html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: That's Sage, track standing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

That's Sage, track standing.

I think I’ve told you before that I have cool friends. Because they do lots of stuff, some of them lead the edge on trends by years. Burning Man, parkour, knitting, Giant Robot magazine? My early adopter friends thought they were great long before they were popular. Normally this doesn’t pose a problem. I am placidly me, and I happily feed them and they tell me about the neat things they do. Most of it holds no appeal for me, so I don’t think about them again until I read in SFGate that all the cool kids are dragon boating now.

I meet people through Ultimate mostly, and not all of them are my age. Since I’m single and my time is my own, I end up socializing with the other people with lots of time. This year I’m hanging out with Ali, Sage, Grady and Nisha. Who are, you know, barely twenty-two. They’re great. I love that they always want to do things. If a question starts with “Do you want to…” they shout yes and jump up to start. I love that. Go to the river? Make cheesecake from scratch? Go to the new Mormon Temple? Do anything? Yeah! Fun! I’m not that way as much as I want, but I love being around people who are.

But here’s my dilemma. Ali and Sage have fixed-gear bicycles and I kinda want one. Well, I want one. But fixed-gear bicycles are for macho bike messengers or effortlessly cool people in their early twenties. I am neither. If I get a fixed-gear bike now, am I just imitating my younger, cooler friends? That makes me a poser, right? Can I argue that a fixed-gear bike fits in with my general avoidance of technology? Or point out that I never change the gears on my regular bike ever? Is it better or worse if I build my own bike? Is there something to be said for doing something I want despite knowing that it makes me a poser? Should I compromise and get myself a single gear bike?


Blogger Dubin said...

Ok, I will answer all your questions regarding your own motivations after you answer this basic one: why do you want the fixed gear?

5:38 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Because I never shift gears anyway, and it seems like it would be neat to be more aware of how the road is moving the bike.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I can't see the appeal in a fixed gear bike. A freewheel is nice. It just wouldn't make for a very useful bike. You won't be able to ride long distances on it. It wouldn't make for a good off road bike.

But, then, if it's fun for some reason, why not get one? It's not like you can't afford it, right?

Of course, I find this a lot cooler


Look how pretty those guys are.

And, you get to wear cute biking clothes with them


6:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I can afford it with all my new no-car money. I can't wait for gas to reach $5/gallon.

If I get another bike, I'll have three. Is that too many?

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Becks said...

Did you go to the Mormon Temple? What did you think? I went to the one in NYC when it was open to the public and was very disappointed. I expect places of worship to have awe-inspiring frescos and stained glass and mosaics but the NYC temple was about as impressive as a Marriott.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Ian D-B said...

anonymous, I think you're totally wrong here. I've ridden long distances on my fixie, and I know a lot of other people who also have. Off road, you're right, it would be a problem, but that's true of any road bike.

The upside, as I'm sure you already know, is there's little maintenance to be done. I also think that, paradoxically, it makes me a safer rider. Since I don't use a hand brake, I'm forced to look far ahead of myself and pay attention all the time (I've been hit twice on geared bikes, and never on my fixie, and I ride in much more dangerous situations on my fixie). Also, if you ride a lot, I'm sure you've had the experience of slamming on the brakes and thinking, "hmm, I wonder if I'll stop before I hit this bus." Without a hand brake, your first reaction is to try to ride your way out of trouble.

Moreover, you have really good control of your speed all the time. When you're in traffic, you feel much more connected to the bike and in control of it.

Last, it makes you a much better rider otherwise. Your cadence gets much smoother, and your legs get used to pedaling constantly.

I say go for it. There are so many reasons to get one other than the fact that they're trendy (and if you're that concerned about the trend, you missed it by 5 or 10 years anyway -- now having a fixie doesn't make you a poser, it just makes you a yuppie).

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand it, fixed gear bikes also have no brakes, which would be a much larger concern for me.

Can you safely ride a bike without brakes?

