Monday, July 30, 2012

One is all you Need

"Fixed gear is not ideal for all circumstances, however. A fixed gear is not well suited for seriously hilly terrain, and, more importantly, is not good for technical mountain biking. A mountain biker in difficult terrain must be able to control when each pedal is down, to avoid striking a pedal on rocks, logs or other obstructions. Similarly, jumping over obstacles is much more difficult on a fixed gear." - Sheldon Brown.

I wish I would have read the above quote by the ultimate Guru of Cycling, before I hit the trails on my newly build up fixed gear mountain bike.  But as usual, I did not read any assembly directions or watch any You Tube videos.   I just finished assembling a "project bike" of mine that started over five years ago.  Yes I said five years.  I bought this Lucky Strike Airborne Ti frame with the intention of building up a Fixed Gear mountain bike.  I have ridden/raced single speeds for many years (with great success I might add :-)) and even spentd several winters training on a fixed gear road bike.  But I had never ridden a "fixie" off-road.

My project almost did not get completed.  Several years ago Gerard needed a bike to ride since he had just broken his.  I said he could use my Lucky Strike until he got a new one.  A couple of years later she gets returned and the project finally gets completed.

The Airborne is not designed as a single speed, but thanks to an ENO hub converting any bike to one gear is a breeze.  Both Christopher and I took a few short trips in the neighborhood, but Sunday was my first time riding a fixed gear off-road.  Yes, I am no longer a fixed gear virgin.  Why I kept my virginity so long is beyond me because Mr. Brown was indeed correct.   One gear, fixed at that, is all you really need to have fun riding your mountain bike.

I must confess I was kind of excited driving up to Smithville with Carolynn.  Not because Christopher is gone for two weeks either.  I remember how much fun I had riding my fixed gear on the road many years ago.  I had given up riding a fixed gear because of some knee problems, but decided to give it another shot only this time in moderation.

The first couple of miles I only rode the easy trails at Smithville Lake.  I noticed right away the amount of concentration that you need to have while riding fixed. You really have to be aware of everything, from that root that is sticking up that might grab your pedal to that creek crossing that requires a smooth line because you can not coast nor raise the front wheel as easy over that big slippery rock.   Descending rocky terrain takes a special skill in itself and a lot of nerve.  All in all, I felt totally connected to the bike and my riding experience was so pure.  I had so much fun and did not want to stop, but knew I should stop while I was ahead.

I still can not get over how observant I was out there on the trail.   From the smells of the trees to the noises of the animals.  I could hear my wheels rolling over the leaves and broken twigs.  There was no sound coming from a derailleur.  No sound of brakes when I needed to slow down - I used my legs to slow down.  I can not wait to hit the next trail system on my Lucky Strike Fixie.  I know I will not be able to ride all the technical trails in our area, but I do know I'll have fun trying.

One word of caution, using your legs to brake can be very taxing on your legs and ligaments.  My hamstrings are very tender today.  No pulls or anything like that, but I could tell I used em :-)


Burnsey said...

Awesome Chris! I'm really psyched that you experienced the sense or pureness on the fixie. It truly connects you to the bike to the earth. Enjoy!

Tim Greene said...

I rode fixed gear several times in technical stuff, so if I can do it you can too. You ought to watch Sean, Travis and Craig on their fixed gear bikes do the technical stuff better than I can with suspension and gears.