In yesterday’s post, I mentioned due care:
You’ll note that this does not apply to avoiding collisions with undomesticated, or “wild,” animals. In such cases the rules of the jungle apply, and in fact you’re not supposed to avoid them, since doing so is likely to result in a crash. Instead, you’re basically supposed to run right into them and hope for the best. Also, unlike bicyclists, pedestrians, and their goats, wild animals are truly unpredictable, and therefore no amount of “due care” is sufficient to avoid them. Indeed, you couldn’t be more duly careful than leaving your car parked in your own driveway, but even that’s not enough:
All of this is to say that I was recently riding through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, climbing up a hill adjacent to a busy roadway, when I heard a loud POP. At first I thought one vehicle must have smacked into another, but when I turned I saw a deer flying up in the air. The roadway is what we here in New York call a “parkway,” which is basically a highway that doesn’t allow commercial traffic, and as such the driver was probably traveling at around 50mph. It happened right around here:
“Well that sucks,” I thought to myself, and continued on my way. But then it occurred to me that perhaps the driver might be injured, so I turned around, descended the hill, and rode to the scene along the shoulder. Traffic was already backing up, and the driver was unharmed and calling for assistance. The car had sustained significant front-end damage and appeared to be undriveable. As for the deer, it was nowhere to be seen.
Deer: 1; Prius: 0.
Once the driver confirmed she was fine and it was clear there was no additional help I could offer I resumed my ride. Then as I was leaving the park a rather disheveled-looking deer bounded across the trail and I realized it was the one that had been hit. It lay down in the undergrowth and stared at me:
Was it bleeding internally? Were its bones shattered? Was it in great pain? Would it eventually walk off the injury or would it eventually just find a nice cozy spot to die? Had I been armed perhaps I’d have put it out of its misery, but with only a multitool and a mini pump the only way I could do so would be to very slowly inflate it to death.
Eventually, it limped off again, and I continued on my way:
Shortly thereafter I passed the scene of the crash. By this time a police car had arrived, and another deer frolicked nearby as though agitated by the lights–or perhaps enraged by what had happened to its compatriot. When I first moved to these parts I’d see deer in the park occasionally, but lately it seems as though there are more and more of them, almost as though they’re taking over. It was then I had a chilling thought: maybe they’re not running into traffic by “accident.” Maybe they’re at war with humanity.
As for the bike I was riding, it was the distinctly non-artisanal singlespeed I re-assembled for my elder son last year:
Basically it’s my artisanal singlespeed’s stunt double:
To the untrained eye, the bikes look quite similar–because they are. They’re both black, they’re singlespeed 29ers, they’re both made of metal that attracts magnets… Yes, one was really expensive and one was really cheap. Also, the Engin is custom it doesn’t use a suspension-corrected fork, and therefore the front end doesn’t have that awkward jacked-up appearance most other rigid mountain bikes do. But beyond that is there any meaningful difference? As I rode, it occurred to me I should endeavor to answer that question and conduct sort of a Dated Singlespeed 29er Shootout.
I hadn’t been on this bike since putting it back together last year, and the first thing I noticed–especially after spending time on the Jones recently–was how comparatively steep it is:
Overall the bike is nimble bordering on skittish, and as I rode it I found myself popping little wheelies for no reason. Given my propensity for keeping my wheels planted firmly on the ground this speaks to the bike’s lively, mischievous character. (Though it could also have to do with the combination of a shorter stem than I typically use as well as a pretty low gear, which together make it easy to pop the front wheel up if you’re so inclined.) At the same time, the bike has always struck me as kind of solid-feeling and stout–not unpleasantly so, but whether it’s the frame or the components or some combination thereof, some bikes just feel like they have a little “give” when you start really grappling with them on a climb or something, and this bike has never been one of them. The fork has some flex, but otherwise it basically it feels like a really fun tank, which I mean in the best possible way, and which some might argue is exactly what a singlespeed mountain bike is supposed to be.
While the bike will accept disc or rim brakes I have it equipped with the latter. Before giving away the Softride I stripped it of some key components. One of those was the brakes, which I put on this bike since I figured it deserved something special:
They’re as smooth and powerful as anything, and if this bike does lose the shootout it definitely won’t be because of the brakes.
The wheels on this bike also represent my one true wheelbuilding success story so I have a real soft spot for them:
I built these wheels out of budget components shortly after acquiring the bike in 2010. Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe it’s because I used 36 spokes, but they came out straighter than any other wheel I’ve ever built (not that there have been too many), and have stayed that way ever since::
I’ve used them quite a bit, on both this bike and the Engin, and they’ve seen their share of abuse. They’re kinda heavy, and they’re not tubeless. But they’re solid, the singlespeed cassette hub (is that an oxymoron?) is handy, and they’re compatible with both disc brakes and rim brakes, so there.
As I rode, the bike won me over once again, and I found myself wondering, “Is this the only singlespeed mountain bike I really need?“
Arguably it’s silly to have two nearly identical singlespeeds, and arguably it’s more true to the spirit of singlespeeding than the Engin–it’s a rowdy no-name bike with rim brakes and inner tubes that I put together myself and that could easily handle being thrown out the back of a moving truck. And while the Engin was a gift to myself after I became a fancy-pants published author and is therefore special, this was a bike I put together when I was an still an anonymous bike blogger who could only gift himself Bikesdirect bargains, so in that sense maybe it’s even more special–and maybe I should get back to that by making it my Number One One-Speed:
Of course this is a shootout, which means riding the bikes back-to-back, so I’ll have to see how I feel about all that after riding the Engin again.