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)

Fixed gear press

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Old 06-20-05, 12:27 PM
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skanking biker
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Fixed gear press

I dont know if its good or bad---reminds me of back in 1996 when ska became a household word:

Milwauke Journal Sentinel

Fast bikes, no brakes
By LEE BERGQUIST
[email protected]
Posted: June 19, 2005
They teeter on their bikes waiting for the light to turn green, and when it does, they scatter in different directions like kids playing ditch in the night.

Fixed-gear Bikes


Photo/William Meyer

Casey Masterson rides his fixed-gear bike along Lincoln Memorial Drive to work in Milwaukee. “There are times when I wish I had a hand brake, but other times it wouldn’t matter,” he said.



Photo/William Meyer

Matt McNichols, fixed-gear rider and bike shop manager, says he has sold more of the bikes than he ever expected.

Quotable
Fixed-gears are a special niche and I think more and more people want
that.

- Matt McNichols,
bike shop manager

It's a Friday evening in early June and as motorists snake through downtown streets, the cyclists ride with aplomb, bob and weave through traffic, confident in their abilities and how they'll reach their goal.

For the next hour, they will be matching their wits and legs in an alleycat race - a special kind of street cycling competition in which riders are dispatched to a series of locations - in this case, 11 of them. It's up to the riders to decide on the quickest routes.

And did we mention that most of them will be riding bikes with only one gear and no brakes?

They are called fixed-gear bikes; those who ride them are a part of a small but growing subculture. Once the domain of messengers and velodrome racers, fixed-gear bikes are moving down the food chain to citizen riders.

Some are drawn to the bike's simple, elegant design - fixed-gear bikes only have a single gear and in their purest form, no hand or coaster brakes.

Others are reacting to the ever-escalating price and sophistication of bicycles. Many of today's high-end, road-racing bikes are built of materials such as lightweight carbon fiber and can be outfitted with shock absorbers, disc brakes and gears that shift automatically.

"The fixed-gear thing is cool because it's just a bunch of people riding around town who like exercise and use their knowledge of the streets," said Casey Masterson, 25, a computer programmer. Since he is a road racer as well, he says with a certain bit of hyperbole, "road biking is a bunch of older guys with Spandex and shaved legs and $5,000 bikes. It's really different." Fixed gear bikes can be had for under $200.

Another attraction of the bikes is the skill required to ride them.

No hands downhill
Fixed-gear cyclists rely on their ability to steer out of trouble and stop the bikes, even without traditional brakes. There is no freewheel - the pedals will rotate as long as the bike is moving. To slow or stop the bike, riders use their legs to fight the rotation.

On a recent morning, Matt McNichols was riding no-handed down a hill and carrying on a conversation as if he were sitting in an easy chair.

Then he placed his hands on the handle bar, leaned over his bike, and with technique he's refined over a couple of years, locked his legs and stopped the forward momentum of his pedals. The move threw him into a long, controlled slide that slowed the speed of the bike until he was ready to turn into a driveway - again, no hands - and hopped off.

Using the legs to lock up the rear wheel allows the tire to skid and brake.

"You can tell on the streets, really fast, how good a rider is," said McNichols, 23, manager of Cory the Bike Fixer, an east side bike shop.

"It's not what kind of a bag you wear, what kind of wheels you have, or your frame. It all depends on whether you can ride the bike well."

A former messenger, McNichols said it took him six months of riding to master his bike.

While it is lagging behind some other urban areas, the fixed-gear phenomenon is growing in Milwaukee.

This year, Cory the Bike Fixer has sold more fixed-gears than the shop had anticipated. A low-end Fugi, which can be raced on ovals, sells for $479. But a newbie can bring in an old bike and have it remade into a fixed-gear for under $200, according to McNichols.

"Fixed-gears are a special niche, and I think more and more people want that," he said.

Ben's Cycle and Fitness has rolled out Milwaukee Cycle, which can be ridden as a fixed- or traditional single-gear bike. They are built by Waterford Precision Cycles of Waterford.

"You never used to see them, except for the messenger and the messenger poseurs," said Dave Schlabowske, program director of the Milwaukee office of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. "Now you see them everywhere. It's kind of a fashion trend that's caught on."

Schlabowske subscribes to the "coffee-house" theory on why fixed-gears are hot:

Messengers frequently hang out at coffee shops. Admiring their bikes, the baristas start riding them. Customers pick up on a trend, dig the stripped-down aesthetic of the bikes and want one, too. "All of a sudden you've got 40-year-olds riding them," he said.

Schlabowske, 43, has had a fixed-gear bike for five years, and like some devotees, Schlabowske uses a front hand brake.

