Single Speed Outlaw 
Issue #1
Heavy Seas Beer
Real Beer.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note
Issue Intro
Junk Drawer
Listening Booth
New Issues
Factory Team Support
The Bicycle Escape
Clipper City Beer
Serfas Optics
Kenda Tires
Chrome Messenger Bags
Honey Stinger
Team Info


Sound Off on this issue's hot topic. Find religion on a fixed gear. Read interviews with single speed guys and gals. Hear why one man rides single speed. Learn how to build a single speed.

The meat of the issue, right here. Dig in.


How to build a Single Speed for Dummies

Here it is, the mandatory "How to build a Single Speed for Dummies" article. If you're not a dummy, read on anyway, you might not be as smart as you think. If you want to make a fixed gear, go to Sheldon Brown's web site, he's got it covered.
Ed note: This article has been updated since it was first written since some new single speed products have become available since then. The new and improved version of "How To Build A Single Speed For Dummies" can be found in the articles section of the web site.

  1. Scrounge up a bike. No, don't steal it. Bad karma will come your way in the form of rabid bikers hunting you down and beating you with old seat posts. We're going to assume you are starting with an already assembled geared bike. Sorry, but this isn't "Bike Assembly for Dummies". A frame with horizontal dropouts is best, but not mandatory.

  2. Remove the shifters, derailleurs and their cables. Build a small fire. Burn these parts. (You might want to wait on the rear derailleur).

  3. Figure out what gear ratio you want to run. MTB - Try starting with 2:1 (i.e. 32 up front, 16 in the rear). Road - try something like a 2.8:1 (42/15) or 2.47:1 (42/17). If you've got parts laying around, use them first to experiment. They're free and you might be changing things depending on your terrain.

  4. Remove the extra chainrings from the crank. You only need one, so pick the one that fits with your decision in #3. Get some BMX style chainring bolts or use some spacers with the ones you've got so everything fits together nice. Try the ring in the middle position. You want a straight chain line when you are done messing with the back wheel.

  5. Remove the rear wheel. Cassette - go to 5.a. Freewheel - go to 5.b.
    1. Remove the cassette. Bust it apart to get the cogs and spacers. Save the lock ring. Pick the appropriate cog for the decision you made in #3. Find some more spacers. If you don't have any, take your local bike shop guy a pizza and ask him if he has any junk cassettes you can cannibalize. Or, get a piece of PVC pipe that fits exactly over the freehub body and cut to length as needed. Space the cog on the free hub so you have a straight chain line with the front ring. Put the lock ring on and reinstall the wheel.
    2. Assuming this is a multi-geared freewheel, remove the freewheel. If not multi-geared, what are you doing reading this - you probably already have a SS. Go to the LBS and get a BMX freewheel in the size you decided on in #3. Thread this on and reinstall the wheel.

  6. Shorten your chain. Horizontal drops - go to 6.a. Vertical drops - go to 6.b.
    1. Double check the chain line, snug the wheel up so you have tension on the chain without binding and tighten the rear wheel. Adjust your brakes if necessary.
    2. You've got a little more work pal. If you are lucky, you can remove some links and the chain will fit nice and snug. Hate to break it to you, but it probably won't, so here's what you do. Shorten the chain as much as you can. Now you need a chain tensioning device to pick up the slack and keep the chain on track.
      Option 1: Surly and Paul's both make single speed chain tensioners for these conversions.
      Option 2: You can use that rear derailleur you took off in #2 (didn't burn it yet did you?) and play with the adjustment screws to get things aligned.
      Option 3: Do it yourself - head over to the Dragon Tongue SS page for some instructions on building your own.
      Option 4: Get an eccentric axle from Fixed Innovations. This will allow you to adjust chain tension with a vertical dropout.

      Get the tensioner installed, check the chain line and tighten the wheel.

