders, so that we can get an extra lap in and do 3 laps for 21 miles.  So yesterday, many of us single speeders "bumped up" and raced against Expert gears and the results were quite interesting......

Out of 33 total geared Expert racers, the top 4 out of 5 racers were on single speeds AND the OVERALL winner and fastest time was riding a single speed.  there were no long sustained climbs in this course.  It was all twisty turny fast swoopy singletrack, with some short steep punchy climbs thrown in.  There was one long flat section that has us singles spinning out pretty quick, but it wasn't enough for the geared guys to throw it in the big ring and take off on us.  I guess the course was just "single speed friendly".

In this race series I was a voice calling for the addition of a Single Speed Expert category so we can do the same number of laps as the geared Experts, but since we're competitive with them, perhaps there doesn't need to be a Single Speed Expert category.  Just let the expert "run what they brung".
post #2 of 5
 I took my daughter to watch one of her teammates race a cyclocross race this fall and noticed the same results.  The top two finishers in the Class A race were riding single speeds.  They also were the top two finishers in the single speed race.
post #3 of 5
Totally course dependent.  One trail that I regularly ride has a lot of g-outs, and very little elevation gain (pretty much an oversize natural bmx track) and even with gears you essentially single-speed...the trail right next to it, with 800 or so elevation change, completely different.

Of course, the other fun parts of single speed are there anyway, including a better upper body workout. 
post #4 of 5
The first day I ever rode my SS, I determined that most riders suck at shifting!
post #5 of 5
I ride a single speed and a 10 speed on the road.  I need all 10 gears to maintain contact with my training group, but when I ride alone, I need a stopwatch to time the difference between the single and the 10 speed.  I bet the single is faster for a lot of trips, just because sometimes you need to work a little harder when you don't have the option of a lower gear.

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