-- Ennis who forgot his #$%@ blogger password

8:57 PM  
Anonymous ian d-b said...

I ride my fixie without a hand brake, but lots of people put a front brake on their bike (the front one gives you most of your stopping power). For one worried about looking like a poser, it might be a bad move to have a hand brake. Though if you *really* want to look like a messenger, you should get a hand brake and 6 inch handle bars (they're less likely to get caught on stuff).

9:29 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Why not fixify one of the two bikes you have now? You can always defix it later.

I learned to ride on a fixie. I didn't realize that I was so far ahead of the trend (1973), it just was what Schwinn made in hand-me-down midget bikes for five year olds with cheap parents. Two things I remember about it: You could pedal it backwards and impress your friends and if you got going too fast downhill, the pedals outstriped the feet and you'd do well to hold your legs out of the thresher until the bike ran out of gravity.

Oh... and if you get your bell bottoms caught in the sprocket you have to roll over on your back and pedal out of it. Keep that in mind if you're going to go on that clothes shopping spree, too.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got 2 bikes now, my old Trek 2300 road bike, and my much newer Trek fuel 90 mountain bike. I've been considering getting a newer road bike, but I don't think I could give up my old road bike, I put 1000s and 1000s of miles on it. So that would bring me to 3 bikes. Space is the issue with that. But, whatever. Hobbies are good for you. Though, I still don't see the attraction of a fixed gear bike, it seems non-rider friendly, more like a toy than something useful for really getting around, or for serious distance type biking.


10:45 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

Why not try it? I won't guess whether fixie riding will give you that visceral "weeeeeee" feeling, but you can find out pretty easily by converting a bike.

I've converted two bikes, and both conversions were incredibly easy (despite being on bikes with vertical dropouts).

The first conversion was just a single speed (non-fixed) mountain bike. The only parts needed were spacers for the freehub (from old cassettes). Cost about $3 and the whole thing took about 75 minutes.

It was a mountain bike for riding in snow and mud, which gunk up the jocky wheels of geared bikes. That worked incredibly well and added months to my mountain biking season. Not your purpose... but going single speed on your current hub is incredibly easy.

The second conversion was to a fixxie road bike. Getting that chainline tight and straight was a little tricky, but still a fun little project. The biggest cost is a rear wheel, which you can sell if you don't like it.

I enjoyed the novelty for a year or two, and then converted it back to gears.

I'm not convinced about the claims of lower maintenance, more efficient, better braking, etc.

but if it feels good and puts a smile on your face, nothing else matters.

Your fixie riding friends would probably love to help you put it together.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous justus said...

Fixed gear bikes are totally for disaffected bikers who, despite years of proselytizing, are actually dismayed that biking is becoming more popular and thus should be shunned by normal people; according to my Boston area biking nazi friends that rode for college teams.

Of course, they also tell me that no one really needs more than two bikes but they all have like 10 so I don't know how trustworthy they are.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't imagine it will give better braking, any bike will let you lock the wheels with the brakes. The problem is, you get the most braking power while your wheels are still rolling, you don't want to lock them and start sliding. You have a mechanical advantage over the wheel with brake pressure, more so than trying to control the speed with the cranks.


9:27 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I've asked two people if I can get a fixed-gear (both commenters! Whom I've met! I AM too real.) and got exactly the same response both time. Pause, breath, then: "No. Too pretentious." Pete clarified that I could have one after I started a local bike collective, which cracked me up, 'cause that's where Sage spends all his time. Ali's gonna let me try hers out, which I think is a good plan.

We DID go to the Mormon Temple this week. The Hilton is a really good comparison. Our guide says that he thought the Celestial Room was like a piece of heaven, and I was really happy for him that he has such an accessible view of paradise. As we were walking out, Margie muttered "There's got to be a basement." I agreed, 'cause we didn't see anywhere you could have mad orgies, or sacrifice babies, or grow your own, or do the mysterious things cult-people do.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

My friend Simon has a fixed gear. I'd never heard of such a thing, but after learning all about it, I immediately thought Sac would be a GREAT city to own one. (Being so flat.) But Simon says once you get good on it, and when you get the gear ratio which is right for you, you can totally attack hills since the bike is so light!

