Seven years ago, Steve Martin bought himself a bike as a personal reward for giving up smoking. This past weekend, he received another reward when he was named the Ontario Cup single-speed champion.
The Hawkesville native beat 20 other competitors to take the prize, and finished a mere three points behind 17-year-old Davis Ross for first in the overall standings. Competitors receive 25-points for a first place finish, 22 for second, and 20 for third, with their best five finishes counted.
But kicking his smoking habit wasn’t the only major life-change that got him where he is today.
“About three years ago I decided to start biking to work,” Martin said. “I ended up losing about 50 pounds, just from biking to work and changing my diet.”
And when you lose that much weight, you gain a lot of speed, he noted.
The Toronto-based lawyer is relatively new to the Ontario Cup circuit, and this was only his first season racing in the single-speed bike class. The bikes are exactly what their name implies – bikes with no gears.
And a bike with no gears provides Martin with a certain visceral freedom that he loves.
“There’s just a simplicity to it,” he explains. “You don’t have to fuss or think about changing gears or tuning your bike to make the gears work.”
He adds that single-speed racers can hold their own against traditional racers, and their gears.
“It’s almost like people have a gene or a virus,” he jokes. “We go just as fast as the guys who have gears. You can get a lighter bike, and cheaper.”
Another unique feature of the single-speed class is that anyone can enter – there are no age restrictions.
“There were four of us doing very well [all season],” said Martin. “The oldest guy was born in 1962, me – the next oldest – 1972, the next oldest 1982, and finally 1993. I think I was old enough to be that kid’s father.”
The race was the last of the season for the single-speed class, but Martin isn’t done there. He is taking part in a 24-hour relay race this weekend with his cycling club, The Lap Dogs, and he hasn’t ruled out racing in the fall either.
“Family and work may need to take precedent over racing for the next while, though,” he said.