Letter Re: Procuring Reliable Workhorse Bikes — Take Advantage of the Single Speed Fad

Due to a current fad in single-speed bicycles, mountain bikes are re-selling very inexpensively. Used, [15-speed] mountain bikes for around $200 for what had been $1,200 bicycles, on average. With smooth tires, puncture sealing inner-tubes, lights, fenders, and a rack or basket, this can haul groceries or get you to work in the event of a temporary fuel shortage such as we just experienced in the Southeast a month ago. No gas in Nashville, indeed! Not a perfect solution, but better than losing your job for lack of trying. Get into cycling, once a week, so you can learn how to maintain a bike, develop the skill and muscles to do so, and figure out the good accessories versus the trash. Like with camping, there’s a lot of useless dross out there, and a fair bit of gold once you figure out what works. $200 + $200 in accessories = commuter bicycle. Or buy one special-made if you prefer. Still, a commuter bike in the garage, ridden weekly, is better than getting on a waiting list when the fuel runs out. Just because its $54 per barrel now doesn’t mean it won’t zoom back to $145 per barrel once the new President says or does something stupid in the Middle East.

Some background on the one speed fad: I think the single-speed bikes became popular in Portland first, though it might have started in San Francisco with the Bike Messengers 10 years ago, its only just caught on in Pleasanton, California, Davis, California, and the rest of the bike-riding elite-areas. I love my mountain bike, but its so fast on slick tires. Cheap mountain bikes with slick tires are a modification that was inspired by converting dirt bike motorcycles to street racers, called “motards”, using slick tires. This works well and has lots of torque. Recommended for users with cruddy roads since they have 6-8 inches of wheel travel for potholes and require less gear shifting than a Ninja 250R or Suzuki TU250. Best, – Inyokern

JWR Replies: That is great advice. OBTW, I recommend retrofitting any “workhorse” type bicycles with extra-thick inner tubes, and then “Sliming” them. This provides tires that are nigh-on impervious to typical puncture flat tires. Used, low-mileage mountain bikes can often be found on Craig’s List for a just a fraction of what they sell for in bike shops.