Answers From A Bottle

Dearest Stevil Kinevil,

I have drunk from the Single Speed Fountain and now I’m delirious with power.

But I do not want to go too far.

What started as an act of rainy-day boredom has created a monster. I was watching reruns of A.L.F. (Alien Life Form) and queried to mineself, “I wonder if I have enough bike junk lying aboot (sic) to build an entire functioning single-speed mountain machine? Turns out I did.

I did splurge on an Origin8 beefy 18t cog and a proper tensioning device fitted to a ’94 Trek Singletrack 930 frame that had been hanging listlessly on my shop wall for prolly 15 years. I’m sure I could have hacked a “derailleullellierleur” and used an old cog but I like to support my LBS when prompted. I have discovered that I love it! So, that brings us to the here and now. When I ride my Ibis Ripley it feels like an Absolute Unit which is what I truly need for Old Man Back.

I am not so crass as to convert the Ibis, but that begs the question: How cornball would it be to find a decent deal on a full squish frame and make it a single-speed? I do not see many of these and generally march to the beat of an entirely eclectic drum but do not want to become an outcast in the cycling community. Would I be dumb(er)? Is it a hardtail-only thing? (like a JEEP THING but different)?

Confused in Tennessee and Lovingly Yours, Jeff

Yo Jeff,

At some stage back in the mid ‘90s, in the midst of our local one speed series (the California Crusty Cruiser Cup, Dog rest its soul) I saw someone, (and being the mad scientist that he is, I’m betting it was Ben Capon) riding a converted suspension bike, and my immediate thought wasn’t necessarily that he should be strung up by his shorthairs. Post-that initial sighting, I do recall reflecting on variations of suspension design that might work, and wouldn’t cause issues with chain tension, but that’s about as far as I ever considered it. If I’m not mistaken, both Starling and Hunter have toyed with versions of the concept, and if it’s good enough for them to entertain, I reckon there’s merit in the dream. Personally, I’m a fan of whatever cockamamie Frankenbike ideas people want to cobble together in their basements or garages. If that’s gonna keep a smile on your face, and your old, broken body from feeling even more so, then I support it.

Hello Stevil,

I’ll cut right to the chase, at 50 years old is it time for me to consider an e-bike? I’m certainly not the spry young, early-thirties ripper I once was or even the useful mid-forties rider I remember being. It seems all the rage these days but I don’t know, I’m not feeling it like I think I should. Should I be happy plugging along at geezer pace and accept it or up the ante a bit with the help of electric speed?

Cheers, Not So Rocket Ron Anymore

Dear Old Rocket,

Not so very long ago I was in the absolutely-under-no-circumstances-should-E-bikes-be-a-thing-on-trails camp, and then one day while in Squamish, BC I met a fellow who was busily building a network of trails from town to the sea, and he was transporting all of his tools on a what? You guessed it. An e-bike. “Hmm,” I thought. Maybe there’s something to these things, and maybe I shouldn’t be such a closed off prick. Then I bumped into my friend Jim Brown at the Sea Otter Classic, and he told me that he was going to enter the e-bike race. I cringed, and kept my personal thoughts at bay just long enough for him to then tell me he was racing despite the fact that he’d been in treatment for lung cancer. “Ok, well here’s another realm where I see their use,” the evolution of my thinking continued. Then, one day on the phone, living legend and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Steve Boehmke told me about how with the use of one, he was able to get to summits in the Laguna Hills of California he hadn’t been able to physically access in twenty years. All of these exchanges began to soften my perspective a little bit. Granted, when I see young, able-bodied people aboard them, treating multi-use trails like their own personal motocross courses, my blood boils, but I’m now certainly able to see practical applications for them. If they allow you to continue enjoying being on a bike, and not feeling like you’ve been thrown down a flight of stairs the next day, more power to you. Personally, I will continue to stay wrapped in my luddite cloak, and enjoy the blissful suffering that my plain old pedal bike provides, and try to keep my judgments at bay.

Dear Stevil,

I’ve followed your mountain bike antics for years as well as all your drop-bar-on-the-dirt adventures. It’s all well documented. Now, give us the juicy, er, dirt: Have you, were you or are you from time to time a decked-out-in-Lycra roadie? Or do you disown anything pure road related?

Thanks! Shannon  

Hello Shannon,

While I certainly cut my teeth on, and in the dirt, I’m by no means a one trick pony. I love road bikes, and I love road cycling. I love the history, the traditions, the one day classics, and the pageantry surrounding it all. I have two road bikes, both of which at this stage have hundreds of thousands of miles logged on them, but the older I’ve gotten, the further I’ve strayed from rides that stick exclusively to the tarmac. I’m not sure why this is, but at some stage in my life, the idea of riding some road, and some trail, and some fire road all within the same journey seemed far more appealing to me. Is a road ride still a road ride if it’s on a dirt road? I believe so. As anyone with even partially functioning ears and eyeballs is well aware, over the last decade, gravel riding has taken root and began to flourish as it’s own separate, and increasingly popular discipline, and while I suppose my preferred sorts of rides might be lumped under the gravel umbrella, I like to consider them their own type of beast. I’ve certainly never been one to shy away from dressing up in stretchy pants and tap shoes and getting after one of them speedcycle rides, but as I said, anymore, as far as I’m concerned, a road ride isn’t a road ride unless there’s some dirt involved.

Want to know how to live life to the fullest? Send your questions to: Stevil[at]

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