Off-Road Fixed Gear Setup, Revisited -- Part II
by Matt Chester
Yes, I'm back, with another tedious article all about setting up your offroad fixed gear. In the first part, I covered frames, fit, gearing, and crank length. In this second part, I aim to get a little more specific with my thoughts on componentry. Please note: I'm not sponsored or supported by any of the companies mentioned here. I pay for my own stuff and my recommendations come from my own experience and those of my customers and friends. Here goes...
We already covered gearing and crank length. Now let's look at the parts needed to make up a fixed gear drivetrain.
Cranks and bottom bracket
For many years, offroaders of all kinds used square-taper, cold-forged aluminum cranks. They were utilitarian, do-it-all entities which shared a standard 110mm spider: you could bolt them onto a road, cyclocross, touring, or mountain bike, and still be sure of finding the ring (or rings) you needed.
Although 110mm rings are still readily available, crank choices have become a bit limited. So what gives?
Splined bottom brackets and weight freak-out, that's what. Cranks are on the list of components marked down for 'improvements'.
Splines have a theoretical advantage over square tapers--they let you take your cranks on and off as much as you like. Besides, you can claim your new big-spindled BB is X% stiffer! Unfortunately, there's a matching practical disadvantage--to cram a huge splined spindle into a standard BB shell, the maker must use small bearings which wear quickly under load.
To get around this problem, the manufacturers introduced more proprietary stuff. The Shimano XTR and XT groupsets now have hollow BB spindles permanently fused to the driveside crank. The spindle passes through two bearing cups that screw into each side of the BB shell. Freed from the size limits imposed by the BB shell, the bearings can be made outsize. Proponents of the ISIS standard are now pushing a similar design. As we'll see later, these new arrangements are not necessarily ideal in fixed gear applications.
Those makers who haven't moved to splines tend to be pushing 'compact drive'. The reasoning behind the various 4-bolt (Shimano designs) and 5-bolt (traditional 'compact drive') patterns is less convoluted than that of the splined guys. Smaller spiders allow smaller rings, and smaller rings mean weight savings--plus increased sales in a stagnant market, of course. Compact drive became very popular very quickly. Does it make a difference? Nope. Well, actually, it does. The smaller rings wear faster.
There are also a number of spiderless crank options with corresponding proprietary chainrings. I would avoid this stuff. I've seen people with older XTR cranks get painted into a corner on chainring supply -- sourcing obsolete kit is expensive and frustrating. BMX-compatible stuff is a different story, of course, but excessive weight and rotten Q-factor (see sidebar) makes them a less-than-excellent choice unless you're into extremely long (>185mm) cranks.
So, what to do? I advise all my customers to choose a good square-taper BB like a Shimano UN-73, or a Phil Wood for those a little more cash. Next, pick a decent cold-forged aluminum crank, ideally one with a standard (110mm) spider. Although you'll be limited to a 34t chainring (or 33t, if you have the money for custom parts) the ready availability of big track cogs will give you all the flexibility you need. A 34x22 setup is plenty low enough to ride offroad.
110mm cranks are getting thin on the ground, but there are a few good options. The Sugino XD is an excellent choice: well-made, inexpensive, and sporting a relatively low Q-factor. Square-taper RaceFace Turbine LPs are great too, if you can find 'em. Cheap Taiwanese stuff can surprise you -- Dimension makes a good cyclocross or tandem crank -- and a few downhill/freeride specialists like RooX have products that are worth checking out.
Picking a chainring for a singlespeed or fix is pretty simple. Your wants list is: no ramps, no pins, tall teeth, and enough material to keep the ring laterally stiff. The last point is especially important when you're running a large ring on a small spider. There are numerous great choices here.
If you like aluminum, downhill and freeride chainrings are the best value. I favour Blackspire. Not only is the price reasonable and the quality excellent, but the company offers a wide range of sizes and spider patterns. They also make a range of singlespeed chainrings under the Mono Veloce brand. Other good choices include DH rings from FSA, Azonic, RaceFace, and a slew of similar companies.
Thinner, more XC-oriented chainrings from companies like Salsa and Spot can also work well, while budget options include rings from Vuelta, Avitar, and even the 'universal' BMX chainrings you see from time to time. (The life span of the latter usually isn't that great, though.)
