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I am a SS noob with an concern i am sure plenty of people have delt with before.

I am a fairly experienced roadie who will be riding his first cross race in December (i live in Florida) my bike had been assembled from extra parts I found lying around the bike shop where I work. To make things easier i am running a single speed, and I have spent a stupid amount of time trying to decide on a gear ratio. here are my thoughts:

-I have a 40 tooth front chainring.
-The wheel set I am using is an axis front wheel that came stock on a specialized allez, and a mavic wheel with a flip flop hub. I have been riding these steel bead 38s I got off the shelf at work.
-most of my training is done at the rediculously flat singletrack loop by my house and with barriers that are hidden at the conclusion of this loop.
-right now i am using an 18th freewheel.

As i typically am overgeared when I ride road, this gear ratio is working for the singletrack, but I am little worried it wont be enough to carry me with the head of the Novice or single speed pack. Also, i cant help but feel that my tire choice may come to be a mistake a little later in the season. I was thinking that maybe I would buy some of these cheap tires from Nashbar (13dollar Kenda Kwicks/30mm/folding bead) and put them on a pair of extra road wheels I have, and run them with a 16tooth cog. This way, if the conditions are super muddy, I can run the 18 with a thicker tire, but if they are relatively dry, I can use the thinner tires, lighter wheels and harder gearing.

I am sure i will probably down a couple beers before the race and all of this will become quickly irrelevant, but i was wondering if my head was in the right place.

thanks for the advice.

nashbar tires:

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i'm sure you'll get a lot of good advice from hard core SS folks here (be sure to join the ss group if you haven't yet) but having done some SS, i think it all depends how strong you are and how much you like to spin or mash. my philosophy for folks starting out is choose gear (cog, tires) you can ride in any condition - it may not be perfect but you'll focus more on riding/training/racing instead of always swapping stuff around for each race. I think a 40x17 would work pretty well (I race a 39x17), and the 40x16 is a bit tall but good if things are flat/fast. many folks use something like a 40x18 on normal cx courses - just depends on strength and style.

tires - avoid those 30mm. unless it's smooth pavement, you'll be better off with something wider. kenda makes some good tires, small block 8, kommando, but the kwick isn't one of them in that width. you'll want to try to ride lower pressure, and 30c tires won't let you unless you're very light. i bet you have a lot of sand out there - narrow tires aren't great in sand. you want to float over it.

my instinct is to say leave the current gear and tires one, go out, have fun, try racing with it, and make adjustments after that first race. but focus on the fun part!
I've been running a 39x18. I've been fortunate to not run into too many courses that I needed a taller gear (though I did get beat in a sprint to the line on a long grassy downhill finish, but it would have happened even if I had a couple more gear inches, that's the trade-off with the single speed, I guess). Most of the time the other ss riders have slightly larger gears, but I can spin a pretty high cadence and don't like to have to muscle the grassy flats. I also hate changing gears so I've ridden the same ratio on every course and it's worked out well. Last week I won the CX4 race on my SS, didn't lose any time on the downs, didn't have to push too hard on the flats and made my move on the ups. You can always spin a little faster, but it's tough on lap 6 to push a 42x18 (like a lot of our TN locals use) through the grass and up even moderate climbs.


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