(This post comes from the typing-up-loose-ends department.)

You may recall that I bought an old Peugeot racing bike in Vancouver with the object of converting it to singlespeed. Well, the path to singlespeed enlightenment does not always run smooth, as I found out to my cost. (I will admit that I did not bear that cost alone: you bore it with me, dear reader, in the form of two thousand words of bicycle-related self-flagellation.) To recap: I’d found the last singlespeed French freewheel in the world, hooked it up with two spliced-together BMX chains, and replaced the original drop bars with a pair of hipster-ready bullhorns.

Le cheval-de-fer

I started to commute by bike, a lovely trip through Vancouver’s leafy suburbs and across the Fraser River to Richmond. The weather was uniformly balmy, and over my couple of months of cycling to work I even acquired what might reasonably be called a suntan.

Unfortunately, the bike did not fare so well. In short order, both of the original 27″ wheels were knocked quite badly out of true; the bearings in the last French freewheel in the world gave up shortly afterwards and the pedal bearings followed. To ride the bike was to be assaulted by the scraping of brake pads against wobbling rims and the grinding of shafted ball bearings.

In repairing her, I caved. I drank the hipster Kool-Aid. I took the blue pill. More specifically, I bought deep-V track wheels, blue-striped tyres to match the frame, an indestructible Shimano freewheel, extremely awesome keirin-style pedals, and matching toe clips*. My bike was indistinguishable from a Commercial Drive hipster chariot, and my journey to the dark side was complete.

It was brilliant. For my last six weeks in Vancouver I descended (even further) into the domain of the bike nerd, taking part in a couple of Critical Masses, a couple of rides with the Vancouver Bicycle Club and one Midnight Mass, a small-hours ride around the traffic free city in the company of various bike messengers, fixie riders and sundry other ‘alternative’ types.

Then, of course, came the end of my stay in Vancouver, and I had to decide what to do the bike. Short of lugging it all the way down the west coast of the ‘States, there wasn’t much I could do other than leave it with someone in the city. Monica’s boyfriend Pete, a stand-up type of fellow with a keen cycling glint in his eye, offered to become the bike’s foster carer and so I left it in his capable hands. He has promised to keep ‘er oiled till I return, and I can’t ask for more than that.

* There’s a weird hero-worship within the singlespeed world for Japanese keirin components, which are stamped with the letters ‘NJS’. This says nothing about quality or suitability for purpose, only that they’re unlikely to spontaneously disintegrate, and yet an NJS-branded part will inevitably cost more and inspire a larger degree of singlespeeder lust. Hilariously, my NJS toe-clips were race approved, even if the rest of the bike emphatically was not.