Saturday, June 16, 2007

What is it with fixed gears?

A reader asks, "Question. What is the point of fixed gear bikes? I'd think that they would be kind of a bummer. I had a fixed gear as a kid, and remember alot of walking up hills and out of control downhill chaos. For me, the gears were a lovely perk of being a grownup. "

Fixed gears are about purity, simplicity and noble suffering. Like stanky cheese, dark beer, sea urchin and sadomasochism, they're not for everyone. But if you discover they're for you, nothing else will do.

I do like my bikes with "speeds." But a well-geared fixie can feel lighter and more agile than you would expect it to be. Take a bunch of parts off of even a cheap bike and it suddenly weighs a whole lot less than it used to. Strip down something that was light to start with and you have a personal rocket that responds to your leg muscles' every twitch.


Gordy said...

I don't know either what it is. But I bought one, and am way more into it than I would have guessed. Seriously! I bought a fixed gear and then next thing I knew it was the bike I rode everywhere. It was something new to master; braking through back pressure, practicing trackstands in toe clips, climbing when there is no bailout, planning curves without pedal strike, and everything else that goes with. And then the simplicity of the easy to maintain drivetrain. I've got to admit, I was convinced. Its just good fun, and not for everyone I guess.

Ben said...

damn right, beeyotch.

Anonymous said...

fixt rigs are good for trainin'. cadence improves, handling improves, etc, speed, power, etc. also, when you ride one you instantly get cool-kid status, just like when you bought a white leather belt last year.

Anonymous said...

I set up a fixie two years ago, and even though I don't ride it as much as my geared bikes, when I am on those geared bikes, i don't coast anymore, I spin, all the time. It has made my riding much better and I don't think I could have done it without spending the time on the fixie where i had to spin.

Unknown said...

There's a certain torque improvement that goes with a full stroke, since our legs work better with moderate and forceful actions than quick ones (how much high end torque do you get while hamsterwheeling down a flat street?)

There's that, even if it's only marginal. You also generally have to learn to track-stand since it's a PITA to get your feet back in the stirs for each traffic light. So, balance improves quite a bit. There's the sheer joy of skidding down a loose gravel hill or in the snow--hard to overcome unless you're going to go back to BMX-style bikes, which are just not practical for long rides. And yes, the bare-bones aspect of the machinery makes fixies the modern urban cycling equivalent of a chopped-down Harley.

Since you have to pedal backwards on downhills and harder than most on inclines your legs turn into tree trunks pretty quick.

Finally, there's something to be said about laying on some torque and blowing past someone on a $2,400 bike and hearing them click-click-click as they try to shift and catch up. If you want to go faster, you just pedal faster.

God, I love my fixed gear.