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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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'Fixies' spread beyond the bike-crazy demographic

By Lukas Brinkerhoff

May 8, 2008 | LOGAN -- There are two wheels spray painted yellow. The frame is a chrome-finished color with the handlebars extruding up and away from the frame. It looks more like a normal bicycle than it doesn't, but if you look closely at Lance Peterson's form of transportation there are some subtle differences. There are no brakes and the chain is fixed to the rear wheel. Peterson, a local cyclist, rides a "fixie."

Peterson says he can easily come to a skidding halt without the aid of hand brakes. With the chain being directly connected to the rear wheel and no way to coast, a "fixie" can be stopped by using pedal forces to stop the wheel. "I just shift my weight a little and push down on the upstroke," explains Peterson. It's as simple as that.

Fixed-gear bicycles, or velodrome track modified bikes known as fixies, have gained popularity all over the country. The New York Times featured an article, written by Jocko Weyland, that read, "They are fast gaining popularity, not just in those bastions of trend followers, and not just among 22-year-olds. Fixed-gear bikes are being ridden all over New York, by messengers, racers, lawyers, accountants and college professors -- a diverse and not necessarily youthful cross section of the city's population."

The St. Petersburg Times in Florida reported on the trend as well: "Fixed-gear bikes began to attract more mainstream attention about six years ago when manufacturers started making cheaper track bikes." Since then the trend has spread from New York to Portland, ended up in Florida and resonated all the way across the country, dropping fixie aficionados in all parts, including Logan.

Peterson has been riding fixed for "1.3 years." He says, "I put one foot on the ground and one foot on the pedal and it was magic from there."

Many fixie riders refer to a Zen-like quality of riding a fixed gear bike. The St. Petersburg Times said, "You really feel connected to the bike, which makes you feel connected with the road. It's a whole different experience."

This idea of having a "whole different experience" on a bike has turned what once was a fringe riding style into the latest fad. The trend has thousands of websites that cover every aspect of the ride. From Fixedgeargallery.com where fixie riders post the latest pictures of their bikes to BikesnobNYC.blogspot.com who maliciously teases and pokes fun at the trend, whether you like the idea of fixies or hate the trend there is a website for you.

One of the reasons the trend has been so successful is the ease of entry. People who would like to ride a bike but are impeded by the high-dollar price tag are drawn in by being able to build a bike on the cheap.

Another local fixie rider, Cole Gibbons, explains the "How" and "Why" he rides a fixed gear bike, "How--I bought a 1981 Schwinn Varsity from my neighbor that he had chained to his railing last year. I had my eye on it for a year. After converting it, it was a matter of baby steps to learn to ride. Why--A couple of guys I raced with on the USU Cycling Team had old conversions (one fixed and one freewheel). After playing around on theirs a bit, I decided a fixed gear conversion would be a good way to have fun while getting from point A to point B. Plus, I wouldn't be so nervous about leaving it chained up somewhere."

Gibbons used the parts already on the Schwinn to build up his first fixie, mostly by stripping the excess parts off of the bike. This enables 20-somethings the ability to buy an old road bike and convert it. Most of the parts that are on a regular bicycle can be taken off and aren't needed, the only thing that needs to be purchased after the original bike is a cog to fix the rear wheel to the chain and you are ready go.

The trend has gained more momentum as these first-time-on-the-cheap riders sell their first bikes to friends, just as Gibbons has done. He is now riding his second fixie conversion, he has upgraded from the Varsity. He says he is now riding a 1990 Schwinn Paramount and sold his older bike to a friend who is now riding fixed as well.

In March, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reported the fabled high-end road company Serotta had hired a new man as part of their management team. When asked about his stable of steeds, he mentioned a fixed-gear bike. The trend has reached the upper echelon of cycling culture. This can be seen as a good or bad, the writer of BikesnobNYC, whose identity is secret, claims it is a sign of the coming of the end of the trend, the "Fixed-gear Apocalypse" as he likes to call it.

As in all underground trends that find themselves in the mainstream, those who have been riding fixed tend to look down on those who don't. Both local riders see things in different light. Peterson says it doesn't bother him to see others riding fixies, "I love it when I see people on bikes no matter what kind. One less car!" Gibbons echoed his sentiment.

This idea of using the bicycle as a form of transportation instead of a toy has fueled the fixie trend. Both Gibbons and Peterson mentioned getting out of their cars as a reason to ride their bikes and both use it as their main form of transportation around town.

As gas prices continue to stretch the economy and push everyday prices higher, the trend of fixies could be the next big alternative mode of transportation, which would place the "Fixed-gear Apocalypse" prophecy up there with Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and other predictions that never came about.

Fixies combine simple bicycles with gas and pollution independence to form what many see as a perfect way to get around town. As Peterson put it, "I love the thrill of navigating through our city streets without polluting our lovely earth."

MS
MS

Copyright 1997-2008 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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