Thursday, July 31

Single Speeds are Dead

Allow me to ramble for some time and accomplish nothing.

For one to determine if single speeding is indeed dead, one needs to allow for the notion that it was ever alive to begin with.  This may start to sound like a pro-choice/pro-life debate, but when and where does life really start?

Not here:

That's just running... with style and accessories.

Not here either:

This is about mountain biking with only one gear, what we call "single speeding," so let's skip past the images of Nelson Vails and Tour de France riders from days of yore before the invention of the derailleur... despite how much it looks like what we do today.

Tour de France or the Breck Epic Single Speed Stage Racing World Championship?  Same diff.

Let's go back to the birth of mountain biking as we are told it began, on the top of Mount Tam.

These guys started with single speed beach cruisers, but it wasn't long before they were all retrofitting derailleurs onto their machines in order to go further, longer and faster.  So they weren't really single speeders as much as they were guys who hadn't found gears yet.

The embryo that eventually became the fetus that later was the anti-Christ brought forth from the birth canal of Rosemary NORBA has to somehow be genetically linked to the sperm of Bob Seals and Retrotec.  He and his roving band of gypsies have to be given credit for inspiring all other "fuck the establishment" single speedery.


Tim Richardson of Team Hugh Jass... East Coast single speed fuckery at its finest

The 1999 Single Speed World Championships brought back the douchery of Bob's first and only W.H.I.R.L.E.D. Championship of 1995.  Although the yearly gathering known as SSWC is kind of the defacto class reunion of single speeders from all around the world, an anti-establishment, anti-NORBA, anti-"The Man" event, the first one was still won by two pro riders; Marla Streb and Travis Brown.

Two pro riders who were still all up in the NORBA and UCI racing circuit, taking names and kicking asses at the highest levels.  It you don't get why that's relevant... whatever.  Go make a sammich and come back.

Somewhere in there, the first production single speeds are produced.  1X1 or Ventana started the whole thing, and before you knew it, every manufacturer had to have at least one in their lineup and everyone needed one in their quiver.  Single speeding hit the mainstream and money was made and people had fun and there was much rejoicing.

Which makes me think of Ian Malcolm's speech from Jurassic Park.

"You patented it, you packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox... and now you're selling it."

Did the death of single speeding occur during that time, less jumping the shark and more like the slow, smelly death of disco?


Single speeding is less of a sport and more of a religious sect within the sport of mountain biking.  As with any religion, you'll have zealots, lukewarm followers, hypocrites, defenders of the faith, martyrs, true believers and preachers.  Being a religion, as long as there's one faithful'esque person out there still believing, it can't die.  That's how they work (unfortunately).

Like religion, people can have all sorts of reasons to be a part of the one cog congregation.  Tradition, a crutch, the need to belong, blind faith, community, love, the desire to make the world a better place... a need to be closer to a divine deity.

I don't consider myself a "single speeder," but I do go to church almost every weekend.  I've made countless attempts to embrace multi-geared bicycles over the past decade or so, yet somehow I just can't make it work for me.  I can't and won't classify myself into a certain subsection of cycling culture that only rides one gear.  I have what some people call "issues," and I've decided to stop trying to fight it.  That's just my reason.  So while all five of the bikes I personally own are single speeds, I do not adhere to a list of policies and procedures written down by some person a long time ago who's sole intention was to control my behavior through fear.  I'm not concerned if my actions are considered single speedy enough, because I'm doing my own thing... that a bunch of other people do in their own manner.  Why can't we all just get along ?

It doesn't matter why you're doing it.  As long as you're doing it for your own reasons, single speeding is never going to die.


No matter which pro rider "steals" the tattoo, who bitches and argues about how #SSWC14 went down, carbon VS steel is real, weight weenie VS retro-grouch, craft beer brewery tourists VS PBR swillers, racer bois VS dirts, expectations VS "just go with it, man," interloping poachers VS dedicated hard men, Surly VS Rapha...

Who could possibly give a shit?  As long as you're having fun, you're doing it right.

The finite time you have on this semi-spherical planet is your movie.  You're the lead role, producer, director and screenwriter.  If you think single speeds are dead, by all means, go acquire this and go win something somewhere.

Otherwise, carry on.

I warned you that would be a ramble.  At least I succeeded at fulfilling that promise.

I have accomplished nothing.  I will celebrate that later.


Watts said...

Amen, lil bruddy.

Singlespeed1000 said...

Word! Nice write up!

Watts said...

And I always loved that photo of Tim Richardson. I remember the first time I saw it (BIKE, I think?) with the caption "best gay leprachaun riding a hoopty bike" or something like that. I felt like some secret knowledge had been imparted to me. And for the record... I'm pretty sure SS died when my lame ass started riding them.

DRB said...

That was the year hugh jass shared those shorts for the entire race. Changed right there at the check in...

erik minman said...

great read man!

John Parker said...

good stuff and there might be a Marx brothers line to work in here but like the two Chico references as well.

CraigC said...

Great write-up man! Points for bringing up Seals, as his race team was anything but racers or a team however, the SS training at the ranch is what made them the real deal! Point lost for not bringing up The BTU??? I saw them racing the Kamikaze in '87 on SS's and tearing that shit up!

dicky said...

Not like I did more than seven minutes of research.

Matt Head said...

Seven minutes!?!?! In seven minutes you managed to find a period correct photo of a dude racing a single speed wearing jorts and a DICKY. I bow to the "Master of Google Image Search and Visual Puns."

CraigFC said...

Ha!! Good answer, but it sounds like six too many, I coulda done it in one single minute!

Anonymous said...

That's how they work (unfortunately).

And just like that I love your blog again.

Nico said...

But really, I think we know the "Surly vs Rapha" argument.

Unknown said...

yes...surly is heavy and rapha is trendy
what you need is good ol' slanty prestige and some wool