Half Bake Idea, Ride Bikes

Anthony Mangieri rides a single speed mountain bike and bakes some of the best pizza in the world. His words not mine. I’ve never tasted his pizza.

He draws a tenuous relationship between riding a single speed and making pizza. It’s something to do with commitment and…I dunno…the fact that pizza bases are round and wheels are round too?

I take the piss because that’s my nature. But I kinda agree with him. There is something about the pursuit of single speeds and fixies that does represent desirable human values. In this age when everyone knows a little bit about everything (or at least how to Google it) it’s nice to see true connoisseurship. Anthony has dedicated himself to 27 years of making pizza and in doing so has tried to perfect the pizza. He’s tried to see into the pizza and realize something in that object that we don’t see, then extract that and create that for us to share.

Sure you have to be half crazy to devote so much of your life to such a singular activity. I spend about 30 minutes on a Friday night making pizza and for me that’s my pizza goals realized. And at no point have I considered a life with pizza outside those boundaries. Maybe I’ve thought about building one of those pizza ovens in my garden that get used twice a year. But I haven’t thought seriously about it. But Anthony has. Anthony has given himself to the pursuit of baking bread with cheese, tomato and basil in such a way that he considers better than everyone else’.

So where does a single speed fit into this? Well to me it has something to do with the limitations we impose upon ourselves. The more we define our limits the more we can explore within those limits. The more definitive are those limits the more we find within those limitations things that are profound and unseen by others.  We can develop connoisseurship and a connection that doesn’t exist in our attachment to other devices and recreations.

For many it is the connection to their bicycle that they love most about cycling. (It certainly isn’t the headwinds.) These cyclists aren’t cat 1 racers but by removing the gears (and perhaps going fixed) they find something that connects them more intrinsically to this inanimate device, something that gives it personality, connection and purpose.

I envy Anthony and his single-minded pursuit of excellence in something so humble. I work in IT where I’m expected to know everything about everything. And to be honest there’s a bunch of stuff I just don’t care about. Like smart watches. Or gaming. Or downloading torrents. Or pretty much anything with the prefix i in front of it. I’d love to have a passion that was as consuming as his, and as specialized, in which I could dwell on my years of experience and unparalleled insights. Oh, and I’d love it to pay well too.

It’s kind of ironic really. I have such limited and naive knowledge about single speeds and fixies. And yet I devote so much of my time to writing about them and thinking about them. I’m wonderfully unconcerned by the things I don’t know. My thing is to enjoy what they are and worry less about how they became to be that. I’ve never weighed anything. I hardly ever quantify. I’m frequently contradicting myself. And I’m frequently wrong. I have an assumed connoisseurship because the act of writing about stuff sometimes infers a level of authority. But to be honest what I love most about single speeds is that their simplicity means you don’t need to compute, quantify and objectify. It’s about the feeling, the passion and connection. Not about the sum of the parts. In that respect I think Michael and I (and those who love their single speeds and fixies) have a lot in common.

Or maybe I just don’t have it in me, this pursuit of excellence thing.

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