  7. Take it for a test ride. Readjust.

  8. Have a beer. Go on another ride. Think about what little maintenance this bike will be.

  9. Repeat #8 as necessary.


Getting Religion by Rebecca "Lambchop" Reilly

A fine piece of writing about discovering fixed gear riding. Also check out the with Rebecca in this issue and find out about her book and the many biking titles she holds (all one gear related). If you like this piece, check out other writing by Rebecca at Lambchop Monthly

I started messing on this hunk of junk that a friend from the old neighborhood in Buffalo picked out of the trash. She was a Mercier. Before I was a messenger, I went to France. I was a college punk spending Uncle Sam's student loan, so there wasn't much left over to buy an authentic French bike while I was there. The neighborhood friend, Marvin, was disappointed for me, so when he found the already 20 year old bike in the trash, he knew that was the bike for me.

Grace, was a very bad rookie bike. I was not a mechanic at that point. Grace, without knowing it, was training me how to ride fixies. See, among Grace's multitude of mechanical personality problems, had wheels that were going steadily out of true. I didn't even know back then about the concept of truing wheels, much less being able to do it or ask for it at the bike shop. So to combat the rim-rubbing problem, I loosened the brakes more and more. Needless to say, I was riding with very bad brakes within a few months. In DC it's considered a real faux pas to stand at redlights, so Grace speeded my redlight running skills quickly. I couldn't stop worth a shit anyway. Rain was particularly daunting for me in that first year of currying. When it rained, I went from having bad brakes to having no brakes. I'll never forget coming down Independence Ave. in the rain down Capital Hill that one fateful day. I started out slow, just coasting, monster grip on the brake levers and praying the whole way. When I got to the bottom of the hill I was cooking and the light had been red for a good 5 seconds. Cars were coming and I shut my eyes and yelled for Buddha to guide my bike. Buddha came through. I got very good at getting around town.

I moved around a bunch, after several degrading episodes in bike shops around the country, I began acquiring tools and teaching myself how to work on my bikes. Now, brakes weren't a problem.

When I got to Seattle, some 4 years ago, after hearing tales of NY I decided it was time that I learned how to ride the only bike that could foil a NY thief. That was a bike with nothing on it to steal, a fixed gear. It was a scary thought, but I'm a spaz so I got it in my head that I had to start learning as soon as possible so that by the time I got to NYC, I wouldn't be a complete dumb ass on the thing. NYC is infamous for its courier-eating traffic, I figured if I was going to ride a suicide machine, I better have some miles under my belt before I dared ride it in NY.

It was do or die. I threw myself into the sea to sink or swim, no brakes. One night at 3 am I had the brilliant idea to really see what I could accomplish by going down Cherry Street. Cherry Street has a 29% grade, needless to say, I was completely out of control. From then on I just rode the fixie for errands.

I got to SF. The queen mother of heart attack hills. By this point I was adept getting down the hills because as I went down I'd put my foot on the front wheel behind the forks. My shoes had the strangest ditch-like worn spot on the sole. My front tires had only a strip of rubber running down the very middle of the tire. A lot of the time in my pre-skidding days, I had honed a certain skill in just resisting the momentum of the pedal stroke and maintained a certain degree of control, enough control to at least be able to turn before I got mowed down by a muni-bus.

I was having fun going down Van Ness. It isn't an extreme grade, but on a fixie with no brakes, there's a threshold of velocity one should not cross if one doesn't know how to skid. I went over that threshold. I was going toward McAllister and the outbound lane looked at me menacingly, I almost heard the street say, "Oh! You wanna go Huh? Well honey you aren't going to win this time!" I always talked to myself in moments like this. "Girl, keep your line straight, Honeycakes, easy DON'T PANIC." My mind was racing, there was no way out. The cars were nose to tail and blowing the light would be certain death or mutilation. Then I noticed the mini-van to my right. I gauged the sweatiness of my palm, I gave it a go.

