The other day I got an email from Byron asking about why “hipsters ride fixies with stub straight bars”, so I’ve been thinking about trends in fixed gear handlebars. Setting aside cultural relevance of the term “hipster” as either praise or pejorative, let me share a few perspectives.
Photo Credit: carltonreid
So, then…stub straight handlebars. Ostensibly, well cut-down straight handlebars allow a rider to pass in between cars and other obstacles, but anything narrower than your hips and shoulders is just style…and stupid. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t know any better, just follow what they see others doing, or never think about what their body does on the machine. I look at a rider on a fixie with a bar that is completely covered by the width of the hands, and I think wow, that person isn’t interested in being fast or efficient. It burns my eyes to see such a rider try to accelerate from a stop or climb a hill.
I am only a little more forgiving of riders who have super-deep track drops on a rakishly angled track stem and then mount a set of Oury grips next to the stem. When I see a bike like that, I have to assume that the rider pretty much rides like the guy with the stub bar. I mean, with the bend on a track bar, you can only grab it on the drops or next to the stem. Why go through all that trouble of getting NJS (as in certified for the Japanese professional track racing league) bars and stem so that the drops are so low that you can’t ride in that position? In contrast, a real Japanese pro track racer has grips at the drops only…as he rides fast on a velodrome and doesn’t need to scan 50M ahead all the time. Your average urban rider would be better off raising the bars to an uncool height so that he could get a strong, powerful position from the drops. Instead, he just rides along with his hands next to the stem so he can sit bolt upright. I mean, if he was leaning over, how would he see past the brim of his faux trucker’s hat? But at least Wannabe-san has the possibility of using the drops, unlike Mr Stubby in the previous paragraph.
Then there is the explosion of fixies with riser bars. Actually, I’m okay with this. The riser bar allows the rider to do a barspin while wheelie-ing (provided that the wheel won’t hit the down tube). Granted, it’s not the best position for out-and-out speed, but I can see the functionality of that set-up for tricks. And for casual riding, risers provide leverage and a comfortable position to see traffic. Granted, just because I know a handful of people who can do mindblowing tricks on fixies, that doesn’t mean that the majority of riser-riding fixie dudes have any trick abilities whatsoever. Yet, I say, let them aspire to coolness from cool moves rather than a cool look.
from Laali’s flickr page.