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27/10/2010 // INFO 6 Comments

The future of the fixed gear fad

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The Foot Down

This is the blog you’ve been waiting for… Ty from The Foot Down, the best cycling blog in Wales, gives his insight into the Fixie scene. You should check out his website for more articles, vitriol and interesting points of view. You might not always agree with him but you’ll always get some thing worth reading!

About 3 years ago one of the local skaters got this new bike, word on the street was that they were all the rage in San Francisco. The thing had no brakes and was made from the parts of an old drop handlebar, we told him he was mad but within a year a couple of other guys had built a ‘fixie’ too, me included.

I had got sick of skating like a madman trying to catch up with the dudes on their bikes, they’d already be skating a spot before I got there and then when it was time to leave it was the same old story. I planned on building my fixed gear on a budget of 30 quid by the weekend, it ended up costing me £300 and took over a month to complete. On Christmas Day 2008 I hung my new old frame from my mothers washing line (hers is better than mine) and clear coated it, I only waited a couple of hours before building it up and heading to the cemetery to learn to ride the thing. My thinking was that the bike would probably put me six feet under the ground so where better place to start? I couldn’t skid, I couldn’t even slow it down because the gearing was so high, my saddle was way too low and my bars were waaaay too wide but I loved it!

Until that day I’d never even ridden a fixed gear bike, I declined offers to try my friends because I wanted it to be a surprise when my own was ready and what a surprise it was. If you’ve ever ridden one you’ll know what I mean, if you haven’t then you need to know that it’s not like a freewheel at all, at first the pedals force you around, your bum bounces up and down uncontrollably and going down even a small hill is terrifying but the fun factor is out of this world and you soon learn how to tame the beast. On a ‘normal’ bike you go in a line, if the line goes up you have a gear for that, if the line goes down then you have a gear for that too, on a fixed gear when the going gets tough the sweat starts pouring down your face and when the time comes to descend a hill you need to spin your legs like a cartoon bird being chased by a particularly stupid wolf or accept the inevitable consequence of being flung like a ragdoll over the handlebars.

Skateboarding has been through its fad periods, the current one started in about 1997 (and is still going, what?!?) but there had been a couple before that. Nearly 40 years after the first real skateboarding boom it seems to have finally penetrated the mainstream and is here to stay for the foreseeable future but fixed gear bikes are currently caught up in a kind of mid-80′s neon shorts and long socks skate fad style nightmare, everyone and their dog wants a fixie in their commercial and celebrities the world over want a brakeless deathtrap to push down the street.

In the two short years that I’ve been riding a fixed gear bike I’ve seen a lot change, firstly there is the proliferation of people riding them, even in Swansea we are starting to see new riders every month, In London they are everywhere, you can’t walk down a single street without spotting someone partaking in a bit of the latest fad, oftentimes wearing a pair of brogues and a shooting jacket (saaay whaaaaat?) or some other totally inappropriate attire. Secondly there is the rapidly developing fixed gear freestyle scene, two years ago people were doing wheelies, backward circles and keo spins, now those same people are pushing boundaries by developing new tough components to withstand the, frankly, crazy stuff they are doing. There are guys out there now that are jumping their beefed up fixies off roofs and over gaps that you’d normally only see really good BMXers doing.

With fads come hugely increased numbers of people taking part in a particular activity and with these extra people inevitably come more innovators and more innovators means rapid progression of the scene. Fixed gear freestyle is clearly where the future lies for these bikes in the long term, of course there will always be the die hard old skool riders that like to bomb hills and play in traffic but the hardcore guys will go on to be the new Tony Hawks and Matt Hoffmans one day. Who knows, 40 years from now there may even be a fixed gear virtual reality computer game. For most of the people riding fixed now though it will all come to an abrupt end at some point, probably not too long from now. They will just go back to riding their mountain bike a couple of times in the summer and their ‘fixie’ will end up on eBay or this very site and people like me will be able to buy up all the sweet parts for peanuts.

The fixed gear bike was here at the very start, long before the freewheel and it will still be here a long time from now, yes they are a high street fad in 2010 but there is also a strong counterculture forming. For many people a fixed gear is a simple lifestyle accessory but for some of us it is simply a way of life.

6 comments [leave one]
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  • The girl from Clapham October 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Counterculture – eh??? Its a bike.

    Reply

  • Pete October 28, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Then the aging skateboarders saw sense, picked up their skateboards again and never spoke of that awkward ‘experimental Fixie phase.’ They lived happily ever-after re-engaged in an obviously more hardcore, stylish and sensible past-time that is skateboarding. Believe it or not, they breathed a new hope into their long-term knee health and were welcomed back at the skatepark. Meanwhile, they look cooler getting to the beach, even with the pot-bellies and beards and word on the street is, the BMXers finally stopped laughing at them.

    Alas, there are many places old skateboarders can go to die and surfing and vintage motorcycle temptations lurk on every corner but at this point, the boys seem pretty dedicated to staying clean.

    As for the fixed-gear riders who were never tough enough to skate in the first place- well, it is Cyclo-cross season…

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  • william February 11, 2011 at 1:47 am

    no beef but it seems like these type of articles are people trying to prove that they were into fixed gear bikes before it was cool. Just a way of distancing themselves from the hipster tag.

    Reply

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