Ultimate Bike Love: Customize Your Ride

The Monument to the Tour de France in the Pyrenees

Despite their obvious utility, I’m not a big fan of Fixies.  I understand they have minimal maintenance – which make them great for commuting – and the fixed gear forces excellent pedaling technique.  But the wide-spread adoption of these bikes has less to do with those two considerations than they do with fad.  But fads aren’t all bad, and I really do appreciate how they’ve made cycling more popular in metro areas and it’s been keeping people out of their cars more.  To visit a Farmer’s market in Seattle is a testament to the wide-spread use of the bicycle as transportation, due in no smart part to the popularization of the Fixie.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of  bike ownership is the process of tweaking and customizing it to make it your own, personal bike of which there is no other in the world exactly like it.  The sad fact is that most people don’t even recognize that a bike is a collection of separate parts.  Back in 2002, I was going through the process of buying components for the new Bianchi XL EV2 frame I had recently acquired.  In passing, I told my boss about the project and I remember he was shocked that bikes are available à la carte and aren’t only sold as complete packages.  The truth of the matter is that you have to have a certain level of interest in bikes before you even realize there are parts on your bike, let alone that you can make choices that will make your bike more to your liking.  And that is one thing I love about the Fixie community: most of these are some seriously customized rides.  One of the most memorable examples I have seen was a guy in Ballard who was scooting around on a mid-80’s Kilo bike, complete with 26-inch front wheel.

At the risk of looking like I’m imitating the Bike Snob, I’ve been snapping some shots around town as I spot a bike that I feel exemplifies the love and care that goes into customizing your bike. Check back and watch for updates; I’ll keep posting more shots here as I come across more.

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21 Replies to “Ultimate Bike Love: Customize Your Ride”

  1. Fixie douchebaggery is picking up steam here in NZ… only 3 years behind. I’m over it, but we have ordered in a heap of crappy bars and cranks and other coloured shit and are taking the plebs cold hard with joy. Idiots.

  2. I saw that video the other day. Reminds me of Jizz in My Pants or I’m on a Boat. Funnier though to me b/c of the cycling reference.

  3. @jim
    And in winter you troll for rocks with your knees; you obviously don’t value your joints. You are exempt.

    In your defense, I have to say, you found the only unhilly route in Seattle, and you use it to commute every day, rain or shine (more often than not, rain).

    That, and you’re a better skier than anyone I know, even with the handicap of said skiing style.

  4. I have to admit, I jumped on the fixie train. I’d wanted one for a few years and this new fad made it easier and less expensive for me to get one. Tweaking, customizing, and outfitting it has been fun. Riding it is even better. It’s virtually silent, smooth like Couvoisiere, and the simplicity is refreshing. It’s also very challenging and the inability to coast is both scary and exhausting at times. My fixie is also my bike I don’t fret over. It’s nice not having to worry about it. Let me also point out the irony of velominati’s symbol being an IRO fixed rear cog.

  5. @frank
    I love SpandX’s vid. (The guy is actually a commercial film maker.) It’s full of self-deprecatory irony from the first shot: a close up on a triple chainring! No serious roadie would be caught dead with triple chain ring. “When I’m in the pack I’m always holding my line”, and then the shot’s of him weaving back and forth down the street like a pixie .. . err, fixie hipster. Absolutely worn out Castelli shorts, with an Australian national champion’s jersey. Hehe! Again, any serious roadie would be in team kit. On the other hand, how many roadies do you see in absolutely worn out kit? It’s all too common. I’m tired of looking at sweaty asses on group rides. At :41 seconds the shot is on his cheap Tirreno bike, one of the Performance brands. “24/7, I’m in nothing but spandex”, and here he is clearly mocking roadies wearing nasty kit all day long. I’ve done it my self. But the highlight of the vid is definitely the redhead pump pumper all the way on the right. Jesus Christ. At 2:36 she lets her hair down. Phffft! (&*(^0086

