With their purity and simplicity, fixed-pedal bikes, or fixies, are superior to all others, fixie veteran Oli Pritchard writes
“You use your brakes too much. You’re getting lazy”. Prophetic words from my friend Diego. Two days later a brake cable snapped in the pouring rain of a Bogota October and I smashed into the back of a bus. He was right, so I removed my brakes to go home. Brakes are for flakes, they make you lazy and complacent. I have two enormous thighs which act as brakes. Because I ride fixed, a pure bike.
A fixed-wheel bicycle, or fixie, is a bike with no ratchet on the rear wheel. The pedals turn the wheel turns the pedals turn the wheel turns the pedals … well, you get it. Of course, there’s no free-wheeling, you have to pedal or die. Or stop, anyway. You’re connected to the bike heart and soul, totally in touch with its beat.
There’s been a real explosion of fixed culture in Bogota, which makes sense as fixies are particularly great in a city presenting no hills to contend with. The massed legion of sheeplike hipsters in Candelaria take to fixies as quickly as pretentious coffee, so there’s a burgeoning scene. Furthermore, manoeuvring through endless lines of zombified traffic is a piece of cake on a fixie, as you have so much control over the bike. Control. It’s all about control.
Long before the trickster hipsters took them up, couriers had taken fixies off the track and hurled them around the mean streets of New York, Warsaw and London, attracted to their lightweight, low maintenance efficiency. But there’s something beautiful about the fact that they’re simpler than a Big Brother contestant from Norwich; fixies are more than a means to an end. After six years on the London circuit, I’m so fixie I shit sprockets.
People often ask me why I ride fixed … it’s simply a magic feeling. The lack of gears makes you honest; the lack of brakes makes you more aware. You feel much more in sync with the rhythm of the bike, holding and releasing the wheels via the pedals. It’s as fluid as a popo after some bad ají.
Watch out for becoming a fixie-wanker, though. It’s very tempting to spend your first few weeks after getting used to it describing to all and sundry how it’s “zen cycling” which will make you as popular as a turd in a lift. Which really, I suppose, is how this column might sound, in which case I make no fucking apologies whatsoever. All other bicycles are inferior for city riding and suitable only for whelps who have not yet learnt to ride proper bikes. There’s no love lost between me and mountain bikes or BMXs, for example. My tongue is in my cheek, but only in part. Get on it. Switch your hub and discover the joys of a closed transmission. Get a fixed, and in 24 hours you’ll love it more than your own hand.