On Gears

I need gears. I can’t get up and down the hills of Nerang on my mountain bike without them. They’re a necessary evil. I can no more imagine wanting to go mountain biking without gears than I could without suspension. I know people do both but better fitter people than me.

I think there is a direct correlation between gears and time spent in the shed. There’s a joke for roadies that time spent in lycra technically counts as training. Hence why they’re seen lounging around cafes in their cycle lingerie all day. The same can’t be said for time spent in the shed. Despite clocking untold hours fussing around the shed on a weekend I tend to let real maintenance get away from me.

What I noticed recently was the mountain bike was suffering from neglect. Pretty much everything on it was past its use by date. It was a dawning realization, as replacing one part lead to another and then the next. Eventually all the running gear was replaced, including the stopping bits.

(I know, years of use left in it right?)

None of this stuff comes cheap. I try and stay in the XT/XTR range of gear and by the time I had acquired new chain, cluster, front chainring, rear derailleur, cables, cable outers, and complete new XT disc brakes, I’d paid enough to have purchase at least one quite nice fixie. I’ve just ordered this thing so let’s face it I could very easily have bought two perfectly functional fixies with what I spent recently just on my running gear.

(I use this thing on my mountain bike.If you can’t lose all the gears then simplify and make more reliable.)

I know plenty people can’t see why we don’t run gears on our fixies. Part of the reason for me is it’s just too damned expensive. I really can’t tolerate gears that don’t run cleanly and keeping them running well means replacing stuff as it wears. If you’re getting around on a bike a fair bit and you’re doing it day-in-day-out regardless of weather or lapsed maintenance schedules then you’re abusing the crap out of your gear. I find I have trouble enough keeping up with bottom brackets, headsets, chains and chain-rings without burdening myself with another eight or nine gears. The value of a single speed or fixie is the money you save on all the crap that wears out.

Of course, it all comes out revenue neutral in the end if you’re not careful. The temptations for custom headtube badges, vintage cranksets and Brooks saddles will easily chew through any money you saved on your gears. Not to mention your expensive new haircut and handmade leather shoes.

I did replace the chain on one of my fixies last  week. If you haven’t replaced your chain in a while then treat yourself to a new one. You’ll be glad you did. It puts the sweet back into the bike. Get a good one though. You’ve got so little to maintain in a fixie drivetrain and those big fixie chains last ages, so why scrimp. A good chain will last longer, feel better, and won’t snap a pin when you’re practicing your skids. I used some cheap piece of crap I had sitting around the shed and I already regret it.

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