We ride fixies. A what?! The fixie is a brakeless, single-speed bike known as a track bike that has a drivetrain with no freewheeling mechanism. Fixie is short for “fixed gear,” meaning the rear wheel and the pedals are connected through a single gear anchored to the rear wheel.
Unlike standard road bikes, there is no way to coast, there is only one gear and brakes are optional. Basically, when the wheels are moving, the rider’s legs are moving. As with a child’s toy cycle, if you want to stop, you have to use your leg muscles to slow the bike. Many riders, but not all, add a front brake, but the pure and brave (or foolish) of heart scoff at the notion.
Though a bike with no brakes sounds insane to many, it’s pretty much the perfect invention. You can’t make it any better. Clean lines, affordable parts, self-maintenance, added street cred, what more can you ask for.
Funnily, when this configuration was first introduced in the late 19th century, it was known as a “safety bicycle”, since it replaced the “high wheel”, whose enormous front wheel made for an unstable ride. Though hand brakes and free wheels were invented soon after, the fixed gear remained a popular bike for decades, including during the early years of the Tour de France.
“Learning how to ride a fixie is like drinking decaf your whole life and then suddenly having the real thing,” a mechanic said.
Learning to slow a bike with your legs and cornering while pedalling makes one a better cyclist. If you are an intelligent cyclist, it makes you far more aware. It’s a Zen thing. Once you get used to traffic, then you can float through the chaos.
Fixie: A way of life
Across the world these bikes are popular with racers wanting to work on their form, commuters who ride in rain, snow and sleet, and, increasingly, with those taking up track racing on banked velodromes. We use it for our daily commutes everywhere! Style plays an important role because of simplicity of design. The conscious choice of colour composition, the saddle, the wheel, etc. are expressions of the individual’s own personality, attitude and convictions. It’s not about modesty; it’s about reducing to a minimum for the highest degree of authenticity and intensity, on the bicycle, a fixie, as in life.
Vive le fixie!
— by Ben Joseph