I was beginning to get a little cocky now. I was still determined to conquer one of these walls they called hills in SF. Hyde St. beckoned on that sunny day. My heart was beating in my ears. I started down. I had it for half a block, then I noticed this dude kooking out on me across the street and I lost all of my concentration. All of a sudden the voices in my head were berating me. I was REALLY out of control now. It wasn't just the hill that almost made me crap my pants, I was also worried about my bike. Being one of the dumbest human beings that has ever lived, I was on a road bike with forward dropouts. If that wasn't enough, the fixed cog was on a regular road bike wheel with no lockring. Now if that stupidity isn't enough for you, the chain was pieced together out of three different used chains. It's amazing how the events of a few seconds can crystallize just how stupid you are. I saw no options, except one. I managed to get on the sidewalk and I ran straight into a wall. A very effective braking method, although I don't recommend it very highly.

The moment that made me decide that a track wheel was absolutely essential to riding a track bike happened on Bush Street.

No one stays in their lane on Bush. From the "loin", cars haul ass until they get bottled up around Kearny. I started in the "loin", thought I could hold the shit off the fan...then I got to Chinatown. Zen got me the rest of the way down. I listened to Obi Won Kenobi and the bike found the windows for me. Kearny was brilliantly green as I freight trained into the tighter rows of unruly cars. Peds were jumping out like trash being blown willy nilly across the street and somehow I found my line. I think Buddha was a big player in this incident as well. My ultimate fear was not death but of crashing at the terminus of Bush. If I crashed there, I'd be the laughing stock of all SF's couriers. They already looked at me sideways a lot of the time, this would be the defining moment. As I careened out of control past the Wall, I acted like I had every intention of going so fast. I plastered a look of supreme boredom on my terrified interior as I watched my friends in a blur out of the corner of my eye.

Mom came for the World Championships with $100 just for me. The hundred came from NY from my Step-father. He'd heard about the no-brakes thing and sent it with a decree. I told Ma to keep it. She looked worried and I think I actually saw a huge swath of her hair turn gray before my eyes. I demonstrated my new skill, a skid. Mom was satisfied and gave me the money anyway. "What will he know?" she asked me mischievously.

Now there was trouble, I had my mom's endorsement.

When I got to DC nothing happened to me with the fixed gear except it was aluminum and a piece of crap and after a couple of cold days and a couple hundred miles, the thing, surprisingly, broke.

The sad long days on the Fuji. I was so resentful, I didn't even name her. She's a good workhorse and didn't deserve my wrath, but she was just no damn fun. Every time the derailleur threw up into the spokes I cursed her. When the brake cable would snap after a day of rain, I'd glare at her, "See!" I told her, "This shit wouldn't happen on a fixed gear!" I blamed her for everything. Period cramps, mood swings, a fight with a motorist. In my mind, everything was that damn bike's fault. My quest for my fixie went on for months. First I didn't have enough money, then I didn't know where to look. Then one day the sun broke through the clouds and I found my true love. Matt turned me on to her. Lisa had her. She lay there, wheelless. She looked like sleeping beauty. Powdered blue, French. She was the sexiest sleeping bike I'd ever seen. Forty bucks and she was mine. That night I watched bike TV. I dreamed of the days we would spend together. The doors we would dodge, the black marks we'd make, the boxes we'd carry. I felt like crying.

I rode her one day for work. She actually sang. She was a little off-key, her decrepit cranks constantly loosening up, but she was singing. We split lanes, we skidded we did the things a bike and her girl should do together. Then the house of cards fell. The bracket. The goddamned bracket. Being French, Aung has picky tastes. Everything in the world, nearly everything, is threaded English. Leave it to the damn frogs. They just have to be different! Months went by. Money was spent and finally Phil arrived. I held the box like it was the holy grail. I let my friends fondle the axle and coo. Soon, Aung would be complete.

