My commuter bike, The Mule, is set up as a 1 x 9. Front ring is a 42 tooth and the rear cassette has a gearing range of 12/27. When I had this bike set up as a singlespeed, my front chainring was still the same 42, but the rear had a 16 tooth. That worked pretty well. It hurt a bit at the tail end of my commute back home when I have to climb up a few mean streets, but not too bad. Riding singlespeed consecutive days though starts to build lower back pain. The pain would go away again if I laid off of the bike for a day or two.
Anyway, recently I switched the bike to 1x9 and I have quite enjoyed it. With the 42 tooth on the front end(instead of the stock 39 tooth) I can usually get going pretty good when I am in the smallest rear cog, the 12 tooth. At a 90 cadence that equates to about 26 miles per hour. The 27 tooth honestly doesn't get used that much. I try not to. It is a silly pride issue that I stay out of the granny.
Last night riding home at about 8pm I starting feeling pretty good after the first couple of pretty flat miles. I was riding in my 42/12 combo, my fastest gear combo, and wondered how long I could stay in that gear before I had to shift into an easier combo.
About halfway home, I looked down at my average speed reading and I was averaging 16.4 mph without pushing it too much at all. Knowing that the last 1/4 of my ride is all up hill I decided to see if I could keep my average about 15mph. So now two goals, push the 42/12 as far as possible and stay above a 15mph average.
Also, to paint the picture a bit better I am riding with a big backpack on full of clothes and other things. It is not like I am riding on a full race bike either. The Mule is over 23 pounds heavy, compared to my road and cross bikes which are around 16 pounds.
Anyway, this was my ride home last night with the point where the legs and back went dead.
Not too bad really. There was one point coming up a section of Hall Blvd where I was really cooking and my legs were alternatively pushing and pulling the pedals trying to maintain momentum. My chest felt ready to burst near the top. In that sort of gear getting up hills is all about the big Mo. I struggled to make it home maintaining an average speed over 15mph. I did it, but just barely at 15.1 mph.
These sorts of stupid games I play with myself keep my ride home interesting. Otherwise it is just the same old thing time after time.