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The Future of Fixies

by Ted Johnson

I rode a fixed-gear bike for the first time the other day (after Matt’s photo shoot). I went about 50 yards and it did not weird me out as expected.

And there you have my review of fixies. From now on, I can talk about them from experience; with expertise, no less.

Yesterday I saw that Swiss bike maker, bedovelo, has introduced (what they claim to be) the world’s first two-speed fixie.

A two-speed fixie! What is the world coming to?

Actually, I know what the world is coming to. The fixie world anyway.

Ted on a fixie

omnivero-ted-powered fixie. Nice haircut, huh?

I’ve seen this play out before. Fixed-gear cyclists are to cycling what vegetarians are to eating.

I was a very strict vegetarian for 12 years, beginning when I was still in high-school. Back then, it was pretty self-evident what a vegetarian was. Maybe not to my mom, but to me.

But then I learned about vegans, who made me feel less ideologically pure. They regarded me as an ovo-lacto vegetarian.

Then I learned about vegetarians who were okay with eating fish: pesce-vegetarians. And chicken-eating vegetarians: pollo-vegetarians

Vegetarianism became a victim of it’s cultural appeal. The terminology and multiple hyphenations made things so muddled that eventually some wiseguy facetiously coined the term omni-vegetarian to ridicule people who want to wear the vegetarian label while still eating the diet of a hyena.

But enough about that. (If you want to read vegetarians whining about how the omnivorous world just doesn’t understand, search for it. Or… You can go to any fixed-gear forum and substitute “fixed gear rider” with “vegetarian” and substitute any other type of rider with “clueless omnivorous idiot.” It’ll be pretty much the same thing.)

Fixie riders, welcome to the slippery slope. I hope you have brakes.

Already people get confused between a single-speed freewheel bike and a fixed gear bike. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If this trend continues, it won’t stop with bedovelo’s two-speed. And you’re going to have to get used to some new terminology:

  • Single-speed, no brakes, fixed-gear: fixie
  • With brakes: freno-fixie
  • To specify single-speed, with brakes: freno-singulus-fixie
  • Two-speed: duo-fixie
  • Two-speed with brakes: duo-freno-fixie
  • Multi-gear (more than two): multi-fixie
  • Multi-gear with brakes: multi-freno-fixie
  • Freewheel: volubilis-fixie
  • Freewheel with brakes: volubilis-freno-fixie
  • Freewheel with brakes and gears: multi-volubilis-freno-fixie
  • Electric assist: Noooooooooooooooooo!

Get used to it, or welcome to your worst nightmare:

recumbo-electro-multi-tri-rota fixie

recumbo-freno-volubilis-electro-multi-tri-rota-fixie | Photo: Electric-Bikes.com

 
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19 Responses to “The Future of Fixies”

  1. Rich says:

    People look at my internal hub gear folding bike and think it’s a fixie. Hee hee.

  2. Rusty Wright says:

    Riding a fixie is just a fad. A fashion trend.

    The fixie trend came from city bicycle messengers. See the section “Messenger culture and influence” at

    http://goo.gl/pOE17

    Somewhere I read someone’s observation that the fixie is the new hip thing for young guys to have and it’s replacing the skate board as the hip thing to have.

    All the bunk about how they’re “in tune” with their bicycling is just self justification for following a fad.

  3. OK, I’ll bite. I’m a guy who used to be skeptical of the fixie fad. And then, finally giving way to my secret repressed desire, I built one. I joked to my wife that it was my midlife crisis bike.

    It’s definitely a fad, but not *entirely* a fashion fad. Is there a good practical reason to ride a fixie? Nah. Do I get the “zen” thing? Nah. Do I buy the rationale that there are fewer opportunities for mechanical failure? Nah. Is it kinda fun? Yeah!

    It’s like if you skied for a long time and then suddenly you try snowboarding. It’s a little awkward at first, but sort of a fun new challenge to get the hang of it.

    Just my 2 cents

  4. Apis the Bee says:

    At least he wasn’t constrained by law or guilt (or some overly litigation frightened corporate lawyer) into wearing a helmet.

    I’ve ridden fixed. A friend had one when we were kids. His parents got him the bike not really knowing it didn’t freewheel. He didn’t know any better than to just ride it. I borrowed it once and thought it OK, but missed my brakes. What did I know: we were only about 10 y/o.

  5. Mark H says:

    As with all things bicycle-related, I’m sure that it’s not the first 2-speed fixie. Certainly, Sheldon Brown (RIP) has documented a 3-speed: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/asc.html which was out when he was just a kid.

