In the university town where I live, everyone under age 25 seems to be riding a single-speed, fixed-gear bike, usually with no brakes and a flat handlebar chopped so short that there's barely enough room to grip it.
Let's see: can't coast, can't stop, can't steer. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad combination? (Although the idea of thinning the student population is enticing.)
Sure, I see the appeal of the fixie. It's simple and elegant, and you can make those cool stops by skidding the rear wheel. Add a shoulder bag, scraggly hair and a pierced eyebrow, and voila -- you, the outlaw bike messenger.
In fact, one winter long ago when I was in college, I converted my 10-speed into a fixie. I'd save my gears from slush and salt while polishing my spin on downhills and buffing my quads on uphills. I considered removing the brakes, but that icy patch outside the dorm convinced me otherwise. (Hey, I didn't get a C+ in Logic 101 for nothing.)
By the end of that winter I was a strong, supple rider. Too bad I had to take 2 months off to let my knees heal.
My next encounter with fixed-gear bikes came years later, on the velodrome. On the minus side, I nearly did an endo while trying to coast across the finish line. On the plus side, I once won a 3-man match sprint because I couldn't do a trackstand and my opponents were laughing too hard to chase me down.
But I digress. If the good Lord had wanted us to ride fixies on the road, He or She wouldn't have given us the modern derailleur.
Or was that Tullio Campagnolo?
If you enjoy reading Scott Martin, the eBook Spin Again contains 181 of his witty, sometimes wacky, and occasionally heart-felt observations on road cycling.