A Single-Speed discussion with Tim Wiggins
Since a young age, Tim has always been interested in exploring the great outdoors. While doing so, he developed a real passion for cycling which led to the creation of his blog, ‘Life In The Saddle’. Following several years at Wiggle, Tim now showcases his challenges and adventures offering clear-cut, no-nonsense reviews. We speak to Tim about his love of single-speed bikes.
When was your passion for single-speeds born?
My love for riding a single speed bike stems back to my very first road bike. It was a 1992 Peugeot, and cost me £5 from a family friend; the brakes barely worked, the frame had rust damage, and the down-tube shifters were so worn-out that it constantly slipped back into the 42-10 gear, making it in effect a tough going single-speed bike. I still loved every minute of riding it. It was simplistic freedom, providing the ability to explore new roads and even new countries.
Do you still have the old Peugeot?
The Peugeot still sits in my garden shed; I am too sentimental to get rid of it. I have mostly been astride geared bikes for the last 10 years though; racing and riding endurance events and challenges all over Europe.
Tell us a bit more about some of these adventures?
3000 kilometres from Copenhagen to Andorra via the Alps was my most recent ‘Big Ride’; the #7Countries7Passes was an unsupported epic exploration of the Continent. The thing is, riding bikes shouldn’t be complicated. It is one of the nicest things about endurance bicycle touring; there is little to do except get up, ride your bike, eat, camp, sleep, and then repeat; you become a nomad disconnected from the busy junctions of everyday life.
These tours sound immense, but where do single-speeds fit in?
Single speed riding is equally simplistic in nature. It is bike riding as an art form, without the mathematic considerations of power output, timed efforts, aerodynamics or suspension pressure. That is not to say that single speed riding can’t be hard work. Living on the Isle of Wight it is quite easy to rack up 2,000+ metres of elevation on a 4-5 hour weekend ride. Try doing that solely in the 42-16 gear, and your legs will be looking straight at the sofa when you return home. Single speed riding in this sense is an escape from the complicated: to the simple realm of one gear, one idea, and no choice but to grunt your way up the steepest of hills.
It sounds like your single-speed is the n+1 cycle in your collection?
There are still times when gears are essential. Riding for 28 hours, 400 miles across Europe: non-stop through Flanders, the Ardennes, and the Black Forest, on the #BlackForest400, would not have been sensible on a single speed bike. Returning home though, with battered legs and a tired mind; wanting to do nothing more than spin down to the harbour for an ice cream; then, the Quella Varsity was an easy choice. Spin the legs; feel the Zen. A single-speed should be a part of everyone’s collection.
Can you sum up a single-speed?
So for me, single speed is about a contrast. A connection with cycling’s roots, and a chance to just spin without the considerations and calculations of endurance races and challenges. You can ride short or long; fast or slow, but you can only ride in one gear, and that is all you have to do. I love my Quella Varsity Cambridge. Her baby blue frame and classic chestnut tyres has continued my fondness of the single gear. The working brakes, real flip-flop hub, and the shiny chrome finishing kit only add to the romance…