Part 1: The Beginning:
I love the challenge of a record that hasnt been completely put out of reach by some superhuman rider but often such records are hard to find. I have had my eye on the “Beat The Clock Single Speed Merckx” record for a while as it looked like a pretty low apple. It sounded easy, just do 21MPH for 10 miles and the record was there to be taken, but the Canada road course is ill suited for just one gear shennanigans. Canada road has a lot of fast descending on the way out and a long climb on the way back. A decision has to be made on either being too low geared on the way out or too high geared on the way back (never mind the complications wind brings to the equation).
My first thought was to slap a front brake on my Felt TK3 track bike and stick with the stock 48t x 15t gearing but as I pondered the “Merckx” rules it became clear that my semi aero track frame did not meet the spirit of the class. After a few trial runs I also discovered that 48 x15 was a pretty hard gear into a strong wind or on a big climb. My only other option was my Masi Single speed Cyclo cross bike that had conventional round steel tubes, wheels with more than 32 spokes and absolutely no aero features. The only real problem with it is that it isnt very light (I actually weighed it today and was shocked to see it at 23.5 pounds) , it has 35mm fat tires and worst of all it has a 42 x 18 gear. A 42 x 18 gives a speed of approx 18.9MPH at 100RPM which is about 2 MPH short of my target (I reckon anything over 100rpm isnt really efficient).
I took my Masi down to the Calaveras TT course and rode with some fellow FFBC riders for a couple of practise time trials. Calaveras is similar to Canada road in many respects although I ussually go a bit faster on Calaveras. I had to spin my legs off and hammered myself silly but was unable to crack 30 minutes. I ended up with sore knees for four days after that stupid session and had to go back to the drawing board.
Plan 2 was to buy a 48 tooth front chainring for the Masi as I reckoned 48t X 18t would give me a speed of 21.6MPH at 100RPM which should be good enough to crack 21MPH. Unfortunately when it arrived on Saturday I discovered that due to the very wide chain stays, to give clearance for 45 tires, the biggest chainring I could run was a 42 (what a waste of money!).
Plan 3 was to use the 16t BMX sprocket I had gathering dust for the back rather than fixed as I couldnt get a fixed sprocket or sprocket wrench in time and I was busy at work all week. A 48t x 16t would give me 21.2MPH at 100RPM or 25.5mph at 120RPM on the 35 section tires. I fitted the 16t on Thursday morning and went out for a trial run. The good news was that those 2 teeth made enough of a difference for me to do a 21.6MPH average lap on my 4 mile test circuit on a very windy day. I spun out on the tailwind sections and had to get out of the saddle frequently into the wind but the results were promising. Even with the big fat Schwalbe Marathon Racers (they help up the overall gear) I reckon I finally have a weapon suitable for the task.
21MPH may not sound fast but on a heavy single speed bike with no aero bits on a hilly course I have no doubts it is going to hurt a lot. To be continued……………..
Single speed Merckx Men (Current Records)
- 29:01 Emerson Ken Team Spotted Ass 8/20/2011 (20.6MPH)
- 29:32 Jason Pierce Team Pudu 8/20/2011 (20.3MPH)
- 30:53 Adam Driscoll 3/19/2011 (19.4 MPH)