When I visited California last year, I had the opportunity to ride my bike in the mountains of Santa Barbara with two really great friends. Being the stubborn jerk that I am, I opted to ship out a rad custom single speed Standard...to ride in the mountains. Smart, I know. We weren't heading to the peak, so I had confidence in my abilities. I geared it down some (46/17) and suffered through the two 12% climbs. No feet down, but I suffered knowing full well that there was no way that I could make it to the peak on that gear.
One year later: Planning a trip back to California and lusting over getting to the peak of Gibraltar, I knew that single speed was out of the question. I had an opportunity to snag an All-City Mr. Pink at a great price, so I went for it. Why not? It's such a solid stock build that I really didn't feel the need to swap anything out. I even find that the stock All-City saddle is great. But I traded the stock wheelset for my White Industry/A23 wheels, only because I just REALLY like them.
THE MOUNTAIN RIDE UP:
After a breakfast of oatmeal, persimmons, bread, and two light beers, my fantastic friend/chef/host realized that the Santa Barbara haze wasn't going to burn off and reveal that fantastic yellow ball of warmth. So, no sun, no problem. But for some Californians, no sun is a huge problem. It's hazy and 60, and they're bundled for Wisconsin winter. I will say that it felt fantastic when the sun did shine for a brief moment. A quick shot of warmth can re-charge you, even when standing out of the saddle straining to keep the lungs filled.
We started at 88 feet above sea level. We rode about a mile to get through town, and then it was literally all climbing after that. So, how did Mr. Pink handle it? I'd say great - it's one of those bikes that gives back what you put into it. Even on the steepest climbs, the All-City would jut forward, ready for the next rotation of the pedals. On previous rides, I found that when I'm leaning forward and really attacking a hill, I can pull the rear wheel off the road and lose efficiency and rhythm, feeling stuck and off balance. That's more likely due to bad form, but it has happened a few times. For the 2.5 hours it took to climb Gibraltar, the Pink felt comfortable and responsive. It felt like I've had the bike for years and knew every nook and cranny.
THE RIDE DOWN:
When we first started our descent, I let the bike go all out. I basically laid off the brakes until I really needed them or when things started getting scary-fast. The Pink ate it up. It's great at cornering and holds its line extremely well. At high speeds, there was no sense of wheel wobble, and I never felt unstable in the saddle. To put it plainly, it's safe. And when a bike feels safe and stable, it makes the ride fun and worry free.
I tend to ride single speed or fixed gear in city settings. They're simple and efficient, and with less parts to worry about, they can be tossed around without the fear of breaking derailleurs and shifters. Did the Pink convince me to ditch the single speed and switch to a geared bike full-time for city riding? No, but it handled the city pretty well. It quickly gets to speed and holds it. Handling quick corners is no problem; the bike responds really well whichever way you lean it. Moving around vehicles is simple too. It dances and dives in and out of congested streets easily. Just pay attention to drivers and their unpredictable actions, okay? Great.
All in all, I love this bike. It's a true road bike, and that's exactly what it's supposed to be. It has life and is spry and handles speed really, really well. Now that doesn't mean you can't bag it up and tour on it, but there are better tools out there.
I look forward to having this bike in the stable for years to come. Now please enjoy some more pictures.