S3X in the woods

S3X initial offroad report

I took the dog and the bike for a ride around Rainbow Lake, and a journey up to the ridge. Didn’t get that far out or that high up, but we spent 2 hours messing around in the woods, which is my favorite thing ever.


Low gear is 46.5″, and it almost works. I was pushing. Lots of excuses – my shoes are too wide-soled for a good stance, the tires are too slick for the mud, the platform pedals were too hard to clip into, I suck at riding bikes. I love the IPA. I ran out of leg before I ran out of air or traction, but I enjoy walking in the woods, and the dog doesn’t judge. While the bike is just a vehicle to get me out there where I feel most at home, riding more of the hill is a goal, and a lower gear would help.

I’m happy top gear is the one-to-one, and low is the reduction gear. In low you can feel the mechanism thrumming through the cranks from back there in the hub, and while it makes me smile, like the tick-tick-tick of an old 3-speed, I’m happy it isn’t always on when I’m cranking along in the normal gear.

Top gear = 76″. Nice around town and downhill, ’cause you can really go. I’ve run ~72″ for 10 years, and the bigger gear has its place. Especially if you’ve got a 57″ and a 48″ in your pocket. If I was more fit, this would be the dynamite gear range: 76, 57, 46.5.

When I turned around and headed back down (due to time constraints and pusilanimosity), the middle-ish (it’s lower than middle at 57″) felt Really Really Good. It’s excellent for a slightly dropping trail, where speed and agility are both concerns.


Lash is the amount you move the crank before the wheel engages the ground. There is some lash with this hub. It isn’t good. I’m going to check my chain tension, because the amount of play at the crank seems to have increased, and part of it might be actual chain slack, not just the play in the hub gears. This is my main issue with the hub.

The lash is unpleasant at low, inconstant speeds. One of the joys, completely unreported except by me, of a fixed gear, is riding slowly with children or dogs. This is not the hub for riding on the sidewalk with your toddler on a trike. The 1/3 second between slowing your legs and having your bike slow down is uncool. It’s cacosomatic.

On a longer ride, the lash is not so much of an issue, since you’re either pushing the gear or pulling it, and speed changes are less frequent. You may have played with a ‘slack chain’ for a few miles, where you purposely set the chain tension extremely loose to get a good spin without the wheel pushing your legs around. Maybe you haven’t. You could approach the hub slack with the same mindset; as a challenge.


I will lower the gearing, or, wacky blasphemy, remove a link from my chain and use both chainrings with the 3-speed fixed. That would be ridiculous, even for me. It’s easier than growing stronger or lighter, which I’m also working on this Spring.

I’ll try a 40×15 offroad, instead of the 42×15.  Ensmallening the chainring does have a mathematical irritation where you lose more on the top end than you gain on the bottom. Go from a 42t to a 38t ring, and your top gear drops 7″ (76.1 -> 68.8), but the bottom only drops 4.5″ (47.5″ to 43″). I’d be happier if they each dropped 4.5″ – but it would be easier if Pi was just 3, too.

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UI/UX Designer, bike nerd, artist.

2 thoughts on “S3X in the woods”

  1. Thanks for the detailed (and clever) report. I’ll admit that your comments about lash have me wondering. It is the “directness” that I find so appealing about the fixed gear approach. Best wishes on sorting out optimal gear ratios.

  2. Thanks, Pondero. I am nothing if not detailed. I’m kind of getting used to the lash, but your ‘directness’ is a big part of the fixed gear feel.

    I cracked myself up rereading the post, which is dorky. I made up like 5 words yesterday, but of them only “cacosomatic” was a new coinage. Gifteration, pusilanimosity and ensmallening are all Googleable.

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