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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 02-16-06, 04:02 PM   #1
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I've been thinking about what has become of the "serious" fixed gear cyclist a lot lately, especially since the Skyy Yeager thread the other day. Riding fixed has always had a lot to do with exclusion.

The basic social dynamic of exclusion says that in order to be "in" there has to be "out", and of course, the smaller the "in" the more important it is to be a part of it. One of the serious ones. We're all guilty of this to one degree or another, in some aspect of our lives.

Before I really get into it, I want to say that to me, one of the greatest things about bicycles is the accessibility of it all. Pretty much anybody can get into biking more, driving less, and just plain feeling good about pedaling. Nevermind any of the bike culture aspects of it, or the athletic attraction that some people experience. The most basic thing about bikes is that they're fun, practical, and easy.

So, in the budding years of fixed riding, pretty much everybody was riding a conversion. To those who were already into bicycles, the thrill of the inability to coast was enough to make fixed-gear riding something to remark upon. It was an old idea, whose time had come to return.

And then, like with any trend that hits big enough, the insiders became defensive of the outsiders encroaching upon what they felt was "their" territory. More fixed bikes around takes away your sense of specialness about riding one yourself. I believe that this is where things began to really take a turn for the exclusive.

The pattern has since escalated into senselessness. Not only are the fixed riders chiding the geared riders and especially singlespeeders, urging them to take what they feel to be the next step. The people riding brakeless are doing the same to the ones who ride with a brake, the ones on track bikes are turning noses up at those on conversions, and those on NJS frames are beginning to find their sense of superiority by having that which many other people can't have. As NJS frames get more and more popular, the culture is about to implode. If there isn't any more ladder to climb, fixed-gear bikes may fall out of fashion altogether. This will then, of course, lead to a phoenix-like ressurection led by the "serious ones". The ones who stuck with it even though it wasn't cool anymore.

I don't intend to say that fixed-gear is a bad movement, and I don't intend to say that these trends are confined to fixed-gear bikes (consider the weekend fitness riders, comparing frame weight), or cycling at all (look at the auto industry, or hell, any heavily marketed industry at all) but I am a little saddened by the move away from accessibility.

The bicycle should be the ultimate symbol of proletarian survival, and all I really want is for everyone to examine their actions closely. Make sure you know WHY you're opting for the expensive, negative rise stem. Make sure you actually care if your dropouts face forwards or backwards. To anyone who is likely to be reading this, bikes are a big part of your life. What kind of relationship do you want to have? I certainly don't want my bike leading me by the nose towards a replacement part that doesn't need replacing. I've done that quite enough. I'm ready to feel about my bike the way you feel about a good dog, or the good kitchen knife that you've had for years and years.

Our seriousness is not dependent on exclusion, upgrades, purchases, or making sure that people know you're a cyclist when you walk down the street, with or without your bike.

Pardon my rant. Deep down I love you all for riding bikes.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:09 PM   #2
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ink, just relax and enjoy the ride,whatever it is.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:11 PM   #3
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Welcome to the persuit of cool. Though at the same time is it really fair to judge the fixed gear community by a bunch of opnionated **** talkers on an internet message board? Yea me and flair roll our eyes when we see yet another pista roll by (which is 3-4 times a day on my ~3 mile commute), but I know he and I are both glad its one less car. I take a lot of pride in my bike, I've put a lot of time and money and thought into it and of course I feel a little superior to a stock bike. Its mine, its unique, and it destroys. But I still give that special "hey whats up nod" when I see another fixie on the street, no matter how beater of a conversion it may be, however much celeste it may have.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:16 PM   #4
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Very well written.

Coming from New Mexico, a land where a man is measured by the height of the suspension on his pickup and the db rating of the exhaust, it was refreshing when I moved to Portland and saw that manner of snobbery focused on bikes. Still annoying, but in a humbler way.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:33 PM   #5
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I think I covered a lot of my opinions on this subject here.

But I tend to agree. In a world of ever-decreasing meaning, people want to identify themselves within groups they already identify with. So, I'm not just a cyclist, I ride a fixed gear->My fixed gear is a track bike->My track bike is a pursuit bike->My pursuit bike is a death trap, and so on.

