It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll; that is the fucking truth. No matter what your field, your pursuit, it is a long way to the top if you don't want to compromise. Free as in freedom, baby.
After a long day of work I was tempted to pack it in: take a bath, read a little, ponder my navel and so forth. But I'd been inside working all day. I made a few calls. Franz was going out, some place on the Bowery, some girls from Barnard. So in spite of the 15-degree wind chill factor I motivated and rode in.
I've been trying to ride more. With all the biz-travel and then the snowstorm, I haven't been getting out on the wheels a lot in the past month. It makes me soft, leaves me nervous and pent up not to have the physical release. Really I should be going to the gym and/or practicing a little yoga on my own, but nine or ten miles of city riding is good enough to keep me chugging along.
It's a pretty good experience, riding with the fixed gear. It takes some getting used to, and initially it's somewhat terrifying; the margin for error is tighter than riding freewheel; your legs directly connected to the machine. But once you get the hang of it, terror becomes thrill as you realize that the system works, you can handle it, and your power has increased. The only thing I can compare it to is playing Wipeout on the ol' Playstation, when you'd upgrade to a new class of ship.
The trick is building and maintaining momentum. You have only one gear, so you have to keep your cruising speed. On the straightaway this is no problem: because there's so much less friction in a fixed-gear system, you can maintain a higher median velocity with the same effort you'd put out on a regular bike, and your ability to accelerate is just awesome -- you can really stomp on the pedals and make things happen.
One gear means it can be hard to keep up on hills. You have to hump it a bit getting over the bridge -- just another man-made hill, really -- but revving up your engine is what this is all about, right? With good music this can even be a meditative process, you own Private Psychadellic Reel.
I personally really enjoy dropping into a social situation fresh from this kind of exertion, this exercise of Human Power. It makes me confident to the point of being a little cocky, like I'm of a different species, especially if the surrounding atmosphere is at all rarified. I used to love riding to the Upper East Side when Sam would get me odd jobs there at an Opera where he was Technical Director. It's such a rich and stiff 'hood, I got all sorts of classist kicks thundering in as a sweaty outsider.
When you've had a good roll in the winter time and you stop to lock up, unslinging the big heavy chain that's now mandatory in this city, it makes a loud clink hitting the pavement; a big gesture. You're breathing hard, and you unzip your jacket to cool off for a second, let the trapped perspiration does it's evaporative thing. Your head and body emit steam. It's sexy.
There is a whole gestalt to making this a part of your life, and it's as big an influence on how you look at the world as driving or walking or taking mass transit as your mainstay. These choices about how we get from point A to point B color the way we see the world, and I'm pretty happy with mine.