Fixed gear bikes are not just a modern urban fad. Since the inception of bicycle track racing, the only bikes used on the wooden banks of the velodrome have been fixed gears.
From the 1890s through the 1920s, bicycle racing was among America’s favorite spectator sports, often drawing crowds that rival modern-day sporting events. Despite losing market share to road races like the Tour de France, track racing continues as an Olympic sport and remains a popular activity where facilities exist.
In Japan, track racing still enjoys tremendous popularity in the form of Keirin racing. With over 50 racetracks, highly trained professional riders, strict regulations and heavy betting (reminiscent of American horse racing), Keirin racing is a 1.5 trillion yen industry. Not surprisingly, nationally approved Japanese track racing equipment (stamped NJS) is highly sought after by American fixed gear enthusiasts.
So what does riding a “fixie” mean?
Riding a “fixie” requires constant pedaling, be it uphill, downhill or on flat ground.If you want to ride faster, you have to pedal faster. If you want to slow down, the opposite applies.
Ok, clear, So how do we stop then?
When it comes to slowing a fixed gear down, some of us eschew conventional handbrakes in favor of using their legs to control the bike’s momentum. The technique involves gradually applying reverse pressure against the pedals to slow down, and intermittently locking their legs to induce a series of controlled skids until the bike comes to a halt. While it may not be the easiest way to get the job done, it certainly is hella fun!
I see… but is it safe(-ish) ?
A popular misconception is that a brake-less fixed gear bicycle cannot be effectively stopped. While it’s true that having a front brake is considerably safer, the more experienced you get while riding your bike, the more amount of control you’ll get over the bike and the more you’ll feel confident to ride your bike even without a brake. The control comes from body position, as the farther forward you position yourself, the easier the rear wheel skids. As you return to a normal riding position, your weight centers over the rear wheel, increasing the coefficient of friction and consequently intensifying the braking power. However, we do suggest at any time to ride with brakes. But we’ll leave that up to you!
What about maintenance ?
By and large, the fixed gear’s greatest appeal is it’s simplicity. And while the fixed gear’s aesthetic appeal is undeniable, the real beauty is in its near flawless functionality. Without brakes or with just one brake and one gear pairing to adjust, there’s very little to go wrong. Thus, the bike requires virtually no daily maintenance.
Who ride fixies?
The fixed gear community is remarkably diverse and inclusive. The informal society includes people from all walks of life: from punk rock college girls, bike freaks, hipsters to aging fathers with mortgage payments and office jobs and everything in between …