Tuesday, December 23

Share the Wisdom Wednesdays ((on Thursdays) but on Tuesday this time): Part Eight

Week number eight.  Phew.

I'm gonna offer up my tips on how to ride a rigid single speed (or rigid geared bike, dumb) without killing yourself.  Before Dahn Pahrs has a chance to point out that Jason Diurba smoked me on a Salsa Fargo coming down Gold Dust at the '12 Breck Epic, be aware of the fact that this is Dahn Pahrs:

I rest my case.

I'm not saying I'm the fastest guy on a rigid setup.  I'm just saying that I've been doing it since 2005, and it hasn't killed me yet (although I suffered some pretty bad nerve damage at the 2006 24HWC, dumb).  So that's ten years, not full time, but I've done the lion's share of my riding with a rigid frok.  I can still hold an ear of corn or an ice cream cone without dropping it and screaming in agony, so I'd say I'm doing something right.

So here we go.  My tips on making rigid single speeding more bearable, or at least perhaps, more survivable.


I know if I ever got professionally fit on my bike, I'd find out how wrong I am about the position I settled on for "racing" purposes.  I have somewhere in the neighborhood of zero inches (zero Canadian meters) of drop from my saddle to my bars and run a stem that most consider "short."  I do this to keep my weight relatively balanced between my ass and hands.  An ass can take a lot of pounding (I've been told... *ahem* Dahn Pahrs).

Bar width and hand crotchal zones.

I know wide bars are all the rage.

They don't work for me.  Once I start opening my arms up beyond a certain point, too much pressure is on my hand crotch and my weight is no longer distributed across my entire palm.  My wrists have to start bending inward as well.  The extra leverage is nice, but it can be a compromise.

Speaking of the hand crotch, do yourself a favor and get decent brakes.  So much descending-related fatigue is caused by having to pull too hard on your shitty brakes.  I can set my Shimano levers super close to the bars and still get max braking power without feeling like I'm trying to pull the levers into my elbows.

And lastly, about hand crotches...

Sometimes, you gotta be a draper.

Funny, but even though I have never seen Mad Men, I am aware of Don Draper, John Hamm, and John Hamm's John Ham.  And no, I'm not suggesting that being a liquor-swilling, chain-smoking, handsome, slick-haired, misogynistic business man will help you ride rigid.

Although it might.

That's not the kinda draping I'm thinking of...

You don't always have to fully grip the bars.  When the going's not that bumpy, bring your thumb to the upper deck and give your hand crotch a rest.  I paid attention during rides at the Backyard Trails and Sherman Branch over the weekend and was surprised how often I naturally end up in this position, switching back to full-on grippage when necessary, like one might shift gears when terrain demands more leverage and control.

Go fast.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes you need to ripshit over the rough stuff, bouncing from high point to high point.  Keep your wheels from falling in between the obstacles.  You should skip across the surface like a bowling ball across a tub of non-Newtonian fluid.

Go slow.

Sometimes "go fast" doesn't work so well.  Your eyes bounce around inside your head and your vision becomes a messy jumble of information and Nicholas Cage.

You gotta grab a handful of brake and give your brain a chance to play catchup.  It's too bad I can't give specific pointers on when to go fast or slow down, but you'll figure it out.

Give your hands a break (not a brake).

If you're really starting to feel the fatigue, try shaking out your hands... sorta like this, but with less flamboyance:

If you find that the trail is a bit too rough to take your hands off the bars for a full shake, try leaving your hands on the bars and drumrolling your fingers like Cookie Monster waiting for an important business call.

A little relief can go a long way, but if things get real bad, just pull off to the side of the trail and give your hands the "Shake and Break."

I feel like you're getting the point.  I'll stop there.

Walk the rice paper.

I can't think of a better way to say it.  When you start going fast over rough terrain, you need to get up and the let bike move under you.  Your legs are DW Links, your hips are a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock, your arms are a Rock Shox Pike, your shoulders are a Hopey Damper, and your core is the high-tech frame holding it all together.  Your head should be as gyroscope-like as possible.  Your body should be a flurry of mechanized wonder.  Your bike should be a chaotic rodeo bull of death.


Hate everything.  Every rock, every root, every braking bump... pump all that hate you've been storing up and take it out on the trail.  Every check writer in front of you at the grocery store checkout.  Every idiot that cut you off in traffic.  Every annoying stranger that talked to you about the weather...

