Once, standing outside a Crested Butte coffee shop, in tight bike clothes with my yellow Labrador puppy, and my bike, a young man saw the trio and immediately locked eyes with us. I started getting a little nervous, but then saw as he approached that he was really only looking at my bike.
“Wow, that’s a Castellano,” he said, stretching his hand to touch my bike’s crossbar.
I played it cool, trying to make it seem like it was natural to bypass a woman and a puppy and go right for the bike frame.
“Yeah, after Ibis went out of business, Castellano started making frames on his own,” I said. “I got it from a friend who owns a bike shop in California.”
He admired the hybrid shock, the dynamics of the frame and commented on the components before casually moving on.
To be fair, I could have been on the Swedish bikini team, in a hot tub, with a cooler full of ice cold Coors, and this young, handsome thang would have still only been interested in my bike. (Well, he might have wanted a beer too).
Because, as I said earlier, bikes are sexy. And, as I have recently learned, a single speed is even sexier. A single speed is a bike with only one gear. It’s like the librarian who finally takes her hair down and glasses off. It has no gimmicks, no gears — just a frame, two tires, handle bars and brakes. A single speed breaks a bike down to the essentials and is light and sleek. It plays no tricks and gives no double messages – what you see is what you get.
When you ride a single speed, you can only go so fast, because you can’t change gears. On uphills, you stand up and pedal a little harder. On downhills, you can’t pedal so much so you just try to coast and maintain your speed around the corners. Single speeds are best for undulating flats — places where you can maintain a consistent pedal stroke. Maybe, that is why older folks like to ride them. They’re steady.
I like to think of my single speed as my mid-life crisis—safer than a sports car or an affair. A single speed makes you feel young again. It gives a different perspective to the trails you’ve ridden a hundred times. It’s an extra bike, amongst cyclists a “quiver bike”, meaning if you can only have one, it’s probably not the most practical choice. It’s the third or fourth bike you might add to a collection
Then again, maybe my single speed is more like a hot best friend. It’s the friend who everyone wants to talk to you about. So, you end up meeting all of these people, just because they want to know more about your single speed. Just last week at Box Canyon Cycles, I was dropping off my single speed and a middle age man walked in, looked at my bike and said, “That’s a sexy bike.” (I did not make this up; this is really what he said).
Again, we talked about the sleek frame, the difference in how it rides from a gear bike and how much fun it was.
Although I do love my single speed, to be honest, I’ve only had it for a year. I asked for it last year for Mother’s Day. This year I didn’t ask for anything and got wedge sandals. My 5 1/2 year old daughter so perceptively noted, after a BBQ at a friend’s house, that I was the only mom without wedges thus the thoughtful Mother’s Day present. She didn’t seem to think that the other mommies needed a single speed.
So now, I have a single speed and wedge sandals – a sexy bike and sexy shoes –everything I need to survive any mid-life hiccup that may come my way.
Summer Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride summer an epic adventure.