San Francisco is not a particularly fashion conscious kinda town, like a London or NYC. And the California slacker motif just doesn't cut it for this New Yorker. But it does have way cool bikes! Mountain bikes, racing bikes, commuter bikes and cool ass single speeds. What's so cool about single speed bikes? First, a lot of 'em don't have brakes- you read that ever so rightly. Which means if you wanna stop, you slow up the pedals (given you have enough time), slow the back wheel by reaching back and applying friction with your shoe sole (requires particular speed, agility and balance), or just plain crash. Having one speed is fine if you live where it's flat, San Francisco- anything but. All this means that you rarely see anyone but twenty year olds atop these particular steeds, those athletic and crazy enough to actually attempt such an alternative life style.
The really cool thing about single speeds however, is simply how they look. Aesthetic purity on wheels- clean, graceful lines with no extra anything! Man and machine as one.
Fortunately, some do come with hand brakes- but I'm happy with as many speeds as I can get in this horizontally challenged mecca. My half century legs may not get many admiring glances, but they still get me up the hill (with camera in tow).