by Todd Brown (Previously printed in Competitor Magazine)
After a 35-year span of racing and riding all sorts of two wheelers, I can definitely say that I still can’t get enough of the thrill I get every time I throw my leg over a seat. During the last 10 months , though, I have found a new passion on two wheels. This passion is based on a bike that is simple, light, and easy to maintain. It has one gear of choice, and that limited, narrowly-defined choice has remade the bike into a truly new passion for me.
What could be so engaging about a bicycle whose top claim is humility? And why would this old bike be the new favorite of a vast quiver? The answer lies in the gear choice – or lack of choice.
Because the bike has only one gear, I as a rider have to develop a wide array of different riding styles and techniques to accommodate changing terrain. These techniques are not limited to simply powering the bike because it also lacks rear suspension, so railing the trail has become much more than the point-and-plow used with today’s superior suspensions.
The single-speed bicycle has consumed my riding time because it has multiplied my riding styles. Today we hear so much about the magical car/bike/boat/ski/board with “Jekyll and Hide” characteristics that can do it all, and well. Refreshingly, my single-speed makes both Jekyll and Hyde out of me… now I’m the one who much do it all well.
Because the bike requires so much, my mind is completely free to explore the capabilities of my body and my body is free to explore the capabilities of the bike. Gone is that little voice that so often accompanies other less distracting workouts; there’s no time to chitchat with myself about the dilemmas of the day. I must focus, and the focus required is limitelessly liberating. It’s the same liberation I find when bombing across the desert floor on my 450, stepping off a cornice into free fall, or dropping in on a furious wave – and it can last for hours.
The nitty-gritty of riding a single-speed involves so much more of the human body than a traditional bike ride does.
On flat terrain, my leg speed is fast and the effort constantly refines my pedaling technique. A smooth pedal stroke vastly increases efficiency, so my legs learn to pedal in circles rather than just stabbing down.
As the trail tilts up a little, I settle in to the seated burn so common to riding bicycles. This seated power allows me to ride endlessly on my motor cycle and forever on my snowboard. With the lightness of an un-geared, un-sprung ride, I move along much faster than I would on a geared bike.
When the incline increases, I stand to stay on top of the gear. This next pitch, where I’m standing and my leg speed is still fairly fast, makes me feel like I might be actually be a Euro-Pro attacking the mountains for Europe. My upper body is engaged, my triceps and shoulders push the bike side to side, my head is high and my vision stretches far up the trail, all conspiring to get me on up and over. I feel fantastically fast.
The final climbing technique is the point when traction becomes an issue. I can no longer just pump hard; I must control the output or the rear tire will break loose and I’ll probably jam my knee into the top of the fork – it hurts, and bleeds, so I am definitely motivated to ply my skill. Still standing out of the saddle, I now pull on the bars rather than push. My torso is much more involved, working the core muscles. My biceps and lats combine to pull me on up. My cadence slows to 40, 30, maybe 20 rpm. I’m barely moving up very steep, dusty and loose trails. The total body strength needed is kept in check by the balance required to stay upright. My lungs fill and empty, sweat weeps from my brown and trickles down the lens of my glasses – it’s an all-out effort to keep from stopping, succumbing and waling. Honor and pride must be recruited to keep it all together.
Up these extreme pitches, my position vacillates between a squatted power lifter hunched over so close to the bars I could lick the sweat off my Garmin, and an erect deadlifter, with my arms exteneded and locked. I attribute these alternating techniques with keeping my back strong and trouble free.
At the apex, I relized the reward of a total-body workout that will transfer over to all the other activities I enjoy. Oh and of course, what goes up gets to come down.
Heading downhill, my legs speed up, spinning at rates only reached by track racers so fast they must unhitch and blow right through my hips. My butt remains glued to the saddle. Each ride I seem to get a little faster, a little silkier. Finally, I can no longer match the speed of my descent and my legs rest.
I’m heading down and I hear… nothing. No chain slapping because there is no slack in the chain, no derailleur clanking off the stays, and no long cables to accommodate suspension bouncing on the frame. Just silence, and the wind.
