Well, I went out and did it. I did exactly what most people were not expecting. I decided to go singlespeed.
I picked the Trek Superfly SS over the Trek Procaliber 9.7 and last weekend I took it on its maiden voyage. I headed down to Scioto Trails State Park near Chillicothe, Ohio and did a hilly gravel grinder with Mike Whaley (onecogblog.com), Ben Michels, and Cory Knight.
We left the parking lot and a quarter mile later we were on our first climb of the day. I was standing in the saddle and mashing the pedals hard. My lungs couldn’t suck enough oxygen into my body. The gravel on the road was spongy and seemed to suck the life out of the bike. The climb seemed to last forever.
What was I thinking? This is tough. Maybe I bought the wrong bike. I’ll be honest, I was missing my gears. Ben and Mike both have Superfly SSs (What’s the plural for SS?). The three of us attacked the hill, but mainly because we had no choice. There was no lower gear to slip into. No granny to give us relief.
About half way up I realized that we were leaving Cory behind. He was the only one who had gears on his bike and he was using them. This right here is where the singlespeeders get an advantage. Every other part of the ride favors the geared riders, but the singlespeeders are forced to climb quickly.
I survived that first climb and my heart rate fell back down to earth as we pedaled along a flatter section of road. Another daunting hill was on the horizon and I braced for the worst. How long could I keep up this new form of pedaling? We were only a few miles in and already my body was sending me signals that it was getting tired.
Once again the climb felt hard, but my mental state started to change a little. I found a good rhythm. I didn’t focus on where Ben, Mike and Cory were, I focused on having good form. My breathing found a good place and even though I was still working hard, I was much more relaxed.
Despite the damp conditions, the weather was beautiful. The sun was out and the woods were serene. The cadence was lulling me into a happy state of mind.
I could do this.
Hill, descent, hill, descent, hill, descent… I was surviving. We rolled along and with each new challenge I felt better. I wasn’t just surviving this ride, I was invigorated. This was fun.
I started thinking about all the new challenges I was going to tackle this season. Could I conquer the Mohican 100 on a singlespeed? At this point, I felt like I could beat my time from last year. Would I race the Tristate 6-Hour in the Open division or the singlespeed division? All these events would take on a new life, with new challenges on this new set-up.
And that’s why I bought a singlespeed.
I probably won’t be a singlespeeder forever. I can appreciate the value of gears. I might even buy a 1X11 hardtail next year. But, what I needed at this point was a change. I needed new challenges. If I was going to do a lot of the same events this year, then I wanted to give them a twist. I was nervous about making the change, but this ride reassured me that it’ll be fun.
Bring it on.
P.S. I finally switched my pedals from Crank Brothers to Shimano PD-M540. So far, so good. They worked well on my first ride. No problem engaging the pedals and staying clipped in while I was riding. But, I bought them because they are supposed to be more durable than Eggbeaters. Only time will tell if they pass that test. Click here to read reviews and get prices for these pedals.