Friday, October 9, 2015

#WhyAFixie: Things to do With a Fixed Gear Bike, Part I



Let me be clear: I did not cut up the fixed gear bike I made and weld it into a tape dispenser. That statement may not be accurate next week, but moving on.

As you know I’ve given fixies and the fixed gear bike culture a gentle ribbing from afar over the years but then I thought: why mock something I don’t understand when I can just take a little time to use a fixie…and possibly find so many more valid reasons to make fun of fixed gear bikes - if not the culture that seems to go with them. 


When I started that first ride (after making sure the rear wheel was on tight) everything  was running quite nicely. I felt as though I was pedaling in just the right rhythm. I enjoyed the quiet since there was no rattle of the chain working through the rear derailleur. With the relative silence I could hear birds singing and wind rustling through the trees. As I picked up a little speed, I felt peaceful.

Then I tried to stop.

Now I don’t mean stop in the red traffic light sense - I tried to stop pedaling. But, being a fixie, my legs kept moving. Yes, you don’t hear that clickclickclickclickclick sound on a freewheel when you’re riding a fixed gear but that comes at a heavy cost. Namely: if you’re riding a fixie and decide you want to coast, you become the intimate partner who has forgotten the safe word facing the wrong end of a whip. 


The thing I made - even at low speeds - just wants to keep going. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s voiceover in Premium Rush was right. Not built on a small frame, my fixie feels like a big dog constantly pulling the leash in the direction it wants to go.

And I can only shake my head at the thought of people riding these things without handbrakes - and quite a few do. I was going to made a video of me trying to stop without the brakes but couldn’t find any clothes I’d feel comfortable going viral in. 


I became convinced the beard trend is somehow connected to fixies so riders would have something to cushion their faces in a fall. 

I also began to put pieces together in my head of the times I was a pedestrian in New York City: sometimes, when I’d have a ‘walk’ signal, I’d take a step off the curb only to pause while a brakeless fixie zipped by close enough to make my nosehair rustle. 


Even when riding back and forth to Good Karma Bikes I could feel myself reacting differently at yellow traffic lights. Yes, stopping a fixie is a chore because of its design and starting it back up again isn’t a walk in the park, either - especially if you have a 52 tooth cog in the front and a 16 tooth gear in the back. 

We can come back to that later.


True to my word, I used the fixie for everything the last couple of weeks. Adding my homemade bike trailer I was able to make a Goodwill run and even come back with one of those foldable bookcases (more on what I will do with it later).


I’m still riding the fixie and will finish up this series on fixed gear bikes next week, so if you are a dedicated fixie user and know why please log onto twitter and tweet your reason to #WhyAFixie and I’ll share some of the most entertaining responses next week.

And don’t forget: if you live in the Bay Area and need a bike for Viva CalleSJ this coming Sunday, visit Good Karma Bikes; they are open today (Friday) from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, tomorrow from 10:00am to 5:00pm and on Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00pm. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Follow me on Twitter at @michaelknorris  

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