Defectors, hipsters and one gear

Can you make the jump from road bike to fixie without being a complete ****? The urban dream machine proves too much for Steve Hall.

shutterstock_74455459v2‘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…

Steve Hall

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  1. Ohhhhhhhh you heathen, your jeans will shrink to a ball aching tightness, you will wear brogues with no socks and too much ankle showing, sport tattoos of Love and hate on your knuckles, wear non prescription ironic NHS glasses,talk of curating rather than collecting and whenever you make anything, be it beans on toast or a paper aeroplane you will no longer simply be making it you will be artisanal crafting it…. This is the life of the fixie! 29er or faux track, you are doomed just like Clackers and Stylophone 😉

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