When Simon moved to DC he put a front brake on his, but riding is really dangerous here. LOTS of drinking, and from the way cars careen around, I think there's a lot of drinking and driving! Yikes!

2:17 PM  
Anonymous dan said...


You're probably right that two hand brakes work better than any common fixie setup.

Fixie devotees say fixies brake better because

1) You have a better feel for your rear wheel, so you can keep it rolling instead of locking it up
2) You can skip stop, a technique of hopping onto a locked rear wheel that's supposedly god's gift to deceleration.

I'm not convinced, but I'm happy they've found a stopping technique that they like.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

If you get a fixed gear, then I won't be able to make fun of fixed-gear wingnuts around you anymore, if you ARE one. Although I probably will anyway.

Here's my opinion: ride your bike that you have and continue to not change gears. If you want to try the fixed out, try on someone else's for a while, I'm sure they would let you... but do it in the parking lot at Target in the middle of the night when no one's there, kind of like when your Dad taught you how to drive stick.

The idea of being safer with no breaks because you're forced to think ahead and therefore you're more aware - I think that might be valid reasoning for a very small group of people. And for the rest of us, it's dangerous.

Can someone make sure I understand the no free-wheel concept? This means that if you want to go down a hill, you have to take your feet off the pedals and stick them out to the side, right? I think that's how Andrew Nystrom broke his leg back in the day...

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Ian D-B said...

Here's the real question. If somebody told you riding a fixie was lame, would that stop you from getting one? If yes, then your friend is probably right, and it'd be pretentious to get the bike. Otherwise, just build yourself one. It'll be fun.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

>Fixed gear bikes are totally
>for disaffected bikers who,
>despite years of proselytizing,
>are actually dismayed that
>biking is becoming more popular
>and thus should be shunned by
>normal people.

By the way, I heart Justus. I still am part of the Macneil Alliance, and I still "choose" Dan, but right now Justus is my man (or woman).

I also think it's funny how relevant that comment is to Amanda's recent blog entry. Amanda has like 10 bikes or 19, and she will read this and think I'm making fun of her for hating on Lance, which I am. But I'm just getting back at her for setting me up on some kind of hoopty with no breaks, all those years ago. Let's just say I fell down go boom.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

I'm with the try-it-in-the-Target-parking-lot gal. I'd say showing up at a store and plunking down several hundred dollars for something your younger friends use is dangerously close to what Megan fears.

On a more technical note, why is not shifting gears a reason to switch to a fixed gear bike? Unless one's bike is *forcing* one to change gears, you might as well keep the existing model.

On another technical note, what's with this "feeling the road" business? Well, I do understand it somewhat. I use fountain pens and like them. But I do think that people who adopt retro technologies need to be aware that there is usually a reason people stopped using them.

Personally, I love being able to coast downhill in my 1970s Schwinn Varsity on my way to work every day.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Cladeedah said...

OTHER FRIENDS??? THIS YEAR'S FRIENDS??? I can't believe what a friends-whore you are. I feel so outdated. :-P

10:00 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey Claudia,

I had dinner with Megan and Brandon last night on my porch. It was so fun. We talked for hours, and laughed so hard, and then made out for a while. We missed you, but, you know, out of sight, out of mind. We said a couple times that you and Brian need to move back, but until you do, we'll have to keep living our lives. Our fun lives. Oh! We're going to the movies tonight! Wish you could come!

P.S. You would LOVE Ali. She is so gorgeous and flirty. We could share her if you were here. But you're not.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

Fixed gear bikes give a more intimate ride. Every pedal translates directly to the road.

They're also quieter, and look sleeker.

