One interesting product of the hipster culture that’s grown in San Francisco is the abundance of single speed bicycles. It’s become a trend in the last few years and I’ve even got a good friend in Ann Arbor who converts old junkers to single speeds in his free time. In addition to being lighter and simpler, the bicycles are easier to handle and will age better – something that comes in handy in older models. The formula works pretty well in the Midwest, where we have only a few gentle hills and scarcely a reason to shift gears.
I wonder how well it works out West though. With so many hills rolling through the Bay Area is it really feasible to run a single speed through the city streets? Do people have to buckle down, jump off their bicycles and walk up the hills? From an engineer’s perspective that doesn’t strike me as very efficient.
Perhaps me and my vintage ten speed are old fashioned, or perhaps my bandy legs are too scrawny to pump up all of those San Francisco hills. In a way though, I kind of enjoy the subculture of single speed riders floating through the streets. It gives the Old Mission a unique flavor that is unreproducible in any other corner of the world.
So if you’re in the Bay Area any time soon, take some time to swing by the Old Mission for some tacos and single speed education. In addition to myriad activities in the district, the hipster nation and people watching is an afternoon in and of itself. You can take the BART to the 16th or 24th street Mission stops just north of the airport.