It had been my dream since my college days to ride in Paris. I'm a francophile, I speak French, the Tour de France. I wanted to ride at the Place d'Etoile. I had been there in 1990 and remembered it being the worst traffic circle I'd ever seen. I love traffic circles. Some of my most exhilarating moments on a bike have been in traffic circles. So the US messengers headed of to Europe in 97 to go to the CMWC in Barcelona, and I was determined to ride that damn circle, on my fixed gear no less. I think she liked it because she didn't get a flat the whole trip.

When I stood with her in front of the Champs Elysee I felt the idiotic urge to bend down and kiss her top tube. So the same weirdo who used to name her peas and carrots at dinner and then make noises like they were actually alive and terrified of being dumped in my mouth, I kissed my bike.

A bunch of people with a tough guy problem (including myself) went to NYC for a 4th of July race. They had this track skid competition under the elevated train trestle at Coney Island. My skid compared with the likes of Boston's Santana and the famous Squid of New York, was like 1/2 pint whining to Pa on Little House on the Prairie. I felt like the little skidder who couldn't. I set about to remembering every brilliant skidder I'd ever seen. I remembered Richie fish-tailing down 13th before we got to the Zeitgeist in SF. I remembered Squid hammering down Wilshire in LA and then laughing at death as he did a breathless skid at the intersection famous for the OJ riots. I remembered how they moved their bodies, where they looked and I was determined to surprise everyone in Barcelona.

Boston isn't a great place to practice skidding long. You can never get up a lot of speed because cows didn't have long straight-aways in mind when they designed the city.

When we had that ad-hoc skid competition though, it felt like my tires were slathered with grease and I was sliding on wet glass.

When I got back to DC I was going through a tire every two weeks, that was if I was exercising restraint and not goofing off in traffic skidding around like an idiot.

When I first started riding a fixie, I loved the fact that I couldn't stop because it was making a better rider, forcing me to pay more attention. It was also keeping me out of fights.

When I learned how to really skid, it felt like the days when the little boys on my block and I would measure the skids we could get out of our coaster brake bikes. Mine was always pretty long.

My favorite moment of all time with Aung happened on Clarendon. I was feeling cocky as hell. I'd had 1/2 a pot of coffee by the time I made my drop up high in Arlington and I was looking forward to the long ride down Clarendon. Something snapped in me around the courthouse. Sometimes my commonsense detaches itself from my conscious thought and I give in to hedonistic impulse. At Courthouse, I started to hammer. I was going around 25-30. I was spinning faster than I'd ever gone on my fixie. I was still descending. The road was curvy, I made a light. It should've been a wake-up call to my commonsense, but my commonsense was out to lunch. At Nash, Clarendon starts a serious drop, at Nash I locked it up. I didn't mean to stop, I was way over the goose. I careened forward, slowing enough to angle my skid propelling me into the left lane, setting up a turn. When the break in the oncoming came, I sat in the saddle and pedaled hard, making the slice. At Key Blvd., another serious dip. I started skidding in the middle of the intersection at Key and Ft. Meyer and continued skidding down to Lynn where I threw my ass around aligning my back wheel with cross traffic and began pedaling a typical 4 lane slice. Sheer exhilaration. A long way from Bush Street.

I name all of my bikes. I give them ugly names if I don't like them. I hated Horace. Horace and I parted company years ago. I had to pick an appropriate name for my fixie because she wasn't built with 40lb boxes in mind. She was built to ride around on a calm track, not between buses and over potholes. She's been a champ, and quite patient with me. So her name is Aung after a little Burmese lady who won the Nobel Peace Prize because she gave up her freedom so her people would one day have a democracy. Both Aungs have given me inspiration. Aung is with me hour after miserable cold and rainy hour. Aung keeps the roof over my head, the food on my table. More importantly, Aung by virtue of what she is and what she represents, has taught me the importance of simplicity. It's the absence, the minimalist nature of her message. People ask fixie riders all the time why the hell they ride such a bike. For me it took a lot of the frustration out of my job and put the fun back into it. I don't spend hours tinkering with my brakes, I don't ride the elevator wondering what will be remaining when I come back to the parking meter. I just ride.


