We've finally set up my fixed gear bike, and the build came out much spiffier than I initially planned. Concerned citizens saved me from putting cheap components on a nice frame and I was able to get good deals on a very nice crankset and wheelset. One tiny problem however: the crankset has a 49t chainring and the wheelset came with a 16t cog, so the bicycle is geared insanely high. I decided to keep the cog and replace the chainring, most likely with a 44t. But that has to be special ordered, and in the meantime I really wanted to ride! Opinions are split on whether it is wise to ride on the road in such a high gear, but the consensus is generally "no." Having tried it, I agree - though it wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated.
Riding in traffic was fine: It was not difficult to start at intersections, and to stop I simply used the brakes. Braking with my legs would have been out of the question after accelerating, but with good brakes this isn't an issue. I then went on a 20 mile ride on the Minuteman Trail, which is pretty flat but with a sustained upward/downward incline depending on the direction of travel. The gearing was doable. I felt it in my leg muscles, but not in my knees, and was fine the next morning. But while doable, it wasn't much fun - in the sense that I prefer to cycle at a high cadence and most of the time that wasn't possible in this gearing. It was exciting how fast the bike accelerated on flat stretches, but the upward inclines felt like walking up an endless staircase. It was neat to experience just as a way of physically understanding how different gear ratios work in fixed gear, but I would not want to ride that way on a regular basis.
On my previous bike the gearing was 48x18, which felt slightly too low toward the end. So I am thinking 44x16 on this one should feel just about right. The bike is great and I am looking forward to many country rides in an appropriate gear in the coming months. Don't know why, but it feels really good to ride fixed gear when it's cold outside!