Tuesday, April 22, 2008

freewheel510 - What's in a name?

I was looking for a distinctive email name for myself for a new account on Yahoo a few years ago, and came up with "freewheel". The name specifically refers to the component of a bicycle that, having worked to reach the top of a grade, allows us to relax our legs and coast down the other side. I happen to think that the freewheel is one of the most brilliant ideas of all humanity. Along with its close cousin, the ratchet wrench, that allows us to turn a bolt by increments without having to lift the socket off the bolt. Somehow the wheel has received much well-deserved attention, but its close cousin, the freewheel, is relatively an unsung hero.

There are many other components, of course, that make a bicycle possible, the chain and sprocket, spoke wheels, pneumatic tires, and I don't want to take anything away from those brilliant inventions.

I don't really understand the current fascination with fixed wheel bikes, where your legs must turn whenever the back wheel turns. I guess I need to try it, and maybe I'd like it, but I can guarantee if I ever had a fixed wheel bike, it would be at least a third bike, behind a geared road bike and a geared off-road bike.

I did try a friend's single speed mountain bike one day. I was just getting over a cold, and could have used the gear to be a bit lower, but it was pretty cool. For some people, a single speed bike recalls their youth; most bikes owned by kids are single speeds of course. I was 10 when I got my first 10-speed for Christmas; a light green Schwinn Varsity. It was a tank of a bike with welded steel frame and steel 27-inch rims, but way faster than my friends' Sting Rays and utility bikes (now called "cruisers").

The other implication of freewheel is the notion of freedom that goes with wheels. When I was a 6 or 7 year old kid I fantasized about having a Land Rover -- the old kind that goes anywhere and is easy to fix, not the high-maintenance toy of the wealthy they produce now. Later I got into motorcycles and the Freedom of the Trail That Goes Nowhere beckoned. Ironically when I was fantasizing about the Land Rover, I had a bicycle and didn't recognize the potential for Free Wheeling of the bike. Now I've had motorcycles and cars (no Land Rovers though), the freedom of movement offered by a modern bicycle is ultimate. No fossil fuel needed.

My current favorite ride is a Parlee carbon fiber bike, with Record gruppo. It works super well. My off road ride is a Yeti 575 with SRAM drivetrain and Hayes disk brakes. Also works great, although I'm not super happy with the Manitou forks. I have a couple other road bikes as well, including a old lugged steel Colnago that I don't ride much because it's just too pretty. I also have a 1988 Honda Hawk that I enjoy, but don't ride too often.

My ID is freewheel510. I explained the freewheel part already. The 510 is a combination of the two interstates I've lived near since I was young. I grew up in LA, then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, about 40 miles from I-5. Then lived in Houston, about 15 miles south of I-10, then back to the greater LA area, and work about 2 miles from where the I-5 and the I-10 intersect.

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