I did something new today. A while ago, I had bought a 10-speed Bianchi for $30 at a garage sale, with the intention of converting it into a fixed-gear/single-speed bike to tootle around on. Well, today, I took it down to Bikechain, and talked to Steve, who sent me on a merry goose chase picking up various parts. Once I had gotten a new wheel, tire, and tube and biked back to Biekchain, Steve and I put it on the bike, checked the alignment of the cogs and chain, and then I had to head out to buy a new rear cog, and a lock wheel…
Sadly, my bike didn’t have a functional rear wheel anymore, so I had to walk down to Urbane Cyclist to buy the cog and lock. I ended up with a 52:19 ratio, which is harder to start on than the gear ratio I use to start, but isn’t too bad, and doesn’t go as fast as the gear ratio I use to go fast, but again isn’t too bad. Given those two things, I figure it’s pretty close to perfect for my style and level of riding. When I got the cog and lock ring back to Bikechain, we put them on the new rear wheel, hooked everything up, ran into the obligatory problems, fixed them, and finally I was good to go, so I did! The first trip I took was a fairly short one, from U of T over to the Dark Horse Cafe at Queen and Spadina.
The second trip was from Queen and Spadina back home, which was a little longer. I learned a few things from that trip, but let me start off with something I didn’t learn. I had test-ridden a fixed gear bike before, so I had already been almost bumped off by trying to coast, and this time around I was expecting it. So, now on to the things I did learn.
- Stopping is hard. It’s not that I can’t stop. I’ve got both brakes and pedals. The problem is stopping with one of the pedals in a decent position to start from when I want to start. The other problem is that I really want to coast when I come to the end of a stop, and that totally doesn’t work.
I can carry it! (As you can see over on the right there.) My commuter bike is a good ride, and very solid, but damn is it ever heavy, especially after I loaded it up with accessories like a rear rack, and panniers, and water bottles. The fixie is simple, clean, and light enough to carry all over the place.
The fixie is slower than my commuter bike. Not just slower for the obvious reason (because I don’t have a higher gear to switch to), but it’s also slower for me to start, because I don’t have a lower gear to switch to. It’s really kind of strange, since one of the things I seem to be really good at is starting really quickly from a dead stop. Well, that used to be one of the things I was really good at. On the fixie, not so much.
Even though it’s slower I found that the fixie was a far smoother ride. Thinking about it a little more, perhaps because it’s slower. Since it takes me so much longer to stop and start, I found myself slowing down earlier to try and conserve as much momentum as I could.
All in all, I think that the new bike is going to be really good for me. It’ll slow me down, and calm me down, which are two things that I think I could use. I can also feel how it’s changing the way I ride, making it more smooth, controlled, and thoughtful; keeping my legs moving to give me more exercise and stop them from seizing up; teaching me how to lift my butt off the seat to go over speed bumps while continuing to pedal.
It’s fun. A lot of fun. I’m glad I finally got the conversion done, and I’m really looking forward to riding it.