You Don’t. They Tell You.

How do you tell when someone rides fixed gear?

So I ride fixed gear and think you should too. My first ever bike was a fixed and of the relatively few memories I have of childhood riding, one of the strongest is the day I got my BMX, which had a freewheel. I was convinced it was secretly a motorbike until I become more familiar with non-fixed inertia. After extended periods of riding wintersaurus aka wee blue floofy in fixed mode I get a pang of nostalgia when I flipflop the hub and experience that same weird feeling of disconnect from your own momentum. Man. Maaaaaaan.

Yes, there is a lot of bile-rising pseudomystical hippie horseshit written about riding fixed. Every syllable worn on overpriced T-shirts, tattooed, spoken aloud from the corner of a rolled-cig-balancing waxily moustachioed mouth, blogged, tattooed, tattooed or decalled about it is pretention of the highest order and in my Humbledore you are pre-forgiven for any lurid fantasies you have of sharpening cogs to shuriken, opening the spiritual cyclist’s throat to the heavens and piroutting en pointe using a loudly clicking Campy freehub’s gyroscopic effect to rotate you while the little bastard exsanguinates at your feet. Most infuriatingly it’s all true. Zen-wannabe arsepish for certes, but true.

I had no real idea how unnaturally quick a human being is on a bike till I felt the momentum through my feet every time I stopped pedalling. I’m not talking about being faster than 28mph, which is a whisker above that bigheaded twunt from Jamaica’s top speed. I’m talking about moving at half that, which requires so little effort that I kinda thought I wasn’t moving. The fixed drivetrain plays the part of brutally honest friend and tells you that the wonderful efficiency of the bike and the power of modern brakes are in fact a conspiracy of wattly silence and you’d actually be clattering along if you were on foot.

I think this is a good thing. If Sun Tzu cycled, I bet he’d tell you to know your momentum. Hundred junctions without defeat, wise Pai Mei beard stroke, hrmm.

Of course, the people I really wish would ride fixed are the drivers who just don’t look ahead to traffic lights. The most infuriating kind of close overtake is the one that gains them nothing. That doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny, of course, because even an elbow shaver that does gain some time isn’t justifiable for any driver who is not on his or her way to defuse a bomb or something, but it rubs salt into the potential wounds when there was visibly no chance of the dangerous driving gaining them so much as a picosecond. When you ride fixed, it’s even more of a pain in the arse to stop and start than it is for a singlespeed, let alone a geared bike, let alone a hub-geared bike because you’ve also got to judge your dismount so that your pedals are in the right place, and you pretty much need foot retention.

It trains you into looking ahead to traffic lights better than any other type of bike, and there’s some gitty gits behind the wheel out there who need a crash course in that, pronto.


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