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Fixie backlash revisited?
26.11.08 by Buffalo Bill

fakenger riding one of those trendy fixed-speed track bicycles - Ottavio Bottechia climbs in the Pyrenees, 1924 Tour de France

An extraordinary, and ill-informed, rant by a correspondent in the Vanguard, Portland, about ‘fixed-speed’ bicycles, which includes some other grotesque errors and misrepresentations.

Fixed-speed bikes were designed to be used on a velodrome.

No, that’s a ‘track’ bike (velodromes are also called ‘tracks’). Track bikes have fixed-wheels, or fixed-gears, if you prefer, but not all fixies are track bikes. Before the invention of the free-wheel, all bikes had fixed-wheels. (Is it time for another debate over whether the correct term is ‘fixed-wheel’ or ‘fixed-gear’?) The first 20 or so winners of the world’s greatest bicycle race, the Tour de France, rode fixies. The Tour de France, in case you didn’t know, only used velodromes for the final kilometre of the last stage, if at all, and hasn’t been anywhere near a velodrome for the last 30 years. So that’s over 4000 km on a fixie on the open road. Confusingly for our correspondent, a race which still finishes on a velodrome, the Paris-Roubaix, is contested by riders on free-wheels. It’s not as easy as it seems, this cycling journalism, is it?

According to The Washington Post, most people who started the fixed-speed trend [sic] were bike messengers that got tired of their bikes breaking all the time, so they removed all the unnecessary parts. In other words, they did it for a practical purpose. That purpose is not applicable to the average rider; they use their bikes as a part of their job. Their bike is to them what a taxi is to cab driver. The average person riding a fixed speed is like driving a taxicab when you are not a cab driver.

Ah, it’s the old ‘only bicycle messengers (or cycle couriers, if you prefer) should ride fixies’ proposition, only with a taxi driver reference thrown in. When I was first on the road, most London cycle couriers (or bicycle messengers, if you prefer) rode mountain bikes, because mountain bikes were trendy then, not because they were inherently more suitable than any other kind of bike. Likewise, a lot of couriers ride track bikes now because they are trendy (by trendy, we mean that a lot of other people also ride track bikes), not because they are inherently more suitable.

Taxi drivers drive taxi-cabs because they are obliged to by law, which is in part to ensure the safety of their passengers. Perhaps Boris Johnson and his advisers are considering an ordinance that will oblige all bicycle messengers to ride a standard ‘courier-cycle’, and carry a ‘hackney cycle’ licence card in their spokes, but I somehow doubt it. Bicycle messengers don’t carry passengers, after all.

And the article finally over-steers into incoherence, whilst simultaneously misrepresenting Sheldon Brown as an anti-fixie crusader on grounds of safety.

Sheldon Brown, bike expert and author of Adventure Cyclist, lists several hazards of riding a fixed-speed bike, include hitting your pedal on a turn an issue [sic] because you have to pedal through a turn, catching a finger or shoelace in the sprocket or chain, and catching a finger in the sprocket when trying to fix the bike [sic].

I have several pairs of trousers that have holes in them, caused by the chain and chain-ring of a free-wheel equipped bike. I have also had some nasty experiences as the result of catching my trousers on bottle-cages. I don’t infer that bottle cages are dangerous from those experiences, merely that I need to be to careful to roll my trousers up, and take off the cages when I am riding in long trousers.

This article is rather silly, and it’s hard to see why anyone would waste their time writing it, but perhaps there is a clue as to the motivation of the writer in this line:

I can admit with my one experience in riding a fixed speed, I had a very difficult time stopping.

Ahh, diddums, did we get a nasty fright, and then feel foolish, did we?

  1. It’s the old track-bike-is-trendy-coz-of-couriers-not-fakengers argument again.hooray!


    — overdrive    26 November 2008, 10:24    #
  2. You calling me a fakenger, oldenger?


    — Bill    26 November 2008, 10:32    #
  3. get orf yer fixie-speed ya trendenger!!


    — overdrive    26 November 2008, 10:44    #
  4. Bigotenger.


    — Bill    26 November 2008, 10:56    #
  5. i love this man…“messengers should be the only people riding fixed”. what if you’re a rookie? should i have the company i work for give out lessons?


    j.dot    26 November 2008, 14:06    #
  6. When my great grandfather bought his first bike and took it home, my great, great grandfather broke the bike. Back then being a cyclist wasn’t a respected profession like a boxer for instance. He ended up leaving home and raced fixed wheel bikes on the road professionally in South Africa in the early 1900’s. It’s true what sheldon brown warns. I remember on my first fixie, cutting from southampton row to high holborn via the pavement. As i dropped off my crank arm and pedal hit the curb and threw me over the handlebars into oncoming traffic. I haven’t ever done that again.


    — Zack Speedfast    26 November 2008, 15:05    #
  7. Dont ride on the f*cking pavement then.Simple.


    — overdrive    26 November 2008, 15:18    #
  8. Look both ways when crossing the road, or in your case Overdrive, when going through a red light. Check mate.


    — Zack Speedfast    26 November 2008, 16:11    #
  9. maybe courierwise offer a course in fixed-wheel-gear—pedal-bike cycling?