But I favour another rings made from another material. After all, we all know steel is real. When Surly brought out their wonderful stainless steel chainrings in 2004, I was fortunate enough to get some of the first batch, and I've ridden them exclusively ever since. A good stainless steel ring will outlast its aluminum equivalent many times over, making it a great choice for high-stress single-ring applications. Remarkably, Surly rings cost about the same as comparable aluminum offerings. I really can't think of a compelling reason not to run them, provided you can find the size and spider configuration you need. At the time of writing availability is a little spotty, but that will change later in 2005.
The resurgence of fixed gear has bought a lot of quality track cogs onto the market. Companies like Euro-Asia Imports (EAI) produce lightweight alloy models, and I've had good luck with them. But, at least in offroad applications, the 'steel is still real' mantra applies to sprockets just as much as chainrings.
Good steel cogs are available from EAI, Phil Wood, Soma (in true Nigel Tufnell fashion, they go up to 23) and a few others. Rumour has it that Surly now have a new and improved track cog on the market. US riders on a budget should keep an eye open for NOS Suntours, while sharp-eyed Brits may turn up a TD Cross or even a Villiers in a shop with old stock. Personally, I ride nothing but steel EAI cogs, and I've had zero problems over a number of years. They wear amazingly well, too.
The feature to look out for on a track cog is a nice wide shoulder. This gives ample thread engagement on the hub, and in flip-flop contexts it will better match the cog's chainline to that of the freewheel.
Buying a track cog is not a time to be thrifty. Inexpensive stamped cogs can be trouble as far as the longevity of your hub threads, and that's just false economy. Spend a little more and you won't be let down!
Lockrings and alternatives
Traditional fixed gear setups involve two separate components, a cog and a lockring. The cog screws on to the hub body conventionally, but the lockring mounts on a left-hand thread, slightly smaller than the cog thread and just outboard of it. When the lockring is screwed into place, it presses against the cog. Since the two components are threaded in different directions, the tendency of the cog to unscrew under reverse pedal pressure is cancelled out.
Assuming that your hub is equipped with the appropriate threading, you can source a lockring from a variety of makers. Obviously, the best choice is always the one provided by your hub manufacturer, but offerings from Surly, Shimano, Euro-Asia and others are all worth consideration. Since lockring threadings tend to vary slightly between manufacturers, it is worth checking to find the best match for your hub.
Of course, there are alternatives to the traditional setup. A couple of years ago, Jason Millington wrote a seminal article on this very site explaining how to retrofit a sprocket to the bolt drillings on a disc brake hub. Since then, companies like Boone, Spicer, Endless, and others have bought commercial offerings to market. Level Components recently took this ingenuity to its logical conclusion by developing a fixed hub with bolt-on, as opposed to thread-on, sprockets. The LeVeL hub allows easy sprocket swaps with just a TorX driver. An excellent idea!
I still run a traditional cog-and-lockring setup, but new ideas are worth considering if you're starting from scratch. Just make sure you keep some spares!
The no-lockring kludge
There's no substitute for a real fixed gear hub. I'm poor and I ponied up for one. You should too!
However, if you have a singlespeed hub threaded for freewheel only -- no stepped reverse thread for a lockring -- you can still use it on your fixed gear, if you don't mind a kludge. Here's the drill.
1. Clean the hub and cog threads completely. You'll need to eliminate any trace of grease or oil, so this is a job for acetone or other nasty solvents.
2. Put a bit of #242 blue Loctite or similar on the hub threads. Don't use the red variety, and don't get too excessive!
3. Install your cog as tight as you can with a good chainwhip. Get someone to help you.
4. Ride up the steepest hill near your abode. Mash those cranks! You might even drag your front brake a bit.
5. Somehow get home without putting any reverse pressure on your pedals. Ride carefully!
6. Allow the Loctite to set for a few hours, or however long it says on the bottle.
That's it! That cog is on there now! Some people screw on an old school bottom bracket lockring for added insurance, but I don't believe it adds anything to the Loctite.
I rode a setup like this as a messenger day in and day out for years. However, neither I nor 63xc.com assume any responsibility if this setup goes awry for you. The threadlocker/track cog cobble is definitely using parts outside of their intended use. You've been warned.
In the last few years, there has been a great outpouring of 130mm and 135mm fixed gear hubs onto the market, many of them suitable for offroad usage. Good choices include hubs from Phil Wood, Paul Components, Surly, Kogswell, Goldtec, the aforementioned Level Components, and others. They are all nicely made and do the job well. I ride Phils myself (and most likely always will) but there are plenty of alternatives, even for those on a tight budget.
Chains are pretty well undertood these days. See the sidebar for excellent chain primers from Sheldon Brown and Greg Goode. But I do want to shed some light on a long-running discussion. 1/8" or 3/32": which is better?
