My friend, Henry, is a certified cycling freak. Not just certified, but certifiable. You see, Henry rides a single speed bicycle. Single speed as in NO GEARS. And it’s not like he commutes to work with no gears. No, Henry rides in major long distance rides like century rides, and longer (like the 345 mile in 3 day La Vuelta de Puerto Rico) with no gears.
I visited with him this weekend and got to ask him, “what the heck?” It was easy, Henry explained, he used to weigh 300 pounds and took up cycling to get in shape. He rode off a bunch of weight, went to La Vuelta, in his native Puerto Rico, and was frustrated because he wasn’t as strong as he’d like to be. His cycling mentor told him to go buy a single speed and he did. He learned to climb by utilizing only his own strength and Henry weighs about 170 now. He told me, “You want to get good at hills? Get a single speed.”
So I did.
Well, I ordered one.
It turns out that trying to find a single speed road bike isn’t easy. Most of the local bike shops (LBS) don’t carry them or had not even heard of them. One store, which purported to have a Fuji Feather on their website hadn’t even heard of the model when I drove across town to get one (that plus a 20 year old clerk, who I can only imagine was asked to man the shop at lunch, greeted me with, “My good man, how can I help you?” My good man? “Yes, is Mr. Scrooge here? I’d like to ask him to contribute to our Christmas dinner for orphans. Now , my good lad, go fetch him and be quick about it!”) Even my own LBS’s owner never returned my message, it seems I needed a custom option in an off the rack world. Most of the stores could order one, but I thought I might have other options.
I could have gotten an old bike and adapted it to be a single speed, but that didn’t seem to be anymore economical than buying a new one. Craigslist had some of these conversions listed but they didn’t do it for me, besides, I was skeptical about venturing out, cash in hand, to buy an old and tinkered with bike. So, the on-line search began. I looked at hundreds, I mean hundreds of options, and found that I kept coming back to State Bicycle Company’s website. The bikes were gorgeous, they allowed me to add drop handlebars, and they had several beautiful models from which to choose. (I went with the white model with black trim, a Star Wars motif, called, The Trooper 3.)
I liked the idea of having an LBS to work with so I looked for a local distributor of their’s and the one store that was listed by State turned out to be run by a guy who thought treating prospective customers ironically was his best move. His store’s own website only said this: “click here to place an order.” No mention of what you were to order; the brands he carries, what services he performs, or anything else about his business. You were simply supposed to click on an Email link and order stuff, and I guess, if you were hip enough to be one of his customers, you’d know what stuff. I wasn’t impressed, but thought I might call and give him a lot of room to say, “yes, you can order a bike from me the same as you would on the manufacturer’s website.” No such luck, my good man was way to haughty to commit an act of sales:
“Hi, I’ve been looking at the State Bicycle website and I see you are a dealer. How does that work, do you take orders for their bikes?”
“Well, we wouldn’t be listed as a dealer if we didn’t sell their bikes.”
Well, that wouldn’t do, I have grown kids, I don’t need another smart ass in my life, so after terminating the conversation rather unhappily (my good man even called me back to yell at me on voicemail, yikes!), I went back State’s website and ordered my singlespeed Trooper, which I will assemble myself. I have bike wrenches, a bike stand, and a college son who takes engineering. We know stuff. We are dangerous.
The idea of training hard for something in an unconventional manner suites me to a T: single minded, contrarian, and stubborn are the words most likely to be included in my epitaph, so I look forward to going out with my friend Henry and being just as committed to the road as he is.
We don’t need no stinking gears.
I’ll keep you posted on my Star Trooper sorties!