    Dubmess    26 November 2008, 16:50    #
  10. @Zack
    When attaching a front brake to your bicycle,f*cking attach it so you dont go flying into the xmas shoppers on oxford st.
    ADVANTAGE overdrive!


    — overdrive    26 November 2008, 17:36    #
  11. ok, i rode a fixed for about 8 years off and on as a COURIER, and i didnt do all of the things that the journo said, but some of what he said i will completely agree with:
    i changed to fixed coz i started on an MTB and found myself little by little accumulation a nice box of parts that i had removed from it, that i didnt need. so i was on a single speed then switch it to a fixed in the winter coz i wasnt stopping quick enough in the rain and felt like i had much more control over my speed, it didnt have anything to do with being ‘trendy’
    i had crank bottom out (on a curb) cornering and went under a truck, and nearly took the whole end of my index finger off whilest cleaning my chain the ‘freewheel’ method, by grabbing the chain with a cloth and whizzing the chain and the back wheel using the cranks…………that fucking hurt AND i had to be ambulances to hospital coz i had gone through the artery and the bone.
    as you of all people should know Buff, it all comes years of trial and error and from years of experience, NOT just a few days


    — tipper    27 November 2008, 03:08    #
  12. I have to agree with tipper on this one. I first got one because pretty much everyone at metro was riding one though not many people were at that time and no one rode brakeless. Couriering destroys bikes but a fixie keeps working with little or no maintanece and is great in winter. Fakengers can buy pretty bikes but they can’t buy experience, ebay doesn’t sell that shit. I stole that quote from overdrive.


    — Zack Speedfast    27 November 2008, 11:31    #
  13. My buddy Pedro gave me his brakeless to work on as I wrote off my frame last week.I’ve noticed hipsters on brakeless bikes and the way they slow down.At the Roundabout one went past me and started lifting up the rear in order to stop the f*cking thing.Well, any decent rider would only do that as an emergency stop as it can ruin the bike.I thought it was so unnecessary.Same with the skidding.Marco the Legend said to me once that he never skids.I’ve been on a brakeless 3 days and skidded once!Fakengers take heed.


    — overdrive    27 November 2008, 14:46    #
  14. Twice. You left a huge skid mark in the dunny. Game, set and match Speedfast.


    — Zack Speedfast    27 November 2008, 18:37    #
  15. Girls, if you get some gears you can go fast like me. And stop pedalling at the same time! It’s the fucking future here already.


    _targetbot    27 November 2008, 19:52    #
  16. Roadie Scum


    — Zack Speedfast    27 November 2008, 20:12    #
  17. Targetbot you were right. I had to ride my road bike today and passed overboard so fast on his brakeless that i nearly blew him off his bike. I looked behind and he had gone as white as a ghost. He was pedalling backwards and shouting something about looking ahead and that there was a car pulling out 300 metres up the road.


    — Zack Speedfast    28 November 2008, 10:42    #
  18. I got to draw the line with fixies.Ive never seen such a bunch of lemmings in my life.It blows my mind to see such uniform “individualistic” poseurs as the fixie scene.Not since the preppie handbook have i seen such a trend jumping copycat lamos as fixies.Reocuring “individualistic” consistencies such as:skinny jeans just above the knees shorts, retro cycling caps,beards,emo hitler haircuts, bedhead conveniently sculpted disheveled hair, pictures stuck in the spokes,Aerospoke wheels(front wheel only),Messenger bags,bikes Mostly u-locked more than being ridden at the coffee shop.Vegan(organic),etc.. Not only are these unwritten fashion rules but also very fashion over function like tight jeans shorts( very uncomfortable I imagine).Messenger bags(totally useless since they always ride over your hip over to the side causing constant resituating with theback of your arm shoving it on to your back while trying to negotiate cars.never mind how the fact urban cycling demands brakes and gears to effectively out manouver cars and pedestrians. Hard as a rock yet highly coveted Brooks saddles.Do you idiots know how long it takes to break those in?!They’re still uncomfortable when broken in, never mind weighing a ton.Its funny how none of them well the lemming purists dont even use clipless pedals! They talk about a simpleminimalist asthetic but I dont know more of a more synergistic ride than with clipless pedals and shoes.Most diehard lemming fixies use very innefective toeclips. Yet they’ll never deny anyone how long they can do a trackstand at the traffic light…LAME. I was a bike messenger in Boston in the mid 80’s and they were a bunch of elitist crusty losers and now we have the fixie movement. A new generation of kids loose on the street that neither know how to handle such a machine nor know how to ride in coexistence with motorists.This is the fragile truce roadies/ commuters have developed over decades of city riding.Fixie poseurs are pissing off motorists left and right with their cooler than though slalom of idling cars, brakestanding, zig zag braking, trackstand posing, in front of moving cars.Someone has said more than once “hey if it means one less car” or “strength in numbers” yet alienating and promoting road rage with motorists then I say I can do without these pretentious pansy poseurs.


    — sully    12 August 2009, 22:37    #
  19. Errr. This post is about 2 years too late.


    — Bill    13 August 2009, 07:38    #
  20. Hahahaha!It’s never tool-ate.


    — overdrive    13 August 2009, 09:58    #
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