“So you can’t coast on that?” The question comes up pretty often. My bike is usually out in front of my desk and folks catch on pretty quick that there’s something odd about it. No shifters, no corncob, no derailleurs. The question comes up after the explanation, and it almost always boils down to “why?”. I know it’s been said before many times, many ways – here’s my go…
I’m trying to be less of a man. I’ll admit it, I’m more of a man than I’d like to be. Twenty pounds less would be a good start. Commuting is part of my fitness regiment (something no *ov rider can say), and I ride fixed to make sure I get the most out of my commute. Cycling is a fantastic sport which creates incredible athletes, but for those of us schlubs who aren’t in it to win it there are just too many opportunities to coast. Even when I ride freewheel bikes I get all sweaty, so let’s just go whole hog and pedal the whole way to work, eh? One of the biggest jaw-droppers for folks is not the no-coasting thing but the single-gear thing. I’ll definitely loose out to the gal who’s can shift down to climb the tall ones (and I have). To my mind, mashing the pedals to get to the top is a special kind of locomotive resistance training. My only other option is to swallow my pride, climb off, and push it and that’s pretty good incentive even for me.
Fast I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but I’m fast on my fixed bikes. I’m not top-speed fast, and I’m certainly not race fast, but I can really move along on my bike and I almost never have to set my mind to it. Part of it is that I’m used to keeping the pressure on. On a fixie if you™re not keeping up with the bike you’re slowing it down and so the habit of at least keeping pace grows. I also have a very good feel for just how hard I’m pushing, and how much more I’ve got to give when the next hill comes along. I also think it’s just a lot less fucking around. I’m never waiting for the chain to re-engage on the right sprocket or shifting down, I’m not winding the cranks back around for a good start, etc.
Silent and Stylish This is probably my favorite part – there’s almost no noise from my bike. When my chain’s cleaned up the loudest noise coming from my ride is the sound of my tires on the road. Cycling’s often described as flying like a bird, and I just can’t imagine birds creaking and crunching through the sky like some of the bikes I hear.
There’s no doubt that the clean appearance of fixed bikes is a big draw for lots of folks, me too. But fixie style goes way past the clean appearance. I’d go so far to say that it’s an anti-gear aesthetic, although the fixie hipsters are putting a lot more attention into the gear on their bikes than a lot of my fellow commuters (check out those pink deep-v rims why don’t cha!). Something about winnowing your bike down to real core elements and using them well. I’m far from a fixie hipster, but I do hope a teeny tiny bit of fixie charm rubs off on me. I could use it.
Not all my rides are fixed, mind you. I can’t see any reason to punish myself with a cargo bike that can’t go up hills or coast down them. And a quick run around the South of Seatac mountain bike course was all it took to convince me of the wisdom of bringing gears and a freewheel. But, for my money, nothing’s quite as satisfying as flying home on my fixed bike.