I was surfing around the world wide interweasel the other day and came across the Urban Outfitters Bike Shop
Basically, over in the US of A, Urban Outfitters, purveyors of overpriced boutique clothing for hipsters, have decided to start selling that staple of the hipster look, the singlespeed.
They sell one type of bike – the Aristotle v1.5, in partnership with Republic, a bike builder that seems to be whitelabelling the Urban Outfitters project. It looks like a fairly well constructed frame with a ‘flip-flop’ hub so that you can ride it as a freewheel or fixed, probably built in the far east and assembled in the USA (given the £399 price tag), although the website doesn’t give this info.
The shop they’ve set up for the singlespeed is pretty cool: it has a nice little app where you can customise the colours of various parts of the bike – frame, saddle, grips, chain, crank, rims etc – and see what the finished bike will look like. There are so many possible combinations that the hipster can develop that truly individual look whilst being pretty much the same as all his/her mates.
Now, I have nothing against Urban Outfitters. I buy stuff from them fairly regularly and generally like the brands they stock. And this feels like quite a sensible diversification for them – many of their clientele will be interested in a singlespeed and probably not have much of a clue about what makes a good or bad one or where to get hold of one.
But this whole singlespeed revolution that has overwhelmed London over the past year is frankly a bit annoying. Up until recently I worked in Shoreditch, and at first it was amusing to watch the cool young dudes roll by on their singlespeeds, trousers rolled up, deckshoes on the feet and oversized Aviators on the face. But it seems to have spread: I live in Peckham and all the art-school kids from Goldsmiths and Camberwell have discarded their second-hand three-speed Sturmy Archer equipped shopping-baskets for singlespeeds . I work up in Primrose Hill, and even the posh kids up there are on them. It’s nuts.
I’ve nothing against singlespeeds, fixies or otherwise. I drink with a guy in his forties called Kimbal. He used to be a cycle courier, rides a beautiful old steel-framed track bike pimped for the road and is so fit he passes for a guy much younger. He understands what the fixie is all about: one-ness with the road, an outward proclamation of your skill in handling a bike and of your profession. I like that. And I understand the (minor) benefits that a singlespeed gives in terms of maintenence because it has fewer components to damage/wear out. But really, if you’re thinking of getting a bike, seriously, as a mode of transport to get you from A to B quickly, safely and efficiently, get a bike with with gears. Especially if you live somewhere with hills. It’ll be easier, you’ll enjoy it more, and as a result you might end up cycling for life rather than giving up after a few months.
In case you’re wondering, the bike I use to commute has gears.