Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fixed! The Bag of Symbolic Elimination

Sugino spanner, Dura-Ace lock ring, Dura-Ace 16t track cog

I think the last time I rode any distance on a cycle without a freewheel, I was four years old, riding a tricycle around the neighborhood. My friend Terry and I covered a lot of ground, including riding down a hill that went down to a pond in the woods, where I believe games involving GI Joe occurred. As I recall, I didn't try to pedal my way down, but instead stood on the back platform. Or, both of us would ride one trike, one with his legs stuck out free of the pedals, the other riding on the back. No brakes. No helmets. A long summer on solid wheels with direct drive to move along the asphalt.

I got bigger bikes with freewheels, brakes, even chains, as I grew older. Then one day several years back I came across the article by Sheldon Brown about fixed gear bicycles, and I was both intrigued and repelled. But, Sheldon presented such a compelling explanation for why one should ride fixed gear bicycles that I knew that I would end up doing it some day.

Since my single speed has a flip-flop rear hub, I flipped it, greased all the threads, spun on the cog and nups on the lockring ("nups" is spun backwards, appropriate for left-hand threads), and used the spanner to tighten the lockring.

One of the sites I consulted about riding fixed suggested that when you set up your bike for fixed gear, you should put all the stuff you don't need any more into a bag. I thought I would do that in a symbolic manner to represent my emancipation from all that stuff that I relied on Pre-Fixed (P.F.) in my life, even though I still have several other bicycles which will remain un-fixed. This is a symbolic act of emancipation. Free, I tell you, I am free!

Brake stuff. Won't need that anymore!

Multi-speed chains, cog sets, derailleurs, freewheels: not needed anymore!!!!

All non-fixed stuff in a bag of symbolic emancipation!!! It's a weight lifting off me!

I'll take my first fixed-gear baby-step rides this weekend, see how it goes, and report back. The cog and lockring are the first time I've purchased new Dura-Ace parts, I think. With a White Industries Eno freewheel on one side, and this cog on the other, I'm pretty certain I win some type of award for an absurd pairing of precision drive-train with cheap hub and wheel, although the wheel has stayed true for several hundred miles since I adjusted it after the first couple of rides, so it's working OK. 

Trying to learn how to ride a fixed-gear bicycle by reading about it is like trying to learn a martial art by looking at pictures of people practicing it. I may not have a fixed-gear sensei to show me the ropes, but I do have Sheldon's thoughts in my head, and memories of the long days riding the tricycle stored in some deep, golden memory banks. I'm sure I have a lot to learn. Universe, go ahead, try to bring me down with your "gravity", your "physics", I'm ready for whatever you got, me and my fixed-gear bicycle. Terry, wherever you are, I'll be thinking about you, my tricycle wingman, as I'm out there with the wheel spinning my feet around. Get up. Go ride.



  1. I look forward to hearing about it...

  2. JRA, very daring indeed! Don't plan for any hills - or slopes - for your first ride...

  3. Keep pedaling and don't try to stop.
    You'll be commuting backwards in no time!

  4. Years ago I tried this and managed to launch my self across a car, parting company with the bike as I did so.
    Needless to say it wasn't a form of cycling that I've done a lot of since.......
    The very best of luck.!

  5. Good luck! I've gotta admit the idea does sound a little scary to me as well!

  6. I actually find fixed riding to be a welcome respite from freewheeling. I spent two years riding fixed, exclusively, including mountain biking, and it still feels like the "normal" version of riding, to me.

    Have fun. Be careful, and try to remember to keep pedaling as you coast.

    Oh, and put some brakes on the damn thing.

  7. Steve A and Oldfool, I lived, and will tell the tale in the Sunday morning post.

    PannyAnne I kept in on the level, pretty much. A few small hills were conquered with aplomb, however.

    limom there was no backwards pedaling. Yet.

    Trevor, my fixed-gear experiment did not lead to car-vaulting, thankfully! so far so good, I had a fun ride, and the only scary part was before I got on the bike.

    Jon, when I read things like what you mention, and about RANTWICK riding fixed all the time, it gives me some courage to give it a try, and I really appreciate that. And I am a true believer in brakes!


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