Fixed Gear Division
Furnace Creek 508 is Proud to be the first Ultra Race to Offer a Fixed Gear Division!
The rules for this division were finalized prior to the 2004 race and are listed here. We also got a lot of good feedback on this which is also copied below, verbatim, just so you can see the discussion that led up to the addition of this division to the race. It has certainly proven to be an exciting addition to the race and we appreciate the enthusiasm and input we've received.
Fixed Gear Division Rules
- Bikes must use the same fixed gearing (ring/cog) for the entire event.
- Bike frames shall be steel, traditional double diamond design (forks are unrestricted) and wheels (maximum 25 mm rim depth) with 32 spokes minimum.
- Aerobar/Spinaci attachments and aero-designed parts are prohibited.
- Wheel switches are permitted only for wheel failures (not for flat tyres), and must be identical or essentially identical to the failed wheel.
- Bike switches are not permitted.
- Riders may not coast with feet off the pedals.
- Riders must declare their gear (ring/cog) choice at check in, which may not be changed thereafter.
Fixed gear division riders may abandon that division and switch to a multispeed bike in the "open" division, then complete the race on the multispeed bike, provided that they or their crew notifies an official as soon as possible; they will then be treated as having ridden the entire event on the multispeed bike.
Fixed Gear Racer Profiles
||Profiles of the three fixed gear racers who competed in the 2004 Furnace Creek 508.
||Profiles of the three fixed gear racers who competed in the 2005 Furnace Creek 508.
||Profiles of the two fixed gear racers who competed in the 2006 Furnace Creek 508.
Fixed Gear and Single-Speed Websites and Information
Home Page for Fixed Innovations (and FixMeUp!): A site for people who want to convert their multi-speed bicycles with vertical rear dropouts to fixed-gear or single-speed use http://www.peak.org/~fixin/personal/fmu/php/index.php
Single Speed Outlaw: http://www.singlespeedoutlaw.com/
Home of the Intergalactic Single Speed Space Federation: http://www.offcamber.com/
On t'Cog: Phil Chadwick's adventures on fixed: http://www.fixed.org.uk/
Join the Fixed Gear Discussion List (not ours): http://lists.davintech.ca/mailman/listinfo/fixed-gear
Articles about Fixed Gear Cycling and Equipment by Sheldon Brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed/
SoloVelo's "why ride a fixed gear": http://www.angelfire.com/ca6/solovelo/WhyRideFixedGear.html
The Off-Road Fixed Gear Site: http://www.63xc.com/
A web space for fixed gear bicycle riders in the Pacific Northwest region: http://www.dampfixie.org/
Fixed gear cycling by David Balfour of Illinois, rider of 25 centuries on a fixed gear in 2003: http://www.doctorvision.com/fixie/
Fixed Gear Hooligans: http://users.penn.com/~retro/fixed.htm
Fixed Gear Gallery (nearly 900 bikes featured as of May 28, 2004): http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/
Old Skool Track: http://oldskooltrack.com/files/home.frame.html
Fixed Gear Long Distance Ride Reports
Kent Peterson's Rando / Fixed Gear Site: http://www.mile43.com/peterson/rando.html
Report on Kent Peterson and friends' 2002 Fleche as a group of five on fixed: http://www.mile43.com/peterson/Fleche2002.html
Mark Van de Kamp's slideshow of the 2004 Fleche as a group of five on fixed: http://phred.org/~mark/Fleche%20Web%20Gallery/index.htm
Kent Peterson's 3000km, 11.5 day tour on a fixed: http://www.mile43.com/peterson/NorthRoad/NorthRoad.html
2004 Climb go Kaiser on a Fixed: http://www.midcalracing.com/kaiser2004.htm
2004 Central Coast Double Century on a Fixed: http://www.midcalracing.com/ccd.htm
Riding the Rocky Mountain 1200km and BMB 1200km on a fixed gear: http://www.rusa.org/newsletter/05-04-04.html
Public Input on the Fixed Gear Category
After making the public anouncement in late October 2003 about the upcoming fixed gear division at the 2004 Furnace Creek 508, I received the following comments during the "public input period" before setting the rules down officially.
