Like most people who get into riding a bike with a fixed gear I got one because I thought it was ‘cool’ and fashionable and unashamedly so might I add. Call me a hipster if you like, I have been branded many things in my life so I guess another label wouldn’t matter.
Having ridden a bike for pretty much my whole existence and mostly BMXs or Mountain bikes I wanted something faster, lighter and much simpler without the plethora of gears, brakes and suspension I was so used to. So I got what some people like to call a ‘Fixie’.
So I have been riding a fixed gear bike for quite a while now and specifically a track bike but unlike some who progress and mature into something else like trick riding or ‘700CMX’ (as it was coined by John Prolly) I instead now find myself yearning to simply go faster, further and for longer… with all the trappings and yes by that I mean; gears and brakes, the whole shebang. My friends, I am talking about Road cycling, I absolutely love it!
I sit here writing this on my dining room table after having just returned home from another Sunday afternoon cycle with my good friend Kieran and his brother Andy out in the Warwickshire countryside. We generally do a minimum of 50 miles with a good average speed and in good time but sometimes it hurts, and I mean HURTS. There have been points on some occasions when I felt utterly spent, like I can go no further, not one centimetre more but that is the beauty of it. The sense of accomplishment when you return home to know that you did it is huge and it is at times like this that the glass of wine some like to drink or that marijuana cigarette some like to smoke has been earned and earned good. Whatever your vice is you know you have worked hard for it so gone on, enjoy it.
This is not a fixed vs. free argument, nor is it a gears vs. none debate. There for me is no comparison… they both do their jobs perfectly, to a tee. Now with the option of a road bike I could not again do silly miles riding fixed, there is no need. At this point I would like to say that I fully respect and commend the people who ride for a good amount of miles without the aid of a freewheel or the option to change gear. Take the early riders of the Tour de France for instance. Over 2000 kilometres in nineteen days on a fixed gear without a brake, boom! I doff my hat to them. I however can no longer do it, my knees just cannot take it, but what they can take is a bit of bombing and spinning around the city, where the single speed, low maintenance, no nonsense bike comes into it’s own, for that it is unbeatable.
Back to road bikes! The ability to be able to comfortably travel a certain distance solely under your own steam is amazing. The practice of taking in some of the best countryside your local area has to offer is also a draw, as is the socializing with pals or being able to simply get out in the quiet and mull something over in your head on a solo effort, to conquer a certain hill that has been giving you nightmares, to meet a personal goal (for me that is currently to do 100 miles in a day), to fix a puncture on the side of the road although no one likes a puncture. As Kieran put it “You get a great sense of achievement to know that the thing, the problem, the flat tyre that halted your progress has been fixed, sorted, and dealt with by you and your gone again, on your way”. It all adds up to being one of the things I now enjoy most.
I was such a terrible snob a while back, I really was…”gears are for losers,” I said once jovially, what was I thinking? If I could go back and speak to myself at that point I would have asked myself to go wash my mouth out with soap!
It is simply about appreciating a machine for what it does best and nothing more.
To seasoned road cyclists please forgive me for my novice tone here but I am new to this by a few months so I am still just a beginner and that is another thing, how many others like me have discovered road cycling through the purchase and use of a fixed gear bike?