Ronnie Pettit Interview

Single Speed mountain biking isn't exactly mainstream (yet). Even if it was, the majority of the riders aren't the ones you find on the cover of MTB magazines or in the Mt. Dew ads. That doesn't mean that they don't ride hard, don't support the sport, or don't deserve recognition. Besides, do you really want to hear about the same people over and over again? It's the grassroots riders that support the sport. In this spirit, we present the "Regular Rider" interview. This issue features Ronnie "BigRing" Pettit, one speed freak, founder of the ISSA and self proclaimed cornbread eatin' plow mule. Want to be featured next time?
Tell us why -
Malted beverage bribes may increase your chances of being featured, but we aren't promising anything.

How did you first get involved in Single Speed Mountain biking? Where did you first hear about it?
I heard about single speeding quite by accident. I had been away from biking for ten years and had just re-purchased my original Yeti back from a friend. My shopping and reading to collect new parts for the old bike gave me a quick lesson in the MTB market of the new millennium. I took the bike into a local shop to ask a question and show the guys my old trusty friend. One of the guys made the comment that it would make a great single speed. I was so offended that I went into a rant about what a fine racing machine my Yeti was and how the rigid fork on it may be the finest in the world. I knew nothing of the single speed thing and had assumed the guy was saying I should turn my bike into a granny beach cruiser.

A few months later after repainting my '87 stumpjumper I set it up as a single speed just for the hell of it. I took it our for a ride, came home and took all the gears off my Yeti. It is hard to explain, but in one ride I knew I had found what I was looking for from this sport. I was born to single speed and it only took thirty something years to figure it out.

What's a typical ride for you?
I ride solo 99.99% of the time. Not because I don't want to ride with other people but I ride when I can and don't really have the luxury of coordinating with the group thing. While there are several other SS'rs around, none are really close enough for regular rides. I do enjoy riding alone in that I can slack off and enjoy the trail if I want. I also don't really like to get caught up in the silent competition that always happens on group rides. I am always better when I ride my pace instead of the guy's in front of me.

A typical ride would be a 20 mile singletrack ride at the local joint. I try to get up to the mountains a couple of times a month for a longer fire road epic or some cross country bushwhacking adventure.

What's the most important issue you see in the MTB scene right now?
From where I stand I think that the most important thing is to put the fun back in this sport. When I left the racing scene 10 years ago is was a big family of friends. I saw the same people every weekend and we spent two days camping and playing and racing. Today a typical race feels like a national championship. Even the beginners are pacing around like their next paycheck depends on that race. SS'ers rule. I hope to see more and more events that de-emphasize the results and focus on the experience. After I threw the fun back in I would start a consulting firm that specialized in educating the LBS on how to take care of a customer and create new ones. I think quality bike shops are few and far between. I know the ones in my area suck. They should take a service lesson from the dudes at Webcyclery.

What's your biggest motivation?
My motivation is completely internal. I have dealt with the fact that I will never be the MTB stud I was years ago. Emotionally it is difficult to go from being one of the fastest three or five mountain bikers in the southeast to a tired, soft, middle aged nobody. I am absolutely fine with being a nobody but I am deeply motivated to push myself until I have found the very best I can be. Riding a bike is not everything. I have a real job, a family and grass to cut, so I don't get bummed by those way faster than me. I am happy with being better today than I was yesterday. I love putting myself in situations that require that internal fire and tenacity to overcome. There is nothing more satisfying than digging deep inside and using the soul and mind to rise above my physical limitations.

Anybody question why you ride a one speed?
Everyone questions why I do this. I started out trying to offer convincing arguments for single speeding. Not only was it totally against my personality, but I realized that arguments do not create single speeders. Now days I find myself trying to avoid the conversation. I guess I am just a little shy and I feel really empty trying to persuade someone how superior my one gear and rigid fork is to their rig. I ride my bike and you ride yours. Peace on Earth.

