Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Wheels One Gear

Singlespeeding... I just can't quit jabbering about it. Jenny tries not to roll her eyes when I enthusiastically tell her about the beautiful simplicity of it. To help you understand the transformation a little better you can read this post on the forums. If you want the condensed version, here it is (I wish I could take credit for creating this!):

The Ten Phases of Singlespeeding

1. Build your first singlespeed -- inspired by others riding SS, you either convert an old bike or buy an entry level SS to get the flavor.. Ride it, ***** about how hard it is getting up the hills, think about where to ride next. Lather, rinse and repeat...

2. Upgrade madness -- the weight weenie / blinglespeed side takes over and you suddenly develop a need to upgrade. A combination of an empty bank account, an upset significant other or a weight weenie part failure ensues. You have parts shipped to work, so the wife won't see the bike parts you ordered. You start looking for ideas (like the MTBR SS forum) to further your obsession of the perfect SS. (note to Jenny: I didn't have any parts shipped to work)

3. Gear ratios - your brain becomes obsessed with determining the optimum gear ratio for the upcoming race or given terrain. You temporarily lose focus on just riding and being one with your bike. Your library of forks, chain rings and cogs/cassettes starts to rival the selection at Supergo or Webcyclery.

4. Realization - the entry level SS no longer is good enough. You convince yourself you need a better bike -- custom, SS specific, whatever..

5. Purism - you realize that you're almost exclusively riding your SS. Your other bikes are collecting dust. Under your breath, you sometimes mock others riding gears and work your butt off to one-up them. You use your SS as a tool to brag or as an excuse / handicap (I geared too stiff for the course...) Start hating RockShox and Shimano just on principle, and start thinking rigid forks and DH tires are the better setup.

6. Laziness - you go out and upgrade to a "proper" SS. Now that you it, the upgrade and gear ratio obsessions are fulfilled. You get lazy, and start trashing your bike without taking care of it. You forget about checking tire pressures, chain tension, broken teeth and don't even consider about the consequences. A wonderful delusion, until the bike leaves you stranded 5 miles from your car, and your cell phone has no signal deep in the woods...

7. Heresy - ride your SS so much, that when you ride your geared bike, you miss your SS. You take it one step further and actually sell off the geared bike(s) that you previously couldn't live without.

8. Fight club - start putting beer in your water bottles, grow some unusual facial hair (for the men), dress like a freak, and acquire the attitude that you don't give a **** about racing or beating the gearies. Riding a pink colored bike frame or wearing orange socks with your Birkenstocks to a bar after the ride doesn't even click to you as being strange.

9 (optional) Scorching - as if SS'ing isn't fringe enough, start thinking is an interesting alternative. Give it a go, maybe even get hooked.

10. Approach martyrdom - actually leave the clique by riding so much that few buddies can keep up with you. You become one with your bike. You simultaneously learn a level of humbleness and let your results speak for themselves.

Because I'm a weak man I accelerated from stage 1 to 7 quickly. Most friends would argue that I teetered on the edge of stage 8 (fight club anti-social insanity) prior to singlespeeding. I argue that I'm quite stable but free thinking. I'm sure Tyler Durden would have a similar pitch. Leave me alone. Seriously, before I have to punch someone in the ear.

I digress... the point of this post is to share my new-found passion. Bikepacking (read closely - BIKE packing). I know, I know... I love cycling and backpacking so the combination should have been as obvious as peanut butter and chocolate. It just wasn't, though. It wasn't until I fell in love with singlespeeding. Better put until I became a singlespeeder. The thought of keeping all of the geary bits, springy parts and countless other complicated whatzits working properly plays counter to the simplicity that I gravitate towards. Its was fun to get out and ride but spending days out in the wilds with that sort of bike just didn't seem to fit. Enter the rigid singlespeed beauty. Seriously... sexy, fast, simple. Behold...

Now I can't wait to strap my gear on the bike and get out there. Farther, faster, easier and simply. Interested? Check out the friendliest bunch of people you'll ever meet over at There are tons of archived threads to get you up to speed and any questions that aren't easily answered by the history will be answered in short order if you post. I'll be posting gear experiments and trip reports soon. Let's go bikepacking!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Montana Adventure

Where do I start? Its been a busy few days. Jenny & I took off for Montana this past Friday after work. Our flight out of Memphis was delayed so we missed the flight from Minneapolis to Helena. Delta was good enough to spring for food and a hotel. Unfortunately, its one of the worst hotels I've stayed in that still bears a brand name. Just in case you're looking for a hotel near the Mall of America, do yourself a favor and avoid the Ramada.

We adjusted our flight schedule to fly right into Missoula, MT since we lost a little time with the flight delays. Missoula is a great little town. We rumbled through a farmer's / craft market downtown and browsed a few stores.

Jenny in downtown Missoula

One thing that really stands out in Montana is the lack of chains. Some of them are there but they're usually on the edge of town and they haven't choked out the locally owned stores.

Jenny & Me Enjoying a cool morning in Hamilton

That evening we drove to see our friends in Hamilton, MT. Dayln and Lisa live there and were nice enough to take the bulk of their Sunday to entertain us. After grabbing a great brunch we floated the Bitterroot River.

Lisa, Jenny & Me enjoying a break on the Bitterroot

Looking downstream

Westslope Cutthroat trout - the Montana state fish

Me and Jenny in front of the Skalkaho Falls.

We drove to Helena, MT the next day (Monday). The drive from Missoula to Helena was very interesting with lots of great views. We rented bikes after arriving and rode around town to enjoy the architecture in the downtown area. Helena was one of the richest towns in the US during the local gold rush. The homes there resulting from the gold boom are gorgeous. Apparently deer are everywhere in Montana - including downtown Helena.

Tuesday was my last day in Montana. I intended to ride Helena Rim Trail... I was only partially successful. I managed to get lost on the multitude of trails outside of town. The bad news is that I never completed the HRT. The good news is that I still had a blast.

The trails look landscaped!

Big Sky

I think this is part of the trail that wasn't officially bike trail... who knows... who cares

More Montana Single Track