Riding a Fixed Wheel Bike

I first tried this about eight years ago, taking a few laps of a car park.  It scared the crap out of me.

Then, about four years ago I started a new job, the office for which was only a mile or so away from home, so I stepped into my brave shoes and decided to invest in a fixed wheel bike on which to undertake this mammoth commute.  For about a week after taking delivery I hated the short dash to work and back – it was so strange to pedal around tight bends and to have to pedal downhill.  Having ridden a normal bike for so many years my poor ageing muscles and joints had to figure out a whole new regime.  Then, one day I got it.  It was a minor revelation, an enlightenment.  I got it.  I was at one with my machine and it felt bloody marvellous.  I was soon venturing out on longer training rides and began to learn about how to really ride on a fixed wheel.  It sounds rather pretentious, I’m sure, but it began to feel so pure; cycling at its simplest.  Crank, chain, cog.  Light, simple, low maintenance, smooth.  Pure.

Since then, the fixed has been my ride of choice for solo rides during the winter and spring.  Although I’ve been on club rides where others use their fixed wheel winter bikes, I’m not convinced my skill level or confidence (not to mention strength and fitness) are up to that kind of commitment, so I save it and savour it for short to medium rides with only my thoughts for company.  The older riders will bang on about how it’s good for teaching yourself to pedal smoothly – I think the correct term is suplesse (sp?) – but for me it’s a great way of achieving good value for any given ride.  An hour feels equivalent to 1.25-1.5 hours on a bike with gears (I’m no scientist, so I stress ‘feels like’), so when time is short I can work up a decent sweat relatively quickly.

On the downside, I find the whole ‘fixie’ culture that has sprung up in recent years rather unappealing.  It’s much too trendy for my liking.  I feel as though I have to apologise for riding a basic steel frame with standard bars and mudguards.  (The term fixie itself makes me shudder, right up there with responding to the “how are you?” question with “good”, or the hideous “can I get …?” request.  We’re not American.)  Couriers (and wannabe cool kids) riding with not even a front brake seems irresponsible to me, but it’s big business, I s’pose and better that more people are cycling than driving.

Ho hum.  One day I’d like to have a go at a velodrome.  No brakes.  Yikes.

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