My bike says a lot about me. It’s as simple as it can possibly be, whilst being as versatile as possible so I don’t need more than one bike. I don’t like having too many possessions.
When I first bought this bike it was quite different and it wasn’t suitable for my purposes. As you may know, I think the world of Magic Mike. He makes fantastic bikes! However, when I first bought one of his bikes from a local shop, I simply bought the wrong one for my needs (poorly advised by the staff). So over time, I met Mike himself and he guided me much better, and replaced more and more of the parts.
It turns out, the original frame had straight front forks, which make for a harsh ride but are considered fashionable. Likewise, the deep section wheels made for a jarring ride. The standard chain stretched at the thought of hills and the bike had straight handebars which were equally unsuitable for climbing. The shop was surprised when I asked for mudguards and drop handlebars to be fitted. Clearly this was a great bike for use about town, so I’m baffled as to why I was sold it after stating my intentions to buy a bike as my main form of transport. Magic Mike did a great job re-building it for my every day and long distance riding!
I love my new, improved, re-built bike because it’s practically unbreakable. It’s easy to ride, not to mention elegant to look at (I hate big logos on anything). It now has a strong, light steel frame – never going to be as light as a carbon frame, but it’s strong enough to carry luggage and can be mended if I crash it. I’ve switched to traditional road wheels which are much more practical, and thicker tires, for good grip in all weathers. Drop handlebars and SPD pedals are a must for hard climbs, as is a heavy duty chain that won’t stretch. A leather saddle is essential to make it through all days rides without a sore bum, and an extra strong pannier rack allows me to carry as much luggage as I want.
Having a decent bike spells “freedom” to me. Compared to the original bike I had, this re-incarnation is lighter so I can go further, and less jarring on the body so when I do go further, I don’t injure myself.
In a way, multispeed and fixed gear bikes are like electric and acoustic guitars. Electric guitars have lots of different settings, and lots of different bits to adjust or break. Acoustic guitars are harder to play but simpler since they don’t need plugging in and there are no knobs to fiddle in order to adjust the sound: you just play. Fixies are like acoustic guitars. They are more effort to ride, but there are less components to break, and no gears to think about: you just ride.
I’m seeing more and more Fixies around town these days and I do wonder about the culture that surrounds them. There’s the brakeless kids, and town riders who do tricks. I guess there are probably some short distance commuters. Then there are the fitness fanatics, who switched over to Fixies for road or mtb training, after years of riding multispeed and wanting to try something different/more challenging.
The topic of Fixie culture has been on my mind recently because the research I do for my articles leads me to read a lot of forums to try and figure out what people are doing with their bikes. There seems to be 2 extremes: those who like to ride over 100miles a day and then sound extra macho by pretending it’s easy, and those who like to whizz around town on impractical but pretty Fixies, where the main objective is ‘being seen’. There are obviously sensible people with better priorities in-between, but I’m more than puzzled by the extremes of Fixie culture.
I wonder which category I fit into,if any. I’m not a racer or a hipster, or a fitness fanatic. I took up cycling as a lifetstyle challenge in 2012, and chose Fixed Gear for a number or reasons, one of which was that the first time I tried one it just felt right. I was totally unaware of the fashion trends associated with this sort of bike, but I’ve become aware that I’m an unusual Fixie rider.
For a start, most people who have a Fixed Gear bike, also have a multispeed bike unless they are only intending to ride around town. I only have the one bike and I use it for everything including training and touring. Mike struggled to find me a frame that would take a pannier rack and 2 bottle cages because I like to carry luggage and tour – I guess not many people do that. I’m not into showing off that I have a Fixie, even though I make public of that in a weblog. I write a weblog in the hope of getting more people interested in cycling because it’s good for their health and the planet.