  6. I’ve always been up in the air on the fixed frenzy. Yeah, more people are riding bikes. Good. But, people are also dumping thousands of dollars into a bike and they can’t change a tube and they ride is three miles a day. I’ve met too many people like this, not just a stereotype. I’m also all for customizing your bike, but only if it makes it more/equally functional. Many fixed folks do completely stupid things to their perfectly good stock bike to make it “personal” or to gain some street cred (hey, I’m not on a stock bike!). See riding with negative rise stems, riding with 8″ wide bars, riding a TT bike with a small front wheel, mounting a brake on the seat tube, etc. Leave it to them.

    I’m glad more people in U.S. cities are riding bikes. I wish more people on their “customized” fixed gears were cycling enthusiasts, not just trend enthusiasts. Oh, and more often not if someone is riding at dusk/night without lights and dangerously, it ain’t a roadie in kit, it’s someone on a fixed gear without a brake, in denim, and without toe clips.

    All of us toe the line of form v. function in some cases, but for a lot of of fixed faders, it is all about form.

  7. Oh, and I have nothing wrong with anyone owning a bike or riding a bike of any kind. But, I find a lot of the fixed crowd to be like some of the $10,000 Dogma/Extreme Power/Etc. crowd – both ride bikes that are quite expensive (relatively), both do little or no mechanical work, both talk bikes more than they ride bikes, and both are more about how they look than how much they love cycling.

    That is what it really boils down to for me. Ride whatever the hell you want, what you like, and what you can afford. But if you spent more time sourcing all your NJS part for your 3Rensho and you can’t ride worth a damn, you make me sad. If someone is using a bike more as a commodity to look a certain way in some big city than as a tool to haul ass on and put tons of miles on, that makes me sad to. And pisses me off to a degree, since I find conspicuous consumption upsetting.

  8. @frank
    Much of what you say in this post makes sense, but I just want to check you’re not becoming unsound.
    I flicked through the BikeSnob’s “product” a few weeks ago. Two things. One, if you start producing content like his on a regular basis I shall have to come over there, hunt you down and either kill you or have you surgically bolted for life to this bike – only with squeaky cranks, underinflated tyres and stabilisers:
    Two, I also like the way fixies have led more people to customize their bikes – but it’s just unfortunate that often the results are so ….so… douchey! This does allow the real works of art to stand out, but it depresses me when people make things worse. Your first photo of the chromed Bianchi – when that first came out I really wanted one. Every time I saw one I was offering about 90%. This bike is desecrated with that foam and cloth thing. I like the bars. The wheels are horrible. I feel a bike like that calls for seriously low profile wheels.
    Photo no. 4: Get those grips off the bars. WITNOGB did the owner think she was doing?
    Photo no. 5 is excellent and I congratulate its owner on an exceptional job.

    Does anyone else think that the front forks are too ugly on many fixies? See photo 3? Seems to me there’s room for an aesthete to enter the market with some sweetly crafted forks.

  9. @George
    George, the threat of being lashed to this bike will cost me valuable hours of sleep. Point taken. I do have another article in the hopper regarding a Fixie, but I believe it is well clear of the subject matter that warrants your wrath and this threat.

    As for the Chrome Bianchi…man on man, I’d love to get one. I just can’t get on the Fixie wagon for all their hipster fuck knuckle associations, but if I bought one, it would be that chrome one. They are not that expensive…one day, if one comes by for the right price…

  10. the 3rd bike pictured is a volume bikes frame. They are a bmx company, who does 2 “freestyle” fixed gear frames

  11. I was passed on my ride today by a guy on one of those new motorized bikes. You know the old DUI bike with a motor kit put on it, been seeing a lot of those here lately. Anyway, the guy sort of buzzed me and laughed. I laughed at him when I ran into him 2 lights later where the county sheriff stopped him for having an unregistered motor vehicle.

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