It took until June 23, but today was the first day of the year I could ride to work without a jacket. It might even hit 78 degrees this afternoon – whoo-hoo!
Bike Shop Girl had a nice post last week on single speed and fixed gear basics, noting the primary benefits of going gearless: greater pedaling control and lower maintenance. My road to single speed started some months after starting to ride to work every day, as the realities of daily use started to take their toll on my bike. Despite the slipping gears and weekly dérailleur adjustments, it took me over a year to finally make the move to single speed.
The reason for my delay was simple enough: facing me at the end of every day was the ride from downtown up Capitol Hill; 300+ feet of elevation gain in the first two miles. The only people I ever saw with single or fixed gear bikes going up Pine Street were rail-thin hipsters, and many of them were pushing their bikes. I vowed that wasn’t going to be me (the pushing part – I’m at least 80 pounds and 15 years over the hipster limit). But when I’d try making the climb in a single speed gear ratio I could never make it all the way without shifting down.
The answer was to burn my bridges. So on the spur of the moment I sold my bike and bought a single speed. I won’t pretend the first few days riding it were easy, but I never had to push it up the hill. Turns out the increased “connection” to the drive train you get without a dérailleur in the way makes a world of difference – and, for some reason, it’s just a hell of a lot more fun riding without all those gears in the way.
I’ll admit that my focus on staying safe while riding has caused me to infringe on the rights of Seattle’s famously inept pedestrians to wander aimlessly about. Occasionally I might have even made someone walk around my bike (or at least detour around my back wheel) in a crosswalk.
So, to the young jogger who reminded me this morning that I was in the crosswalk at Broadway, thank you. I will take that under advisement.
This article from our northern brethren nicely points out the distinction between “cyclists” and “people who ride bikes.” Exponentially more people like to ride bikes than there are “cyclists” – and don’t you need spandex or a cheesy bike cap if you’re going to be a cyclist?