Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Single-speed fixed gear

Looking for a way to liven up your commute? Are you a masochist? Do you have money burning a hole in your pocket? If you answered all these questions "yes", then a single speed fixed gear might be the bike for you!

A single-speed fixed gear (also known as a "fixie") is a bike with most of the useful parts taken off: no front or rear derailer, no freewheel or cassette on the back, only one chainring on the front, typically only a front brake (or no brakes at all if you're the sort who likes the inside of hospitals), no drop bars, etc. The key idea here is "minimal".

Neale's Fixie

These are show bikes, in the "ooo look at the pretty bike" sense, but also the "check out how hard-core I am" sense. Not being able to coast or shift gears means you'll be really grinding up hills and pedalling like a maniac when you go back down. But without all the cables and
derailers it weighs a lot less, so it's not such a big deal.

I rode my fixie in to work today, and it was a lot more fun than I remembered. While it's possible to go fast on these, that's not really the point. The point is going in *style*. Unless you're a bike courier, and then the point is going fast in style. Other cyclists will almost certainly realize you're never coasting or changing cadence; the lack of a rear derailer and clean line of the chain is eye-catching too. Riding one requires enough new skills that it's almost like learning to ride all over again, and there are tricks you can do on a fixie that are impossible on any other bike, like downhill track stands, or the Sheldon Brown Fixed-Gear Dismount. If you're insane you can do all sorts of circus tricks on a fixie.

Interested? Check out Sheldon Brown's Fixed-Gear Page for more information!

1 comment:

RunsWithScissors said...

Horse feathers!:)

You don't need a fixie to do trackstands! With a bit of practice anyone can learn to do this on just about any kind of bike. It ain't rocket surgery...

Practice by slowly rolling to a stop on a gentle uphill. Turn your handlebars a bit in whichever direction feels most comfortable as you come to a stop. This will give you more stability. Then use varying pressure on your lead pedal to roll back and forth as needed to stay upright, and most important: DON'T LOOK DOWN! Look at the horizon. That way your eyes and inner ear will tell your brain the same story about where you are in the universe. If you start to fall over, resume pedaling to regain your balance and try again.

At first you will only be able to manage for short periods of time on uphills, but given time and practice you will eventually be able to do it on flat ground. When you get a lot of practice you'll eventually be able to just lock the brakes and trackstand with your nose going downhill.

The trackstand is one of the most all around usefull bike control skills a cyclist can acquire, it's not that hard to learn, and it impresses the hell out of anybody who can't do it;)