I’ve been riding on fixed gear bikes for a few years now. However, until recently I’ve never really embraced the style of riding fully. My fixie was basically ridden like a single speed road bike that can’t coast; since I’ve always run a front brake, I’ve never really committed to learning the entire skill set that goes into riding a bike that has a direct drivetrain. Until now.
My old school road bike that I’ve been riding as an urban utility bike is slowly being retired, and her place amongst my stable of bikes has been replaced by a newer model, a Lurker by Gran Royale Bikes/ Eastern. Fixed gear bikes are relatively inexpensive since there isn’t much to them, and I wanted to have a solid base to start with. (the offensive purple/ lavender color was just a bonus) Locking up the rear wheel on my vintage bike was resulting in cracking and popping noises, and I don’t think the vintage Campagnolo cranks were designed to launch off curbs and small ledges, much less the abuse I plan to dish out.
To my MTB riding friends that are concerned I’ve crossed over to the dark side in riding fixed gear bikes: get over it. I did. At least give it a try; otherwise you’re just talking smack about a riding experience you know nothing about. Take it from someone that has seen the light, and once thought as you did.
I’ll be the first to admit it — during my bike shop wrenching days in the northwest, when other guys were commuting in to the bike shop on their minimal stripped down road steeds, I didn’t quite get the appeal. At the time, I was all about big tires, and as much suspenion my bike could reasonably handle. Why would I want to pedal around town on skinny tires and not even be able to coast, much less bunny hop? I was far more excited about the stairs I would gap or double during my daily urban assault on the way to work. Sure, my DH bike made for a portly commuter bike at 44lbs, but being able to use a flight of stairs as a launch ramp for a no footer made it all worth it.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m on my 3rd or 4th road bike, and I’m all about speeding through town like hell on wheels. I could barely hop up curbs, but dang if I couldn’t get where I needed to be quickly. With 23c tires I’m averaging several miles an hour faster than 26″ wheels, and that made a big difference when the ride to work took up to an hour.
At some point though the single speeder in me took over, and the road machine was stripped down to a single cog in the rear. The reality was simple for me: I really don’t like riding on the road for long distances. I’m not that guy. I don’t like wearing a full spandex kit, and no matter how efficient it is, I can’t get over the aesthetics of it. In fact, the only time I’d rock it is on a group road ride with road racers, where I need every advantage just to keep up. For longer distances, I’d rather have a throttle. Some call it being an adrenaline junkie. I won’t disagree.
Adding the additional element of not being able to coast with a fixed rear cog makes riding on the road interesting to me again. I’m accustomed to sharing lanes with cars in an urban setting after being a motorcycle commuter, and darting through slow lanes on skinny tires is exciting stuff. If you haven’t tried it, you might be missing out. I used to think it was silly that fixed riders couldn’t just hop up a curb, and yet, now that I’ve fully embraced riding fixed, I’m finding that you can have flow in your urban experience, that can’t be had any other way.
Slowing down? A pain in the ass. Putting your foot down at the stop light? Seeing as how I’m still trying to figure out how to get my foot back into the foot straps, I’d rather keep my foot in. Bunny hopping up a curb? I’m still working on that one, although I’m starting to figure it out by watching fixed gear freestyle videos. The learning curve is strange, and I’m finding that I actually bunny hop better right foot forward instead of my usual left. (?)
I’m not sure whether I’m going to embrace the fixed gear freestyle movement yet, or just stick with the 700c wheels. One thing I do miss with the fixed bike is the ability to manual, and the thought of putting pegs on seems like a bad idea for a bike that feels this fragile. (I’m also starting to ride my BMX bike again, so I’m getting my fix there as well) I’m slowly starting to figure it all out though, and have even considered taking off my front brake; that’s true commitment there. Since I live at the top of a rather steep hill with an intersection at the bottom, I haven’t taken that step yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.