What do you have to say about some of the gearies coming down on SSers?
I think most of the people that rag on SS are people that have never been on one. I just ignore it. A jerk is a jerk no matter what the subject is. I am more interested in spending some time helping those that just figured out they were born to ride a SS.

Want to say a few words about the International Single Speed Association (ISSA)?
Sure. UH, Braahhhhp! excuse me. My vision for the ISSA is to be a central spot light shining back on all the SS people and companies and websites out there. When I started SS'ing there was little available information. I figured everything out by trial and error. Later, I stumbled across some of the SS websites and MTBR put up the SS board. Even with all that I felt like the SS community was disjointed. My idea was not to re-create the wheel but to hold up all those guys out there that already have. I want people to come to my site and get some new scoop on the SS scene then end up jumping over to someone else's website. Somewhere in the future I hope the ISSA can help further the SS community by acting as a central voice if we ever need or want one. Adding the voice of the ISSA to a small group of riders working for a SS class might be of some benefit in the future.

Tell us about the 12 Hours of Reddick race you did solo. Was it anything like you expected?
This might sound funny but I sort of liked the feeling of total bonk. I was supposed to be on a team but when I got there and pre-rode the course I could not help but want to go solo. My team had changed their minds several times and I didn't think they would mind. It kind of pissed them off though. Two of them did not race at all. I want to be competitive at the epic events and this was the perfect opportunity to get my introduction into enduring pain. After about four hours of riding I became very nauseated and could not eat. I was drinking water and that's about it. I knew it was just a matter of time until I ran out of gas. I kept slowing or stopping to heave and gag. I figured that as long as I could continue to make forward progress I would continue. I lost track of my laps and even lost my place on the course. I didn't know If I was in the beginning , middle, or near the end of the lap. I managed to squeeze out 10 laps which was 70 miles. That is not really anything to shout at but I was satisfied that I had done all I could do on that day. I love learning and was happy to further my endurance education. I have learned since, from conversations with Pat Irwin, that upset stomach is par for the course and dealing with it and finding things you can eat is part of finding a way to win.

I was very proud of my buds on the Single and Rigid team for taking 3rd place sport. They were kicking ass and taking names.

What's next, any races or events planned?
I am full bore racing this year. I plan to do more than 20 races. A local XC series, a couple of fun events out of state, and a few epic events. I am trying to use the XC racing as intensity training for the longer events. I really want to be a horse on those 100 mile races. One year in the not to distant future I plan to do the Iditasport, maybe the 350 miler the first year, but I have to do the 1100 mile Impossible before I die. I am starting to think that being fast on a XC course and having the staying power for a epic event may not be compatible. I also plan to host an underground event, uh, well, I mean the Racer's Underground plans to host an event. They want to bring an epic event to the southeast. An event that puts the fun back in and creates a sense of accomplishment to anyone that survives. The first beta test will happen this summer in the north Georgia mountains. A handful of freaks will be invited.

Any parting words of wisdom?
Yeah, I sat down one day to put my life into one sentence. Helps me to keep looking forward. Maybe someone else will get the drift... "Destined to swim upstream in rivers that never sleep; someday I'll roam the mountains where kindred spirits meet." BigRing...over and out.


Why I ride single speed by Peter Ohler

Just one person's take on the Single Speed MTB experience. Pete rides an Intense Tracer full suspension single speed! Might be the only FS SS around.

Why I ride a single speed is best described with a ride. A ride with some hills in any place that gears ride. Riding is about the hills, going up and coming down.

The ride starts in the parking lot with comments from other riders like "You're going to ride that here?", "What nut house did you escape from?", or "You know this trail has hills.". Just words of encouragement to a single speeder.

