Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gears vs. Single speed...Strava virtual race

I’ve been training hard and my last race of the season was this past Sunday, so I was going to take this week off from riding. 
Who was I kidding?
Too nice out.  And with a couple of Strava loops across the street from work, the temptation to “race” during my lunch break was too much.

Today I rode the time-trial worthy 6.2 mile “counter clockwise loop” on my geared bike to compare it to my results from a couple weeks ago when I did it on my single speed.

So which was faster?

Let’s get to the bikes first:
> Single speed: AluMINium Niner One9 with a carbon Cannondale Lefty fork with 80mm travel.  And a fairly cushy saddle (for a race bike anyway..I broke my race saddle at the TVR, so I put an old Bontrager saddle on it, and I’m absolutely loving it).
> Geared: Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Comp 29er hardtail with 90mm travel Reba.  Light and stiff race saddle.
I don’t think any other components (other than forks and saddles) made that much of a difference for the purpose of this test.

How I felt:
Geared ride: fully rested after 3 days not riding.
Single speed ride: slightly more tired legs as in midst of training days.

Warmup: I only have an hour for lunch, so there’s no real warmup.  It’s change-ride-shower.

Today’s geared ride had pretty perfect weather - warm, sunny, dry.
Single speed ride - it rained heavy night before and light rain during ride. Trails were not soggy, however: the rocks/roots were a bit slick, but the trails were actually a bit sticky thanks to rain.

Trail profile: Fast and flowy, rolling terrain with no significant climbs.  Some technical bits, but nothing extended or difficult.  Lots of tight turns, but with berms so they can be railed and accelerated out of.  Admittedly, pretty much perfect for single speeding.

6.2 miles
Niner single speed: 32:09, avg speed 11.5
Spesh geared hardtail: 34:37, avg speed 10.8

I knew the single speed would be faster while I was on the geared bike today.  The Niner just handles way better, even with 10mm less travel.  The Stumpy’s carbon frame is snappy while accelerating and when out-of-saddle on climbs, and absolutely hauls ass when at full throttle on double track, but it’s a bit harsh compared to the Niner when it comes to the tight and twisties.  The frame transmits every bump through to your posterior (not helped by minimalist XC race saddle). 

On the Niner side: I have to say that I’ve liked every Lefty fork I’ve ever ridden – they just seem to smooth stuff over better, let you plow through techy stuff, help you keep a line.  The Niner’s steering is also more predictable than the Stumpy’s, which trends to oversteering at times in this tight terrain.  And the frame seems to deflect trail feedback better than the Stumpy. 

So that’s my official unscientific report.

An unfortunate note about riding mt bike Strava loops at lunch:  I saw a couple other riders out there but didn’t stop to say hi as I normally would because, you know, I was virtual-racing against myself from two weeks ago.  Sorry if that was you. Next time. 

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