Keeping things simple is one of the best things about cycling. Just you, your bike and the road or the trail, maybe a few ride-buddies thrown in and your done. Then we over complicate things: bike computers, electronic gears, carbon – lots of carbon, aero-isation. The simple act of cycling becomes mired in confusing jargon, incompatible components, an unnecessary arms-race and a creeping sense of self importance. The solution is simple enough: ride a single speed.
The reincarnation of my single speed has reminded me how beautiful simple can be. From the simple straight lined steel frame, uncluttered by derailleurs or aerodynamics, to the straight out of the box ride it’s fun and grounding. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously on a single speed, you’re never going to be the fastest – push it too hard and your legs rebound wildly to no effect – so why bother? Instead you can perfect a clean, fluid, efficient pedal stroke. Or you can practice and perfect different cadence’s until you find your groove. Or you just glide along, untroubled without the constant urge to drive on at a furious pace (which my Venge ‘makes’ me do).
Dialling back on the technology seems counter to everything about today. Everything has to be inherently smart and we need to be ubiquitously connected. A phone that just makes phone calls? No thanks. Despite the smartness and the connectivity loneliness and depression are on the rise. There’s the fear that smart and connected mean being monitored and controlled. How does Facebook know who my LinkedIn connectionsa are? Then there’s the doomsday scenario: what if the technology doesn’t work? Could we still read maps? Cook food? Make clothes? Probably not unless you’re over 65 and / or living in the Third World. We’re becoming over-reliant on Google.
Riding my single speed isn’t going to prepare me for a post-apocalyptic Armageddon scenario but it can take me back to basics, remind me that simple is still good and allow me to escape the need to be smart all of the time.