The fun begins. The first hill isn't too steep. A good warm up hill. You pedal a little faster and pick up some speed. As you hit the hill you stand and push, feeling the bike flex under you then pull forward. The acceleration is the thrill. You feel the muscles in your legs tighten on each mash of the pedals. You feel strong with the speed of the climb. This is why you ride. The hill continues and you feel your legs start to fatigue. It doesn't matter. In a moment you'll forget about them as you try to suck down more air than your lungs can handle. There is never enough air. You keep pushing. You have plenty of reserve and the top isn't far. As you near the top you push harder to get that last bit of speed as the hill rounds off. Level ground again, time to cools down and replenish oxygen reserves.

Then there is the steep hill. The ones where keeping traction is a problem. The adrenaline kicks in as soon as you see it. You stand and get as much speed as you can before you hit the base. Momentum is your friend. Pick a path and start mashing. Pull on the bars to get the down stroke power you need. Simply standing won't be enough. Push hard but keep it steady and the weight back so the wheels don't spin. Not too much or the front wheel lifts. You know it's going to hurt even before you are half way up. Now it's the legs that scream. You know you don't have the lungs to this for long but you can work off your reserve for a little while. Can the legs hold? Keep the burst going. Just a few more cranks to the top. You are out of air. Just a bit more. You go for it anyway, pushing on without air. You hit the top, legs weak, lungs ready to explode, sucking air as you drop back into the saddle and try to recover. A downhill, perfect. You hope you can recover before the next climb. After a few slides and drops down the hill you are recovered and enjoying the ride down. You forget that you will pay for the down hill later.

It had to happen eventually, the long climb out. It's a steep one and you will need to conserve. Relax, try to settle down and take it easy. You have to balance with speed. You start a slow crawl up the hill, standing and mashing slowly, resisting the temptation to take off. You know you want to but can't afford to burn out. You realize you are still going as fast or faster than your geared friends. You get behind the curve on the steeper sections and then recover while standing as the slope decreases slightly. Got to relax. Fall too far behind and recovery will be tough or won't happen. Keep in touch with your temperature and hydration. After a half an hour of heavy climbing overheating can be a real problem. Stay with it, relax, conserve, relax, conserve. Push a little harder if you get ahead of the curve then when the top comes into view start using up the reserve. You can make it from here. Plenty of time to recover after cresting the top.

The short blasts are so much better than the long climb. A few more up and downs and the ride is over. Legs are sore and you are tired but you will be ready the tomorrow for another ride. If the weather is bad, put on the road wheels and the 2.75 to 1 gears and push fast on the road hills. There is always a new challenge and something else to try.


Rebecca "Lambchop" Reilly Interview

Messenger, writer, holder of many biking titles. Buy her book "Nerves of Steel", about the life and history of bike messengers, and help support a bike lifestyle. Also, check out Rebecca's piece in this issue

Can you give us the background behind your nickname?
The name Lambchop comes from a messenger in SF named 'Q'. He decided that I was cute like 'lambchop' the sock puppet that Sherry Lewis became famous with. I had a lot of other nicknames but that one I liked. Q would yell it across traffic in a big booming voice and within a few months, everyone, even strangers, were calling me lambchop.

Why is a fixed gear bike the right bike for you?
I started riding a fixed gear in Seattle about six or seven years ago because I had been told by a courier who had worked in NY that that was the only bike that couldn't be pilfered. People in NY will steal brakes, levers, chainrings, seats. The math added up to me because a fixed gear simply has less on it to steal. Over the years it became evident that my fixed gear saved me money also because I was replacing fewer parts and fussing with it less (I do my own repairs and installation.) Now I wish I had a road and mountain bike but I just can't afford them and I don't want to buy crap anymore.

How many bikes to you own? How many with one gear?
I own four bikes. The Surly track which I won in Philly last year, 2 bmx's (garbage picks), and my work bike another track bike. All have one gear.

What is the complete list of titles you hold?
Complete list of titles.

