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Singlespeeding: Pflug’s Way

Recently, I asked Salsa sponsored rider Gerry Pflug to write up a post about his approach to singlespeeding, any peculiarities of his setup and the like. Afterall, Gerry has proven himself a singlespeed powerhouse and my guess is that all of us can learn something from him. -Kid

As the 2009 and 2010 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series Singlespeed Champion, I tend to get a lot of questions from other riders about the bike and equipment that I use for these long MTB races. I don’t mind these inquiries and am more than happy to teach what I have learned over the years and share my “secrets.” Last year I used a scandium Selma for the NUE Series, but I have a new ride this year, the Selma Ti. I had no major complaints about my old Selma, but I must admit that the Selma Ti is a nicer frame. The photos shown here depict my bike, as it would be prepared for a NUE Series Race.

For starters, here is a complete list of how I have my Selma Ti built-up and some quick thoughts about the parts:

Fork – Rock Shox Reba RLT Ti with remote lockout – 100mm of plushness when I need it.
Headset – Cane Creek 110 ZS44 Semi-Integrated – Super smooth.
Top Cap – Salsa – Bling!
Stem – Salsa Pro Moto Ti 110mm – Light, but strong.
Bars – Salsa Pro Moto Carbon 11-degree Bend – They can be cut, but I run them at the full 660mm length.
Bar Ends – LP Composites – Yes, I still use them. I’ll explain why later.
Brakes – Avid Elixir CR Mag – Lightweight with plenty of stopping power.
Grips – Salsa Juegos de Fuegos Lock-On. Comfortable and secure.
Seatpost – Salsa Shaft – Strong and reliable. Believe me, you don’t want a post breaking during a race.
Seat – WTB Laser V Team Ti – Oh so comfy and just what the doctor would order for a 7-plus hour MTB ride.
Seat Clamp – Salsa Lip-Lock – The best, period.
Chain – SRAM PC1 – It is strong and inexpensive, the perfect combination for a chain.
Wheelset – Stan’s NoTubes with ZTR Crest Rims and ZTR SS hubs. These things are light, fast and strong.
Skewers – Salsa Flip-Offs – Is there anything else out there that can even compare?
Tires – Hutchinson Python Tubeless – Man, do these tires roll fast.
Crankset – CODA Tarantula 170mm 94BCD – Yeah, they’re old school, but they are also light and stiff.
Bottom Bracket – Shimano XTR Octalink – I still think these are the most durable BB’s made and they’re smooth, too.
Chainring – Real - On the bike now, but I also use Salsa and other brands.
SS Cog – Endless Bike Kick-Ass - On the bike in the photo, but I also use Surly Cogs.
Pedals – Crank Brothers Candy 3 – They just work well for me.
Water Bottle Cages – Salsa Nickless Cage – These things hold bottles tight! You won’t see me losing a bottle on the trail.
Bottles – Salsa – Because they are pretty…and a pretty good sponsor!
Frame Pump – Topeak RaceRocket HP – 82 grams worth of insurance to get out of the woods when needed.
Seat Bag – Topeak Wedge Pack – The best way I have found to carry a couple of CO2 Cartridges, a tube and tools.

Of course, the most important aspect of any bike is the frame. Being made of titanium, the Selma Ti is lightweight without being fragile and, of course, has the compliant ride and reliability that has become synonymous with Ti frames. The frame does not flex too much. I feel almost no flex in the bottom bracket area when I am pushing the pedals hard up a steep hill. Additionally, the large oversized headtube and how it connects with the toptube and the biaxial oversized downtube make the front end super stiff, which provides very precise steering control. The Salsa graphics are beautifully etched on this frame, which not only provides durability but also provides a very clean look. I, however, decided to spice my Selma Frame up a little by adding a red Salsa sticker to the frame’s toptube. Please don’t hate me for doing this.

