Major meaning-of-life question which struck, and woke me, in panic, during this week’s (first) saturday-afternoon nap:
Like all of you, I’ve seen a lot of videos of people and other simians riding unicycles in my lifetime. The trick—or “crux,” more charitably—seems to be counter-pedaling backwards to maintain side-to-side balance in forward motion or, as seems to be the more common use of unicycles, see-sawing back and forth on the pedals to stay in one place, like a two-dimensional hover. Does this mean all unicycles are necessarily fixed-gear? Is that what fixed gear means? Do people riding fixies hotdog it by pedaling in such a way so as to remain a) stationary and b) upright, without having to tripod with a human leg as one has to on bikes with freewheels? Or, most incredibly, is this last not hotdogging but just a common everyday move that I’ve somehow missed seeing people doing?
Relatedly, as a child who, like most children, once believed he’d regularly have to travel up and down mountains with at least twenty-one distinct grade conditions, I think the simultaneous shift (ha!), in bicycles and motorcars, to fewer gears as the choice of eco-lifestyley prestige to be dangerously undertheorized. Sure, Lexus and BMW still arms-race each other with 7! 8! 9! forward ratios on their dinosaur sedans, but after using conventional 5-speeds or CVTs (don’t get me started on those!) for a few generations, all electric cars, and even hybrids—from the Prius to Tesla’s new and wonderful Model S—seem to be coalescing around a single speed only. This of course has a lot to do with electric motors simply able to spin faster, unaided by gear ratios, than gas engines, but surely electric motors aren’t physically more like human legs moving in a circle than either’s like internal combustion, right? So there is something of fashion involved, the perverse pleasure of “gotcha! what we made you used to think was better is now worse!” I’m reminded of the introduction of “analog” direction-control sticks on video game consoles, in the original Playstation/Nintendo 64 generation, and seeing kids, riders of 21-speed mountain kids, having to rationalize their minds around this being an incredible advance in the development of their digital lives.