It has been about 3 months now since I made the switch from my long standing gear ratio of 42×16 to 44×16. For me the 42×16 was nigh on perfect and allowed me to spin at a cadence thta was agreeable to me and was good on my knees too. Easy on the climbs and not too spinny going downhill. But after years of being with that ratio I fancied a bit more top speed. So I bought a new Sugino BMX 110mm BCD 44 tooth chainring. See my post about that here. How has it been?
Well my main goal of achieving a faster top speed was realized but at great cost: I lost everything. It made me realise and value what I had already and took for granted. The top speed was also only a touch above my previous top speed.
In general it has been hard work. It took me at least three weeks to get used to it, especially on the hills. On top of that my weekly mileage increased during that time by almost 50%. So I have been cycling further and it has been harder work. But I believed that I would grow into it and soldiered on.
Acceleration was difficult too and rather than do it seated I always found myself having to stand on the pedals and swing the bike to build up speed. This became part of my new riding style especially during the following situations:
- Standing starts like after stopping at the lights
- Climbing even gentle inclines
- Climbing long or steep hills
- Getting up to cruising speed
Once up to cruising speed it was hard to maintain it and deceleration came much more easily. And of course slowing down or stopping for any reason meant that I would have to stand again. But on the plus side I have become fitter and adept at swinging the bike smoothly while accelerating.
I found that my average or overall speed was much the same. Seeing a slightly higher top speed gave the false impression that my average speed had increased too, but not so. This was disappointing especially after working harder during the ride. It was also much harder if I was cycling into a headwind or my energy level was a bit lower that day. This was not so noticeable with the previous gear ratio.
Because I needed more force to turn the pedals the chain tension needed adjusting more frequently. I was getting used to it but I wasn’t enjoying it and the whole point of riding fixed gear is that it’s so enjoyable. So I started to think about possible ratios: what about 43×16 or 46×17? I wanted to make it a bit easier but not back to where I was. Still with some challenge but mainly enjoyment, ease and comfort. On the 24th of April I did a London to Brighton ride and that was the decider. I felt overgeared and occassionally wanted to give up. It has never been like that before when I’ve wanted to get off my bike and walk.
I opted for 43×16 as that was the cheapest and easiest way to get the ratio I wanted. I bought a new chainring, same brand and fitted a new chain. I’ve been running this now for two days and it’s bliss. A bit of challenge there but all the old values have been reinstated. Same average speed with a lot less effort. Now I want to stay on the bike rather than get off it. Paradise regained.