Speaking of durability, at one race I did this year, fairly large sized rocks were being kicked-up from my front tire and they were hitting the downtube of my frame when I was going down a few of the fast descents on the course. After the race, I checked things out and saw that there was no damage at all to the frame. While the rocks were flying though, I thought about how scared I would be if I was riding a frame made out of carbon or some other super-light, thin-walled tubing. MTB racing is hard on bikes, so I would much rather have my frame and parts be a bit more on the beefier side than on the featherweight side. After only a couple of months of use, I can already tell that the Selma Ti is a racing frame that was designed to last for more than one season of riding.

A frame can be perfect in design and function, but it is worthless to me if it doesn’t fit right. The geometry of the Selma seems to be spot on for me, as far as sizing go. By the way, I am about 5’11” tall and weigh about 162 pounds. According to the Selma Ti fit chart a medium sized frame should provide me with the best fit and sure enough, it is spot-on perfect. This frame fits me like it was custom designed for my body measurements, but it is just the same medium size production frame that anyone can buy.

The new addition of the Alternator dropouts is the biggest improvement over the old Selma frame and, in my opinion, helps to make the Selma Ti the perfect singlespeed frame. While an eccentric bottom bracket (EBB) is an effective way to provide chain tension on a singlespeed, the Alternator allows me to change my gearing without moving my BB position. I have found that the Alternator dropout is also much easier to use when it comes to changing gears and it does not tend to loosen-up like an EBB does at times. The simplicity of the Alternator dropout cannot be beat. To adjust the chain tension, I just loosen the top pivot bolt on each side and then loosen the bottom securing bolt on each side, before loosening or tightening the small chain tensioning bolts on the rear of the dropouts. The chain tensioning bolts make it so easy to achieve proper chain tensioning and wheel placement in the frame. I then tighten the top pivoting bolt and the bottom bolts to secure the dropouts in place.

You might notice in the picture above that my skewer lever is on the “wrong side.” To me, the drivetrain side is the correct side for skewer placement on a singlespeed bike. I think placing the skewer on this side allows me better access to the skewer lever without dealing with the disc rotor being in the way. I also put my skewer lever on the right side of my bike when I mount my front wheel for the same reason. And, by the way, Flip-Offs skewers are like a piece of art to me; I just dig the way they look and function.

The photo above is probably the best one to show my gearing choice also. In this photo, I have a 36x18 on the bike. This is the gear I almost always use for training. When I race, I use all kind of crazy combinations and pretty much never use the same gear at any of the NUE series races. I look at the finishing times from previous editions of a race to determine my gear choice. Pretty simply, if the finishing times are slow (nine hours or more), I use an easier gear. If the race seems fast (around seven hours or so), then I use a harder gear. Additionally, I look at how much climbing there is and if the weather may be a factor. The easiest gear I use at any of the NUE races is at the Breckenridge 100. I use a 32x22 there because of all the long climbs and the high altitude of the race. The biggest gear I use is a 32x17 at the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan. Most of that course is fast and rolling singletrack, which allows for a bigger gear to be used. I use the above gear ratios only as an example, though. I typically run a 36 tooth ring or bigger for the front chainring and anywhere from a 20 to a 25 for the rear cog. Most singlespeeders run a 32 or 34 up front, but I find that using bigger cogs and chainrings seems to make the drivetrain smoother and more efficient for me than using the smaller choices. For example, using a 39x22, the gear I used at the Wilderness 101 and the Shenandoah 100 races last year, is basically the same as using a typical 32x18 gear selection.

I’ve tried all kind of crank options over the years, but I keep coming back to a five arm 94mm BCD crank. The CODA Tarantula crankset is light and super stiff. I can put anything from a 29 tooth chainring to a 40 tooth chainring on the crank and still have chainstay clearance. The spider has a very wide mounting shelf, which gives the chainring a ton of support. I can also use singlespeed chainring bolts, keep my chainring on the outer side of the spider and do not have to use a chain guide to keep my chainring securely in place. With this setup, I have no issues with my chainring loosening up and it looks very clean. The CODA crank is mounted to a XTR M952 bottom bracket. This thing stays smooth forever and requires almost no maintenance. Also, I use 170mm length crankarms because I like the way they feel when I am spinning along at a high cadence. I’ve tried other lengths, but the 170’s feel best and seem fastest to me. I absolutely do not feel like I lose any power by using these shorter length crankarms.

