A stack of you have asked me how to go about buying a single-speed bike. Here’s a little guide, based on my experience.
1. Be very sure you want a SS bike! They’re not for everyone. They have NO gears. Correct, none. So it means riding it like you did a BMX as a kid to get up hills – bum in air and waggling. I would say you have to be very bike-fit to enjoy one, unless you live in a flat area (Melbourne is SS heaven). The benefit of no gears, of course, is that it’s a more agile, lighter, flippier ride.
2. Be sure you don’t ask for a fixie. Many people mistake the two. A fixie is a fixed-gear bike. It’s a SS, but with no brakes. When you stop peddling, it breaks. Which makes them something of a kamikaze ride. My hub is a flip-flop – which means I can switch to a fix gear if I want.
3. You can build your own or buy off-the shelf. I did the former with a friend and there are some wonderful people about who can team with you and make it a fun, care-full experience. Because that’s what this caper called life should be about.
My frame and saddle are 50 years old and from Paris. The wheels were carefully selected. The chain perfectly calibrated.
The beauty of an SS is it’s agility and to really enjoy them it is best that they are a refined, light, perfectly calibrated thing. And to treat them like an art project and build them with light materials and have them built by kids who know their stuff.
The Customised experience
This is all about finding someone fun to do the project with. Best idea: when you see a bike you like, nab the rider and ask who built theirs.
If you life in Sydney, there’s a very cute chick in Bondi called Lucy who builds custom bikes. She started building them when other cats around town couldn’t build the one she wanted. She runs her business Vamp Garage from a garage, refurbishing vintage pushbikes with contemporary design and parts and Brookes leather saddles. She even custom-designs the stickers to give your bike a theme (if you like!). Or can take your pre-loved wheelie and transform her.