I don't think the "scene" will implode on itself, though. I also don't think the "serious" ones will be the champions. If we can look at a close parallel (and post-modern darling child), the punk scene, we'll see a history of revivals, kitsch and nostalgia.

The late 90's skate punks latch on to late 80's skate punk culture which spawned from the late 70's skate punk culture which spawned from the late 60's surf culture, and so on and so forth.

Now you have people who listened to Bad Religion in the 90's talking about how they were punk way back when. Do you remember the old guys that made fun of them, who listened to Black Flag in the 80's? Or the even older guys that listened to T.Rex in the 70's?

The fg movement will just evolve and the Pista hipsters will make fun of whoever is trendy 5-10 years from now, and the NJS idiots will contend that they were doing it back when it meant something; back when it was "real" when in reality they were just following the trends set by some idiot before them. In the end, Ceya will be 90, and be like, "yeah, I was riding fixed before you guys were born" and someone will remind him of the people who thought what HE was doing was lame, or stupid, and how he did it anyway. Just like the Pista owners who do it anyway. Just like the NJS coveters who do it anyway. Just like the fat kid listening to Bad Religion who did it anyway.

It's all just layers of abstraction that make people believe their bull**** posturing is somehow more valid than the next person's. It's not, and the never-ending spectacle makes hypocrites and heroes out of us all.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shishi
ink, just relax and enjoy the ride,whatever it is.
at the moment, the ride is a star-spangled chopper motorcycle, since i just threw in easy rider.

i promise i'm quite relaxed. none of this is meant to come off *******y. just reflecting.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:41 PM   #7
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You think too much dude... ride and let things come as they are and worry about these things when they happen.

Well said though... bravo... now go ride... I shoud do the same... work sucks.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:45 PM   #8
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Old 02-16-06, 04:45 PM   #9
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You think too much dude... ride and let things come as they are and worry about these things when they happen.

Well said though... bravo... now go ride... I shoud do the same... work sucks.
+1 and think about the bright side...lots-o-bikes to be had down the road for cheap.
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Old 02-16-06, 04:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vomitron
I think I covered a lot of my opinions on this subject here.

But I tend to agree. In a world of ever-decreasing meaning, people want to identify themselves within groups they already identify with. So, I'm not just a cyclist, I ride a fixed gear->My fixed gear is a track bike->My track bike is a pursuit bike->My pursuit bike is a death trap, and so on.

I don't think the "scene" will implode on itself, though. I also don't think the "serious" ones will be the champions. If we can look at a close parallel (and post-modern darling child), the punk scene, we'll see a history of revivals, kitsch and nostalgia.

The late 90's skate punks latch on to late 80's skate punk culture which spawned from the late 70's skate punk culture which spawned from the late 60's surf culture, and so on and so forth.

Now you have people who listened to Bad Religion in the 90's talking about how they were punk way back when. Do you remember the old guys that made fun of them, who listened to Black Flag in the 80's? Or the even older guys that listened to T.Rex in the 70's?

The fg movement will just evolve and the Pista hipsters will make fun of whoever is trendy 5-10 years from now, and the NJS idiots will contend that they were doing it back when it meant something; back when it was "real" when in reality they were just following the trends set by some idiot before them. In the end, Ceya will be 90, and be like, "yeah, I was riding fixed before you guys were born" and someone will remind him of the people who thought what HE was doing was lame, or stupid, and how he did it anyway. Just like the Pista owners who do it anyway. Just like the NJS coveters who do it anyway. Just like the fat kid listening to Bad Religion who did it anyway.