This is a picture of my cockpit. This is what I see for many hours during a race and while I am training. I keep it pretty basic, like the rest of my bike, except for the extra bling of my red Salsa top cap. By looking at the photo closely, you might notice that my steerer tube is left a little long and that I use a carbon spacer on top of my stem. This is intentional. I find that by leaving the steerer tube about a quarter of an inch longer than it should be measured makes my steer tube feel like it is flexing less when I am pulling hard on the handlebars. Am I just imagining this? Maybe. But if it is a placebo that’s working, then I’m going to keep on using it!

I am also a big fan of using bar ends. Yeah, I know they went out of style in the late 1990’s, but I find that they are very useful for singlespeed riding, especially for endurance length races. Not only do the bar ends help me put more power into my pedal strokes when I am climbing, but they also give me another hand position to hold onto when my hands start feeling fatigued.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about my Selma Ti as much as I enjoy riding it. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions about my frame or the equipment that I use. Please feel free to post questions here or find me at one of the many races that I do. I always enjoy talking to new folks and making new friends. Happy Trails, Gerry

This post filed under topics: Mountain Biking Sponsored Riders Ultra Racing

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerry Pflug

I try to keep life simple, even though there are so many things to make it complicated. My bike has been riding with me for most of my life and it has always known just how to unwind a complicated situation by providing me with quality time to ponder possible solutions. Perhaps if everyone rode bikes everyday, it would make the world a better place. Gerry Pflug: Pfun With Pflug http://pfunwithpflug.blogspot.com/

COMMENTS (27)

Chad | June 6th, 2011

Thanks for the full run down on your bike.  I don’t own one yet, but ride with a bunch of folks who love their SS.  It’s probably only a matter of time!  Keep churnin out the wins…and the reports.

Cheers,

Chad

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

Thanks, Chad, and I’m sure you’ll be very happy on a SS once you get one.

cmherron | June 6th, 2011

Great review of your ride!  I’m in the process of having my SS built by Mosaic Cycles in Boulder, CO and will hopefully have it in time for the Breck race in July.  I really liked your explanation of gearing and chain ring sizes.  I am one the people who likes the 32 up front bc I ride in areas with lots of rocks that just want to grind the teeth off of bigger rings…  But, if I’m going to a race where I can put a bigger chain ring on, I might give it a shot.  The Dakota five-o could be a good race to try it out!  Thanks Gerry, good stuff.  Oh, I love my bar ends too ;)

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

Thanks and see you at Breck, cmherron.

R | June 6th, 2011

So I take it you’ve had no issues with bar ends on carbon handlebars?  They are still warned against, right?

wandrian | June 6th, 2011

Hey Gerry,

I really enjoyed the write-up. Can you talk a little as to your tire choices. Do you run the Pythons at most of your races? How do they fair on rockier courses like the W101 or SM100?

Thanks for all the interesting info.

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

@ R, yes, bar ends are not recommended with these bars, but I have used bar ends on this bar for the past 3 years without any trouble whatsoever.

@ wandrian, while not the best tire to use on rocky courses, I still find it gets the job bone and then gives me some extra speed on the dirt/gravel roads over a tire better suited for technical riding.

Tom Moore | June 6th, 2011

What garmin Do you use?

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

@ Tom, a Garmin Edge 305.  It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

MG | June 6th, 2011

Great setup Gerry… Unorthodox choices in some places, but totally justified for the reasons you’re using them, esp. the 94mm BCD crank and bar ends. A ride worthy of the champion you are…

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

Thanks, MG.  I was never one to do the same thing as everyone else.

dgaddis | June 6th, 2011

Dang.  I knew you must be a beast since you’re the ‘09 and ‘10 NUE SS champ….seeing the 36x18 ‘training gear’ confirms it!!  That is a BIG gear.  Where do you live and ride the most?

