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Old 02-16-06, 04:02 PM
nothing: lasts forever
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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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