It's all just layers of abstraction that make people believe their bull**** posturing is somehow more valid than the next person's. It's not, and the never-ending spectacle makes hypocrites and heroes out of us all.
my thoughts exactly!
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Old 02-16-06, 05:00 PM   #11
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ink, i agree. it's when people suggest fashion and aesthetic to others that something becomes "fashionable." there's a difference between asking for and receiving advice; receiving unsolicited chiding for aesthetic/functional decisions; and lacking a personal aesthetic and asking others to donate theirs.

each situation speaks of a different type of rider, personality or motivation for riding. none of the aforementioned scenarios makes a cyclist any less of a cyclist, but each speaks volumes about one's individual security.

it's that aspect of individual security, i believe, that gets people jumping on the "hipster" label so quickly. it's also the security/insecurity that contributes to an exclusionary culture.

if you like to ride, ride. if you have some concept of what a beautiful bike is to you and you appreciate beautiful things, build them. if you need to feel a sense of belonging to something and you think that riding a bike that someone else thinks is beautiful is a way to find it, go for it. if riding a single fixed gear strikes you as a greater challenge than riding a freewheel with one or more gears, do it. if that no longer seems like such a challenge and you think you have the ability, take off the brake(s). whatever. who cares? do what you do and be happy. if it doesn't make you happy, do something else.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:00 PM   #12
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You make great points ink. Like so many here I love my bikes, and take great joy in making them functional, beautiful, and unique, but I thn it's possible to enjoy uniqueness without being exclusionary.

I don't see you getting all bunged up about this either. I think you make your point calmly, and without being judgmental.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:18 PM   #13
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BTW, touring is next.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ink1373
The bicycle should be the ultimate symbol of proletarian survival


You will not see a scene like this in America until the oil runs out. Until then cycling will be a marginal activity enjoyed by people who are passionate about it. As good American consumers we will pimp out our bikes and hate on each other. It's how we express our individuality.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:24 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew A Brown
BTW, touring is next.
shh!

touring is untouchable. the spirit of adventure in it's purest form.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:30 PM   #16
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die thread! die!
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Old 02-16-06, 05:35 PM   #17
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That's the best part. It's not untouchable. It's not even very exciting. It's doing one thing for seven+ hours a day. Finding those weird thoughts and conversations and most of all, emotions. It's dirty and crusty and once you get the right bike it is ****ing CHEAP.

All our track bling is gonna look dated (in the same way it is very much the macrocultural "now") and the key thing will be time and the experiences under yr belt. Not saying that these are absent from the fixed community, just nowhere near the focus.


I cannot wait until all you crazy bastards get into stealth camping.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:40 PM   #18
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Or randonneuring. Man.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:51 PM   #19
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Maybe I'm naive, and I know that ink and I disagree on many topics, I'm sure this will be one as well, but ... let the haters go **** themselves. let the people who love bikes ride bikes, and anytime someone gets on a bike its all good (i'll leave the few brakeless novices out of this, because they're really not as prevalent as most people seem to think and are still less dangerous than an incompetant driver). stop hating, ride what you want, convince others to ride, fixed or otherwise, and remember that bikes are fun (until someone passes me, than its serious ****in business ). Better to spend some money on a bike than a car, and if someone wants all njs because they feel special / elite (or maybe they're just very particular in regards to looks and performance), I'm all for it, its no skin off my back.

Just help people be competant riders, be kind and curteous (thanks to the guy who backed up on the QB bridge last night offering help in changing a tire), ride safe, keep your head up, don't let the ****s get you down, and don't think about this whole culture thing too much, you might end up hurting your brain.

nothing but love.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:52 PM   #20
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die thread! die!

agreed


there will always be a before, during, and after. To everything.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:55 PM   #21
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I should really just leave this thread alone, but...

The cure for this kind of elitism/hating/exclusion is Chicago. Move here, you'll never have these problems again.
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Old 02-16-06, 05:57 PM   #22
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Whats so different about Chicago?
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Old 02-16-06, 05:59 PM   #23
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Whats so different about Chicago?
It's closer to Milwaukee
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Old 02-16-06, 06:00 PM   #24
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Whats so different about Chicago?
the pizza
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Old 02-16-06, 06:04 PM   #25
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is the fireside bowl still around? i hate to say it, but that was my favorite part about chicago. other than that i'm not a big fan. sorry chicago people.

165, i think that you and i agree on quite a bit. not that i want to make out or anything. don't get any funny ideas.
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