Can you make the jump from road bike to fixie without being a complete ****? The urban dream machine proves too much for Steve Hall.
‘Urban’ is such a dirty word –even marketing execs are over it. Let’s try again: I want a bike for riding in town. But wait, not a town bike. I don’t want to sit up and pootle along like a sedated vicar – I want to create a bike that can eat street, pavement, crushed glass, swerve pigeons, cut gravel, burn traffic lights and look a bit special.
I promised myself I’d not write about personal shopping decisions or wishlist bikes, but that was just a silly idea. If you can guarantee something about people that own a bike it’s that pretty soon they’ll want a new one.
While I was talking to David Kitchen, the founder of the London Fixed Gear Forum, the resulting article from which is available here, I was struck by how quickly journalistic tendencies were giving way to enthusiasm for bikes that, I’ll admit, are still a bit exotic to me.
I’ve had a road bike for so long now, my bones are shaken to a fizzy pulp and my bum feels never more comfortable than when perched on dangerously narrow strip of leather. So, a fixie felt like a guilty pleasure – completely undeserved and perhaps a reflex born of the snobbery that I was trying to unpick in my article.
But David’s talk about 29ers sent me into a Google spiral and onwards into a binge of message boards. I’d heard of 29ers – even met them face to face – but they still felt like more of a toy, something you’d want if you were plunging over logs, roots and bogs, but maybe a bit unnecessary parked on Tooting Broadway.
The more photos I saw, the more specs and customisations I trawled over, the more I saw that these oversized wheels had something special to them. See, the things my road bike lacks are the things that these have in abundance – manouevrability and trendiness combined with simplicity of maintenance and – speak it quietly – streed cred.
At this point I stopped and realised I was talking myself into something because, probably misguidedly, I thought it looked trendy. I remembered the comments on previous articles here on this very site: ‘that’s just for hipsters’ they cry. But here’s the kicker, put all that to one side, there’s something quite special about taking a mountain bike’s sensibilities and the clean design and simple style of a fixie and customising it into something to take on the streets.
So I am alone – buffeted by the winds and clipped by road bikes flying past disapprovingly. Outside my flat there’s one space for one set of wheels and like a flight of freedom or an email invite to a rave the call of a fixie that I can customise and thrash around the streets of South London sounds mighty appealing.
What does a former roadie need to know about the world of the fixed gear? *takes cover behind an oversized wheel…
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