I’m providing this correspondence in the hopes of increasing interest in this division, encouraging discourse, and also letting each of you know that you are not alone in your seemingly bizarre interest in fixed gear endurance cycling! I also want you all to know that all of this feedback was considered before the rules were finalized.
As a winter fixed-gear rider, I am intrigued by the proposal of this new division.
However, I would think that there must be a VERY limited group of people who would be able to complete the entire 508 withing the time limit on a fixed-gear.
Also, riding down steep hills on a fixed-gear can be somewhat risky. In the rules, you may want to insist that the rider have both a front and rear brake, at a minimum.
Also, you should probably suggest somewhere in the fixed-gear guidelines that, in training, the rider have done at least a double or preferably something like a 600K on the fixed-gear.
1998 508 (non-fixed-gear) finisher
Just some random thoughts, which may or may not be useful to you.
First, I'm not someone who's done the 508, and it's not likely in my near future. I tend to do brevets close to home and save my money to go to PBP every four years. But I do follow the 508 and other ultradistance races as a fan. And as a fan, I would *love* to see a fixed-gear division.
Last fall, I converted an old road bike to fixed, and I rode it all through the winter. I love the simplicity of it and feeling connected to the bike. I now do my 30-mile round-trip bike commute on my fixed, five days a week. The farthest I've ridden is 100 miles in moderately hilly terrain. Anyone who even thinks about competing in the 508 on a fixed gear is my hero. This spring and summer, I watched with admiration as my friend Mark Behning rode a fixed through all four brevets in our series and PBP. I was worried simply about finishing PBP with a fully geared bike and two drop bags. I couldn't imagine doing what he did: riding the entire thing on a fixed-gear with no support, other than the controls.
Speaking as a fan, not a competitor, whether or not someone rides a retro bike in the 508 doesn't affect my admiration for their achievement. I'm not really concerned about their frame, wheels, handlebars etc. I guess it makes sense that they ride a fixed the whole way and don't use a flip-flop hub with a freewheel. But if someone wants to do the 508 on a fixed gear with a titanium frame or aerobars, I'll still be amazed and awed by that accomplishment.
I guess what strikes me as odd about emphasizing the retro aspect of fixed-gear riding is that the format of the 508 doesn't seem to me to be really "retro" in spirit. The riders need a support vehicle to participate in the race, and they'll have a support crew that mixes their drinks and makes their food, carries spare parts (and bikes), warm clothing and all that. Don't get me wrong: I completely understand the need for a support vehicle given the conditions of the race. It just strikes me as a mixed message to have the individual support requirement and then to have equipment restrictions that pay homage to the classic days. Plus, there'd be the issue of cheating by carrying banned equipment in the vehicle and using it on the sly. Of course, there are all kinds of ways people can cheat in a race, so in the end we have to rely on the honor system, but I think it's good to have rules that could be enforced if necessary.
But enough of that. My main message here is to say thanks for following through with such a great idea! I really admire fixed-gear riders and I'm pleased that they'll get some recognition in ultra events. So thanks for adding this category to your race and taking the time to think carefully about the parameters.
I like the fixed gear category idea, particularly with traditional bikle designs, but one gear for the entire ride is not reasonable. Even in the early days of the Tour riders used flip-flop hubs and switched between 2 fixed cogs or between one fixed and a single freewheel (for going downhill).
If a rider wants to spend time changing cogs or wheels, why not allow it?
Doug Sloan, part one:
I would propose the following rules, taking into account your discussion:
- Same fixed gear chainring and cog required for entire event, even on different bikes. No flip flops or gear changes allowed. [optional — "You must state your gear selection at check in."?? — would be entertaining to publish this for all to know! ] The same crank lengths shall be required on all of a rider's bikes used in the event. Any pedals are allowed.
- Only traditional double diamond, steel, round tube frames allowed.
- A front brake is required; a rear brake is optional, but recommended.
