PRO: Fixies dangerous, magic

By Nicholas Olsen

In recent times the fixed-gear bicycle has come back into its own, as thrill-seeking riders have picked up on its simplicity and feeling of power.

Many zealots have done away with the unnecessary parts. Like brakes. Crazy? Probably. The drive mechanism forces one to pedal as long as the wheels are in motion. The opposite is also true: If the pedals aren’t moving, then neither is the back wheel. Make no mistake, this is not the same simple bike you rode as a child. A halfhearted effort to stop will not overcome the wheels’ momentum and will fling the rider out of the seat with surprising force.

Within the danger, though, lies the beauty of fixed-gear riding. On the thin edge of control there comes a calmness. The pedals whisper what you never realized was there: The tiny rocks and cracks, the slightest hills and sandy patches. A whole new road stretches out begging to tell you its secrets.

Some spandex-clad road bikers express disdain for the fixed-gear riders who eschew cycling’s elitist culture of high-priced parts and gear, opting instead for hoodies and PBR packed away in deep messenger bags. Road bikers are always excited to retell a story from a friend of a friend about a fixed-gear biker who was killed while riding brakeless.

Despite cries of danger from the old school, fixed gears appeal to the cycling misfits going somewhere fast.

CON: Fixies for hipster fops

By Horace Williams

The rear freewheel sprocket was developed during the bicycle’s early heyday in the 1890s, followed shortly by the invention of the rear derailleur. The thing about both of these innovations is that they work. The rear sprocket allows cyclists to exploit excess momentum by coasting, while the derailleur lets riders stay within their preferred cadence range over a variety of speeds. Both grew out of the historical trend of bicycles to become more efficient and more comfortable, and it’s no wonder that they’ve become modern biking staples.

But if conveniences like these are available at low cost, why are so many people suddenly rejecting them in favor of fixed-gear bikes? Many reasons are cited, from “my fixie is lighter” (the difference between a fixed-gear and a comparable freewheel bike with gears is actually only a few hundred grams — about the equivalent of one more obscure novel) to “it really helps me improve my pedaling style” (it also puts incredible strain on your legs and knees from using them to brake, so unless you’re training for track cycling, it probably isn’t worth it).

Basically it is difficult to find a real, utilitarian justification for riding a fixed-gear bike. When you factor in the many other modifications “fixies” often make to their bikes, such as doing away with rear (and sometimes also front) brakes, the whole practice seems pretty absurd. However much people go on about “the fixie lifestyle of being in tune with their bike,” the real reason people choose a fixed-gear is because they and their hipster friends have decided that they’re too cool for safety and comfort. And if that’s what you’re looking for in a bike, by all means, go fixie. But please stop trying to convince me that it’s somehow superior to a freewheel bike with gears and a derailleur. And for God’s sake, use brakes.