    I’ve even read that Archibald Sharp- author of the definitive book on old bicycle technology, “Bicycles and Tricycles: An Elementary Treatise on Their Design and Construction” (1896)- made a two-speed fixed gear.

  6. Rusty Wright says:

    We need fixie riders who are vegetarians, locavores, and eating gluten free. Just covering all the fad bases.

  7. Gene @ BU says:

    There was a nice story on CNN about a guy using a fixie to find a job …

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/07/29/dnt.dad.bike.job.kxan?hpt=hp_t2

    He has a interesting idea of creating a business using bikes for marketing.

    I wish him all the best in his job search.

  8. BluesCat says:

    Any time you add the “ie” suffix to something, it’s a fad.

    I’ve ridden freewheel bikes my whole life. Coasting has become embedded in my autonomic nervous system. If I were to get on a fixie, the microsecond after I got up to cruising speed, I’d be going over the handlebars. :O

  9. Paul says:

    Fixies are SOOO LAST DECADE!! Cruisers are in and ruling the road, long live the cruiser!

  10. Very useful terminology, thanks. I prefer the term “fixed monocogular” myself, as opposed to “free polycogular” etc.

    fixies are part of a fashion fad trend, certainly, and as such warrant suspicion as to the actual merits of riding without a freewheel. I don’t think there are so many cities that are as big and flat as Phoenix, but here, for the city riding I do, gears seem like a needless affectation sometimes. I found myself never or rarely switching between the 18 to 30 (depending on which bike) that I have. So a single speed was a natural experiment for me. From there, it was a short flip-flop to try fixed gear. It’s mostly for fun and a change of pace for me. So far, I haven’t found myself unduly attracted to PBR or tight pants.

  11. ‘Fixies’ as a fad? Bah – nothing new!

    ‘Fixies’ or as I prefer to call them, ‘singles’ were in fashion 110 years ago; bikes back then were fixed, used daily, and used by the masses.

    This is my take on it: http://the3rdquarter.com/2010/02/11/what-i-love-about-being-single-on-a-bike/

    And if you want ‘fixed’ thrills without dicing with traffic, try track cycling: http://www.australiancyclist.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=12210

    I don’t ride a single, but I’ll build one, one day for sure. An Xtracycle will do, every day.

    I just love the fact that singles make up the marvelous modern zoo that we call cycling.

    cheers

    Richard

  12. At the end of the day if your are riding a bike you ok with me :) I have 8 bikes in total and two of them are fixed gear bikes. I love them, they bring something different to the table, a little bit more pure. Every bike design offers something different so why not just except and enjoy. Please drop by and say hi if you ever visit Brisbane, Australia !

  13. Casey says:

    I seem to remember seeing a link to a German manufacturer that made a 14 speed fixed gear hub. Of course I can’t find it, but I swear it exists.

  14. phixed geeeeeeeeer says:

    Lets all enjoy the fact that hipsters are riding bicycles instead of suped up cars that destroy the world and put $$$ in the pockets of oil execs.

    For once, a trend that doesnt destroy anything except ones elitist perception of what a trend should be.

    All bicycling is a trend. Call it a culture, call it a lifestyle.

    We all cycle for our own reasons.

    PS. emergency brake.

  15. Julian says:

    I own 13 bikes, 2 of which are fixed, and over half are single speeded. One is a recumbent. I originally built a “beater” fixed gear out of an old road bike because I wanted to see if you really do get better control on snowy commutes. It seemed to hold true. I like a fixed gear because of the quiet ride and lack of weight. Ironically, I’m actually building myself a beach cruiser today, with a coaster brake, as an errand bike.

  16. Mike C says:

    Looks like a Schlumpf 2sp crank. Been around for a while:

    http://www.biketinker.com/2010/bike-resources/schlumpf-double-fixed/

    “You can use a Schlumpf for a two-speed fixed setup, or mate it to a 3-speed fixed gear hub for six fixed gears.” Woah.

    But kudos to Bedo for actually doing it, going one further with the belt drive, and publicizing it successfully.

  17. Dave Jones says:

    I have to disagree here is a good outline of Why you should ride a fixed gear bike

  18. iMic says:

    Well said, and I agree. I turned 50 this year and *one* of my bikes is fixed-gear and I do enjoy riding it. I don’t do tricks or skids, I don’t dress a certain way when I ride it, it’s just good exercise. Dig it, or fuck off.

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