Here’s Sh*tbike Challenge, Part VIII–straight from our December 2008 issue. Catch up with the previous installments here.
It was the Singlespeed World Championships in Napa, California, and I couldn't help being reminded of prom. Of course, this may have had something to do with the prom dress I was wearing while I waited for my socially awkward SSWC date to get ready. I was understandably nervous. My escort to this shindig had been criticized, mocked and even described as an "exercise in sadomasochism." People called my date the Sh*tbike.
As I threw my leg over that notorious beam protruding precariously from the Softride's frame, I pictured myself covered in dirt and blood after repeatedly and unforgivingly being catapulted over the handlebars. A shrill voice echoed in my mind: "They're all gonna laugh at you!"
The race began with a stampede of capes and tighty whities. I bobbed and creaked and pedaled my way up the first grueling climb, stopping for impromptu discos along the way. Cresting the hill, I spotted the first of many steep rock gardens. It was time to dance with the beamed devil. Clenching my teeth, I pushed my red-velour ass far back over the rear tire and held on for dear life as I ricocheted through the rock garden in a crescendo of creaking chaos. When my nearly bald tires slid sideways into a dusty switchback, I eyed the least-jagged spot to plant my face.
Somehow, I remained upright and unscathed.
After that, I began to look at the Sh*tbike differently. Maybe you can't judge a bike by its beam. I'd overlooked so many of its unique features, like the auto-adjusting seat tilt. Some people call this feature a "stripped bolt," but I call those people "mechanics." With the Softride's "minimal brake efficacy" design, speed isn't just your best friend, it's your only friend. And it turns out that the oft-ridiculed beam provides invaluable pedal feedback. With every turn of the cranks, it squeals, "Hey, you're pedaling! Hey, you're still pedaling!"
After magically righting itself time and time again, like a stumbling drunk who never actually falls down, it was time for the last dance. It was time to derby. Bikes crashed and riders fell until it was just me and the beamed beast standing in the ring of spectators. The crowd cheered. The Sh*tbike had been crowned king, and I was proud to be its queen. But every ride has to end, and just like that, the Sh*tbike was off like a prom dress.