I ought to have pictures up soon of my new Salsa "Casseroll" build, but for now a brief discussion on why I went single-speed in Seattle.
First of all, I had tried a fixed gear bicycle at Perfect Wheels, a Ritchey Break-Away build as a fixed gear bicycle. Eventually, I would get the frame as a multi-speed bicycle, but it was fun to experience riding around the neighborhood for that brief time. And then when I did more and more research on why people were into single speed bicycles and fixxies, people seemed to get by just fine without gearing. Primarily you need gears for climbing up steep hills, but by using the leverage of your legs and arms, you get pretty good mechanical advantage. Higher-end frames are also lighter and stiffer and easier to propel up hills with less down-shifting.
But enough of the theory. The weather was fine on Sunday and I joined a fairly moderate fall ride: 32 miles along Puget Sound, from Alki Beach down to Burien, and 14-16 miles per hour average speed, in theory. There were around 20 riders, all with gear shifters except for myself, mostly fairly seasoned riders. But I kept up with everyone, and passed most on the uphills. I was struggling on a few steep sections, but with a forward position, I kept steadily climbing. Keeping momentum was key.
My handlebars are a little unusual looking. They're called "Urban Pursuit" bars from Soma (think cow bullhorns) with brake levers on the ends, but extend forward further than what looks right. However, I made pretty good use of much of the bar area, since to make those climbs requires a forward position. Going downhill also feels better keeping you back lower by reaching ahead.
As for the rest of the bicycle, I got compliments about how it looked. It's a golden, shiny frame, with nice details and hammered aluminum fenders that one fellow remarked looked like "disco ball" fenders. The lights fit it fairly well with the design, though the taillight wiring I'd like redone with clear zip ties, rather than black. I'd also like a silver colored seatpost and stem, rather than black, to match the gold a little better.
I was happy to have wider tires, though I wanted slicks not treaded tires. Larry couldn't find ones that fit, however. Still, the tires felt fairly smooth and I liked the cushy feeling, and for once not feeling every minor imperfection in the road.
The ride went downhill to the Duwamish River basin, and mostly flat afterwards. We went through some of the lessor neighborhoods of south Seattle, and though the pavement was cracked and the buildings were shabby, there were some beautiful fall colors to see. We passed under a canopy of red maple leaves, perhaps a non-native variety, and I remarked it's a shame that the local, dominant maple species (Acer Macrophyllum) turned yellow and brown.
Somehow, I got behind, and met up with Gary, the ride sweep, who chatted with me for a bit, wondering how my ride companion was, who was on that first ride early in the year. I mentioned she was my wife, and we were married 8 years ago. I said I was living in the Ravenna area and he thought I was renting an apartment, or house. Anyway, obviously to him, I look pretty young. Maybe it's the exercise?
Finally back to Alki Beach: I had pizza with about 8 other riders on today's ride, all older. One guy (the "veteran") who I see often on the Tuesday rides, was obviously quite tired. I had a good time and was happy, after a big salad, three slices of pizza and cream soda.