Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cycling is . . .

  1. Full of more juice than a Barry Bonds' healthy breakfast.
  2. According to the August Bicycle magazine, the new golf.
  3. According to that same magazine, the new Nascar.

Take your pick.

Also in the media, the Friday (7/7/2006) Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on the new popularity of track bikes, also called fixed gear bikes, or "fixies." These are the most basic bikes around. They have no gears and no ability to coast. When the bike is rolling, the chain is turning, and the pedals are moving. That means your legs are moving as well. Riding a fixie, therefore, takes a certain amount of finesse most riders people develop on the track. They also became popular among urban bike messengers because they are light, relatively inexpensive, and easy to maintain. Bike messengers and other urban fixies learn to ride these things with a high degree of confidence, but it takes time.

Why? Because a lot of fixies HAVE NO BRAKES! Look here for an example. Stopping can be accomplished a number of ways:

  1. Slowing your cadence until you are moving slow enough to click out and drop your feet.
  2. Using a tremendous amount of leg muscle to come to a quick stop and skid to a halt.
  3. Performing a trick called a skip stop which involves jumping the rear wheel off the ground, pulling the pedals to a stop and skidding when the tire hits the ground.
The WSJ article, to which I won't link because it requires a subscription, talked about the growing number of injuries resulting from fixies (or, I guess, their riders). But, they seem to be the new macho bike among male riders at the tail end of the baby boom, like me, and their mid-30's. Go figure.

The WSJ points out that in many states it is illegal to ride a bike without brakes in the public (as opposed to on the track). A lawyer who specializes in bike-related issues pointed out that under applicable Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, the rider's legs can qualify as the brakes, making the bikes legal. Clever analysis.

Cautious fixie riders can equip their bikes with brakes. For more info on the fixie phenomenon,
read this article from Wired. Here is a video of fixie tricks.

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