On Thursday nights Cahaba Cycles hosts a mountain bike ride led by Stacey Davis (click here for more info). It’s a dynamic ride that can lend itself to being a social thing all the way to an extremely advanced crazy ride. I’ve been attending them for years now and they are very fun between the trails, friendships and banter. The rides are called Dirty Thursdee. I’m assuming it’d been called Dirty Thursday but our ride leader is illiterate and fortunately she can’t read this so I’m in no trouble of catching her wrath.
Last night’s Dirty Thursdee was my 5th full ride on my newly converted single speed. I think the ride solidified my enjoying the one gear even on hard climbs and getting dropped when there was a descent and I “spun out” meaning I had no other way to increase my speed.
There were five things that really solidified the single speed for me, they were:
Since I’ve owned a geared bike, I’ve spent a fair amount of time going to Cahaba Cycles saying “it’s shifting weird” or “it’s ghost shifting” (meaning that it shifts on it’s own without me doing it). I think the worst was when I bumped a rock and snapped my derailleur into two pieces thus causing me to have to walk out 4-5 miles from the woods. The absence of the derailleur means that’s one last thing I have to worry about and can ride without that little nagging voice in my head saying “hey, did you hear that sound? I bet your bike is broken! I bet it’s going to cost zillions to fix!”
For what it’s worth, I’m extremely hard on bikes and ride a lot therefore parts on my bike just don’t hold up against the abuse I give it.
The drop in weight on my bike was nice. The eliminating of the cassette, gears, shifters was about 3lbs and that’s huge for say like the TourDivide when you’re trying to be as light as possible for a 2,700 mile ride from Canada all the way down to Mexico. I’m not a fan of carbon fiber stuff because I think it can’t handle the abuse but I do like the fact that I can drop weight here and there and still keep a solid bike.
I like to try everything that’s related to biking, one day I want to give a unicycle a whirl and see if I can ride one of those. I like cyclocross, road riding and of course mountain biking. Hell, I already ride with my suspension locked out most of the time and the only reason I don’t switch to a rigid fork is because it’d be a sizable sink into my wallet to convert that. So while I was pretty apprehensive about dropping my gears, I was also thrilled to see what all my single speed buddies were raving about.
On the TNGA, my bike looked like something out of a Star Wars movie with all the on board controls I had hooked up to the handlebar. I have my brakes, shifters, bike computer, gps, feedbags, lockout switch and frame bag all hooked up on it. In fact, you couldn’t even see the handlebar when I was riding. When I was done with the TNGA, I wanted a more minimalistic bar without all the stuff – basically, to cut the fat. So now all I have are brakes and my gps. It’s rather nice to have a clean handlebar for once
I’m not really sure how to explain this (the sweet spot) unless you ride a single speed but I’ll give it my best shot. On the TNGA when I was forced to be on a single speed, I remember starting to pedal and hating life because I was locked into one nasty heavy gear. There wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it and I knew the last segment of the adventure ride was going to be hell. I remember we started up an ascent and I was about to unclip and start to walk it. I thought to myself “you know, screw this…I’m staying on the bike.” So I dug deep and gave my bike one good hard push. It moved, and moved with more force than I thought. Then I did another pedal stroke and I picked up momentum. Before I knew it I was halfway up the hill and felt like I was on top of the world! The sweet spot.
Once I converted my bike to a single speed, got it on the lighter side, and had the right settings…hitting the “sweet spot” is fun. There’s just something about feeling the incoming load on the bike, digging deep and pushing through it that feels, to me at least, like you’re one with the bike (that sounded cheesy didn’t it?).
“I think it takes a special person to ride a single speed. They don’t complain and they don’t make excuses” – Stacey Davis
Most of the riders I know that are single speed people are
retarded odd birds. The guy I have work on my bike at Cahaba Cycles, Zach, usually rides single speed and he finished the Cohutta 100 (a tough mountain bike century) on one. I would just scratch my head thinking “why torture yourself like that!?” I could not grasp the reason of why someone would actually put themselves through it. I think I get it now. Maybe.
Metaphorically, It does leave you with less excuses (gearing) to have and there’s not much room to complain (less parts to break off the bike).
Are you considering a single speed or are interested in trying one out? Is it for you? I would say there would be two general factors that would come into play:
If you are considering going single speed, the good folks at Cahaba Cycles have your back and can convert your bike (or get you a shiny new single speed). I’ve enjoyed dropping all the gears (it feels like cutting fat) and riding for simplicity’s sake. You truly feel like a kid again.