- Wheels must be standard design, tubular or clincher, but with minimum 32 spokes, aluminum rims not greater than 25 mm deep in cross section. Minimum 25 mm wide tires shall be used. [may want to consider banning tubulars, as braking on tubulars rims on very long descents like Townes Pass is likely to melt glue and roll a tire]
- No aero bars or other aero equipment permitted. Camelbaks, skinsuits, etc., are permitted.
- Riders may not coast with feet off the pedals at any time [I think this would be very dangerous]
- In all other respects, the rules of the event and open class racing bikes shall apply.
- There will be a bike inspection at check-in. Nonetheless, racers are encouraged to contact the race director well in advance of the event if there are any questions about equipment permitted.
As far as technology restriction, if they don't like that, they can ride anything else from a 30 speed triple carbon fiber bike to a streamliner bent. There's something for everyone. The entire point of this, I believe, is simplicity and rugged conquering of the course through power and finesse, not technology. A flip flop would not be too bad, I suppose, as you can't really change sizes too much, due to chain length and length of rear track dropouts. Those limit your differential. Nonetheless, my preference is one gear only. Allowing even two cogs is starting down that slippery technology slope, and I think would be harder to police for compliance. I would think that people seriously interested in doing something like the 508 fixed would be more excited about the challenge of one gear only, and even allowing two gears would dilute the challenge and glory of doing it that way. By the way, I don't think the TdF has any relevance at all. You could pick at point in time of the TdF and support any argument you may want.
There is the option of a retro fixed and an unlimited fixed, too. The unlimited fixed could attract people wanting to run their team pursuit track bikes, I suppose, but I'd have no interest in that.
Doug Sloan, part two:
I'm still thinking of doing the 508 fixed. There are some equipment issues that may take a while to sort out, so I think it would help to have equipment rules well ahead of time to take advantage of winter down time and to allow thorough testing.
In addition to what I had proposed before, I'm concerned about braking down the long descents, possibly overheating rims/tires/tubes/brake pads, and having a serious safety issue. Of course, I can't spin 200 rpms for long, so almost continuous braking will be needed, as some of those descents go on for 17-20 miles.
One issue is the tires themselves. I was thinking of using the Tufo tubular/clinchers, as they work like a tubular in holding very high pressures, but don't depend upon glue, which can soften with heat, to stay on. However, the widest road tire they make is a nominal 23mm, and most of them are 21 or 22. There are no 25mm road tires, as your rules had envisioned.
Second, I'm thinking it may be good to run a disc brake, at least on the rear to be used like a drag brake on a tandem. I understand you can get fixed hubs with disc brake attachments, but they are rare. In any event, I think you should be fairly liberal when it comes to tire/braking specs, as it's more of a safety than speed issue.
The last concern was about forks, whether they need to be steel, like the frame, or unregulated.
I read your announcement with some interest. By coincidence, I was thinking of riding the Rocky Mountain 1200K on my fixed bike. Having the 508 as a goal might be even more challenging. I would still consider riding the RM 1200K for preparation.
I've not subscribed to the mailing list yet (but will today), so forgive me if my questions have already been answered there.
If I decide to ride, I would need be start serious training by January. (I'm already on my fixed for off-season riding.) How certain is it that the 2004 Furnace Creek 508 will be offering a fixed gear division?
Will the 48 hour time limit apply to fixed gear riders?
My background: I completed a double brevet series both this year and last, BMB 2002, PBP 2003. My finish times for this year's rides (unsupported):
600K 30-31 hours
1000K 62 hours
1200K (PBP) 71 hours
All except the 200K rides were on geared bikes. At present, the longest distance I've completed on a fixed gear is 150 miles. I'm not a particularly fast rider, but I don't get discouraged on long rides. However, I'm aware that the Furnace Creek 508 is completely different than a typical brevet, lousy weather notwithstanding. Realistically, am I a suitable candidate for this type of ride? My goal will be to complete it within the alloted time frame, rather than achieve any competitive ranking.
Thanks in advance for your responses.
42 x 17
P.S. My fixed bike meets your "classic" requirements. Built in the early 80's, steel frame, 25C wheels, 32 spoke wheels. converted from a $100 bike bought on eBay.
