Turncoat.

Right. No easy way to say this. I’m thinking of buying another stupid one geared bike and while it is obvious to anyone not booked in for special needs cognitive therapy that this is insane, it’s even worse that that. You see last year, this article was published in the SingletrackWorld magazine and attracted a fair amount of hate mail. Which is fine, because it was written in the style of baited hook to frenzied biters. But spin the world a few short months, and I have my hand on the “buy another pointless bike” button although Carol may have her hand on the rolling pin if I do.

If anyone has a petard, I’d like to borrow it for a bit of personal hanging. Oops. Click over the page for the full story.

Suspension and gears: a victimless crime.

I rode my singlespeed the other day and it was bloody awful. But that’s entirely understandable when you think about it isn’t it? Mountain bikes “ the most versatile vehicle on the planet “ stripped of gears and suspension are just plain silly.

I should at this point explain I am the worst type of singlespeeder. Not for me a shambolic mechanical disadvantage baptised upon the shrine of shonk. The lore states unequivocally that ˜proper’ unicogs must be built up from parts that a. any self respecting MTB’r would have chucked years ago and b. are a critical part of the tumble dryer. Nor have I been afflicted by the one gear anywhere disease. Off for a weeks downhilling in Verbier? Singlespeed is it then “ ok, I may have a crap time but, by God, I am rated no .1 in the truly worthy chart.

No; my singlespeed experience has spanned three years and four frames. Starting with the ruination of a lovely geared bike before regressing to specific single geared moulds first cast in steel and then titanium. Finally through a process known as virtual lobotomy the price of a decent full suss bike was slapped over the counter for a steel beauty allegedly hand crafted on the fur of a freshly rolled beaver. Think of serious bearded men wielding ancient oxy-acetylene torches and grunting strange incantations. Imagine shed assembled mechanical foundlings birthed a thousand miles into the Canadian wilderness and facing the real threat of a bear strike. Yeah now you’ve got the idea of how badly I wanted to believe in the one true way.

Obviously if you believe the hype “ and I was a religious zealot “ then such a frame must be dressed with the shiniest trinkets from some other obscure shed based bearded loony. That is my bike, perfectly crafted, beautifully accessorised, never ridden.

All the gear and no idea I hear you cry! Well yes but actually no. I rode sans shifters many times and in many places. Firstly throughout the winter months evangelising the virtues of an unbreakable drivechain and the power of one gear with many speeds. Talk about skewed perspective “ what I’d totally failed to recognise was how dull and miserable riding in the mud, rain and cold actually was. For two hours riding, there seemed to be one hours dressing and undressing “ and even freed from bike cleaning “ 30 minutes negotiating access to the washing machine. In our house the clothing bag of doom, as it became known, was right on the critical path to an increasingly exasperated repair man who finally signed the death warrant of the machine with a simple talk to your husband, he’s fucked it.

Still as a card carrying member of the 32:16 party, it was incumbent upon me to spread the word of the righteous path of the power of one to anyone who would listen and to many who wouldn’t. I convinced almost nobody that rather than confine this special needs cycle to a local care in the community scheme, it should be unleashed on the wider world.

Indoctrinated with this stupidity code, I took it to Afan and climbed Whytes level and if that wasn’t enough “ and take it from me it was enough on oh so many levels “ the descent was rubbish. Not enough travel, Not enough gears, not enough energy to enjoy it. Revving away like a cocaine fuelled hamster after 45 minutes of multiple muscle torture at no point rang the bell marked ˜fun’. Worse, I didn’t even feel worthy.

There were times though when it was great “ that singlespeeding nirvana where you’re a silent assassin shredding singletrack at the perfect spin mocking your riding buddies and their geared placebos. But it just doesn’t happen very often and it doesn’t last long enough when it does.

What’s that I hear? Strong mumblings of the righteous, jutting out their chests and smugly rationalising that singlespeeding isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain amount of skill, a concerted effort when the going gets tough, a riding life of pain the price of superb fitness and basically just a damned English stiff upper lip approach to mountain biking.

Well, with respect, bollocks to that. What I’ve come to accept is than when I ride I want to have fun. If that means chucking a little hardtail with a large fork off big drops or riding street on a bike totally unsuited for anything else or relishing big days in the hills cosseted by full suspension then that’s where it’s at. It’s the shoe argument “ sure I can wear a full leather pair of Loakes for going jogging but it’s not the tool for the job. And since I’m recycling hoary old metaphors, let’s wheel out square pegs for round holes and nice face, shame about the legs. Mountain biking has evolved, mountain bikes have evolved to the point where riding only singlespeed is essentially one step away from burning the Spinning Jenny. Face it fellas, you are the modern poster child for the Tollpuddle martyrs.

You see when it gets hard to pedal uphill, here’s an idea: change down a gear. When you want to go faster, push the shifter and change up. A rocky descent ahead? Release your (disk) brakes and smile as the big travel springs do their stuff and make you the master of the trail. Oh sure I could pick a better line, be a better rider, care a little more about my fitness, care a little less about enjoying every minute that I’m out there, but I think I’ll pass. You may be more worthy but I promise you this, I am having way more fun.

And yet while my singlespeed gathers dust from the rafters rather than the trail, my latest project for a London commuter will dispense with gears and shifters. But it’ll sport a 5 inch fork, an entirely inappropriate frame size, flat pedals and a suicidal bent for attacking steps and tourists. There’s a niche for a single gear but don’t delude yourself it’s a big one.

I rode my singlespeed the other day. It was in preparation for the Dusk till Dawn which allegedly is the perfect singlespeed course. You know what I don’t think such a thing exists. And at 4am when tired unicoggers are desperately thumbing their phantom shifter, I’ll be riding serenely by happy in the knowledge that my gears and suspension are a victimless crime.

2 thoughts on “Turncoat.

  1. Alex

    I am familiar with the word temptation. However what is this “resist” you talk of. It is a concept of which I have no understanding 😉

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