Thursday, August 13, 2015

my flirtation with singlespeed

Some of you may know that I like to ride bikes. Having always been intrigued by the simplicity of a singlespeed bike, I decided to just do it.

One evening before my 10 mile morning ride into work, I decided I was going to use only one gear. Which gear? I have no idea, but I have twenty to choose from! I didn't sleep well that night and dreaded the impending ride; I expected hell. Anyway, I woke up pissed off, ate breakfast pissed off, took a dump pissed off, wiped my ass pissed off, loaded up my bike pissed off.

I did feel slightly better when I got on the bike though.

My goal in the first two blocks was to find a gear that was a bit too easy to pedal when the road is flat, with every intention of slowing to a standstill as I stand and mash on the very hilly last five miles. Easily within a block, I found "the gear", and opted to roll with it, as it felt right.

Upon arrival at the office, I felt awesome. Well, awesomer than I usually feel when I finish the ride in. The hell I expected never came. Sure as shit, the next day, I rode in on one gear, rode home on one gear, and then hit the singletrack on my fat bike with one gear. Then I rode in on one gear on my fat bike. That was a different beast as the tire pressure on pavement makes for a tricker sitch. Anyway though, I was sold. Soon, I was graduating up gears as I became a stronger rider. I even started looking for a singlespeed-specific bike.

Until I realized what it means.

Having twenty gears at my disposal, and only using one is nothing short of gearism, and that is a gateway to more sinister forms of hate. Looking at the cassette on my bike, and seeing the staggered increase in size of each sprocket as you get closer to the wheel, how each sprocket has more teeth than the previous. Having to choose just one based on your strength and preference, it's disgusting.

Considering I have a nice enough, fully functioning car sitting in the garage, and I chose to ride a bike to work, using only one gear no less(!), that's an affront to those that don't have that option.

Every gear not used is a micro-aggression. Poor (and probably nonwhite) people may not have the privilege of choosing their personal means of transportation. That I am doing something positive for the environment, and essentially paying myself to get exercise by riding to work, that is the ultimate slap in the face to those less fortunate and not as white.

Bikes, and bikes with big tires are constructs. Every extra PSI pumped into a bicycle tire is a form of structural and implicit misogyny, fueled by white male privilege. The fact that bicycle tires are black, and they are forced to carry our weight, that's as institutional as racism can get. I shudder to think of the hatred inherent in the action of me swapping out my stem last month, for one that fits better, and gasp, was not as black. Vile.

The big picture is important, and every single action we take, and thought that we might think, has the potential to tangentially offend somebody. What you might think of as something good - driving a car less, getting exercise, well, somebody might experience a fleeting feeling of potentially being offended. Or worse, that person that is actively in the market for something new to offend them, they may find that hatred they're looking for. And in that case, may science have mercy on your Twitter account.

So let me sum this up for you, singlespeeding turned me into a devil: a privileged, white, CIS-gendered, prejudiced asshole. These qualities, no matter how superficial or made up, empowered me to be a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, everythingphobic and everyist piece of shit. Basically any acronym of the month that you can think of, I apparently phobic'ed and ism'ed it for a short spell there.

I hereby will probably soon disavow bikes, gears, biking gear, shifters, brakes, other bike parts, and I promise to further explore the full spectrum of my unidentified identity.