Editor’s note:The Tao of Singlespeeding first appeared in Dirt Rag #110, published in October 2004. Adapted by Corvus Corvax from The Tao Te Ching, translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Random House, Inc., New York (1972), with apologies to Lao Tzu. Illustrations by Michael Pfaltzgraff.
The ride that can be finished is not the perfect ride.
The frame that can be broken is not the perfect frame.
The ride is the beginning of sky and dirt.
The singlespeed is the mother of the ten thousand gears.
Ever desireless, one can see the trail.
Ever desiring, one can see the bike.
The two spring from the same source, but differ in name;
this appears as riding.
The gate to all mystery.
Sky and dirt are ruthless;
They see the ten thousand gears as useless.
The wise are ruthless;
They see the riders as fools.
The space between sky and dirt is like a tire.
The shape changes but not the form;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More gears count less.
Hold fast to the trail.
Sky and dirt last forever.
Why do sky and dirt last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The singlespeeder is behind on the downhill, and ahead on the climb.
He is unencumbered, thus at one with all.
Through flow, he attains fulfillment.
Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Make the bike too light, and the handling will suffer.
Adorn your frame with XTR, and no lock can protect it.
Claim medals and podiums, and drug tests will follow.
Drink beer when the ride is done.
This is the way of singlespeeding.
Thirty-two spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape latex into a tube;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Drill eyelets in a rim;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness comes from what is not there.
Accept difficulty willingly.
Accept pain as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept difficulty willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with your heart rate.
This is called “accepting difficulty willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept pain as the human condition”?
Pain comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be pain?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to ride any trail.
Love your bike as your own self; then you can truly ride anywhere.
The masters are subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The skill of their riding is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Delicate, like riders crossing a winter stream.
Alert, as if on tight singletrack.
Balanced, as if negotiating a switchback.
Focused, as if on a long climb.
Yielding, like fine steel.
Simple, like track hubs.
Smooth, like machined bearings.
Who can wait quietly for the ride to begin?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Followers of singlespeeding do not seek advantage.
Not seeking advantage, they are not swayed by a desire for change.
Do you think you can take my bike and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
My singlespeed is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will lose it.
If you add a suspension fork, you will ruin it.
So sometimes I am ahead and sometimes I am behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes the trail goes up and sometimes down.
Therefore the singlespeeder avoids extremes, complacency, and
heavy traffic on climbs.
Give up gears, and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between the granny and the big ring?
Is there a difference between uphill and downhill?
Must I ride what others ride? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying their full suspension.
In spring some go to the trails and descend the mountain.
But I alone am riding, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.
Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and wandering.
I am different.
I am nourished by the trail.
To ride one gear is natural.
Sprints do not last all morning,
Descents do not last all day.
The follower of singlespeeding
is at one with his bike.
He who rides smoothly
He who loses the trail
When you are at one with your bike,
The trail welcomes you.
When you conserve your momentum,
The flow is always there.
When you are at one with pain,
The pain is experienced willingly.
He who does not get out of the saddle
Will not make it to the top of the hill.
He who has his weight forward is not steady.
He who sprints cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to the followers of singlespeeding,
“These are extra gears and unnecessary weight,”
They do not bring happiness.
Therefore followers of singlespeeding avoid them.
Spinning is the motion of the singlespeed.
Flow is the way of the singlespeed.
The ten thousand gears are born of singlespeeding.
Singlespeeding is born of not riding.
The wise rider hears of singlespeeding and practices it diligently.
The average rider hears of singlespeeding and thinks of it now and again.
The foolish rider hears of singlespeeding and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, singlespeeding would not be what it is.
Hence it is said:
The smooth trail seems rough.
Going forward seems like retreat.
The easy climb seems hard.
Singlespeeding is quiet and without artifice.
One gear alone nourishes and brings the ride to completion.
We’ve published a lot of stuff in 25 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.
Like what you see? Please support independent publishing by Subscribing To Dirt Rag Magazine today.