Thursday, June 30, 2005

Project Streetfighter Single Speed, Part I
Posted by Sam at 2:32 PM

Part I: Streetfighter... what the!?

Over the past week, my housemate and I enjoyed a steady flow of low-brow humor. Subjects like mounting and dismounting, cranks, and lube furnished us with an endless onslaught of snickering and that's what she said's (it really does not take much to amuse us). The inspiration for this middle-school-like hilarity was provided to us by Project Streetfighter Single Speed. Yes, quite a mouthful (that's what she said), I know... but bear with me. The Streetfighter isn't as complex as her name implies. In fact, one of the the main objectives during the conception of the Streetfighter was to make her as simple and unencumbered as possible.

So, what is the Streetfighter? This question is better answered by explaining what the Streetfighter once was: A Raleigh Technium 440 road bicycle from the early eighties (I think). During the 440's heyday, it was a quality road bike. Aluminum frame, down tube shifting, twelve speeds, surface to air nuclear rocket mounts, etc... Currently however, the 440 is held together almost entirely by duct tape, and for the past I-have-no-idea-how-many years, the bike just sat quietly in my former apartment's basement... collecting rust and patiently waiting (and hoping) to die. But I just couldn't let that happen. Assisted suicide is still illegal in this state, and until I'm told otherwise, it's my civic duty to prolong life... no matter how much pain, suffering, and misery the subject is experiencing. Nope... death is something you earn, you wuss. Suck it up and deal. No fear! Extreme sports! Et cetera, et cetera... Anyway, I brought the 440 with me to my new location, where I was determined to breathe new life into her tired, thermal-bonded, aluminum composite frame. I figured, while I was enjoying my retirement... er, unemployment, the 440 would make a superb project bike.

Thanks for the enthralling history lesson, but I still don't know what the heck the Streetfighter is? Ok, ok... keep your pants on. The Streetfighter is a single speed road bike. Essentially, this is a road bike (You remember the ten-speed you had as a kid, right? Well, that style of bicycle is called a road bike. And, it probably had more than ten speeds. But for some reason, we all called them "ten speeds.") with all of the gears and all of the deurailers (the mechanism that moves the chain from gear to gear) and all of the shifters and everything related, removed. In their place, only one chainring (bigger gear in the front, near the pedals) and one cog (smaller gear mounted on the rear wheel hub) remain. This makes the bike ride similarly to a BMX bike, in that there is no shifting. This bike has a freewheel installed (which allows me to pedal backwards without actually going backwards). Some more adventurous cyclists ride what is called a "fixed gear." That is when the rear cog is mounted in place and cannot freewheel. So, if one were to pedal backwards on a fixed gear bike, the bike would actually travel backwards. On this type of bicycle, the rider is constantly pedaling when the bike is moving. In fact, the only time the pedals are at rest is when the bicycle is at rest. This is great for track bikes and, as I've mentioned, more adventurous riders. However, this is not the kind of riding that I wanted to do. And thus, the single speed freewheel alternative is the perfect solution for me.

Ok... a single speed. I get it. But why would you want to ride a single speed? Aren't those gears there to make cycling more efficient and enjoyable? Well, yes... but there's more to it than that. The single speed bicycle is what I believe to be the ideal bike for urban conditions. There's a lot of starting and stopping during city riding. In certain situations, there's little time to think, let alone shift gears. Abrupt stops are to be expected in city riding. Stopping at traffic light in a high gear sucks. When you start up again, you are about as fast as a slug stuck in Hartford rush hour traffic. This isn't a concern on a single speed. The gear ratio (customized for each rider's style and size) is set in such a way that starts are smooth yet the cyclist is not required to sacrifice a respectable top speed. Theoretically, the bike is lighter too. There's nothing on it that doesn't need to be there. And incidentally, there's much less that can break.

In short, riding a single speed road bike is one of the easiest types of bicycles to ride and maintain. Especially, if city riding is your main focus. As an added bonus, the single speed's inherent simplicity enables any schmo (myself included) the ability to build one from entirely used/old/cheap parts... as you will no doubt discover while reading on.

Fine, fine, fine. But why "The Streetfighter" moniker? Ahhh... there you go. Good question. For this one, I can only give a cryptic answer. You see, I don't know the exact origins of the name "Streetfighter" but I can explain how it came into my world: A good friend of mine... we'll call him Brendan M. No, that's too obvious. How 'bout B. Miller? Let's just refer to him as "Miller Genuine Draft." MGD for short... A good friend of mine, MGD, always spoke (no pun intended) of the Streetfighter ___________. The blank is the placeholder for whatever project he happened to be involved with at the moment. At one time it was the Streetfighter Drum Set. Then there was the Streetfighter Motorcycle. As I recall, there was even the Streetfighter Toolbox that aided MGD on these elaborate undertakings. So, in short, the Streetfighter prefix has less to do with the actual subject of the project and more to do with its general character. You see, Streetfighter projects tended to be... how should I say this... not pretty. Yep, there was nothing attractive about a Streetfighter anything. Most of the time, a Streetfighter project was downright ugly. Parts were often yoinked from other projects (sometimes other Streetfighters). Most parts had to be retrofit for use on the project at hand. Colors never matched. Paint was always chipped. But, the one redeeming factor, the glue that held all Streetfighters together, was the first-rate craftsmanship and all around well-built nature of the Streetfighters. They were solid. Rugged and raw. Hardcore.

As is Project Streetfighter Single Speed.

(Stay tuned for Project Streetfighter Single Speed, Part II: Construction Woes and Triumphs, and Bicycle Themed Wine... coming atchya as soon as I get off my lazy butt and write it.)

Comments: 1 | Post a Comment | Permalink

I think you need to make a project Streetfighter Armchair.

Comment By TheDarkLordDerfla on June 30, 2005 3:52 PM

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Sam Who!?
Sam is an amazing and humble guy. Once, he rushed into a burning building, up six flights of stairs to save a kitten from certain death. He speaks eight languages, has mastered three varieties of martial arts, is a wine expert, and is a pulitzer prize winning author. Sam is an international heart-throb who prefers a quiet evening at home knitting afghans for the homeless, to the go-go, glitz and glamor of the party scene. I think the day he won the silver medal for ballroom dancing at the 98 olympics was the happiest of his life. Pretty impressive for a guy who never finished the 8th grade. - Carrie, 04
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