You also need to carry more momentum into hills otherwise you will burn yourself out on the climbs. This means you will need to pedal hard into the hill as well as hard up the hill. This is definitely something I don't do. I generally try to recover going into the hill and then start hammering when I get to the base of the hill. This worked well for me as I usually passed quite a few people (in my category) on the climbs around Edmonton, but I am certain carrying more momentum into the hills will only make me faster.
The big change for me will getting out of my comfort cadence zone. I typically ride with a cadence between 80 and 90 RPMs. I have no problem dropping to 50 RPMs and powering up big hills, but where I fail miserably at is on the flats trying to pump out a cadence of 110+ RPMs. My heart rate skyrockets and breathing gets out of tempo, which is a real bad combination.
Taking it To the Next Level
Sounds like good times, sign me up! Others who race single speed don't think it is quite that difficult. For every one person who feels like racing a single speed is death on two wheels, you get other people like this:
You must learn to claw, eyes bulging, lungs aflame, raw metallic taste in the back of your throat to the top of climbs, and make all these things secret. The world at large must only see a crazy man, a mutant, a cyborg atop a bike with only one impossible gear. And they will stare and shake their heads and wonder how you got to the top first, never knowing, never understanding that it was the only way up, that you could not have made it any slower, that all the drive train handicaps they presume you to burden yourself with are the very advantages that have made you fast and hard as coffin nails.
I’m a fraud. I’ve been riding and racing a single speed mountain bike for many years and thinking I’m pretty cool. I’m not.And this:
I’ll be the first to admit that I love passing someone on a geared bike and having them say, “Damn! Dude, that is hardcore.” It feels great. there is no denying it. Here’s the thing though, it’s not hardcore. I have suffered way more on a geared bike than I ever have on a single speed. Yep, it’s true, single speeding is easier than gears. You get more breaks and recovery time on a single.
It’s time to abolish the single speed category at all mountain bike races. I think you should race whatever category happens to be your ability but race it on your single speed. There doesn’t need to be a separate class for single speeders. It’s not a handicap nor a badge of honor. We need to get over ourselves. It’s fun and we know it's special but we don’t need our own class. That’s just dumb.
Pretty much every race I’ve ever raced, a spectator or fellow racer will comment on the fact that I’m on a single speed. I just kind of smile and cruise on by. It makes me feel cool and like a fraud all at the same time. The dirty little secret is that in a lot of situations it’s actually an advantage to be on a single speed.Maybe it's not that hard? Now I'm confused. I plan to try my hand at racing my single speed in one of the local Tuesday races but I already think the first quote is more likely to be what I will be feeling rather than the latter two.
Races to Keep an Eye On
The upcoming season will bring the spotlight to single speed racing in my neck of the woods as Edmonton will be hosting the 2011 Canadian Single Speed Championships, which will be a part of the existing Edmonton Canada Cup on July 23, 2011. The Edmonton Canada Cup is already a hugely successful event organized by Mike Sarnecki and Evan Sherman of Alberta MTB Racing and it attracts many of our country's best XC mountain bike racers. The addition of the Canadian Single Speed Championships will only enhance the excitement on that day.
The cream of the crop for those who race with only one gear is the Single Speed World Championships (SSWC.) This is not a sanctioned event but there is a lot of pride in winning this race. But this is more than just a race, it is an annual party on two wheels where shortcuts are available if you chug a beer and the winners are scarred for life, literally. The winner is actually tattooed with SSWC, the year and a design chosen for that year. This fits perfectly into a quote from The Replacements, "Don't do anything great if you can't handle the congratulations." There are some familiar names sporting ink work due to winning this event, including Carl Decker, Adam Craig and Heather Irmiger. Check out the results and highlights from the 2010 SSWC and you will see just how much fun the SSWC is.