This is the bliss of a single-speed.
Watching is NOT Doing.
While watching a great cyclist on TV or Live is thrilling and even inspiring it will not actually make me faster or better.
It’s simply the joy of watching someone else do great work. This does not entitle me to reap the rewards of greatness.
For me to do great work, I must get out and train and put in the time.
Eddy Merckx was right: Piles of Miles lead to Greatness.
Is there a connection between a society where parents work so much they don’t have the energy to teach the kids to work, thus creating entertained kids who feel entitled to a lifetime of coddling because they were never taught to what to DO to achieve their own greatness?
“I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.”
Train with the best, and lift the rest.
It’s not a mantra, it’s a goal.
To keep myself sharp, I constantly search out the best riders and rides. Training with people who are better, always lifts my game. I push harder to stay with them, and in the process I learn all I can.
Many of the best riders are quite approachable. They typically are very willing to share their wisdom. This typically takes place after they’ve handed my head to me and we are in the cool down portion of the ride.
Riding “on the rivet” can’t be done every day.
My easy days, I do my best to get my pals out to spin and chat and have some fun. At these times, it’s easy for me to download what I’ve learned and help my friends find a little more joy in this wonderful sport.
The only shame in getting annihilated on a ride is in not learning from it.
The only shame in riding with a “Barney” is in not sharing what we know.
“Dad was always the force behind me.”
While eulogizing his father, my cousin shared the story of his first two wheeler.
At age 7, he was ready to go for it. Uncle Raymond took him out into the street and held that bike steady from behind. Mike mounted the new bike and took his first few pedals.
Coaching from behind, the father guided his son down the suburban pavement.
For years, I’ve dreamt of having the best and brightest in cycling come to Orange County and share the treasures in their minds.
I’m a reader by nature.
But seeing and hearing is believing they say… and seeing and hearing a great speaker LIVE can allow their written message so much further into our minds and hearts.
So, what the heck. I picked up the phone and called Joe Friel, and he answered the line. (Side Note: Joe is the author of the wildly popular Training Bible series).
“Yes, I’d love to come to California in January.”
Mind you, it aint free to get a sought after author to travel out of state so there was a little more incentive than just my charming SoCal surf talk.
Well now, where to have it? Turns out, last 12-31 I put on a ride for my friends called the Endo. Just so happens on that ride I get to meet another childhood hero who happens to have some sort of clout at Oakley. OK, he’s major… and so majorly humble, I’ll keep his name on the downlow. Anyhow, he says
“Yes, we’d love to have Joe Friel speak at our super awesome and amazing building” (my hyperbole).
Well, how do you like that? No really, how DO you like that?
I hope a lot, because I’ve just committed myself big time.
In a perfect world, and this is seeming pretty darn perfect, you’ll all have a great time, learn a bunch, and we’ll have a solid enough turn out to bring in some other wonderful speakers.
Gotta love it –> http://tb-presents-joe-friel-live-eorg.eventbrite.com/#
“People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.” – Henry Ford.
What percentage of Fords on the road today are black?
Today, in our business, the shops and teams and events that are selling the most apparel are those with options – colors, designs, patterns, fabrics, etc.
To focus merely on the increased sales would be short sighted (bottom line addressed below).
Who buys your brand?
While we all love the hard core racer for the inspiration the rest of us receive, he or she rarely pays more than cost and usually less or not at all.
Why are they willing to pay to advertise you?
The rest, the people who pay, are your fans. They like you, they like your shop/team/event, they like what you represent and they have said “Count me in”… In other words, they want to show that they belong to your tribe.
Giving them a choice, a variety to choose from, allows your fans to express the membership in their own unique fashion.
Back to the bottom line. With the fragmentation of advertising today, growing the tribe is the best and cheapest way to increase the bottom line.
Apparel is just one piece part of the strategy and, if done correctly, can be quite profitable at the same time.
Here’s an example of doing it correctly – http://shop.mellowjohnnys.com/