I'm realizing most of my hate has a human as a point of origin.

Anyways, so much hate stored in the form of potential energy.  Learn to harness the power of this valuable resource and use it to make great bike ride.


As far as equipment goes, you probably know all about high volume/low pressure tires, and crabon bars and froks.  When going for lower front tire pressures, I highly recommend a quality pressure gauge.  Use it, like every time you're about to go for a ride.  No more squeezy-pinchy tests.  A pound or two one way or the other is the difference between pinch flats and bone-jarring descents.   Experiment with different pressures until you find your happy place AND THEN STAY THERE.  Myself, I'm 17PSI on a 2.4 Ardent and 18PSI on a 2.35 Ikon.

Grip selection is key.  Other people have their preferences, but I've found ESI Grips to be the best for me.

Remember over a year and a half ago when I had all those lumpy bumps on my left hand?  Well, they're gone.  Not only that, but my hands have felt terrific for quite some time.  The only hand pain type issues I've had this year were on a really nasty descent at the Trans-Sylvania Epic back in May (day two, if you were there, you know which one) and at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 when some idiot (me) adjusted my brake reach way too far out while trying to fix a sticky brake lever (it needed bled... badly).

I've tried foamies from Ritchey, Titec, and Bontrager.  They're all less dense and require more... I dunno, effort to grip.  You have to compress the foam, and that adds to the fatigue.  Dislike.

Get a suspension fjork.

Two reasons for this, the first one being that a fjork will help you get used to riding at higher speeds.  Add more speed and you'll start looking further down the trail.  Your brain will adapt to handling the increase in information your optical nerves are passing along.  This is a good thing. 

Secondly, it's nice to be able to take a break from rigid.  There will be times that you just wanna go for a bike ride without getting the shit beat outta you.  Toss a fjork on your rig, or if you have the means, acquire another bike for the purpose of squishy happy times.

Get a drooper.

Regardless of the fact that everyone can benefit from a drooper, they're so choice on a rigid single speed.  It's nice to drop your ass down, take even more weight off your hands, and let the front end float over lumpy bumpies while descending.  I will admit this does put more weight on your feet, and they will take the brunt of the pounding... enough so that I notice it.  Not enough for me to not droop though.


Do something to improve your upper body strength.  Anything is better than nothing in my opinion.  Find the exercise (or the exercises) you find least irritating to do.  For me, it's chin ups.  I work them in every morning.  I hate them, but I hate them less than most other things I could be doing.  I know I could probably be targeting other and perhaps better muscle groups, but like I said...

something > nothing

I feel the difference, even though I'm only spending a small amount of time every week doing it.  Eventually, I'd like to do something for my core (I hate that term), but I've yet to find an exercise I'm comfortable with doing on a regular basis.  Static poses need not apply because holding a position doesn't appeal to me.

Motion = feels like I'm doing something... basically the equivalent of soaking in Greek yogurt instead of eating it

I haven't been able to do any chin ups for awhile now.  After I hurt my back, I pushed through the pain for over a month before I realized I was doing more harm then good.  I can't wait until my back is 95% so I can start from pretty much square one.  Maybe I'll try pushups, but I need to work on my form.  The only thing I appear to be doing right is that I go up and down.

So there you have it.  Ten years of trial and MUCH ERROR that you won't have to endure... unless you want to.  Totally your call.

Merry Christmas and Happy Turgidity.


steven said...

that is a super douche necklace on the same

Anonymous said...

Rosie O'Donnell wears underwear with dick holes in them.

Anonymous said...

Your position sounds nearly identical to what I've settled on myself. Been riding/racing rigid since 2009...The thumb over the top works well to rest the hands and arms. I find bar ends to work even better. Something that for myself does NOT play well at all with a rigid fork are Ergon grips. I don't get enough wrap around my bars and my palms just want to slide off in rough conditions. This is magnified even more when trying to apply the brakes. I'm sure my small hands don't help.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to hear Bob Moss's explanation for his handlebar/grip setup. I've only seen photos but it looks like Ergons combined with ESI's and his brake levers run really far in on his bar???

dicky said...

I found an image of Bob's setup. Ergons with what looks like a split Titec Pork Rind on either side of the brake lever. I would imagine that's for extended road sections.

I'd post a link to the image, but it's on FB.

Anonymous said...

That's where I saw it as well. Just has me curious.