One-Gear Wonder
Bicycling South Africa|November/December 2020
David Knee’s stripped-down single speed Niner SIR9.
Jon Minister

Bike geometry is getting more progressive and drivetrain tech is advancing like crazy, making it easier to ride even the hardest terrain. But in response to this, there’s been an international push-back called ‘underbiking’. Basically, it means deliberately riding a less capable bike, such as a vintage road bike on a gravel road – or in David Knee’s case, a rigid, single-speed mountain bike on the technical trails around Cape Town. “I had a romantic notion that the simplicity of riding with no gears would deliver a purer cycling experience, harking back to the days when hard men rode the Tour de France on heavy steel bikes,” says the 52-year-old, who works in the financial services industry.

Indeed, under biking is all about challenging yourself and rediscovering why you fell in love with the sport in the first place. David admits that the experience has been less romantic than he’d expected; but he’s hooked nonetheless.

“To say I’m untalented when it comes to the rough stuff is an understatement,” he says. “Riding the single-speed is nothing like riding my dual-suspension Cannondale Scalpel. The Scalpel basically does the work for me, whereas with the single-speed, I have to take my time and pick my lines. Even a tame trail like the Kirstenbosch loop offers great excitement. I love the challenge of getting up the hills, and I quite enjoy sometimes having to get off and push. Walking is the ‘third gear’ when riding a single-speed – after sitting and standing!”

History and Heritage

David found the frame on the BikeHub classifieds website and it was love at first sight. “When I was a teenager in the UK, I lusted after a Dawes Galaxy touring bike, which was made from was passing riders on bikes with 26-inch wheels, both up and down hills, on his big-wheeled singlespeed. David’s SIR9 is similar in spirit to Sugai’s early prototype bikes; and as such, it’s a piece of mountain-biking history.

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