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Difference in speed between single speed and geared cyclocross

I am curious about the actual difference in performance between single speed and geared cross. It seems that with the lack of long descents or climbs in cross that there would be near parity between single speed and geared cross, except maybe in straight-up sprints at the end.

Also, I imagine that this varies a lot based on rider strength and skill. For instance, I would guess that the difference is pretty small for the top sscx folks.

Does anyone have any experience, like riding the same course geared and ss, to provide a comparison of speed? Are we talking seconds or minutes?

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in a nutshell, seconds per lap add up to minutes per race.  it's a given that for most courses, a ss is going to lose time at various parts of a course compared to a geared bike - you don't need a very long descent or stretch of flat terrain to jump on a big gear for 5 to 10 seconds, or a very long "climb" to take advantage of a smaller gear.  not to mention that it's extremely difficult for a ss'er to make the selection for the front group, or hang with a chasing group, without having a true sprint or the ability to cover attacks.


so, while the fastest guys and gals on a ss can minimize these disadvantages, losing maybe 15-20 seconds per lap in a 6 lap race is . . well, shit - 15-20 seconds is a lot time.  all things being equal, 90-120 seconds (and that's being very generous to a ss'er) is not what I'd describe as near parity.


and, yeah - of course this will vary for a given rider and what field they race in. but for the majority of riders, ss is a competitive disadvantage.  which is why there is an awesome ss category at lots of races these days!



I race both geared and SS and consider it almost a different approach to racing.  With a geared bike I can put it in the appropriate gear at any point and hammer; while on the SS your cadence with change with terrain you often as not have hard efforts and recovery areas as dictated by gearing.  I now several of the guys in Cat4 claim faster laps in the SS race (as the second race of the day), but I tend to drop a handful of seconds per lap on an average course with long open straights combined with technical sections or hills to force gear selection to be more conservative.


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