Why I ride fixed

“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.



6 Comments

Cheers Dave!  Based on this, I’d say we’ve got a lot in common.  I really only ride to commute.  I got myself on a fixie one day, and can’t go back.  I feel like I am going more slowly on a geared bike now. 

Nice post.

Thanks Eddie! Much appreciated.
Wouldn’t you know it that the day I post this I get smoked on the way home… not once, not twice… 3 times by 5 different riders. Ah hubris…

I have to admit I was one of those “fixie” skeptics, but after reading this posting… it does make more sense.  Exercise does a body good.

funny, but i switched to a single-speeder partly to slow myself down!  it’s geared 40x17, which is low enough to to work on smoothing my pedal stroke and high enough to hopefully improve my out-of-saddle climbing (and “put some meat on them bones”).  incidentally, it’s also low enough to draw gentle ridicule from a shop wrench. 

anyway, as for speed, on the flats, i end up spinning out (at least now) before i hit “impolite speeds” on the burke-gilman.  i consider it my small contribution to civility on the trails, at least ‘til it’s only the year-‘round commuting crowd that’s left out there in a couple months. (: i’m building a new flip-flop wheel for the bike now, so maybe i’ll finally try riding fixed next!

enjoying the blog, as always.  keep it up, and happy trails…

Just make sure you have a comfortable saddle.  My 20mi commute on a fixed gear can cause “issues”. 

I retired my old winter training fixed gear, but am building a new one.  I used to run 42-17 (I live on a hill), but will go 44-17 this year and just slog it out.  I think they are great as a training tool and certainly make for some fun variety.  I don’t think I could handle EVERY DAY.

I run brooks on both my fixed bikes, an old Team Pro on the surly (I’m the guy w/ the yellow fenders—say hi!), and a squeaky Champion Flyer on the dahon. (I’m the guy with the squeaky folder—say hi!). More about that on the front page later.

I’m sure I’d have issues too if I was in the saddle an hour a day 1 way.

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