Fixie Challenge: Matching Aptitude to Confidence

Fixie Challenge: Matching Aptitude to Confidence

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I think it goes without saying that riding a fixie properly takes quite a bit of skill and finesse; the pedals being directly connected to the rear axle demands a fluid pedaling technique when riding at speed, not to mention the skill required to stop (quickly) without brakes.  The issue I have with the fixie community is not so much the bike as it is with the silliness of riding a single speed in a city overrun with long, steep hills.  For the most part, it means people are choosing this vehicle for its form rather than its function; the result is a preponderance of people who lack the skill to handle such a machine.

Not long ago, we were sitting in traffic in downtown Seattle.  Sitting in traffic is what we do in downtown Seattle, and people commonly ride their bike instead since commuting by bike during rush hour is much more sensible than doing so by car.  As we poked along, I noticed a guy weaving through traffic.  The rider was adorned in typical fixie garb: messenger bag, tight jeans, enormous belt buckle. As he approached, the erratic nature to his motion belied his misplaced confidence in his skills.  He seemed to be enjoying the responsiveness of his bike and was whipping around cars as he picked his path along.  But there was a problem: he was over-steering and his efforts to stop his bike were overstated; he lacked the subtlety of a skilled rider but rode with an aplomb that goes hand-in-glove with someone whose aptitude doesn’t quite match their attitude.

I held my breath as he passed our car.  He veered to the right and then quickly to the left before falling over onto the trunk of a beautiful, black Mercedes just in front and to the right of us.  Owing to the nature of his fixed gear, his bike continued moving forward and his body lay limply and ineffective over the car as his belt buckle scraped a clean, uninterrupted gouge along the length of the car’s gleaming, black body.  He moved his arms down to try to push against the car, searching in vain for purchase to slow his movement.  He tried to pull his feet from his pedals but was unable to, thanks to his feet being secured by a set of cool, double-strap toe clips.  Finally, he alighted upon the rear-view mirror which detached from the car’s body with a sickening crunch before he came to his feet just in front of the car, grimly facing the driver whose dismembered mirror he held like a football.

Traffic started moving again at this point so we didn’t get the opportunity to see how the interaction between the driver and Fixie played out, but the manner in which he stood fidgeting with the wires that dangled from the dismembered mirror, face agog at what had just transpired didn’t bode well for his negotiating position.

// Technology

  1. @frank
    Yes, it’s true, my trusty fixed-gear commuter has not one — but two! — brakes. In the city, when you need to stop, it’s probably because you REALLY need to stop. I must have a lot to live for. Likewise, if people dig pure bikes enough they are willing to get crushed in traffic, so let ‘em, I say.

    @all
    Anyone else notice that Frank posts a lot about fixies considering he does not own or ride one? Kind of like the bi-curious guy who really wants to know what it’s like, but doesn’t want to get his dick all dirty, ay?

  2. @jim
    Spankles very nearly convinced me to buy a $500 chrome 61cm Bianchi Pista last weekend. I resisted. I suddenly understand it’s probably because I’m Fixiphobic.

  3. Funny story, but you got it backwards. Fixed in hills just makes your legs strong. Track bikes on the street are for idiots.

  4. His pedals aren’t connected directly to his rear axle. Ciao.

  5. Hey Frank,
    I liked your story, it fits my effort in class to teach attitude matching one’s aptitude.May I borrow this story for my class. I would need to remix/shorten it.

  6. @Anisha
    All yours! We would be honored! If you don’t mind, it would be fun to see the final version when you’re done revising!

  7. Dear Frank,
    I am adapting the story for a 10th Standard class, whose 2nd language is English…Would greatly appreciate if you could pitch in to make it funny.

    The hot afternoons in India not only left one perspiring and dehyrated but also stuck in large traffic jams with non co-operating cows on the road. Frank sat behind the wheel waiting for the traffic to inch forward. The line was long, the movement slow. He thought it impossible for a fixie bike to be rode in such conditions.The pedals are directly connected to the rear axle demanding a fluid pedaling technique when riding at speed, not to mention the skill required to stop (quickly) without brakes.

    For the most part,Frank felt these people were choosing the vehicle for its form rather than its function; the result being a majority of people who lacked the skill to handle such a machine.
    This particular rider was adorned in typical biker garb: messenger bag, tight jeans, enormous belt buckle. As he approached, the erratic nature to his motion belied his misplaced confidence in his skills. He seemed to be enjoying the responsiveness of his bike and was whipping around cars as he picked his path along. But there was a problem: he was over-steering and his efforts to stop his bike were overstated; he lacked the subtlety of a skilled rider but rode with an aplomb that goes hand-in-glove with someone whose aptitude doesn’t quite match their attitude.

    I held my breath as he passed our car.He veered to the right and then quickly to the left before falling over onto the trunk of a beautiful, black Mercedes just in front and to the right of us. Owing to the nature of his fixed gear, his bike continued moving forward and his body lay limply and ineffective over the car as his belt buckle scraped a clean, uninterrupted gouge along the length of the car’s gleaming, black body. He moved his arms down to try to push against the car, searching in vain for purchase to slow his movement. He tried to pull his feet from his pedals but was unable to, thanks to his feet being secured by a set of cool, double-strap toe clips.Finally, he alighted upon the rear-view mirror which detached from the car’s body with a sickening crunch before he came to his feet just in front of the car, grimly facing the driver whose dismembered mirror he held like a football.

  8. @Anisha
    You did a great job, I hope your students enjoy it! (I’ve spent my fair share of time in India and can not imagine riding a fixie in that traffic!! Cheers!)

  9. @Anisha

    If you are telling the story, then the last paragragh needs to be changed from ‘I’ back to ‘Frank’.