Riding a bike without at least a front brake is just dumb. Even given the "you're forced to find another way to stop" idea, more options is always good. And more options when avoiding DYING is even better. Doubly so when you're still learning how to ride a fixed gear.

On the plus sides, you can balance and do stuff on the fixed gear that's not possible on a singlespeed or normal bike. It will also improve your cadence and make you a stronger rider. And, they're pretty slick, everyone should have one!

On the negative sides, don't get your clothes (or worse, a finger) caught in the chain when it's moving. The pedals stop when the wheels stop, and no finger is strong enough to go unscathed through the crank/chain of a fixed gear.

Downhill can be a bitch, and getting tired would be even worse. Coasting is a blessing to days when you're tired!

Other than that, if you want one, I say get one; who cares if you look like a poser?!

11:15 AM  
Anonymous shannon said...

If you aren't changing gears then you should at least convert over to a single speed freewheel. No need to carry around all that extra weight from the cassette and deraileur, plus on a single speed/fixed gear you have a straight chainline which makes the drivetrain more efficient. You can even get a flip flop hub, meaning you can have fixed gear on one side and a single speed freewheel on the other. This is what I have. I used to hate on the fixed gear hipsters myself, then I went fixie. I can assure you, this is not a matter of cool, this is a matter of making biking exponentially more enjoyable. Having the single speed option in addition to the fixed gear is nice though, because sometimes you get pooped (or kinda drunk) and coasting becomes necessary. Find all the info you could ever want here

12:54 PM  
Anonymous shannon said...

Oh, and underwearninja wasn't kidding about watching out for your fingers.

Scroll to the bottom.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, Fixed gear riding is fun. To decide whether or not it is for yourself is impossible to say. Don't listen to any comments about outdated technologies or being pretentious (and for many of you, does buying a $5000 Look 585 and only riding it on the bike trail whilst scoffing at 'kids' on steel fixies because they aren't wearing $350 worth of spandex not sound pretentious? The bike doesn't make the rider. Elitists are to be found everywhere). Nevermind those people who tell you distances are impossible (a handful of people who shop at the bike shop I work at rode the Davis double century on fixed gears this year - 204 miles). Forget the words 'poser', 'scenester', and 'hipster.' Fixed gear bicycles scope way beyond a scene for youth. While there is an unarguable twenty something subculture being built around track bikes, there is also an alarmingly large number of people -young and old- who ride fixed gears for entirely different reasons:

They are more fun to ride around town than ANY geared bike (I ride my rode bike in town 5% of the time compared to my track bike's 95% or mountain bikes 0%).

They are fast (when you are forced to pedal, you might as well push!).

Track bikes/fixed gears are beautiful. My track bike essentially has 6 moving parts (front hub, rear hub, headset, bottom bracket, left pedal, right pedal) yet I can still ride 20+ miles at about 20mph, that is AMAZING! IMO the most efficient form of known human transport.

They require very little maintenance (pay no mind to the comment which suggested otherwise, <1% of the bike problems that come to our shop are fixed gear related. Those statistics don't carry over to fixed/geared usage either, in case that is something that someone would try to argue).

They do increase your awareness, not only of the traffic and whatnot (this is more due to not having a brake, not a neccessity for something to be considered a fixed gear), but also of the way your bike interacts with the road. Riding a freewheel nowadays feels dead.

They are cheap to build. You either have less to purchase to start with or primarily take parts off of an old bike to make it fixed.

Okay... for now I imagine that will suffice.... I'd love to see anyone on a fixed gear though.

and thanks for the 15 minutes! More people probably saw my picture here than in the Sac Bee!

Sage B.

...and when you post anonymously you need a word verification, but I don't think that 'mfhlk' is a word. I need to talk to these blog people....

12:51 AM  
Anonymous ptm said...

I also think if you could trackstand (for, say, the length of a traffic light) then you could ride it in public and it would be a-ok.

