Alex Gonzalez + BreakBrake17

Alex Gonzalez‘s Welcome to BreakBrake17 was filmed over the course of two days in San Francisco. I followed him around the city as we ripped around China Town, cleaned up trash down alleyways in the Soma and bombed between the trolley tracks on California St. 

Most cars are chronically underutilized and in a time of high unemployment, so are too many people

SOURCE HBR - Andy McAfee

My driver said he’d been with Uber ever since he’d graduated from his master’s program in IT project management last year. This profession was, according to him, going through hard times. In the wake of the great recession steady jobs had been replaced by short-term contracts, and there weren’t even a lot of these to be had. As a result he was now competing against much more experienced people for each new gig that came up, and he hadn’t had a lot of success since graduating.

So to cover his monthly fixed costs of student loan payments (on more than $100k in debt), rent, and health care he was driving for Uber. A lot. He estimated that he spent more than 60 hours a week behind the wheel. This allowed him to pay his bills, but not to build up any real savings. To which I say good for him, and for Uber. This is a guy who could be sitting around waiting for the dream job he’d gone to school for, collecting unemployment, defaulting on his loans, and/or dropping out of the labor force for good. Instead, he was working hard at a job that was available.


My driver’s job existed because a small group of venture-backed entrepreneurs created a technology platform that matched up cars and drivers with people who were willing to pay for a ride. Most cars are chronically underutilized and in a time of high unemployment, so are too many people. Uber’s founders came up with a clever way to put them to work


…Cambridge’s recent attempt to block Uber…Favoring the city’s truly lousy taxi incumbents over employment opportunities and service improvements brought by Uber is simply folly.

SOURCE Streets blog USA

….Who are these very low-income Danes? Mostly they’re recent immigrants and the long-term unemployed, who don’t fully qualify for the cash payments Denmark offers to people in school or between jobs. Because bikes are everywhere in modern Denmark, these poor people can remain mobile in Danish cities without facing pressure to devote a huge share of their money to cars if they don’t want to.


For the poorest Danes, car transportation is expensive. But it isn’t impossible. It’s not even rare.

It’s simply optional.

Only 41 percent of the poorest Danes’ trips happen in cars, compared to 72 percent of trips by the poorest Americans. More than anything else, this difference is because of bicycles: quick, cheap, direct and easily combined with good public transit.

Though Danes bike more, they don’t walk less or ride transit less. Danes at almost every income level do both of those things more than their American peers. Essentially all of Denmark’s additional biking is due to one thing: less reliance on cars.

In most of the United States, not owning a reliable car can turn poverty into an inescapable trap.

Souplesse - cycling zen


When your you have to pedal so fast its no longer about “strength” of your muscles. But your ability to spin your legs with *souplesse *extremely fast to enable maximum speed down hills or at the top end of whatever gear ratio your riding during a sprint.

via Souplesse

Souplesse is about fluid motion, without wasted effort. Efficiency, power and style blended together

via Bike radar

A smooth, efficient pedal stroke is so important to cycling performance that the French even have a word for it: a ‘souplesse’ pedalling motion gives the appearance of effortless ease while delivering maximal forwards propulsion. 

via Velominati

…harmony between grace and power, casual and deliberate. It speaks of the entire organism, the perfectly manicured machine together with the perfectly refined position and technique of its rider. It is the combination of Magnificent Stroke, gentle sway of the shoulders and head, the rhythmic breath, and of knees, elbows, and chest converging on the V-Locus.


A Magnificent Stroke is more than pushing or pulling on the pedals. The stroke flows from the core and hips, driving the pedals round and belying the effort to do so.

Feet sweep the pedals around in perfect revolutions, one leg cannot be distinguished from the other – they work as one to counter and balance the forces to drive the machine ever faster forward

The legs can not do their work without the arms, the lungs, the chest, the heart, the mind. Each unit functions independently to do its work, yet feeds seamlessly into the other. In a phrase: Fluidly Harmonic Articulation.

via Souplesse Cycling

Each pedal stroke is even and smooth, reflecting unwavering power throughout the revolution. Both legs act in concert as pistons producing unbroken force in perfect circles. The hips are a stable foundation showing no side-to-side movement as they power the legs around and around. The upper body is solid and so motionless a glass of wine could be set upon the upper back, with the only movement coming from the rhythmic breathing fueling the engine within. The face is calm, confident, and shows no sign of discomfort even as the heart pounds and legs burn. This composure and efficiency are the same whether competing in an intense road race or cruising to the local coffee shop. This is what the French call souplesse.