P.P.S. I also completed some longish rides on a unicycle this year (3-Gap, MS-150, etc.), but I doubt if you'll have a unicycle division anytime soon. ;-)
Chris, all this talk about Fixed gear has me motivated, after a small investment, to convert my old Specialized Allez, steel frame, triple to a fixed gear for winter indoor/outdoor training. Thanks for the push.
I was considering trying to set up my bike with 2 fixed gear cogs so I can jump off and switch between a higher and lower gear as long as there was enough room in the dropout for the adjustment of the wheel. Before derailleurs, the riders in the Tour de France had 2 cogs on one side of the wheel and 2 on the other, offering 2 high and 2 low gears. They simply jumped off and changed the cog/chain setting as needed.
I like the idea of the new category, but not the restrictions of frame type, number of spokes etc. That's a turn-off. Fixed gear should be sufficient in and of itself, as long as it IS a fixed gear.
Response From the Race Director
Now that you’ve read some feedback that we’ve received, here are a few points that I, Chris Kostman, would like to make:
- Saying that riders did x, y, or z in the Tour is not meaningful because it’s a question of which point in history we’re making preeminent. (As Doug Sloan said.) For ex, sure, for a while in the Tour the riders had flip-flop hubs, but there was also a time before that when they only had one cog as flip-flop hubs had not been created.
- I feel very confident that this category will indeed require a steel frame, front and rear brakes (rim or disc), drop bars only, and use of the same equipment thoughout the whole race: no bike or even wheel changes for any reason. Steerer tube design and fork material requirements remain to be seen, but my preference would be steel and threaded, but I know that most bikes made nowadays are neither.
- In terms of gearing requirements, the three possibilities are this:
- only one gear for the whole race
- two cogs and one chainring allowe
- two cogs and two chainrings allowed (Rivendell’s just about to be released “Quickbeam” bike comes with a flip-flop hub and 32/40 chainrings. It has custom track-style dropouts that are long enough to allow a total of eight teeth range in total gearwrap. The question is whether the race will allow such a bike or whether the potential for four gear options on one bike is allowing “too much.”)
- The time limit will definitely be 48 hours, the same as the standard solo division.
OK, that’s where it stands now. I hope this was interesting and useful to you. I’m enjoying the give and take on this from everybody. However, in order to focus the conversation at this point, I mainly want to hear from people who are very likely to actually enter the race in such a division.
All the best and happy new year,
More commentary since Race Director Response
I think I see what you're trying to do, have a level playing field and get away from any kind of techno advantage. Here's my take on it:
You could either lock the gearing requirement to 1 gear (this is my preference in terms of ease of administering and "purity") or say you can have two gears with a maximim spread of X gear inches (so if somebody had a flip flop that worked out to 67 and 75 gear inches and you had a rule that said "the range can be 10 gear inches", that would be OK.
Who cares about the headset? I don't see that a threadless or threaded headset makes any competive advantage and if you dig back in the literature (I'm sure Jan H. could cite a source) you could find threadless headsets going way back.
As for the fork, beats me. I wouldn't be bent out of shape if somebody had a carbon fork. Of course all my bikes (even the Ti one!) have lugged steel forks.
About the bars, if I was looking at riding the 508 I would have problems with the "drop bar only" rule. Not because I use aerobars or think you should allow aerobars but because I haven't ridden a bike with drop bars in several years. I ride flat mountain bike bars with bar ends, not for any aero advantage but for comfort on the long haul and I like the hand positions for climbing.
As always, good luck with this and all your events.
Issaquah WA USA
Doug Sloan, part three:
Here are my further comments. I'll list what is most important to me first:
- One gear the entire way; this is the essence of the event.
- Use traditional bike design and drops; same reason
If the above are incorporated in the rules, I'd be happy.
- Alternate bikes/wheels, etc.? I can see that prohibiting switching would encourage use of durable, well-made parts in the first place, and discourage cheating. However, here's my concern -- we spend a lot of money and time, and that of crew, to do this event. I would hate to be out of the race and forfeit all that just because I chipped a wheel in a pothole, and then could not use a backup to continue. What I would recommend, instead, is that backup parts are not prohibited, but instead they must be the same or essentially similar design specs, and can be switched due only to equipment failure. No switching lightweight wheels/bikes for climbs and descents, for example.
