Monday, August 29, 2011

Fixated on Single Speeds

I have found a new fixation within my bicycle obsession (Who knew there could be sub-obsessions within the overall, huge obsession of bikes?). I really am starting to wonder if I need some sort of therapy when it comes to always thinking about another bike... but then I realize that there are far worse things I could be obsessed with, and it's not as though I buy every bike I see, so it can't be that bad, can it? Anyway, this fixation/obsession seems to have come to the forefront over the last several months. Prior to that time, I would look at single speeds and equate them with a certain sort of person (which I certainly am not, on many counts). I have a visual image of a hipster-like (male or female), who is uber thin, and just has that super cool look about them (for lack of better terminology). I suppose that's more the "fixie" crowd in reality, but I also think the majority of people lump these two styles of bicycles into one category, despite the fact that they are different.
The Bianchi Via Condotti
**Image from Bianchi
I will confess, it was actually a fixed gear bicycle that first caught my eye. The Bianchi Via Condotti was so gorgeous that I couldn't help but be drawn to it. The classic Celeste color that Bianchi is known for, the simplified design... how could a person not drool over this bicycle (or at minimum appreciate its beauty)?

Soon after seeing this bike, I was parking bikes at a bike valet station and happened to be the person who took a Giant Bowery from a young lady who was headed in to an event. I was amazed at how light the bike was (of course, most bikes are light to me when I normally truck around on a 40 lb bicycle), and again, couldn't help but find fascination in the simplified design.
2009 Giant Bowery SS
**Image from Jack's Bikes
Her bike just happened to be a model that is a couple of years old, and it seems as though they've changed the design since then, but seeing this bike lit some sort of fire in me and I've found myself drawn to the single speeds, trying to determine differences in price points, and (perhaps the most important of all the thoughts) trying to decide if it's something I would actually use.

I've gone to the traditional sources for information such as Sheldon Brown and articles on Bike Forums, such as this, but I think the more I read, the more confusing it all becomes. When one question gets answered, it often creates two more, creating this never ending search for information.

One thing I have discovered from personal experience is that the low positioned drop bars definitely don't work for my hands, so the standard look of many of these bicycles wouldn't likely be functional for me over the long term. In that sense, it might be better to simply build my own single speed. I could obtain a used or new frame fairly inexpensively and utilize many spare parts that are just lying around the house. Plus, I could pick the parts that I want and build it up over time. One of the frames that caught my eye as a possibility for a single speed build was actually a Surly Cross Check.
2011 Surly Cross Check frame
**Image from Surly
While it isn't necessarily what one typically thinks of for a single speed bicycle, it is a possibility, although it would be a heavier frame/fork than some of the other options out there. I do like Surly products though, and I don't object necessarily to a little added weight when it could bring some stability to the ride. The frame and fork come in somewhere around 6-7 lbs, which doesn't seem too bad, depending on how heavy wheels and other parts become.

Some might ask, "Why a single speed?" Well, I've asked myself this question, and really it's the same reasoning most others provide. 1) I like the simplicity of not having gears. Regardless of how comfortable I am with shifting a bike, there is always some thought behind it (when to do it, how often, am I in the right gear for the situation, etc). 2) It's reminiscent of childhood... a time when most of us had a single speed bicycle that we had to stand up to pedal up the hills (and sometimes get off and walk up the hills, depending on how long ago childhood was, and how heavy those bikes were during childhood). 3) It's a challenge. I like the idea of having to push myself in some parts of town to get around, using only my own power. While I do this with a multi-speed bicycle as well, I think there is another level present in a single speed.

For now, this fixation remains just that, as I have no immediate plans in the works to start this kind of project. It is something I would like to pursue at some juncture in time, but for now, it will have to wait. I would, however, be interested to know if anyone else has purchased whole or built a single speed, and would be curious to know details of how you picked your bike and/or parts.


  1. Ohhh, that's my Surly. Do it. :) I would love to have that Bianchi too!

  2. It's so very tempting... very tempting! :o)


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