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I've been doing it all wrong.

Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

I've been doing it all wrong.

Old 09-20-22, 11:51 AM
Doesn't brain good.
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I've been doing it all wrong.

Over the years of bike acquisition I've been accumulating all manner of external gear bikes. Then, internal gear bikes. Then after that, hybrid gear bikes. More & more I became concerned with total gear range, how low the minimum ratio the hub could support, how high I could make the top end, & how fine the resolution from one ratio to another could be made even if the shifting pattern to get there had a zero chance of ever being utilized. Deep down, I knew something needed to change. In spite of all the bicycles in my house, I needed variety. Simply adding more gears wasn't doing it for me anymore.

At a local co-op I spied an unbranded 135mm disc single speed freehub, hub in the display case. I figured: "What the heck, it'll mate up nicely to that new (old) rim that's hanging in the garage"...$40 in spokes & a few hours of my time later, I have my first single speed since grade school.

It's definitely a different riding experience.
I'm also a bit humbled. You can't shift. There is no shifting. You either get strong or you don't go.

I hadn't realized that I was riding to a certain intensity & merely shifting so that I could remain comfortable, to spin a light but speedy cadence. Riding, for me had sort of lost it's novelty, it luster. In short riding sort of became a bit boring, functional, utilitarian.

With no gears however...Now every hill, every rise, every undulation of the road carries with it a command for interaction. This is something gears don't hardly even bother to mention.

Obviously, there's horses for courses, but for an interesting change to work your muscles (self) in a completely different way. An absence of choice has more to offer than most cyclists (myself included) would think.

Feel free to file this under: "Derp! Thanks Captain Obvious!" But, I just thought I'd share. I get it now.
I shouldn't have to "make myself more visible;" Drivers should just stop running people over.

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Old 09-20-22, 12:07 PM
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Less Is More
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Old 09-21-22, 12:48 PM
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It’s like when Jake sees the light in the Blues Brothers lol.
I’ve been riding fg/ss since I was a kid and I still get caught up in the simplicity and fun of a single speed.
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Old 09-26-22, 10:51 AM
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I've had a few fixed gear bikes in my fleet for years. I was originally attracted to them for their durability, simplicity, and uncluttered aesthetic. I still ride my Surly Steamroller (the first FG I got) occasionally when I'm going about 30 miles or less and not in a hurry. But my favorite is my Cinelli/Mash Parallax, a true track bike that I've set up with bullhorn bars, a front brake, and 49x17 gears. I use it for one specific type of ride almost exclusively: interval workout on rolling hills.

When you don't have the option of shifting, you are forced to sprint up hills, spin really fast sometimes, and just make do with a ratio that's a little higher or lower than you'd prefer sometimes. Of course, one can always choose to stay in a particular gear on a road bike, but this takes discipline, and anyway it's more fun to have a pure, simple machine that you make work in spite of gearing that is hardly ever ideal.

I could never settle on a fixed gear as my only bike. If I had to pick one bike, it would be my road bike, because it's so versatile. Since I am fortunate enough to have the money and space for several bikes, I love keeping a fixed or two, for the unique experience they provide.
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Old 10-31-22, 12:29 PM
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Back in 2017 I was commuting nearly every day. I picked up a Langster that had been robbed of parts. Replaced them and tried it out. Loved it.
Haven't ridden it for a number of years but it stays in the stable. Had to do more work to it than I thought with a trashed bb, stuck seat post and no wheels.
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Old 11-03-22, 08:58 AM
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I built my first fixed-gear in 1998 with a c.1958 Raleigh Lenton Sport frameset, cottered cranks and a budget set of tubular wheels where I respaced the rear. I then did rolling upgrades involving different wheels and frames, including a couple of old Gitanes, a Peugeot PR-10, a Trek 620 and a '71 Raleigh Competition I fished out of a trash heap. I bought one of the first Bianchi Pistas in late '99, and by late 2002 I splurged and bought myself a custom Mercian Vincitore road fixed-gear.

2002 Derek Land-built Mercian Vincitore custom road fixed gear, 531 throughout

Looking back over my mileage since then 1999, I realize that half of that has been either fixed or single-speed. More than 3/4 of that was on the Mercian above. In 2013 I built myself a what was supposed to be a beater fixed-gear to ride around beach towns on family vacations. It became my grab-and-go bike for early morning Dawn Patrol rides, and possibly the single smoothest running bike I've ever had, a 1971-ish Gitane Tour de France assembled with a hodgepodge of parts that spans four decades. This one feels like ballet slippers.

I realized I missed my trash-heap Raleigh and started looking around for one and eventually found the gnarliest, most neglected and abused specimen I think I've ever seen. The generous tire clearance of this model inspired a full mad-scientist build, featuring 35 mm cyclocross tires, 42/44T chainrings, and a Surly 17/19T Dingle fixed cog on one side of the hub and a White Industries Dos Eno 20/22T on the other. Without cross chaining, I have a 70-in pavement and a 60-in gravel roads set of fixed gears I can change in less than 30 seconds, or I can flip the wheel for 60-in general noodling and 52-in gentle singletrack freewheeling gears. This one is the best dirt road bike I have ever had, and feels like what the Rivendell Quickbeam I briefly owned should have been like.

1973 Raleigh Competition, 531 with rapid-taper stays, running Dingle fixed cog/Dos Eno 2-speed freewheel, giving 70-in fixed pavement, 60-in fixed gravel, 60-in general freewheeling and 51-in light singletrack gearing

I prefer riding fixed-gear to variable geared bikes the way I prefer playing an acoustic guitar to playing an electric guitar with effects pedals. It's all about using your entire body, utilizing every position on dropped handlebars to bring different muscle groups into play, emphasizing different modes of riding rather than just changing gears and staying in the same position. To me, it's analogous to moving my hand forward or back between the end of the fretboard vs near the bridge to get different tones and different resistance ot my picking hand. I play with bare fingers, no picks, and the analogy to riding a fixed-gear and having to use technique rather than technology, and pursuing as pure an approach as I can, is not lost on me.

Shortly after I started riding, I read Peter Moore's Fixed Gear Riding and the Age of Heroes: Reflections on Literary History, Cycling, and Technology in the accessible-via-the-internet-archive ezine Two Wheel Fetish. In it, he wrote, " (R)iding a fixed gear is like living in a premodern, more heroic age. In contrast, riding a bike with derailleurs and a freewheel is instead like living in a much more modern and self-aware period of Western human history--say from the sixteenth century to the present one. The unity of man and machine in riding a fixed has both the strengths and the weaknesses of the heroic; and while riding a derailleur-freewheel bike is easier, it is not heroic." I think he was onto something, and I know my inner hair-shirt, emotional need for authenticity in an over-mediated world brings me back to the fixed.

There is a certain zeal attached to fixed and single speed, so much so that at one point TWF sold a tongue-in-cheek t-shirt with this emblem, along with a disclaimer/explainer of sorts -

Kinda wish I'd gotten one now ...
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