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Old 09-12-08, 04:08 AM   #1
Jet Travis
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Fixed Gear Ride Report

Have you ever run over yourself on a bicycle? I’m here to tell you it can be done, because I did it. All it took was a fixed gear bike, a little inexperience, a dash of stress and some stop-and-go city traffic.

Here’s how it went down: I am waiting at a red light. My left foot is planted on the ground. My right foot is on the pedal at six o’clock. I decide to spin the pedal backwards with my right foot in order to get some power to push off with. Something we’ve all done many times.

But, of course, if you spin a fixed gear pedal backwards, the bike doesn’t stay still. It rolls backwards--over your stationary foot. Then your body sprawls in three directions at once as you try to remain upright. Naturally, there is a little knot of coeds, watching from across the street. Some even stop their cell phone conversations long enough to giggle.

Such delightful scenes have unfolded in various ways over the past couple of weeks as I’ve tried to learn how to ride my Redline 9-2-5 fixed gear bike. Put simply, I feel like a very aged dog trying to learn some new tricks on a bicycle. This isn’t the worst way for an old dog to spend his time.

About the bike: Basic info: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/redline-925.html

The Redline 9-2-5 is set up as a commuter, with fenders, low gearing (thank you), front and rear brakes (thank you, again) a rack, and mustache handlebars. Since I use the bike to zip around a college campus, riding to meetings or to run errands, these are all plusses. I especially like the handlebars. They keep one’s chest open and seem to allow me to suck in more oxygen as I wobble up hills. They also seem to give me a feeling of leverage and control.

I can’t say I’ve gotten fixie fever. I’m not crazy about riding my brakes on downhills. I have to do that because I simply can’t pedal fast enough. Mounting and dismounting are still something of an adventure in dorkland.

However, I do like the single speed aspect. The gearing gives me just enough of a challenge on the gently rolling hills where I ride. The fixed gear itself forces your body and mind to pay attention. And there is something to be said for the simplicity factor.

Bottom line: I satisfied my curiosity, and I’m glad. I’ll keep the bike, but at some point, I may flip the hub and turn it into a single-speed freewheel bike. I know this makes me a total dweeb, but as Popeye says, "I yam what I yam."
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Last edited by Jet Travis; 09-12-08 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 09-12-08, 05:06 AM   #2
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Tip 1: At the traffic lights, (and obviously stationary and with one foot on the ground) engage the front brake only and push foward on the handlebars to lift the rear wheel -- at the same time move the clipped in pedal to the 1 or 11 o'clock position. Ease back on the handlebars to let the rear tyre contact the ground again, and you're set to go.

Tip 2: Start looking at lower-tooth rare cogs to replace what you have now. I moved quite quickly from, IIRC, 19T to 18T to 17T with a 39T front ring. I am about ready to move to either a 42T ring or a 16T cog because I think my legs are ready for it. That will help with the fast pedalling downhill.

Tip 3: Don't overthink mounting and dismounting. I can't see it being any different to getting on and off a geared bike, frankly. But use Tip 1 to help get the pedal positioned to go.

Tip 4: Just ride -- you'll find after a while your body and mind don't have to pay attention (unless you change a lot between geared and fixed and find yourself attempting to coast -- which will be a very momentary lapse).

After doing my wedding century late in August with Machka on a geared bike but deliberately all the way only in a single speed, I can understand the SS attraction, too, especially on downhills.
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Old 09-12-08, 05:07 AM   #3
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--

Its good to try new things. If you didn't, you wouldn't know how it worked.
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Old 09-12-08, 05:26 AM   #4
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After doing my wedding century late in August with Machka
Congratulations!

I saw a post about this in another thread...best wishes for many (more) happy miles together.
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Old 09-12-08, 07:58 AM   #5
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There are two more problem areas for which to watch out.
  1. Pedaling fast and then deciding to coast
  2. Short radius turns if you have toe front wheel overlap

The first one is dangerous and the bike will buck you off by throwing you over the handlebars. At the track clinic we practiced trying to coast at slow speed to get the feeling of what the bike would do and train our brain not to do it. It can happen when you least expect it - be careful.

The second one is more of a low speed thing such as a U turn in the road. Normally, one would coast. In this case the pedal comes around and your toe hits the front tire and you go down.
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Old 09-12-08, 10:12 AM   #6
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All kinids of great tips above! My big problem was fighting the "coast reflex" esp. over RR tracks and similar "coast-able" (on my freewheel equipped bikes) surfaces. Now I just stand up and power over them.

Never had front wheel overlap problems, but maybe that's cause my fixie is a 70's road bike with lots of fork rake.

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Old 09-12-08, 10:20 AM   #7
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Naturally, there is a little knot of coeds, watching from across the street. Some even stop their cell phone conversations long enough to giggle.
Glad you weren't hurt.

Are you sure they weren't using their phones to tape this? You might want to check youtube
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Old 09-12-08, 10:25 AM   #8
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Does this qualify for Club Tombay?
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Old 09-12-08, 10:37 AM   #9
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Does this qualify for Club Tombay?
Did he fall? Was he clipless?

I am finally making some progress towards converting an old bike to a fixie. I've ordered a flip/flop hub and I have a rim I can use to build a fixed/free rear wheel.
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Old 09-12-08, 10:51 AM   #10
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Glad you weren't hurt.

Are you sure they weren't using their phones to tape this? You might want to check youtube
This could be Jet's chance to be BMOC.

But seriously, given the choice, I think the SS option would be more to my liking.