    So “I held my breath” would be “Frank held his breath”. Then make it clear that the rider is not Frank. i.e “Frank held his breath as the reckless rider passed his car.”

    And maybe a concluding sentence at the end to wrap it up a bit better.

  10. Wow, just dug this up. What a hilarious story! This pretty much sums up how I feel about a LARGE majority of people on fixed gears in our U.S. conurbations – you need to learn how to ride that thing before you go tearing through traffic without brakes. And, you should still have a brake.

    The dude in the photo is spot on – ugly tattoos, cool bag, crappy Peugeot, no bar tape, probably no plugs.

    I really, really want a trained sociologist to write something serious on the fixed gear craze, as it is amazing to me that people will grab a nice bike, rip the gears off, tear the brakes off, then go riding it around. Stunning.

    I can’t believe he scratched the hood AND broke off the mirror.

    A few weeks back was finishing up a 35 mile ride, cruising it in. Noticed someone drafting me really closely…while I coasted down a hill. Huh? Didn’t feel much like talking, so dropped him. A few blocks later, as I’m coasting again he pulls up alongside me. “What’s the rush?” He asks…as he then works really hard to accelerate past me. I was speechless. Then I noticed he was brakeless, on a carbon track bike. Goodness, some people are sure idiots.

  11. @Ron
    I saw your other post on the Customize your Ride article; you’re really dead-on with your assessment. As a Velominatus, I am always happy to see a bike. Period. Fixie, commuter, Toilet Seats (as my dad calls the traditional Dutch Bikes). I like seeing people customize their bikes because it is the act of a Velominatus to change their machine to suit their needs and their desires.

    But, when people are drawn to something through a desire to be part of a trend rather than part of a purpose, form ceases to follow function and confidence ceases to grow with aptitude. And that is a terrible thing.

    This guy was a classic example of how these things go badly.

  12. There’s nothing wrong with the guy in the photo. I think that some have failed to interpret what is going on here.

    Note the slightly cross-eyed expression and white knuckled grip. This guy has gone out at the weekend, got shit-faced and thought it woud be funny to get heavily tattooed. He has now waken up on Monday morning, realised his mistake and, still horribly hungover, decided that the best way to undo the damage is to go out on his bike and erase the tattoos with some heavy road-rash. At the moment Frank photographed him, he was just lining up on a busy junction with a red light.

  13. @frank
    frahnk I’m not fixiphobic, I live in Hipsterville Hackney, most are pretentious pricks who can’t ride. check this

  14. Now that my “Build a Bike for the VMH” is complete I’m thinking about a track bike as I’ve read it’s great for one’s pedal stroke. I hasten to add, there is an outdoor track here in Dundee which is due to be resurfaced. Can’t wait to try it out!

  15. Frank, you’ve hit a nerve with me and fixies.
    Fixies – huh! Fixie Hipsters farking try hards – Fark you all! You have no reason to ride the roads on a fixed wheel any where on the planet! Grow some balls, shave your legs and get your farking fixie and go and smash a velodrome points race. Friggin track stand on the banks, chase a motorbike in a keirin, headbutt a rider at 60kmh+ in a sprint for a position. Couldn’t give a shit if you couldn’t brake and hit the deck. Sorry pedestrians if a fixie hit you or motorist if they used your car as a brake. You can’t corner for shit as your crank is at bottom dead center at the corner apex. Fark off the roads!
    You don’t even look cool. Go and join a circus or if you have to , side walk entertain.
    Back in the day as a 14 year old the only way we had to get to the club velodrome was to ride our track bikes to the drome.
    We’d bolt on a center-pull caliper brake on the forks and run a toe strap over the bars and under the center-pull cable. To brake, you had to grab the head tube and the toes trap and squeeze. We’d ride cautiously to arrive in one piece and respecting other road users at the same time.
    Yeah, I can still out track stand a fixie on a road bike till the lights turn green and the fixie is half way across the intersection.

    Glad to get that off my chest! Sorry I vented here.
    Hi! My name is sthilzy and I’ve been a road user of 30+ years….

  16. Wow, what causes that sort of anger about people doing their own thing?

  17. Personally I would prefer a fixie rider to someone who says “fark” when they mean fuck. Really annoying.

  18. Personally living in Denver I think its a blast, let the fad kids get their fixie’s they are simply entertainment and profit for me. As a mechanic that flips bikes for profit I capitalized on this fad and love it. Plus as for the entertainment, watching some kid reck on his “hip” bike is an absolute chuckle for me and friends.
    Honestly we should show support for all who pick up the wondrous life style that comes with cycling, regardless if their chice could use some better sober thought

  19. I actually really want a fixie with a flipflop hub for quick urban jaunts. Maintaining two proper geared road bikes is enough for me, and neither of which I care to lock up outside while running errands (#1 bike is too expensive, and #2 bike is sentimental so if it were stolen I’d be crushed). So a cheap fixie as bike #3 seems ideal.

    I want a nice light one I can bomb around on and if it gets stolen, no big loss. And I can work on my magnificent stroke while riding it.

  20. @mcsqueak

    And it would certainly have at least one g-damn brake, since I have no desire to die.

  21. @mcsqueak

    @mcsqueak
    And it would certainly have at least one farking-damn brake, since I have no desire to die.

    Fixed your post.

    I’ll get my coat …

  22. @frank

    @Marko
    My second grade education level always reminds me of Pearl Jam’s song, Dissonance, whenever I see that term.

    Dissident.  The song is called Dissident.

  23. I just posted this on the local Critical Mass Facebook page. I think the threat of a good pistol whipping maintains order and thus establishers character.

    Cheers!

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