Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Single Speed #1

To really under stand single speed you have to be kind of a fanatic about bicycling. Bicycling has to have a special meaning for you. I stopped a YWM (young white male) on a bike the other day as he was pedaling the wrong way on a one way street, at night without a light. He was riding an old single speed cruiser with cream colored fenders and big old chrome (non-functioning) headlight. I asked him how old the bike was and just stared at me and said, “It’s just a bike.” So I figured he stole it.

In Japan they know how to be fanatics. They make rituals and religions about almost everything. There they have track bike racing called Keirin. It’s kind of a cross between horse racing and sumo wrestling. Check it out Every single part of the bike, every component, frame, wheels, spokes, chain, everything has to be approved with N.J.S. (Nihon Jitensha Shinkokai), the Japanese Bicycling Association, stamp of approval. The standard is almost the same as the Campagnolo ISO Track parts standard. There is another standard used by Shimano called JIS (Japanese Industrial standard). This standard has minor differences from ISO in the square taper interface between bottom brackets and cranks, and the frames have different size headtubes and fork races. This is different from the English/US Standard of ISO that Shimano builds for biikes here in the US. One of the primary reasons for NJS is so all the parts will fit together without concern for any discrepancies between standards. What a concept. Unfortunately it falls too short of this, but it does maintain a large margin of safety.

Once you develop this fanticism of bicycling, single speed starts to make sense. No, it’s not for everyone or it may be for everyone but not all the time. But it is bicycling at its lowest common denominator. I have been riding my fixed gear almost on a daily basis since 2001 when I bought it from a neighbor for a couple hundred dollars. I have changed it over the years. First switched out the 140mm Salsa track stem for a more comfortable 100mm Cinelli, then I switched out the sewups for some clinchers and added front brake. It stayed in that configuration until this years when a pot hole took me down, broke 5 ribs and turned my handle bar and brake levers on a Beef-a-Roni (noodles and hamburger); too bad too, because the levers were some classy Campy Athena’s. I replaced the Bar and Stem with new Salsa and Cane Creek Brakes levers. The bike seems to fit me better now than it did before and I ride it everywhere. It goes to work with me, it climbs the local mountains, cruises the local farmland and has finished the Solvang Century twice. However what led to the fixie was a single speed mountain bike but that's another story.

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