In the past few years, cycling (and fashion) has seen a massive rise in the popularity of fixies, or fixed wheel bikes for those of you who don’t know. I first encountered such steeds in my BMX days, when I was living in Vancouver back in 2007. Frequently when weaving through the human traffic of East Hastings, barrages of twenty-something year olds would steam past me, scabbed legs spinning smoothly along the asphalt. Fast forward four years and fixies are every where, but more often than not, they’ve been confused as some sort of fashion statement; the new, must have accessory for the Mark Ronson, electro fan in their studio flat on the fringes of Hoxton.
This may be a half truth; however, fixies are also an excellent tool for training…
Long before my knowledge of their existence or my existence what so ever, fixed wheels have been the tool of many enthusiasts to improve almost every aspect of their riding; pedal stroke, strength, efficiency etc. Ridding yourself of a generous cassette and freewheel puts you in a new state of control, a state of unity in fact, with your bicycle. Granted it takes some getting used to – particularly if you’re clipped in - but riding fixed brings an exciting edge, not just to training, but to cycling in general.
My first long bout of fixed riding came this winter past, as I found myself on the cold commute, a bit bored and continuously caked in grease from the inevitable on going cleaning process.. Not one for aluminium, I decided to do the ‘pop’ thing and convert a vintage racer, in this case a Raleigh Record Ace (bought at Pearsons in the dark ages) with Pista hubs and a rather proud Miche Primato track chainset. It certainly isn’t the prettiest steed on the road but boy, does it fly… Following my fixed winter, I’m feeling as strong as a mule after some of the most intense climbing I’ve ever experienced; down hill isn’t too much of a picnic either, balancing cadence rather than coasting is just as tough but it definitely makes you a smoother rider. I would warn you when you’re starting out to approach steep descents with a bit of caution, as if you go jetting down you’re likely to tear your legs off as quickly as a well cooked lamb shank.
It’s not just I who have felt the benefits; I frequently saw Pearson brain box, Alex about Epsom Downs on his Touché, training for his recent cycle tour of Vietnam. Also, Luke after recently inheriting a Hanzo, has been riding to and from his various climbing centres and he’s now fighting fit for the Pearson 150 and Ride For Life (Saver) this month - admittedly we won’t be doing either of these events on a fixie, although it could be a challenge for the future.
Even if you’re not an avid racer, constant spinning adds an element of excitement to rolling into work every morning; as time goes on you can judge the viability of gaps in the traffic, think ahead to possibly precarious situations and master the art of track-stands/standing starts at traffic lights and junctions. Consequently, even riding fixed for your daily commute will make you a safer, more efficient cyclist.
So what are you waiting for? No matter what discipline you follow, what circumference of wheel you subscribe to, sort yourself out a fixed wheel soon. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to look like it’s just come out of a cereal box and you don’t have to be sporting a moustache to ride one… Just make sure you’re committed, because once you’ve got your fix, you’ll never go back.