The lost decade or the last decade if you will, have seen the hipster look take off in the bicycle community for many reasons, which the bike industry should be thankful for, in that the single speed bike is the antithesis of modern commercial bicycle design and if it wasn’t for stripped down used bikes, hardly a money-maker for independent dealers, and the rise in Craigslist bikes, as well as good innovation in accessorizing creating aftermarket sales that has filled the money void for many a retailer as the tide for traditional multi-geared bicycles rise and fall with the economy.
In the Fall of the year the bike industry has an annual showcase in Las Vegas, it’s been the place for new products and trends that started somewhere other than in their design departments. Here is where I am going with this line of thought: The street scene is what created the single speed “hipster’ bike craze, that is bike messengers, who are “moving targets” had this weird idea to minimize to maximize. Bike messengers needed to minimize weight, minimize theft, minimize maintenance and maximize the economy of the beast. Voila! Take an old ten speed steel frame and remove every component down to the crank, frame, wheels and handlebar/seat. For about 5 years anyone who went to a garage sale or looked around for a free bike could create a single speed. When the bike industry finally caught on to the craze with their version of a single speed there was a small public ready to buy a single purpose bike that already had a stable of bikes or were new to bike riding and wanted the “look” that they saw in “bike towns” like Portland and NYNYC.
The blogger Doucheblog cycling said in a post best about hipsters referring to single speeds and I paraphrase, as great for flat riding, winter riding and living on a budget. Everyone else is a poser. And outside of the big markets of bike riding in America the single speed fad never caught on. Noted, that this summer cruisers are being sold at Wal-Mart side by side with single speed bikes. When a product goes from a garage idea then to the street and eventually to the mass market it has worked in the past with Mountain Bikes, but the popularity of a single speed has not caught on in American cities. When a product identifies you with a class or type that pretty much kills it because it is not mainstream enough to expand sales. And the single speed seems to fit this category to the T. If single speed bikes had evolved to represent transportation it may have had a chance. What the single speed has become is a toy for bike polo, bike stunts for daredevils and for a small group a useful tool of purpose. Sadly, the single speed has decimated vintage bikes that had great potential in their original form and those bikes and parts are lost forever.
Getting on with the bikes that are still intact is a matter of how to re-purpose or upgrade to be viable transportation. This is one example of repurposing. Upright position and modern brakes using the REV 2 modification.
Raleigh Gran Prix, vintage 10 speed mid 1980’s – repurposed with REV2 bar end modification and bar end brake levers- fenders added – side pull brakes swapped with center- pulls- cost of bike –free- cost of repurposing- under $60 — used fender’s – used brakes -new brake levers- hardware.