My preference is for 3/32", for the following reasons.
Wide choice of components
It was once the case that track cogs were 1/8", but these days 3/32" cogs are available in all sizes. Build a 3/32" drivetrain and you have access to the widest possible range of chainring sizes and drillings, not just the 144mm BCD stuff favoured in the track world. And, in an emergency, you can always put a 1/8" chain onto your 3/32" chainring and cog. The reverse definitely isn't true.
Better lateral flex
Since it was developed for gearies, 3/32" chain deflects better than 1/8". That might not sound important in one-gear applications but -- believe me -- it can be important if you're riding a lightweight, flexible frame at high RPM on rough terrain.
Over the last 30 years, manufacturers have concentrated their development efforts on making the narrow chains required for geared bikes. Features like bushingless assembly, beveled sideplates, and high pin pressure are all pretty much 3/32" specific.
I run a SRAM PC-48, the most basic Sachs 8spd offering, without any problems. I reckon to replace it maybe two or three times a year. To get the most out of the chain, I clean it regularly (a Powerlink comes in handy here) but I don't spend money on it. It seems silly to spend lots of money on a part that, by design, is supposed to be replaced regularly. Keep it simple and somewhat on the cheap!
Chainline is the nitty gritty. Sheldon Brown's definition of chainline is as follows:
[Chainline] refers to how straight the chain runs between the front and rear sprockets. Ideally, both sprockets should be in the same plane, so that there is no sideward motion or stress to the chain. This constitutes 'perfect chainline'.
I can't overstress the importance of good chainline. Get it right--that is, within a couple of millimeters--and you'll be rewarded with improved chainwear and smoother pedalling, besides reducing the risk of chainlaunch. Check the sidebar for Sheldon Brown's handy chainline resources, which include a quick tutorial on measuring chainline, some good ballpark chainline figures, and exact measurements of some common components.
I'm going to take you, step by step, through setting the chainline on a fix. I'll use my own bike as an example. I'm assuming that most 63xc.com readers are riding a 130mm or 135mm rear hub and a mountain triple crank. Riders with road cranks -- double or triple -- should find that my system works for them, too.
A metric ruler in millimeter increments
Metric vernier calipers in millimeters (optional, but good to have anyway)
Basic math skills or passable calculator usage skills
A straight frame--or is that too optimistic?
Before we start, I'll draw your attention to one of the Facts of Fixer Life: there is no good way of tuning the chainline at the rear hub. The bad ways are i. fooling with the axle spacing and the wheel dish and ii. adding spacers under the cog. Avoid them. You want a symmetrically-built wheel for optimum strength, and you don't want aluminium spacers under the cog--they'll slip the first time you apply reverse pressure.
1. Install your cog and torque everything down properly. I'm using a 135mm Phil Wood Kiss Off doublefixed and a steel 3/32 EAI track cog.
2. Divide your rear hub spacing by two. So, if you are running a 135mm hub, like me, your value is 67.5mm. If you are running a 130mm hub, your value is 65mm.
3. Measure from the outside face of your cog to the place where the hub contacts the dropout -- technically, the end of the driveside spindle on a modern bolt-on hub. My value is 15mm.
4. If you have verniers, measure the thickness of the toothed portion of your cog. (If you don't have verniers, check Sheldon's page or make an estimate.) Divide this number by two for the centerline of your cog. I get a value of 1mm.
5. Add the values you got in steps (3) and (4). This number gives you the distance from the inner dropout face on the drive side to the centerline of your track cog. I get a value of 16mm: 15 + 1 = 16
6. Subtract the step (5) value from the step (2) value. I get 51.5mm (67.5 - 16 = 51.5). This is your rear chainline, a fixed, un-tweakable number. To achieve good chainline, you must replicate this figure as closely as possible with your crank/chainring/bottom bracket combo up front.
7. Read through Sheldon's guidelines to get a general idea of what you need to do. In my case, I've decided to mount my chainring to the outer position on the crank and to use a 113mm BB, the one recommended by the manufacturer. If I were running a bashguard, I might select a wider BB--maybe a 118mm--and move my ring to the middle position. If I were running a road double, I'd need a much wider BB spindle -- say a 122.5mm -- to get my ring to line up.
