Rants on Cycling and on Life


Single Speeds and a Dream
years ago as I was in my mid 20's I was trying to figure out what to do with my life
I had worked as a messenger, had worked in a bike shop, and was trying to see how I could make a living in the bicycle industry
this notion of what to do with our lives was shared with a friend and we came up with the an idea for a single speed

we shared the belief that most people (non cyclists) tend not to shift gears, if they do shift gears they are in the wrong gear
often they get stuck in the granny gear for years
and then end up walking the bike up hills any way
most riders only go for a few miles at a time
and then hang their bike up for the next few months

so we tried to create a single speed company
our visions were slightly different....
he wanted to take over the world
I wanted to create a cool bike with great functionality
He thought that every Jolly Jumping Grandmother that gets scared out of the bike shop by all of the shifters and levers could use this bike (he was right to a degree)
I saw a good looking machine that a cyclist would be able to afford so that they did not have to ride their main bike to get coffee on the corner
or that a student could ride to and from class
basically an updated cruiser
and there were going to be various versions
the METRO would have fenders and a rack, all black of course
and then there would be the TOWPATH (for the more gravel roads) named after the path along the C&O Canal
and so on
we had prototypes sent from China
and we could see our visions starting to differ
he was thinking profit margins
while I was thinking paint schemes
the prototypes were basically HUFFYs without using the derailleur hanger

then I went to an Interbike show and scoped things out
single speeds were starting to pop up
talked further with companies about building up something like this
most frames were costing more than I was planning to sell the whole bike for

we ended up tossing the idea aside
it was a fun dream
but more than likely would not have worked
in the end we realized that if we were able to get our product together for an affordable price we would still be fighting to sell a single speed for the same price as a 21 speed (that may have been the max at the time)
and it was too tough to guarantee a marked for our would be product

in end
Single Speeds have grown in popularity
but not in the lower end "niche"
but rather in the "sport" niche

it is a great addition to the already over categorized over subculture world of cycling
there are single speed cross bikes and single speed off road bikes
with shocks
without shocks
it goes on and on and on

with that said
this week I am ordering a Surly Karate Monkey


This weekend past it was warm and sunny! What a way to start January 2004! We are continuing the winter informal cross training series. This most recent race was hosted in Takoma Park near Mark Drajem's house. The story is as follows...

On New Year's day the Gwadz family congregated at my father's house
in Bethesda for some dinner and some socializing. After over eating
and growing too full to chase the boys around any longer I suggested
that we all sit down to watch a movie. I selected SEABISCUIT,
although I had seen this film on DVD the week prior it seemed to a
movie that would occupy the adults, while the horses and the horse
racing may entertain the boys in between their new Christmas toy
related activities.

As I watched the film follow the race history of SEABISCUIT I looked
at my brother on the couch beside me and tried to look at myself. It
was clear that they were learning the strengths of this horse and how
to harness the horse's potential. In one of he earlier races (the
Santa Anna Handicap, I think) SEABISCUIT takes off fast and hard only
to burn out and get passed by the pack I could not help but think of
my cyclocross racing style and its lack of strategy, how I often
fight hard in the beginning of a race only to be drafted off of and
passed; then to finish midpack and exhausted. So I watched the film
and tried to document to myself what I could do as a racer and a
rider to race more efficiently and more effectively.

With a few days to review my new strategy I was ready to race. The
usual routine of a quick tune up, a dab of lube on the chain, a spin
of the wheels to verify that they only contact the brakes once on
each rotation, with my gear tossed in a bag I was done. Mark Drajem
had set up a course in Takoma Park Maryland just over the DC border.
The racers arrived one at a time, most showed in the family wagon
with bikes on top and babies in the back seat. We are all entering a
similar stage in life and trying to balance our love for cycling with
our love for our families. With the course set up and my list of
grips being so many that they were no longer valid we lined up to
race. There was a pack of 8 racers. I was in line midpack and knew
what I had to do. The time keeper gave us a countdown and we were
off. My chain skipped and then I missed my pedal the racers pulled
off gracefully as I clumsily moved forward. I gave it my all. Was out
of the saddle testing my limits, in no time at all I had stepped it
up and was keeping pace with my faster and fitter brother. So much
for a renewed sense of strategy. I was once again giving it my all at
the beginning and figuring I would see how long I could hold on.

On this day it was different. Some bad luck for my brother and some
good luck for me. This course seemed to favor me. Although it was
soft and slow there were enough sections to gain speed and then
momentum to force through the deep stuff. There was also enough
technical stuff to add the fun and creativity which also energized
me. There were some sketchy sections, but no one got seriously hurt
and I figured after a two lap preride what I should ride and what I
should run, and then added some more running after some sketchy
sliding out and a few new crashes off course. A great mixture of
grassy off camber turns, some steep out of the saddle climbs, some
run ups both stairs and grass, and then the wooded single track. My
brother had the misfortune of flatting out in the woods right in
front of me, while I was able to burn off the morning coffee, a can
of Red Bull, a shot of Hammer Gel, and even the water bottle filled
with flat coke.

In the end my brother was able to backtrack and steal a spare wheel
from the pits. Even with the setback he was able to reel all the
racers in and steal second from Ad Bax in and had there been one more
lap, he would have stolen the first place finish from me. I waited
for him to catch and pass. It never happened. But I was sure to be
ready for it when it did, I was going to make eye contact with him,
wish him luck, and quote the film SEABISCUIT and tell him with a
smile to "enjoy the ride."

Seabiscut Trailer