Saturday, May 11, 2013


For all of you Surly 1x1 die hards out there, this one's for you. Keep in mind this is based on actual events but I am not a frame builder. That part is pure fiction.

Title: The One

As a frame builder I’ve ridden a multitude of bikes. When I first started out, the process began by frequenting the local police auctions for the best finds. With a fifty dollar budget, my goal was to bring home at least two bikes per auction. Complete or not was the least of my concerns. My interest was in the frame. Dings, dents and cracks never deterred my enthusiasm. These imperfections were not only expected, but appreciated. If I could bring an old frame back to life as a useful means of transportation, then I could probably apply that knowledge to frame building.

With so many fixed gear and single-speeds out there, I thought I would tap into my BMX roots when building my first frame. I’m obviously much bigger now so it would have to at least accept a 26” wheel and tire setup. I wanted it to be bullet proof and if fitted properly to the rider, perform adequately as a bare-bones commuter; a single-speed but not necessarily single-minded.

Unlike the majority of my frames, this one would be TIG welded. Trusting my homemade jigs, I put this one together pretty quickly, measuring once then eyeballing just once more. My goal was to get the first one on the road as quickly as possible. Number two would be a slow burn.

Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have a whole lot of cash for new parts. Everything had to be sourced from whatever was within arm’s reach. 26” wheels and tires was a given. An old BMX cruiser bar and a hard plastic saddle from 1981 would have to do. I was just 11 when we met. My main concern was the chain ring. The only option was a 52t ring off a 1979 touring rig. I’ll make it work. That’s what torches are for.

With the bike as complete as it could be, it’s maiden voyage would follow my old commute route. To my delight, the Saturday morning traffic was extremely light, almost non-existent. Turning right at the first stop sign, my route carried me past the caverns. Seven dollar tours, seven days a week. Not too bad. Turning left after the second stop sign, I entered the highway overpass. Approaching the next intersection, a roadie blew through the stop sign. Four-spoke carbon wheels, aero helmet, the whole nine yards. I took a deep breath and made a decision to give chase. It wasn’t really a decision…more like raw animal instinct.

Starting from zero with the big ring, at least three other cyclists passed me. They were probably having a good laugh, but had no idea who they were dealing with. A fixed rider for the past three years, I was just warming up. With my cargo shorts, store-brand walking shoes and hoodie, I was somehow gaining ground. Getting closer and closer to the last rider’s back tire, they spread out as if to block me, not realizing they were actually allowing me to draft behind them. My experience in the saddle would pay off this day.

As each rider began to fade, they made a sloppy effort to reorganize. With a mere split second to react, I dropped the hammer. Feeling the bars roll back in the stem a little, this only made me feel stronger. Even with the chain ring ticking the stay, it didn’t stop me from looking to my right, planting my chin into my shoulder and grinning as I overtook them, one…by…one. I was convinced. This 26er was everything I wanted it to be; bullet proof and bare-bones; a single-speed but not necessarily single-minded.

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