6:45 AM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

I actually stopped riding my Orero because the whole shoe thing is a pain in the butt. I am kind of vain about shoes in my own little Dansko kind of a way, but youc an't ride a track bike in clogs, so the track bike loses.

I was going to point you towards Sheldon Brown as a prime example of someone who is neither 20 something nor a messenger but is a prime advocate of riding fixed. Track bikes ride smooth. I love mine. I've had it for a while, but even when I first got it and I was in my early 20s, sometimes messengers would come up as I was unlocking my bike and tell me not to mess with that bike. And then they'd be all "i didn't, uhh..." and I'd try to pretend they basically hadn't just said they were sure there was no way I was cool enough to ride my bike.

PS, the bike I loaned Dubin, as I recall, was a seriously worn out cruiser with coaster breaks. Not the same thing.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

I don't know about Megan, but the commenters here are starting to convince me.

Can someone comment on how appropriate a fixed-gear bicycle would be for a commuter? I bike to work every day in my work clothes, so I'm tending to be scared off by this talk about it seeming to be a better workout because of the constant pedaling. (The primary reason I would be interested in using it is that using a road bike in the snow is very difficult for me, and Sheldon Brown seem to say it does better on ice.)

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fixed gear bikes are fun. I live in SF and do a 20 mile ride around the city and across the bridge every morning before work.

I've been riding fixed for about 10 years now, started in 96 in Boston when Sheldon Brown built up my bike for me. My downstairs neighbor was a bike racer and used a fixed gear for training. He was the one who suggested it.

The only downside to a fixed gear is going down steep hills, of which there are many in SF.

You should be able to put together a solid fixie for $500. Last year's bianchi pista always seems to be a good starter bike.

I spent $1000 on mine in 96 and haven't replaced anything besides tires. I've put more miles on it than my car and it has cost me next to zero to maintain it. Best money I've ever spent.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fixed gear bikes have their place. City riding, they are hard to beat. Grocery getting as well.

You typically don't have to get off your bike to stop, as they are quite easy to track stand (move forward and back).

In hilly country, where you might ride for long distances, they can't touch a real road bike, but in the city, they work just fine. You can also get them cheap enough to not really mind terribly if it gets ganked.

I have 5 bikes, so 3 is not to much. A cruiser (Bianchi Milano), a commuter (Specialized Sirrus), a road bike (Cannondale CAD8), a mountain bike (Trek Liquid), and my fixed (hodge podge, frame is a surly). Balanced food group.

I use my fixed and Milano for town riding, and anywhere I don't want to get my clothes dirty. Both have fenders and chain guards, so I stay nice and clean when riding around. Very nice tooling around in rain gear on either of those.

As for the stopping issue, you can still stop, quite well in fact. I can lock the back tire of my fixed up if I need to. I seldom need to though, simply because of the ability to change speeds via thought process, rather than having to grab a brake lever.

No maintenance is a big plus if you ride in nasty weather, which I do. One thing I don't do is ride my fixed exclusively. It eventually gets to my knees (I am an old, old man, 31 even)cranking a gear that big up hills, so I switch off with my geared counterparts frequently to avoid this.

Also, I like riding fast, and fixed gears don't really suit that. You can certainly go fast on them, but not in corners. You must always be aware, and REMEMBER that when you are going to turn, your pedals will still be turning. Which can lead to pedal strike, which can lead to crash. I have had two for such reasons; trying to corner like I was on a freewheeled bike, and it didn't work so well.

Don't buy one for fashion though, please. There are so many people out there who bought a fixed, and have no idea why. I know why, and when I use it, I love it. But for those who bought it because 'teh es teh trend hore', I just _roll_eyes, and ride on by.

Yes, they are fun. Just be sure you want one before you get one, because they don't compromise like geared bikes can. Try one out for a week, if that's an option you can do, and see if it suits you. Realize that certain aspects you will get used to. Others, you may not (the aforementioned knees issue).

11:43 AM  

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