8. Install your bottom bracket, chainring, and drive side crank arm. Cinch them up good and tight, like you aren't planning on taking them off. Once that's done, take your metric ruler and butt it up against the seat tube of your bike, holding it perpendicular to your chainring. You're measuring the distance from the outside edge of your seat tube to the centerline of the ring. This is best done with your bike in a workstand. I get a value of 36mm.
9. Take your calipers and measure the diameter of your seat tube. Divide this number by two to get the tube radius. I get a value of 15.875mm (31.8 / 2 = 15.875)
10. Add the values you got in steps (8) and (9) to get your front chainline. I get a value of 51.875mm (36 + 15.875 = 51.875)
11. Compare your front (step 10) and rear (step 6) chainlines. Mine are pretty darn close (51.5mm vs. 51.875mm). I'm done!
I know my frame is straight within a millimeter or two, so I think I'm OK. If you are off by more than a couple of millimeters, you can tune your front chainline by any of the following means:
Swap the BB.
Reconsider the cranks. Mine are well-used, so they sit pretty far onto the BB tapers. If I were starting over with a new crankset, I might try a 110mm spindle.
Adjust your BB. If you're lucky enough to have a Phil Wood or RaceFace BB, you can make small tweaks to your front chainline by shifting the BB unit in its shell.
Add freewheel/BB spacers under the fixed cup of your bottom bracket to shift it outward.
Add spacers between the chainring and the crank spider. Some shops sell appropriate spacers. I'm not a fan of this one, which is likely to compromise the seating of your ring.
I'm afraid I don't know any chainring kludges for the newer outboard bearing two-piece crank/BB setups, although some have a modicum of adjustability built-in. Still, the outer position on the mountain versions should be pretty good for any 135mm SS/fixed specific hub, provided it has a chainline in the range 51--55mm.
The kludges listed above will enable you to dial in any standard setup. We're not building the Mars lander here, after all. But, if you want to get things absolutely perfect, you can carry out the following high-level checks:
Check frame alignment with a frame alignment gauge.
Measure your BB shell width and check to make sure your seat tube is exactly centered on the shell (this can throw off a frame alignment gauge).
Find a framebuilder who has a frame table and get him/her to measure your frame. We framebuilders love it when you show us how incredibly fastidious and knowledgeable you are. Really. (Barf.)
So that's it--a dozen steps to dial in your chainline! Isn't it great that riding a fixed gear is so simple? (Sighing and rolling eyes.)
One last note: DO NOT EYEBALL YOUR CHAINLINE RANDOMLY. Do your homework. Learn how chainline works. Know your crank specs, BB choices, and cog dimensions.
There is one handy rule of thumb, though. Take a squint at your transmission from the front. If you've done it right, your chainring should look outboard of your rear cog.
Unless your riding is restricted to soft-pedaling to the local Quickie Mart for a Pepsi, you'll need to attach your feet to the bike. The choices are:
Clips and straps
Toe clips and straps have their adherents, both on and offroad. However, I feel they're less than ideal for fixed usage offroad. One-speeders tend to do a lot of mounting and dismounting, and loose toestraps may compromise your climbing, or impair your confidence when you're spinning down a rough track at insane RPM. You may be able to improve matters by using the noses of old steel toe clips to fashion toe-flips for the backside of your pedal. Good shoe choice is critical too. So is practice. About a decade should do it!
Power Grips (see sidebar) are large burly straps mounted diagonally across platform pedals. They were designed for riders wary of going clipless. To get in or out, twist your foot slightly and slide accordingly. To lock your foot down, turn your foot square on to the pedal. Done. Genius! Although they're an improvement over clips and straps, Power Grips aren't perfect. They take a while to set up, and it's hard to readjust them if you switch between different riding shoes. If you have large feet (say, over size Euro 45), you may find that you need the XL Power Grips to get in them properly. The XLs are long enough to ride with the biggest winter boots too!
Clipless pedals first reached the market en masse in the early 90s. Since then, they've come to the fore in most cycling disciplines except track racing. Although I'm temperamentally resistant to proprietary technology, I have to admit that clipless pedals are a godsend for fixing in the rough. The downside is the addition of another mechanical part, albeit a very reliable one. I suppose you might also complain about the need to wear a specific combination of shoes and cleats, but the reality is that Power Grips and toeclips are also pretty shoe-dependent, too.
All things considered, my recomendation is a platform clipless pedal--another gift from the downhill/freeride market. The flat surface lets you ride short errands around town in street shoes. The large body makes hill starts easy. And finally, you have the benefit of a very solid connection to the bike when snapped in. The larger pedal body may cost you some clearance, but I feel the tradeoff is worthwhile. Pedals of this type are available from Time, Crank Bros, Shimano, Wellgo, and a few others.
