Me having Singlespeed success today - WTF?

In a typical male cyclist scenario, I own enough bikes to justify a divorce. In fact, I own 4 mountain bikes - a Niner Jet 9, a Niner RIP 9, a Salsa Dos Niner, and a Surly Karate Monkey. The Niners are one too many and the 2nd one came as a result of a recall on the JET 9 when the company offered a RIP 9 at a steep discount while we waited the 8 months - or whatever it was - for the company to redesign and fix the problems of the JET 9 at the time. The Dos Niner is a crash replacement frame from my first Dos Niner race bike. And the Karate Monkey was my first ever 29"er purchase back in 2003. After 10 years of the original, I upgraded to the newer frame - and, well - there is no amount of explaining my way out of this one. "4 bikes too many" would be Tara's comment. And she's got a point.

Well, low and behold, I do ride all of them. However, they have all in the last few months broken down. One by one, that is. The JET 9 needs a new rear derailleur installed. The Salsa Dos Niner recently got a new rear derailleur, a spoke replaced, a new chain - and now needs a new cassette - as yesterday's ride, as beautiful as it was out at Banner kept having the chain jump on the old cassette.


I had to bail in the middle of my 2nd lap at Banner Pits as the chain would simply not stay in a gear. I did see a raccoon that didn't survive the New Year...

Today was just about identical in terms of weather - frozen dirt to enjoy. The Dos Niner was out of commission. The JET needs a new cable to install the new derailleur - so it was out. I reached for the RIP and saw that the rear wheel was way out of true. Low and behold, the Light Bicycle AM rim has finally given up the ghost as one of the spokes/nipples pulled through the rim after several years of use. So the RIP was out.

That left me with only one choice - the Karate Monkey singlespeed bike which I have not ridden all fall or winter. I had to add some NoTubes sealant in the tires since it had been many months that I last did that, and they were dry inside the carcasses. After piddling around doing that, I loaded up the bike and headed to Summerset State Park for my 3 full laps I have been doing at Banner as a benchmark to prepare me for the COMP category this season in the IMBCS.

OK. So I only had one gear. And the dirt was frozen, hard, and fast. I've read things about how cold dampens an athlete's performance at Velo News. I wasn't expecting much due to the cold, me without gears, and no suspension in the rear of this bike whatsoever.

I was running the big fat Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4's and the front wasn't really holding air as well as it should (needs to seal up). The trail was nice and frozen, there was no wind, and things were quiet and peaceful out at the park today.

Normally, my routine this past fall has been to warm up with lap one, then push it on the 2nd and 3rd laps to build my racing endurance for that distance. I've done the 3 laps on my Dos Niner, my JET, and my RIP. The Dos has been the fastest in the fall 3 lap training runs mainly because I really like how that bike flies out at Banner. I think because of the singlespeed, and the hamster spinning required to keep moving, I shot out of the gate today at a little closer to race pace heart rate than I usually do on my first lap with a geared bike. All the weight lifting I have been doing the past 3 months was being put to the test muscling this bike through the trails, and up the steep climbs with the gearing I was running. At the end of lap one, I was - surprisingly to me at least - about 3 minutes ahead of my usual 1st lap. WTF?!!!

Off I went on the 2nd lap and realized that to keep the flow on a singlespeed, I was working a lot harder which had my heart rate getting pretty near full race speed, but it felt good. Even the grunt climbs that had me out of saddle to give it everything I had seemed to be working. I was quicker on the 2nd lap than the first when I rounded the bend and launched into my final lap. Now the legs were feeling spent on the short steep climbs as I burned a lot of matches in the first two laps, but I kept at it. I wasn't able to go as fast as I can on a geared bike in all the flat, connector sections. Lap three had me at my tether, but I couldn't get the heart rate up quite as high as I did in lap 1 and 2. I felt like I faded a bit in this lap no matter how hard I tried, but was only 37 seconds slower than lap two. Not to mention, I had lost enough air in the front tire that I was riding at 15 psi instead of 24 that I started with which was causing some dabbing issues in spots. However, all three laps were fairly consistent, and my finish time was quicker than my last 3 lap full suspension training run out there. It's a bit of a toss up in terms of being a bit quicker than my Dos Niner (where I usually warm up a bit slower on the first lap than I was able to with the one gear).

WTF!!!!??? Me - on a singlespeed - turning one of my best 3 lap times on a cold winter morning at Banner Pits? Say it isn't so! None of the laps matched my fastest lap on the Dos Niner (was shy by 2 minutes), but they were consistent and gave me a great leg workout. It was a nice substitute for skipping my leg session at the YMCA today.

I would spend some more time on the singlespeed this winter to get the burn of such a great workout, but I'm off to the other side of the Atlantic pond next week. So it is not to be. And this result was only due to my 3 other mountain bikes being out of commission at the moment.

Color me curious. At least I will sleep well tonight after the effort. I may have to take the bike out to Ahquabi to see what kind of lap time I can turn on the singlespeed.


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