Saturday, April 27, 2013

A singular fixation

I recently converted my old Raleigh to a fixed gear.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Next are the cutoff jeans, train conductors cap, ironic handlebar mustache, and cliched tattoos, and running red lights to stick it to "the man." Not quite. The breaks stay and I won't ruin this beauty with cheap florescent paint. Fixed gear might be hip right now, but in truth this is the perfect evolution for an old but faithful riding machine.

I kept the original crank set, minus the larger chain ring.  That leaves me with a lower ratio, 40 x 17, which seems to work well for my needs. I can get it up most hills and can go up to about 28 mph before I spin out. Since this is mostly for commuting, errands, and occasional loops around the Arkansas, speed is not really an issue. What's nice is the new rear wheel has a "flip flop" hub, so I can always go back to free if needed.

Here were my reasons for single speed and fixed gear:
  • Less maintenance; the derailleur was bottom of the line anyway.
  • The old school downtube shifters, while more reliable and responsive than most brifters, don't lend themselves to frequent shifting. I pretty much kept her in one gear unless I was feeling lazy on a climb. And that brings me to my next point...
  • No more thoughtless shifting on climbs. You muscle it up and build more muscle doing so.
  • Finally, fixed gear forces you into a consistent and efficient cadence. 
Its been a few weeks now and these are my initial reactions:  My pedaling has smoothed out, particularly in those moments at the end of a climb. I'm sure this will pay off on my longer rides in the country with the Trek. The steady cadence already feels natural. This is the right way to go for older, utilitarian bikes. The one thing that still feels odd is riding down steeper hills since you need to constantly apply the breaks to avoid spinning out. I'm not sure what the fabled bike messengers in San Francisco do without brakes. The idea of skidding down hills and weaving in and out of traffic without brakes seems wreck-less beyond abandon.

Boulevard continues to impress with their Grainstorm Black Rye IPA. The rye works well with the wonderful hop flavors in this beer. The roastiness typical of black IPAs is absent here, giving it a lighter, more refreshing feel.


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