Time ATACs are my own favourite. I've used them for nearly a decade with no problems. They provide ample float, run on a simple mechanism with few moving parts and no annoying adjusters, have cleats that wear in nicely, and they're useable in mud and snow--which is not the case with all clipless designs!
If you decide to go clipless, you may find the following handy.
Remember your shoes! Keep them with your helmet or something else you know is necessary. If you forget both, well, get it together, maaaan!
If you're new to clipless--practice! Practice getting into your pedals and practice getting out. Just like driving a standard shift car or operating a computer, it will all become second nature.
Place your cleats carefuly and fasten them tightly. Losing a cleat is pretty unfun.
Don't skimp on shoes. The only thing worse than losing a cleat is breaking the sole of a cheap MTB shoe. High quality shoes like Sidis aren't cheap, but long lifespan makes them a great value. I ride everywhere and I've never gotten less than six years out of a pair of Sidis.
If you follow the newsgroups, you'll know that it's not unheard of for a road fixer to ride brakeless. Offroad, however, you need a brake, period.
The following assumes that, like most fixers, you're using only a front brake. That changes your perspective. Technique counts for a lot in braking a fix, and tire traction is often more important than raw braking power.
In the interest of brevity, I'll skip the more unusual choices: centerpulls, roller cams, and U-brakes. That leaves us...
Sidepulls (aka road brakes)
Sidepulls have two big advantages: they're really simple and they look great. Cable routing is a breeze and adjustment is very easy too. Braking power is more than adequate--especially with dual pivot designs. Unfortunately, most sidepulls limit your tire size to 40c, so they're only practical if you're riding an old road frame or if you've had a fork specially buit for them. For historical reasons, sidepulls built for big tires are designated 'standard reach'. The recent resurgence of common sense in the bike industry has brought many good standard reach brakes onto the market: Shimano, Tektro, and Kogswell are all worth considering.
Cantilevers, once the brake of choice in the mountainbike world, are still going strong among the touring and cyclocross fraternities, and they're popular with niche sections of the MTB community--myself included. How come?
Well, traditional low-profile cantis are inexpensive, endlessly adjustable, and work well with all kinds of levers, allowing you to set up your bike with any bar you fancy. Avoid the newer designs being pushed in the cyclocross world--the fiddly 'wide profiles' and the ones that use short-lived V-brake pads. True canti pads have an excellently long working life, especially in foul conditions. I've ridden many wet events where I've had working brakes the whole way while many of my brethren riding newer discs or Vs were metal-to-metal due to worn away pads. That's no good!
The disadvantage of cantis is, as everyone knows, tricky setup. I have two pieces of advice.
First, set your straddle wire low. If you set it high, you're sacrificing some power. No need to take this to the extreme, but the oft quoted '90 degree straddle' advice is bogus.
Second, don't set the spring tension on your brake arms too high. The return spring has no effect on braking performance, and a high setting will only give you more work to do with the lever. Do you want your hand strength used for slowing the bike, or overcoming your return springs?
The other adjustment--getting the shoes square on to the rim, with a little toe-in--is a knack, but it doesn't take long to learn. Once the brake is dialed in, keeping it that way needs only an occasional twist on the barrel adjuster that you've hopefully had the foresight to install.
I've always ridden either DiaCompe 986s or basic Shimano models coupled with a mid-range Shimano road brake lever. That's it. Dirt cheap and functional!
If you follow my guidelines, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the amount of power and modulation you get out of a 'retro' set of cantis!
V-brakes replaced cantis as the MTB designer's brake of choice, and are claimed to offer all kinds of advantages. I, however, am not convinced.
For starters, I can't stand the thin, short-lived brake pads, Especially the cartridge ones. Nor do I like the 'parallel push' designs which are intended to ensure that the pad hits the rim square-on. Once they've worn a little, all those little pivots develop play and howl unmercifully, especially in the wet. Not fun. Plus, V-brakes pull more cable than cantilevers and sidepulls. This isn't a problem for conventional MTB setups--modern flat-bar levers are designed for V-brake usage--but it makes life difficult for those of us who favour non-standard bars offroad.
If you plan to mix V-brakes with drop bars or moustache bars, you have a couple of options. One is called a TravelAgent, a brake noodle with a built-in concentric pulley. These are not great. Trust me. A better option is to use the DiaCompe 287-V lever which has built-in barrel adjusters and ships with special brake noodles.