Souplesse is to perfect the transfer of energy from cyclist to bicycle. The mastery of the connection between man and machine with a display of such supreme efficiency that seeing a cyclist power the bicycle in such a manner becomes a thing of beauty.

Single speed history and benefits

SOURCE Hizoku Cycles


Until 1937, when they were first permitted to use derailleur gears, those giants of men who competed in the Tour de France – and in all other races up to a similar year – rode bikes with just a single gear, that’s 34 years from the start of the tour in 1903. Initially, in the case of the Tour until about 1906, they were not permitted to use freewheels, thus rode fixed-gear or fixed-wheel. Whenever the rear wheel was rotating, so the pedals were rotating too. The advent of the freewheel at least allowed the rider some respite from constant pedaling, and helped average speeds increase. However many races were won at very respectable speeds despite the absence of derailleur gears: most riders mounted sprockets of different size on each side of the rear wheel, and could thus change gear by removing the wheel and flipping it over to use the other gear. Later some put double sprockets on one or both sides, and changed gear by manually shifting the chain from one to another. The Tour de France of 1936 was done with a single gear and freewheel with the winner maintaining a 19.3mph average speed, the following year of the tour was the year in which they allowed the use of a derailleur setup and the winner maintained an average speed of 19.7mph both tours were 2700+miles long and had similar mountain stages. 


Riding single-speed and fixed-wheel can normally be done on the same bike, but they are quite different experiences. Fixed-wheel has been described as an almost spiritual experience. However it can be dangerous: ‘fixies’ tend to dispense with brakes, as you can brake your rear wheel by slowing the pedals down. In traffic and many real road situations, this can prove risky. When riding fixed-wheel, your pedals are constantly rotating, so you cannot position them to avoid ground strike when cornering. Finally, if you ride fixed on hilly routes, descents can force extremely high cadences, and the slightest mistake such as a desire to freewheel can be catastrophic. If you want a similar experience but without the inherent risks, ride single-speed rather than fixed-wheel. Single-speed freewheeling is the best of both worlds, simplicity and practicality. 

Strength training

Since it is impossible to downshift on a single speed, the only option when climbing a steep hill is to pedal harder. Eventually leg muscles adapt to the load, becoming stronger and improving power output. You no longer become reliant on changing to a lower gear. Single speed bikes don’t give you an easy way out.


…the rider is forced to be an aggressive rider to maintain momentum, giving the rider a great core [and cardio] body workout when climbing hills. When traveling at higher speeds, you must learn to pedal smoothly at very high cadences of 120 per minute or more, and this builds what is termed souplesse in your pedaling style. Traditional European training methods for pro cyclists normally put them back on a fixed-wheel or single-speed bike when they returned to training in the New Year, and used that to increase burst leg strength and improve souplesse before switching back to a normal road bike after 1000 to 2000 miles. Being so simple, single-speed bikes are ideal for bad weather training, as they can be cleaned and maintained very quickly…

Drive chain efficiency

The chain drive is a highly efficient transmission. With a well-maintained chain, friction losses can be as low as 1.5%. Which, put another way, means that the efficiency ratio “power in” to “power out” can be as high as 98%. (Compare this with a car gearbox, which typically operates at about 85%.) Even the best derailleur mech will cost another 4-5% in friction losses. The derailleur is not present in a single speed bike. This reduces the drag in the chain system typically associated with derailleur’s jockey pulleys. The chaining and cog of these bikes is in such a way that it lags behind on ramps and pins which adds to the single speed bikes advantages.


One of the most appealing advantages of a single speed bike is that it is light weight, as compared to the geared bicycle of the same price range. This is thanks to the absence of derailleurs and hub gears…


Less accessories means less maintenance…on account of the absense of derailleurs and other gears…A reason why bikers go for single speed bikes in winter is because the drive chain of a single speed can endure wet muddy and gritty conditions, unlike normal geared bikes. If normal geared bikes have to go through this, their components, which are expensive will wear out. Which will lead to high maintenance activity and cost for the bike.