5 Inexplicable Fixie Fashions
Fixed-gear bicycles are the scourge of modern bike fashion. Actually, fixies are almost nothing but fashion. If you took a swaying, brainless, gazelle-like catwalk model and turned her into a bike, a fixie is what you’d get.
It’s not enough that these cred-machines don’t even work well as city bikes — their track-bike heritage means that they have but one gear, no freewheel and no brakes — no, the riders have to take things even further and load up their rides with all manner of style-mandated extras.
In fact, so much like a cult is the fixie “movement” that we wouldn’t be surprised to see the FBI get involved, right before the whole fixie underground goes up in flames, barricaded into a San Fransisco coffee shop and dressed in ironic T-shirts. Here is a list of the five worst fixie fashion faux pas:
Photo: Incase Designs/Flickr
Top Tube Pad
These were first seen on BMX bikes back in the 1980s, and did about as much good than as today. A thin foam cylinder wrapped around the top-tube does little to protect the family jewels from a whack, but it does at least protect the knees from a knock when you bail on a 360º endo. For a fixie, though, it is nothing more than posing — if the riders were that worried about safety, they’d buy a front brake.
Cards in Spokes
Why? This is the bike equivalent of wearing a top-hat with the ace of spades tucked into the band — foolish teen-minded posturing which serves as nothing more than an in joke between equally feeble-brained “insiders.” If the perpetrators would make one simple modification, clipping the card to the frame with a clothespin and letting it rattle against the spokes, at least their rides would sound like a motorbike. Well, maybe not a motorbike, but at least we’d hear them coming so we could look away and deprive them of their life-blood: attention.
The Mag Wheel
I’m not sure if these are even still called mag wheels, but they were back in the ’80s when the coolest BMXs had Skyways or Zytecs on them. They may have looked dumb even back then, but at least they matched — you bought a pair and put them front and back.
Today, these plastic wheels have grown to road-bike size and are only ever found on the front. There is actually a reason for this. Cycle couriers, the deities of fixie fashion, use these five-spoked wheels so they can more quickly sling a chain through the front wheel. As always, fixie riders took the form but not the function, so we have to contend with this eyesore.
Photo: Seth W./Flickr
There are many variations on the mindless mutilation of fixie ‘bars. It seems that the less practical and more uncomfortable, the better. Standout mods include handlebar tape (or the lack of — the less the better, especially in winter) and the “flop-and-chop,” which means that you flip your drop handlebars in the head and cut the ends off, often resulting in something a matador would be scared to face.
One evergreen favorite is to trim the bars down to an unusable length, barely wide enough to contain your two hands. This is also a courier hand-me-down — the pros do it so they can slip between close-packed cars in traffic. Fixie riders do it to “keep it real.”
The Brooks Saddle
I’m not going to knock the Brookes Saddle — I have one on my Dutch city bike. But the old-style seats look quite ridiculous on a modern, clean-lined fixie. And clean-lined it is: While removing fenders, brakes, gears cables and pretty much everything else does nothing for safety or comfort, it does make for a spare, cool-looking machine. Unless, of course, it has an old-fashioned, leather and spring seat on there. This is, like all fixie fashion, just plain odd.
Oh, and there is more. We haven’t even touched on the ironic pie plate (a subject handled gracefully by Bike Snob NYC) or the unhealthy obsession with gear ratios. And is it just me or do you hardly ever see somebody actually riding a fixie? The phenomenon has started to invade my home town of Barcelona in Spain, and I see more and more of the things every day. And they are all being pushed along the sidewalk.