A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I sort of stumbled into a climb up the Alpine Loop — 10 miles, 3200 feet of climbing — on my track bike.
What I have not talked about, though, is how that ride got me to thinking.
I’ve been thinking about how hard it was to do that climb in a 48 x 16 gear (81 gear inches)…but that it would be kind of cool to do it in just a slightly lower gear.
I’ve been thinking about how I didn’t enjoy the downhill much at all…but that I might have enjoyed it if I were on a bike with road geometry, instead of track geometry.
I’ve been thinking about how for the multi-mile descents I have every day, it would be nice to have a freewheel.
I’ve been thinking that water bottles might be a nice addition to the single speed road bike.
I’ve been thinking that a rear brake would be really nice to have.
In other words, I’ve been thinking I’d like the Bianchi Pista more if it were a different bike. A single-speedin’ road bike.
Testing the Theory
So I talked to Dug about my new idea. I expected him to pooh-pooh it. “Pooh,” I expected him to begin, in response to my idea. And then he would conclude: “Pooh.”
Instead, Dug attached himself to the idea. “Let’s figure out what the gearing would be and try a ride with our regular road bikes just in that gear,” he said.
Warning: This paragraph is geeky. You can skip it without consequence. It turns out that the Lemond Fillmore / Fisher Triton both are geared at 44 x 18: 66 gear inches. The Specialized Langster is geared at 42 x 16: 70.9 gear inches. For our test, Dug and I settled on the middle ground: big ring, third gear: 53 x 21: 68.1 gear inches.
We rode Emigration Canyon the next day, staying in that gear. I think we both agreed a little easier — the Fillmore / Triton gearing — would have been nicer for all the climbing we do.
And here is where Dug and I are different. Dug continued — and continues, as far as I know — to ruminate on whether he’d like a single speed road bike.
I, on the other hand, placed a call to Racer of Racer’s Cycle Service and asked him, “Which should I get? The Triton or the Fillmore?”
“They’re exactly the same bike,” Racer responded. “But there aren’t any Tritons in your size anywhere in the U.S. There is one Fillmore, though.”
“Order it,” I said, my discomfort with Greg Lemond notwithstanding.
You see, I’m perfectly comfortable with my impulsive nature. Besides, it’s been more than a year since I’ve bought a new bike (if you don’t count the tandem, I mean), and I need new blog material.
Yes, that’s right. I’m claiming I bought a bike to give you something to read about.
So I got my Fillmore last Friday afternoon. Apart from swapping the saddle out to the Flite SLR I love and adding bullhorn bars instead of traditional road drop bars — I had this notion that bullhorns would be great for holding onto while I rowed the bike up the climbs, plus I never use the drops anyway — the bike is stock.
As always, I was so excited to ride my new bike I thought I would burst.
And so of course it rained all through the weekend.
Monday, though, I finally got in a ride, once again up to the top of the Alpine Loop and back.
How’d I like it? I loved it. I was right: the single speed on the road has an equivalent, non-explainable quality to a single speed on dirt. It feels simple, quiet, and on a hard climb, pretty darned painful.
I love how the bullhorns go exactly to where my hands want them on the climb, and the position of the brakes on the descent.
I love being able to coast on the downhill. I love having front and rear brakes. I love the stable feel of road geometry.
I love how this entire bike — including the different saddle, handlebar, Jethro Tool, and brake levers — cost less than I have come to expect a wheelset to cost.
So yesterday after work, I climbed the North side of Suncrest — 1500 feet in under four miles. That hurt. And it was exquisite.
People ask me, though: why a single speed? And I don’t have an answer. I really don’t.
There might be a vanity aspect to it — I keep hoping that someone will catch me summiting a difficult climb on this bike, though it hasn’t happened yet.
And the whole elegance-in-simplicity has something to do with it, too.
And maybe the do-or-die aspect of climbing with a single speed is part of it. You can’t shift to a lower gear, so if you’re going to get to the top of the hill, you’ve got to find the power in your legs to do it. That adds an intensity to the rides I really enjoy right now.
And — let’s face it — I’m kind of a goober and like to do things a little differently, just because it’s fun to be different.
And there’s always the “it’s a new bike, therefore it must be wonderful” factor.
But I don’t think any of these reasons really capture why I’m digging the single speed road bike. In the same way I really like climbing on my single speed mountain bike, I really like climbing on the single speed road bike.
I don’t know why it’s fun, but it is.
Really, really fun.