By Lukas Brinkerhoff
I used to hate to ride Prospector to Church Rocks. I found nothing interesting about the trail. It was slow, sluggish and made me tired without giving anything back. I would pedal to the top of one of the hills only to slowly coast back down. And then repeat. I avoided the trail almost as much as I now avoid Paradise Canyon. It was boring.
Then I rode it on a Saturday morning on a bike that was being treated to its first bout of dirt. Suddenly, Prospector turned into a quick, flowy trail that left me with this strange sensation. Without me knowing it, my lips had turned upward. My eyes started to twinkle and my heartbeat was up and running. I was having fun. The ups were quick and I spun out on the backside grinning and laughing all the way to the next up. I had to stay on top of it to keep from missing a turn. I was hooked.
Now Prospector is one of my favorite local trails.
An Argument for Less
In the great impulse-buying society in which we reside, we are told time and time again that for us to be able to have fun or to have a certain experience, we must purchase the newest and the best that is currently available. Regardless of what we have experienced with what we currently own, there is no fix for the desire to have something new. For as soon as you have something new, it suddenly isn't and you need the next best thing. It's an endless, vicious cycle.
The first time I pedaled a rigid singlespeed on dirt I was hooked. After six weeks or so, I sold every other bike I owned and pedaled with a grin on my face for years. It was this rigid singlespeed that turned my sluggish trail into a fast, flowy love fest. This wasn't a new feeling for me. I grew up on rigid bikes. They were the only bikes I could afford. All of the trails I rode until 2002 were on a rigid bike or a hardtail.
I fell in love with mountain biking well before I owned any suspension. Well before drivetrains had one more, well before dually boinging machines could weigh less than my tricked out 90's hardtail.
Sometimes that experience of just loving to ride is best found on the bike with the least bells and whistles. To feel every bump in the trail, have to strain up every climb and to watch the front wheel and precisely guide it through the rock gardens, that is how mountain biking started and that's why I fell in love with riding.
Not only do rigid singlespeed bikes offer an enjoyable alternative to the boing crowd, they also offer a serious advantage in the maintenance to riding time ratio. Maintenance on a singlespeed means you lube the chain and pump the tires up. Once a year you might want to tear the thing down and grease and tighten everything. Even this once a year maintenance will only take you about an hour.
And isn't that the point of owning a bike, to be able to ride it.
Less is Sexy
There is something inherently beautiful about simplicity. No springs attached. No extra links in the chain to wrap around those movey things that change gears. No cables running the length of the bike to connect the levers to the movey things. Just simple round tubes, a couple of wheels, a set of cranks and some brakes.
I love the way a singlespeed chain looks as it symmetrically wraps around the chain stay.
Let's admit it, if your bike is sexy, you will be sexy. In the grand scheme of things on this earth, isn't that what we are all desperately trying to accomplish. Think of your sexy bike as your peacock feathers.
Inches of travel or inches of error control? However you look at it, suspension makes riding technical trails easier. That rock that looked like it would toss you to your demise, can easily be bounced over with the right amount of squish. “Fixie” Dave Nice, local simple bike aficionado, likes to point out how easy it is to recognize riders who grew up on hardtails and those who were born into cycling via full suspension bikes. Not only are the lines picked with more caution and control on a hardtail, but the rider tends to have bent knees and elbows and uses body English to control the rough stuff even when aboard a double boinger.
Being forced to feel every rock and rut in the trail teaches riders to watch their lines, float over the rocks and use the body for suspension. All skills that can be transferred to most types of riding.
Less is Rebellious
Taking out all the marketing and hype from your ride is the equivalent of raising an angry fist to the man. The man is the one propagating the need for new shiny parts. The man would prefer you spent your riding time sitting in front of a computer screen geeking out over the newest and the greatest. He is not concerned with whether you get to ride or not, he just wants your money. Eliminate the majority of those shiny parts and the man starts to fade into the background and you can, once again, just ride.
If I had to pick one thing about modern society that I despise, it would be marketing. Here's my raised fist.
Less is Love
So give it a try. I will bet that if you swing your leg over a simple bike that you will find your boring trails transformed into fun and your life will be better. You will have more friends, more riding time, be able to clean that demon section of trail and afford that tattoo you've been wanting so you can show everyone just how rebellious you are.
What do you have to lose but your derailleurs?