Just a few weeks ago I had something of a downer on fixed wheel and said so. Recently, however, my usual warm feelings for fixed have returned. As ever, rain was the cue for a return to the Rolls saddle of my Roberts; having only the previous day washed my geared bike after soiling it on a reliability ride, I didn’t fancy getting even the lightest coating of crap on it until the next one and the green’un was the obvious alternative.
Riding it gave me the usual opportunity to ponder the whys and wherefores of eschewing a freewheel and variable gearing. My views on this have veered around wildly through the years from devotion bordering on mania – I once toured the Cotswolds from London on 63″ – to blithe indifference and even genuine dislike, although in the end the sheer tactile pleasure to be had in that precise moment you go from powering the pedals to braking them always wins through. And, of course, there’s the fact that DA hates it.
But this time there was something new. The legs are going well right now; modesty forbids me from revealing the ease with which I dropped my companions on the Old Ports Reliability but it was enough to let me know that some sort of form is in the offing. Equally, with my first time trial of the year just days away and the quads still sore from the weekend, now was not the time to jump on fixed wheel for its assumed training effect.
So I set off on 48×17, or around 74/75″ depending on tyre size, ready to turn the back wheel and swap for a 19t sprocket at the first hint of leg strain.
Now, it might sound obvious that one can as easily moderate effort by pedalling more slowly in a big gear as by switching to a lower one, but it’s not a choice I see or imagine many cyclists making. On this occasion, however, perhaps because I really could not be bothered to turn the back wheel around, I did just that. Or, rather, I kept to a level of perceived effort, low as it happens, that required a slow cadence on any rise and a very steady acceleration away from traffic lights.
The commute turned out to be downright enjoyable, as have several more since at rather greater intensity. And it turns out that 75″ is a very fine gear indeed for a whole variety of riding situations, being big enough for a respectable turn of speed and low enough for a sore-legged tootle into work into a stiff headwind.
Slow pedalling in a high fixed gear – it’s the new recovery riding.