Why?

"Because it's the right thing to do for a guy who wants to stop when he needs to," he said. "Because I'm not 22 anymore and don't not fear death."

Some fixed-gear riders, especially messengers, get rapped for their daredevil antics. Masterson has been involved in two accidents - one, when a cell phone-talking motorist turned in front of him.

"There are times when I wish I had a hand brake, but other times it wouldn't matter," he said. He thinks drivers have to be more cognizant of cyclists on the roadway.

An $18 kitty
At the Friday night alleycat, the winner, riding a 1981 pale green Bianchi, was James LaLonde, 20, who works part-time as a messenger for STS Delivery and majors in health care administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Riders had put a few bucks in the kitty that night and LaLonde won $18.

From the start at the Swingin' Door, 219 E. Michigan St., the riders were handed a sheet of paper telling them what 11 places they had to go. But before knocking off a spot, they had to answer a question to prove they went to the location and then had to enter the answers into a crossword puzzle.

This night's manifest was written by another rider, Jamie Becker, a UWM student and barista at Steamers Coffee on N. Water St.

So when the riders arrived at the northwest corner of E. Erie and S. Water streets, they had to figure out what the Hoffman Co. made. The answer was written in aging letters on the side of the building - shoe polish.

Messengers are clearly driving the fixed-gear trend.

Mike Mikulay, 40, rode his first fixed-gear bike in a suit while going home from a wedding. A friend, Kevin Stroede, a bicycle messenger, had offered to let him ride his bike.

"It completely freaked me out," he recalled. "The first hill I went down, I couldn't figure out what I was doing because the pedals kept moving. I went very slow and I was very cautious."

That was last summer. Now he is riding his own fixed-gear, cobbled together from an old, hand-built frame he bought and buffed up with a custom coat of blue paint.

All told, he owns five bikes and co-owns a tandem with his girlfriend. He commutes daily on his fixed-gear. With a single gear, there is no help going up hills and no coasting down hills. The riding has made him stronger and he spends less time on maintenance because there is little that can go wrong.

"There is something about the simplicity of these bikes," Mikulay said.
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Old 06-20-05, 01:28 PM
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It's strange, but riding a fixed gear has gotten me so much more involved in cycling. I no longer feel like I'm dealing with the same bull**** that everyone else is. It's just a more self reliant ride. I'm not dependent on all kinds of cables and speeds. It's all about you and what you are capable of
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Old 06-20-05, 03:37 PM
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I ride my bike because the kid with too many earrings behind the coffee machine at starbucks rides one.
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Old 06-20-05, 09:23 PM
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Things are changing in the Fix gear world. And the only problem is that some people are going to have to realize that they are not so unique any more.

And the solution is to be either A) OK with that, or B) move the **** on.

There are going to be idiots. There are going to be *******s. There are gonna be Johnny/Jenny come lately people. But everyone here has to remember the words of the wise man Haymme. "All that matters is you like the bike you ride."
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Old 06-20-05, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by William Karsten
Things are changing in the Fix gear world. And the only problem is that some people are going to have to realize that they are not so unique any more.

And the solution is to be either A) OK with that, or B) move the **** on.

There are going to be idiots. There are going to be *******s. There are gonna be Johnny/Jenny come lately people. But everyone here has to remember the words of the wise man Haymme. "All that matters is you like the bike you ride."
i don't care if more people start riding fixies, it only makes it so people who really love fixies can get parts and stuff for our bikes easier, and plus in a two or so years no one who started riding a fxie now will be because the fad will be over, but the people who love to ride and we will all continue on trackstanding a skidding.
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Old 06-21-05, 02:18 AM
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I got a Langster because I wanted a bike for all around riding, and what do you do when you're doing all-round riding? Shift gears? Hell no! You keep it in one gear all the time, and just get used to pushing the tallest gear that works as you get more fit. So why carry around all that extra crap on the bike? Plus, a bike with all the gears costs almost 2x as much and for general riding you're not going to use that stuff.

The fine-tuning of speed that's possible with a fixie is what has me interested in going over to fixed fairly soon, and I notice there's much more of a need for it when riding with a group or in heavy traffic.

I'll keep a front brake though, I wore out enough tires doing skids when I was in grade school!
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Old 06-21-05, 08:51 AM
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I ride a bike because swampass sucks... i ride fixed because its less boring.. same reason that, when i drive (yeah sometimes i do that, sorry) i use manual transmission

also stories promoting fixed riding are great... if more people do it, we'll all be better off... unless you're one of those people who can't stand to do something that anyone else is doing. If you are one of those people, why are you still riding fixed
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