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
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,
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
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."