Have I nothing positive to say for the V-brake? Well, I will admit that the better-designed models, like those from Avid, work well. And, in the right conditions, the extra power can pay dividends -- tho' you'll need a dry trail and big, high-traction tires to really feel the benefit over properly set up cantilevers.
Discs brakes are taking over from V-brakes. How come?
Set up properly, discs can work incredibly well. They have the most powerful braking action, making them a good choice if your bike has big enough tires to make use of it. They also sidestep many of the problems of rim brakes--they work well in the wet, they don't eat rim (or tire) sidewalls, they don't overheat the rim and blow the tire on long descents, and they work even if the wheel is way out of true--which may be a point in their favour if you taco out in the wilds!
On the other hand, they require tight tolerances to work at their best, which means maladjustment and warped/bent rotors can be difficult. Pads often don't last long in the wet, and sometimes it's hard to find replacements out in the sticks--though that situation is changing as the industry continues to pour development budgets into disc technology.
A more serious objection is the interaction between discs and frame. The reaction force from a disc brake on a steep downhill is extremely powerful, and frames need to be designed accordingly when running one in the rear. In the early days, when poor disc mount design and rear stay choice sometimes led to broken frames, it was considered impossible to build a rigid MTB fork with a disc mount. Times change!
If you decide on discs, choose a mechanical (cable actuated) setup over a complex hydraulic system. Avid have managed to leverage their V-brake experience into equally simple and functional cable disc brakes, and that's definitely the way to go--easy to set up, easy to adjust, and very few pitfalls.
One last point--when you work on your disc, take care. Brake rotors are sharp! Given the tighter tolerances of disc systems, it's wise to read your owner's manual carefully, and to avoid leaving fingerprints or cleaning solvents on the rotor itself.
It's still unusual to ride a fixed gear in the dirt, and you'll likely find that you need to rethink your standard setup in order to get the best ride.
My suggestion is that you pick a saddle with a dished profile, a bit taller at the nose and rear than the middle. My Cinelli Unicanitor has a pronounced dish, a trait it shares with many classic road saddles and with the old WTB SST mountain bike seats. A dished saddle allows you to sit back on the rear third of the seat without crushing your privates. It also helps when you turn your saddle slightly nose-up.
Crazy? Just hear me out.
Climbing on a fixed gear is not that big a deal. Whether you mash those pedals standing or sitting, either you're fit enough to enjoy the climb or you're not. The real challenge comes when the terrain points down and your RPM goes up.
When you pedal fast, you tend to shift forward on the seat. If you ride with a nose-down saddle, the only way to hold yourself in place is by pushing back with your arms. This creates tension in your neck and shoulders and messes up your bike handling, to say nothing of your enjoyment.
A nose-up saddle holds you gently in position on the downhills. Of course, it will feel a bit weird at first, and you may need to lower your saddle to get used to it. That's OK. You can slowly raise the saddle as you adapt.
Stick with it, and you'll be amazed at how much more comfortable it makes the bike. Check out the pro setups and you'll see the same thing more often than not. Everyone is different, but nose up is the ticket in my book!
Picking a front tire is easy. You need something that works well in mud, sand, dust or whatever conditions predominate in your area, that will take a lot of braking force, and that helps you to change direction easily.
Rear tires are harder.
Single speed MTBers trash rear tires. Road fixers, too. You'd expect offroad fixing to be blue murder on rear tires, and, sure enough, it is. So you need a high-end racing tire with maximum grip, right?
Wrong! Almost across the board, the racy tires last about as well as a pat of butter in a heated skillet. This is true for mountain, road, and cyclocross types. Instead, go cheap and commuter-y. Look for something inexpensive that will provide a modicum of grip in whatever conditions prevail locally. Nothing fancy, now. Make sure it weighs a good bit, and look for a low thread count. Extra points if it's free of fruity colors. I'm into Kenda Kross Supremes--the Redline tire--on both ends of my 'crossy bike. Long lasting, squishy, knobby, and blacker than Johnny Cash's jeans. Perfect!
Bored yet? Great! (I wasn't waiting for your answer--sorry.) In the two parts of this series, I've covered just about everything I know about setting up an off-road fix. Now go and find what works for you! Concentrate on fit, seating position, chainline, and having fun.
Riding a fix is meant to be a simplification. Ride your bike to ride your bike. It doesn't need to be explained in detail! Instead, do it for yourself. That way, the positive feeling you get from riding will transfer to others when they see you and talk to you.
That's a good thing.