Nice bike, by the way.
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Old 09-12-08, 11:06 AM   #11
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I doff my helmet to you in admiration at sticking it out for the fixie aspect pratfalls and all.

I tried it twice now and decided that the surgery bills were not worth it. After far too many years of riding with freewheeling my brain is just too hard wired to convert. Besides I don't ride the single speed ALL the time so if I went fixed then I'd be riding one day with gears and coasting and the next with fixed.... Nope, can't do it myself....

On the other hand I really like the single speed riding. It's actually quite amazing the extra kick you get. I would never have believed that running the chain through a derrailleur would make so much of a difference to my power at the rear wheel.

I'll also have to complement you on your choice of bikes. I recently treated myself to a new08 925 that was SUPPOSED to replace my old bitsa' SS bike. But I just can't do it. Too fond of both to let either go.
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Old 09-12-08, 03:48 PM   #12
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very good comments--one and all above. When I started riding fixed, about 5 years ago, I changed the handlebars on the bike-- I put an old set of Scott mountain bike handlebars on it. This was my way or 'remembering' that I was riding the fixie that could not coast. You go through the coasting issue every now and then, and the bike reminds you really quickly that you can't coast. I have never been thrown from the bike, but I can see how easily it could happen.

Now my goals are to be able to do a track stand, and ridiculous as it sounds, do a backwards circle. Not a very practical thing, but I saw someone do it ans was intrigued. I have yet to take the time to even try it, as I use my bike for commuting, and once I get to my destination, I want to get off the bike. One of these weekends...

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Old 09-12-08, 03:58 PM   #13
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Finally, the JT Fixie Ride Report!

You are a brave man, or a foolish man. You are probably a foolish brave man.

I cannot imagine trying to ride such a thing in traffic.

I enjoyed your story and look forward to more chapters & adventures.

I would definitely flip that hub ... no, I would swap the hub for a 3-speed. But I hope you don't for a while because I want to read "Fixed Ride Report, Chapter 2 - A Tale of Italian Romance."
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Old 09-12-08, 05:26 PM   #14
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Hey JT, Nice machine. I got carried away on my safety message and forgot the primary objective.
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Old 09-12-08, 07:15 PM   #15
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Old 09-12-08, 08:05 PM   #16
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I want to read "Fixed Ride Report, Chapter 2 - A Tale of Italian Romance."
You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll remember what it means to be human.
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Old 09-12-08, 08:26 PM   #17
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You are a brave man, or a foolish man. You are probably a foolish brave man.
I cannot imagine trying to ride such a thing in traffic."
Truer words are rarely spoken. Fixed gear bikes are silly, unless you are on a track.
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Old 09-12-08, 08:27 PM   #18
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You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll remember what it means to be human.
Considering that there were youngsters across the street, with cell phones in hand, you should probably check on YouTube.com from time to time for your cameo appearance.
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Old 09-12-08, 10:52 PM   #19
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Thanks for this post and thread. Only in the 50+ forum is truth freely and plainly spoken with no posturing.
I'm dreaming (or nightmaring...) of a fixie and this thread provides much needed fodder for thought.
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Old 09-12-08, 11:02 PM   #20
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Truer words are rarely spoken. Fixed gear bikes are silly, unless you are on a track.
I hope you are a bit more balanced in your bench verdicts than you are in your cycling comments.
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Old 09-13-08, 04:38 AM   #21
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Truer words are rarely spoken. Fixed gear bikes are silly, unless you are on a track.
Thank goodness for silly things! Life would be so boring without them.
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Old 09-13-08, 04:58 AM   #22
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very good comments--one and all above. When I started riding fixed, about 5 years ago, I changed the handlebars on the bike-- I put an old set of Scott mountain bike handlebars on it. This was my way or 'remembering' that I was riding the fixie that could not coast. You go through the coasting issue every now and then, and the bike reminds you really quickly that you can't coast. I have never been thrown from the bike, but I can see how easily it could happen.

Now my goals are to be able to do a track stand, and ridiculous as it sounds, do a backwards circle. Not a very practical thing, but I saw someone do it ans was intrigued. I have yet to take the time to even try it, as I use my bike for commuting, and once I get to my destination, I want to get off the bike. One of these weekends...

train safe-
Get a hold of the video of Thomas Edison doing his tricks on a fixed gear. If you can't, PM me and I will send it to you via email.

Of course, some would have you believe Edison should have been acting his age instead of turning BMX-style tricks.
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Old 09-13-08, 05:10 AM   #23
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Get a hold of the video of Thomas Edison doing his tricks on a fixed gear. If you can't, PM me and I will send it to you via email.

Of course, some would have you believe Edison should have been acting his age instead of turning BMX-style tricks.
Ah, the glories of Youtube:

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Old 09-13-08, 05:26 AM   #24
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There are two more problem areas for which to watch out.
  1. Pedaling fast and then deciding to coast
  2. Short radius turns if you have toe front wheel overlap

The first one is dangerous and the bike will buck you off by throwing you over the handlebars. At the track clinic we practiced trying to coast at slow speed to get the feeling of what the bike would do and train our brain not to do it. It can happen when you least expect it - be careful.
Every time I start my track interval training I get a shock in my hypoxia at the end of the first interval when I stop pedaling. Believe me, I only do that once.
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Old 09-13-08, 11:36 AM   #25
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Neat video, but it was only filmed by Edison. He's not the rider. The rider, named "Neibert", was apparently famous and had a circus background. The footage was shot on a stage with a painted "city" background.
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