  • Unofficial 2nd place skid (coed)CMWC-Barcelona-1997.
  • 1998-Washington, DC-Women's Track Skid
  • 1998-CMWC, Washington Track skid women's
  • 1999-CMWC, Zurich
    Champion; Track stand women's
    Champion; Track skid women's
    Track bike queen
    Markus Cooke Award for community service
  • 2000-CMWC, Philadelphia
    Champion; Track stand women's
    3rd place track skid women's
    Champion; Bunnyhop women's (8 inches, bmx)
  • 1999-NAC, Toronto
    Champion; Track stand women's
    Champion; Track skid women's
  • 2000-NAC, Minneapolis
    Champion; Track Stand men's
    2nd place track skid women's

How long have you been completing and what made you start?
I've been competing since Toronto 1995. Started competing because someone in the community got on my case telling me that anyone in the community could compete.

How have the book sales for "Nerves Of Steel" been going? What kind of research did you do for it?
Sales of Nerves of Steel are right on target. Mostly I sell books through word of mouth on the internet. I researched by conducting 100's of interviews of messengers all over the country. Also I have viewed a dozen documentaries about messengers in several different cities, have read hundreds of articles all over the country. I've spent time in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, and the Library of Congress.

How did the book tour go? Did you get to all of the cities you wanted to? Any plans for doing it again?
My tour went well. It was abbreviated since my sponsors backed out on me at the last minute. I did NYC, Philadelphia and DC. I don't have immediate plans to do it again because I need a sponsor and no one has stepped up to the plate.

When you first meet male bikers for the first time, do you usually have to earn their respect because you are a woman and they have some preconceived notions about your ability to bike?
That is a loaded question. When I meet male rookie bikers for the first time I generally get treated like crap. Males seem to think that if a woman is a courier that immediately makes her a rookie. Veteran couriers are very good, they tend to know what a fellow veteran female messenger looks like and affords her the proper respect. That changes however when you move from city to city. Much of that I believe has to do with the industry being so sick. Since couriers are making less than ever, any new face, male or female, is not generally welcome. There are cases when couriers are intrigued by a new arrival, but usually that is only when they know from investigation that the new courier is a vet.

How long do you see yourself being a messenger? Any plans for the next job if you move on from this gig?
I plan on being a messenger until something better comes along. By better I mean something that absolutely fulfills my professional and quality of life standards. I don't see my retirement anywhere in the near future.

What have you been involved with lately? I saw the posting for "The Most Ridiculous Race", how did that go off?
Lately I have been working 3 days a week as a bike messenger for Bega Services. I was elected in January to the post of President of the District of Columbia Bicycle Courier Association. I threw a race in Buffalo, NY. It was incredibly cold and a bitter wind howled but we had messengers from Milwaukee, Columbus, Toronto and NYC. We all had a good time and Hopper won for the men, Pam won for the women, both from Columbus.

On the weekends I go out of town to promote my book and am currently working on a book/art opening in Brooklyn in May. It will feature my book and a collection of messenger art.

Anything else you want to say?
Na, that's enough I think.


Sound Off

Here we go. Each issue we'll print a topic, statement, etc. that will cause people to get fired up. Sound off about this subject and we'll print the best responses from both sides in next issue.

The May 2001 issue of Outside magazine has a review on 14 full-suspension mountain bikes. The author, Marc Peruzzi, makes the following bold statement:
"Aside from letting you ride further with less fatigue, the latest dual-suspension bikes simply outperform hardtails: They climb and brake better because the rear wheel stays on the dirt, giving you better traction; they corner better because the bike flexes into turns, balancing the weight on both wheels; and on sketchy downhills you can point and shoot with the front wheel because you can trust that the back won't buck like a rodeo bull."

Wow. Given a lot of Single Speeders preference for a full rigid ride, I imagine some people are going to have some comments about this statement. Agree or disagree? Magazine hack or knowledgable rider? Open up with both barrels hombre!


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2001 - 2009 Single Speed Outlaw