Formed in June 09, Here Come the Belgians is a non-elite anti-team celebrating all things cross, cobbled and Belgian.
Seeking a different experience to the traditional cycling club, its aim is to harness the energy of a vibrant internet cycling community with grass roots racing and riding based around Cyclocross and Spring Classics. There is no race programme in the style of a racing team, more a collection of individual experiences through rides and racing, in whatever location a member may be, that all can share in and contribute toward.

Monday, 22 August 2011

3 Peaks Fixed?

I posted a few words on the Three Peaks Blog yesterday which featured a bike with a certain lack of gears.

Those on twitter noticed and asked if I was contemplating the 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross on a Single Speed.

My mate Jon Wyatt did the race on his fixed gear Pompino back in 2006. Post race analysis by many decided that Jon was the only person to have ever ridden the course on a fixed wheel bike. So he though very modest, holds a record for the course.

A few years back I was into fixed off road in a big way. I did the occasional CX race, and did lots of 24 hour solo mountain bike races with the legs always turning, inspired by a dude from the USA, Rudi Nadler who rode fixed at my first ever team 24 in an effortless fluid style.

A couple of years ago I entered an off road 100 miler under prepared and even with a lower gear than normal. I blew big time. What followed next was the sale of all my bikes without a plethora of gear choices. A big sulk. Looking back I blamed the bike, and not my pitiful lack of training for the event.

So back to 2011. I need a challenge. There were people who entered this race and didn't get a place. There's a bit of responsibility there for starters. Now in my 45th year I know that I won't be challenging my fellow villager Nick for the vet's top spot with or without gears. Also I have no chance of beating the youthful John Ross's SS record. So what then? The answer is of course to return to my ways of old and have a go at Jon's record. 3 Peaks on a fixed gear. Oh, and this time I've sold my geared CX bike, so no turning back now.

Some myths dispelled about riding fixed off road for you disbelievers.

“My knees will explode” - No they won't. Cycling on the flat or uphill is no different to riding a geared bike. You train on a single gear, and your legs get used to the low cadence push on the steeper bits. When it gets too steep, you run then walk. You brake with brakes and not your legs, so no problem there either. Oh, and the one gear thing really seems to train those muscles needed for walking up the steeps. Double bubble.

“The technical riding bits will be a nightmare” Not so. Commitment is for sure necessary on some of the sketchier and faster bits though. I've yet to meet anything tech that I can't ride fixed that I could ride on a bike with a freewheel. Amusingly on a training ride this evening, a friend who's usually the better of me by half an hour at least in the race commented that I'd probably beat him with my training this year if it wasn't for the disability that was the fixed wheel downhill on the way up our hill. We now know having raced down the hill, that my so called impediment will not be my reason for not beating him come September.

“You'll only be in the right gear some of the time” I concede. You have a point there. There is no getting away from the fact that a gear to touch 40mph heading down from Cold Cotes and to ride up the approaches to Pen-Y-Ghent at 3mph maybe, are not going to be one and the same. So a compromise has to be made.

“What gear are you going to ride then?” This keeps me awake at nights at the moment. Too big a gear and I'll be on foot for all the off road that points upwards, and too small a gear and I'll be left way behind on the road. I trialled 42:18 and found it unmanageable offroad uphill. Today I've ridden 38:18 and that seems a little bit to easy. So somewhere in between I guess.

Maybe I'll be crafty and have two bikes. Both fixed, but with different gears. Or would that be naughty?



  1. 2 bikes with different gears would be very naughty indeed :)

  2. bit naughty but sensible :-)

  3. Cool! I keep meaning to build up a fixed free rear wheel for my original Inbred SS MTB. Not relevant for the Three Peaks but one place where fixed can be a pain in CX is riding off-camber with the pedal strikes ;-)

  4. How’s about one of those new-fangled Sturmey Archer 3 speed fixed gear hub thingy's? Or is that just cheating??? ;-)

  5. I was only joking about the two gears, though it my be the sensible idea.

    I'd thought about one of those SA 3 speeds a while back, that is until I saw how much one weighs.

  6. Yes I guess you will start to loose the low weight benefits of ss/fixed with a massive hub gear strapped to the back?? Leave all that palaver
    to the hipsters

  7. Having 2 bikes with different fixed gears would just be the same as riding a geared bike but promising not to freewheel ... !

  8. PS I think the higher gear is a must if faced with a choice. Most of the off road uphill isn't particularly rideable anyway, and with a nice light ss you'll be set up to run easier. Road sections on a 47" gear will sap the heart out of your morale.

  9. As long as I can ride 95% off the road at speed, then I have the "correct" gear. Testing takes place this Saturday. As you say off road and I'll leg it.