I began riding single speeds in late 1996 and started racing them the following year. At that point, single speeding was essentially an obscure subgenre of the East Coast mountain bike culture. But the single speed scene had a lot of potential for growth. A handful of loosey goosey folks in the Mid Atlantic and New England had zealously latched on to the concept and small single speed scenes began to incubate in a few places on the Atlantic seaboard. In Philadelphia, Bicycle Therapy was ground zero for the local single speed movement. Delaware had a core group of dedicated single speeders riding out of Wooden Wheels. Team Frank rocked the IF Roadsters and the Swobo team jerseys in southern New Hampshire. Team Hugh Jass out of Harrisonburg made their mark on the 24 Hour of Canaan races in an indomitable way.
Despite their growing popularity in the late 1990s, there were only a few people showing up at local and regional races on one speeds. I remember many races around that time where I was the only person in the Pro/Expert categories racing on a single speed. But I was 100% committed, and by the end of the 2000 race season, I had completely abandoned racing with gears. I continued to preach the single speed gospel wherever I went-at the bike shop, on the trail, at the races. I'm not sure who actually listened, but the message was simple: Ditch the geared bitch and make the switch. Perhaps I influenced a few people along the way.
Around the same time, I drafted my single speed manifesto, The Cold Crush. I submitted the essay to Dirt Rag in hopes of enlightening the masses. The editor expressed some interest in publishing the piece but it never made it to print. A couple years later, I kicked around the idea of submitting it to other cycling publications, but by that time, the East Coast single speed scene had picked up steam. Plenty of folks had already made the conversion to one gear and a few races were even offering a dedicated Single Speed category. The spark had evolved into a small fire and the flames were ready to be fanned into a raging conflagration. The cycling community no longer needed Singlespeeding 101. The revolution was beginning to take hold.
Even with the growing popularity of single speeds, I was unbowed in my mission and continued to proselytize. I saw other folks pushing the limit of what is possible on a single speed and decided I'd take my riding in that same direction. Doing even more with less became part of the message, and at the races, I started cashing the checks my mouth was writing. The Ironmasters on a single speed? No problem. A fifty mile race in the thin air of Leadville? Bring it on. 24 hour solo race? OK, maybe that was a little intimidating at first.
Fast forward to 2007. Single speeding is pretty mainstream these days. Most East Coast races now offer a Single Speed category and NORBA even awards a Stars and Stripes jersey to the Single Speed National Champion. But in hopes of converting those three or four unenlightened folks out there, I present to you The Cold Crush, my argument for single speeds.