The original purpose of this blog was to chronicle the building and riding of single speed bikes for me and my two boys. It was inevitable that the topics expanded because Steve's On Cannon Street isn't devoted to single speed bikes and my own riding involves a small fleet of bikes intended for other purposes. Upon retrospective review, however, it becomes obvious that shortly after the single speed bikes were completed this spring, that we stopped writing about them much. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the unavoidable truth is that we haven't ridden them as much as I was hoping.
I have been known to say that my favorite ride is the one that starts at my front door. I enjoy getting on any of my bikes and heading out and about in Spokane and its environs. From my house I have pretty quick access to the west plains areas towards Cheney, access to the south including Spangle/Rosalia/Steptoe Butte, access to the Centennial Trail to get me east, and convenient access to the lower South Hill bluff trails. As a result, long, short and/or dirt rides are all pretty convenient. The one problem with dirt, however, is that I start at the bottom of the bluff trails and there is no where to go but up. And, being trails that have developed a bit organically, all of the options in our area are quite steep and reasonably inhospitable, particularly for single speeds.
As a result of this confluence of circumstances, when it was time to grab the single speed bikes for quick jaunts, it meant getting to the bottom of a steep hill and . . . well, usually walking the bikes or, alternatively, struggling mightily. If you happen to be wired so that you think that greater the struggle, the greater the fun you must be having, then this was all right. On the other hand, if you are a reasonable-minded young rider, you might see this as not great fun. And having "not fun" is not a good way to feel like grabbing the single speed bike and hitting the trail. This leads to fewer rides and, somewhat perversely, it also meant that I felt guilty about taking my own single speed out when I knew that the kids would want to come along and then I knew it wasn't going to be a barrel of laughs for one or more of them.
So, as a birthday gift giving occasion arose recently, we made the decision to convert one of the single speed bikes into a 1 x 9 to improve the "fun" factor for said rider. For those of you not hip to the lingo, this means adding 9 gears to the rear of the bike and leaving the single chain ring in front. It adds flexibility to the set-up and still tries to hew to the ideal of simplicity by not adding what it not needed. 1x9 and 1x10 bikes are a niche within the niche of single speeds, but it makes a lot of sense. In my own riding, for instance on any paved section, I long for a bit more gear to get my speed up. I've been pretty happy on the dirt with my one speed, but getting to and fro the limitation of one speed becomes apparent.
The bottom line is that cycling should be fun and certainly riding with my boys should be fun. I'm hoping that the conversion from 1x1 to 1x9 will add a serious chunk of fun and flexibility to the riding and we will have more tales to tell as a result. Stay tuned for further results.