A lot of people think I must be crazy for even considering riding a singlespeed bike on Dartmoor. Firstly, a caveat – these days I’m a fairweather singlespeeder. I don’t ride singlespeed exclusively any more, and there are definitely routes locally which I wouldn’t even consider attempting without gears, but I still love riding with just one cog.
Put simply it’s all about fun. Remember riding your first bike? Riding without gears connects you back to the feeling of freedom you had when you first started bombing around the woods on it. Not having to worry about shifting makes you think harder about the line you take to conserve momentum and more aware of the terrain generally. The lack of geared gubbins means power transfer to the cranks is instant, and come the winter a simple hose-off is all the maintenance you need.
Riding singlespeed is more about attitude than fitness too – I was trying to explain to a friend at the weekend why it’s possible to clear climbs on the singlespeed which others struggle with on a geared bike – not because I’m particularly fit (a winter of inertia means I’m far from that), but because riding singlespeed brings out an M25 width streak of bloody mindedness in most riders that mean you have to attack any gradient. As someone once said, singlespeed bikes actually have 3 gears. Sit, Stand and Push. The middle of those is the one you use the most. Despite having a geared Karate Monkey 29er and a brand new shiny ‘cross bike in the garage, I have to say my venerable Surly 1×1 is still the bike I couldn’t do without.
Luckily it’s built to survive a nuclear holocaust so I probably won’t need to worry about that unduly.