Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Just don't call it a fixie

A young colleague asked to interview me recently about "the fixie scene" in London. She was writing a piece for one of those style and music magazines aimed at a readership of 200 in Hoxton.

Once I'd told her never to use the word "fixie" ever again in my hearing, I agreed to the interview.

I struggled not to sound like a grumpy old man as I told her that there was no such thing as a "fixie scene" when I started riding bikes seriously. Riding fixed was just what you did in the Winter because, well, that's what everyone else did and there was a vague theory that someone in the club had once read that it improved your pedalling technique. Plus, it marked you out as someone who took their cycling a bit seriously - like shaving your legs or putting a twist in your Binda toestrap as it passed under the pedal.

I gave up riding fixed for several years because I used a mountain bike for work and a geared roadbike in the Summer. But then, sometime in the early nineties I spotted a couple of couriers on fixed, realised it could make a sensible but fun commuting bike, and dug my old track bike out of the loft.

For several years, it was a rarity to see another fixed on the road in London - probably no more than one a week. And if you came across another fixed rider you would automatically start chatting, usually comparing gear ratios and bemoaning the difficulties of getting decent and reasonably priced parts.

All that's changed now, of course, since everyone and their cousin seems to be riding fixed, or its less coherent relation - the singlespeed. And the bike shops near us had their Xmas windows stocked with racks of glittering ready-made fixed gears as ideal stocking fillers.

And I genuinely don't have a problem with that. It's much easier to get decent fixed parts like cogs and chains, and anything that gets more people out on bikes is a good thing. Plus I sold my lovely, but ancient, Condor track bike on eBay for a ludicrously inflated sum, having had serious inquiries from all over the world, including Tokyo and Milan.

And when the immediate fashion dies away, as it inevitably will, I hope that many of those attracted to bikes through the matching pastel gates of the "fixie scene" will remain committed riders.

That's what I said in the interview. Although I expect it will just end up sounding like a grumpy old man's droning.

1 comment:

Cycling past forty said...

Welcome back - I'd been checking the blog regularly for months and was about to give up.
Very best regards
Tim (although I'm a fine one to talk. 5 minutes of blogging and never been back...)