Cyclocross Magazine introduces a new semi-weekly op-ed column called “The Dirtbag,” an opinionated series by Cyclocross Magazine contributor Brooke Hoyer. Hoyer previously wrote “The Highs and Lows of Bottom Bracket Heights” for our Issue 4, and we’re psyched to have him back. He describes his column as one “focused on equipment choice that is based on value, durability, and effectiveness.” While many of us might drool over the latest 14 pound carbon Di2 and disc brake-equipped cyclocross bike, we simply can’t afford such a dream machine, and Hoyer’s columns just might make us feel better about our current equipment.
The Dirtbag, Entry #1
I’m cheap. Therefore, I race singlespeed.
Even though I’ve turned into one of those sanctimonious pricks who evangelizes on how great one-gear riding is, my conversion was predicated more on finances than some new age concept of zen oneness of simplicity. My crap wore out and I didn’t have money to buy a couple of new 10-speed drivetrains, so I just went to one gear.
Actually, it was a little more complicated than that. After racing for a few years and establishing a casual relationship with “fast,” I hit a rough patch. I had some health issues and didn’t race. Technically, I did enter some races but you couldn’t call what I did racing. The final blow was an injury that resulted in some nerve damage that rendered my right foot rather stump-like. I could ride, but my running was hosed.
So there I was, fat, slow, and injured with a couple of ’cross bikes sporting nine-speed bits held together with duct tape and bailing wire. Fortunately, my parents provided me with some decent genes and my nerves proved more resilient than the doctors prognosticated. Which meant that after some time off and recovery, I could race. Again, thankfully, I didn’t relish the idea of riding around off the back, and to be perfectly honest, I was too proud to ask for a downgrade. Thus, singlespeed was the obvious choice.
Singlespeed conversion isn't just for Oregon dirtbags. Adam Craig converted his TCX Advanced for the 2010 Nationals. © Cyclocross Magazine
Since the category is defined by equipment choice, the field’s range of ability is pretty broad, and I figured I’d be able to find someone to race with. The top guys are always blazing fast so I wouldn’t have any pressure to strive for the front of the pack. Hell, all I really wanted was an excuse to ride hard and scratch that itch.
I spent a couple hundred bucks and got a tensioner, a couple cogs, a chainring, and a couple of chains. Easy! I tried the new getup out at the park and it didn’t suck. Before long, I started riding it around on the road on rainy days (with some SKS Race Blade fenders). Before I knew it, I sold some garage detritus and converted a “project” road frame into a singlespeed rain bike. Then I sold another “project” pile of parts and bought a Redline Monocog. And then I traded the old cyclocross pit bike for a track bike (a bike I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t ridden). In the end of all this one-gear madness, I ended up with five bikes with only one that shifts gears.
Pros lapping weekend warriors makes singlespeed racing a welcoming category for racers of all abilities, including our Dirtbag. © Kevin White
Brooke Hoyer racing a singlespeed, this time on fat tires. © Robin Straugha
There you have it, transformation to evangelical singlespeed pain in the ass. I’m the guy selling you on the simplicity of one-gear. The dude smirking when you rip off your derailleur hanger? Me. When your shifting starts to skip, I’m the jerk who proclaims my shifting is working perfectly. I’m that guy. Let me tell you, those jokes never get old. When I pass those dudes riding with a full deck? Hardcore. Can’t clean that climb? I’m not supposed to since I only have one gear. It’s got all the upside and no down – except for, you know, being prevented from shifting. Perhaps the best thing about singlespeed is that by limiting your choices, you gain instant access to the badass lounge. I’ll be waiting there for you.
Did our resident Dirtbag read your mind or get your blood boiling? Drop a comment below. Got an itch to try singlespeed cyclocross racing? Check out our singlespeed conversion how-to and give the one-gear movement a try.