From the Mailbag:
I don’t get why anyone would want to ride a single speed bike… do they just want to punish themselves? Please explain.
Great question! People like to ride singlespeeds for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it means a lot fewer parts to maintain. Riding a singlespeed removes the need to maintain derailleurs, shifting cables, and shifters. Shifting mechanisms are easily the most needy part of any bicycle, especially during the winters in Minnesota. Winters are very hard on bicycles, and especially hard on derailleurs. Derailleurs have a tendency to freeze and be useless anyway, and all the sand and salt on the roads will really destroy a derailleur in no time.
For example, I like to ride an old 21-speed mountain bike a lot during the winters. I pretty much have to replace the entire drive train every spring because the ice, sand, and salt have pretty well wrecked the entire drive train.
There are other reasons, some of which get a little bit metaphysical, but less maintenance is the primary one.
Readers, why do you ride a singlespeed or fixed gear?