To supplement cycling with strength training in the weight room and specific drills and techniques to increase pedal efficiency, as well as choosing equipment to maximize durability, requires careful planning and training coordination for the dedicated cyclist. However, these training benefits are also found for cyclists who incorporate single-speed training on a regular basis. Single-speed training, or the use of either a dedicated single-geared bike or the same exclusive gear on a multi-geared bike, have become a welcome addition to the effective training program of many cyclists.
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Time restraints for the health-conscious cyclist may prove difficult in adding strength training into a complete health and fitness program, especially after a lengthy endurance ride. However, using only a single gear on usual routes forces the rider to apply more energy to the pedals on rolling terrain and hills, where he previously trained with a variety of gears to decrease the amount of power required to negotiate the terrain. A byproduct of decreased pedal cadence, and the increasing resistance from using an inefficiently large gear for the terrain, is the development of low-speed sport-specific strength.
Increased Mechanical Efficiency
Multiple gears provide increased physiological efficiency, defined by Professor Stephen Seiler, PhD, in his online article "Efficiency, Economy, and Endurance Performance," as “the percentage of energy expended by the body that is converted to mechanical work.” Single-gear bicycles increase mechanical efficiency due to constant chain tension and a straight chain line from the front and rear sprockets. The motivation to increase efficiency while riding prompts bicycle manufacturers to design bicycles with a variety of gear choices to maximize performance. However, the trade-off for increased physiological efficiency with multiple gears is decreased mechanical efficiency, and according to the late renowned cycling expert Sheldon Brown, single-gear training “is considerably more efficient mechanically than the drive train of a derailleur bike.”
Not every cyclist enjoys performing repairs on her bicycle, and some struggle with basic maintenance for tire replacement or seat post adjustments. A multiple-geared bicycle has additional components such as front and rear derailleurs, gear shifters and gear shift cables, and adjustments of these components are required to ensure safe operation. For the beginner who has difficulty managing the technical aspects of multiple-geared bikes, or the advanced cyclist looking to rekindle the simplicity of basic riding skills, single-speed training provides a low maintenance and simplistic alternative.
Supportive Race Events
To accommodate the current surge in single-speed training and the enjoyment many cyclists discover after switching to one gear, cyclo-cross and mountain bike events have created complementary single-speed race entry divisions. Races such as the Furnace Creek 508, 24 Hours of Moab and even the Single Speed Cyclo-Cross World Championship all provide a great opportunity to put single-speed training to the test.