- I rode a 4,000 foot climb/descent on the fixed this Saturday (41x16), and I think I previously overstated the importance of brakes. With using only a front brake, and a Cane Creek Ti one at that, I had no problem containing speed to 25-30 mph on an otherwise 45-50 mph descent that went on for 8 miles. I think that with 2 good rim brakes, using clincher tires, it should not be a problem. I think "containment" type braking, keeping speeds down, isn't nearly as challenging for equipment as the high speed 60 mph down to 30 mph for a turn, repeated braking, we think of. So, I don't think that disc brakes would be necessary, but still I would allow them.
- You must have a crew vehicle on this course, if for no other reasons than to give you water and follow for safety at night (that is the essence of the event). Now, you could de-emphasize the role of crew by prohibiting bike/wheel switches, as discussed above. Gotta have crew.
- As far as steel/carbon forks, stem design, etc., I really don't care much one way or the other. No matter what the rules actually are, I'll take full advantage of them to be using the fastest / most comfortable bike I can. That's racing, isn't it? That said, if your goal and spirit of the rules is truly somewhat retro and de-techified, then I'd say require steel, threaded forks and quill stems, and ban carbon fiber parts.
- I fear that the rules for this division alone could exceed all the other rules combined. So, I think we need to simplify. If you want, give me the parameters, and I'll take a shot at drafting rules as concisely as possible. That's my day job. Here's a preliminary proposal:
Fixed Gear Division
Fixed gear division bikes must use the same fixed gearing the entire event. Bikes shall be round tube, steel, traditional double diamond design, with steel threaded forks, quill stem, drop bars, and aluminum rims (maximum 25 mm depth), 32 spoke minimum. Aerobar/Spinaci attachments, carbon fiber parts, and aero parts are prohibited. Wheel switches are permitted only for wheel failures, and backup wheels must be nearly identical to the standard wheels. Riders may not coast with feet off pedals.
I think the above is all it really takes, as other existing rules speak to lighting, etc.
Excluded from consideration: tire specs, brake specs, pedal specs, etc., as I think the general rules apply or there is no need to regulate them. Narrow tires have always been available, so I don't see the need to specify tire width. However, I think only an idiot would risk 19 mm tires, given the pavement conditions and how badly you'll otherwise be beaten up on this ride
Early on I had suggested on the forum to allow the rider to take along a "normal" geared bike, and allow the rider to abandon fixed and complete the race on the geared bike, then be treated as doing the whole ride on the normal bike. I'm thinking that if you got to Towne's Pass and began to blow out your knees, this would at least allow you not to waste all that preparation and still complete the ride, and might encourage more people to attempt it, albeit with an easy "out". I would specify that if the normal bike so much as comes off the rack, you'll be deemed to have abandoned fixed, and are in the open division. Also, I would require an official to be notified asap.
Usually, the fewer the rules, the better, as long as you retain the intended essence of the event -- other than for safety, of course. All divisions have fair degree of honesty and self-policing required, and maybe just a little more so for this division. A bike inspection would still be a good idea, though.
I'd REALLY like to do this. While it would be nothing compared to a record or Steve Born's FC1016, I still think it would be challenging and fun to do. Thanks for giving this idea far more attention that it probably merits, given the prospects for few takers.
Doug Doug Sloan
Is the goal to offer a division for a single non-coasting gear on a bike that would otherwise meet the existing rules, or to create a "retro" division that is not only fixed-gear but 20 year-old technology as well?
Personally I think the latter is too restrictive. And I'm biased because although I have that old bike, I also have a new steel bike with carbon forks and oval tubes that I've converted to fixed. And I really like it. I think I can compete with geared bikes on it (I might feel differently after attempting the Death Valley double).
I'm not trying to make trouble. I just want to vote for fewer restrictions while you are still taking feedback.
Sam Seal Beal