MG | June 6th, 2011

Amen brother… I’m still running a ‘96 era Deore XT crank on my Ti drop bar Salsa prototype, so I can get the advantages of the 94mm BCD too. Talk about a lost classic…

Martin | June 6th, 2011

I appreciate you taking the time for an insightful write-up. See you at the Lumberjack 100!

Gerry | June 6th, 2011

@ dgaddis, I live east of Pittsburgh, PA near the Laurel Highland Ridges.  There is plenty of climbing here, with the longest being 3-4 miles long.  The 36x18 definitely brings the pain on some of these climbs.

@ Martin, The Lumberjack is going to be a blast.  See you there!

iPhrankie | June 7th, 2011

Thanks for this post. It’s great to get insight from other SS riders.

Todd Ames | June 7th, 2011

Gerry and Salsa, great article!
I was hanging on your every word! You gave me alot of “good food for thought” I am new to SS riding, and now racing. I just started racing this year with my new Salsa Selma in the Charlotte Mountian bike Series, and I love it! Please keep the updates coming.

Thanx
Todd

Gerry | June 8th, 2011

@ iPhrankie and Todd, Thanks for the comments and keep-on spinning one gear.

Jay | June 8th, 2011

What are your thoughts on the chainstay length of the Selma for technical riding? My current SS is around 17.3”, which I think is the same as the Selma Ti in its shortest configuration. I don’t think I’d want to go much longer.

Gerry | June 8th, 2011

@ Jay, I’ve had the rear wheel at the shortest, longest and at multiple locations between these two locations.  I can hardly tell any differnce in the handling of the bike when I move the wheel.  I’ve been riding and racing 29ers instead of 26” bikes since 2004 and do realize that the bigger wheels aren’t as nimble through the technical stuff as a smaller MTB wheel might be, but this fact has never made me feel much slower on tight trails.  I actually like the more comfortable ride of a longer wheel base, especially during the long endurance races and rides that I do.  I would say that you would be good to go on a bike using the Alternator dropout system unless you race and ride nothing but super tight and technical stuff all the time.  I’ve had my Selma on some very technical trails and it always does what I expect it to do.  I sure hope this helps and thanks for the question.

Eszter | June 9th, 2011

Sexy looking bike.  Interesting thought about the bigger chainrings/cogs, I’d never really thought about it.  I’ve got you beat on the bar ends though, I have mine on a riser bar.  Total fashion faux pas, but I love the set up.

Gerry | June 9th, 2011

@ Eszter, Thanks for noticing my Selma’s sexiness.  And, I’m glad to hear that you are rocking some big bar ends, too.  Comfort is king!

James | June 28th, 2011

Gerry,
Great write up!  I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge about endurance single speed racing.  Awesome bike as well!  I was wondering if you relied more on total vertical gain of the course or previous finishing times when selecting a gear?  Also, what gear did you run for cohutta 100?

Good luck with the rest of your season.

Gerry | June 29th, 2011

Hi James,
I do take vertical gain into consideration, but I use the finish times more for selecting my gears because it gives me a better picture of what my average speed will be.  I use the average speed to then pick my gear.  The first two times I did Cohutta on a SS, I used a 32x19.  This year I used a 36x21 and liked that ratio better than the 32x19.  Thanks for your questions.  - Gerry

Mark @ GRAVELBIKE | September 2nd, 2011

Great write-up.  I found the post by accident, as I was searching for info on those CODA cranks.  I’m going to install a pair on my Salsa Vaya in 29/44.  Should be perfect for the Colorado dirt roads and singletrack.

Chuckles | June 12th, 2012

Any idea on complete weight as is? I am @ 25 on a large and wondering how the complete stans and light tires offset my build…

Gerry | June 12th, 2012

Hi Chuckles, I’m not sure what the exact weight of my bike is.  I’ve never weighed it to be honest with you.  The most accurate scale I own is an old classic dial scale, so it probably would only be best at giving a weight estimate.  But, I will say the most important place to save weight on a bike is with the wheels and the Stans Notubes set-up would be a great addition to your Selma.

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