What will be “the next fixed-gear?”
Like all track bike riding bikefags, I am troubled by the fact that the trend that I recently became a part of (riding a fixed gear bicycle) has become increasingly popular – popular to the extent that people who I perceive as being “not cool enough” are adopting “my” trend. I worry that I might be perceived as merging my “alternative brand” with mainstream “squares” or (worse) entry-level-alts. There’s only one solution to this problem, and it’s been the same solution since Neolithic Man got too cool for staggering around on foot and started riding horses: get a new, more exclusive alternative vehicle.
And believe me: I’ll drop my track bike like a Nitto B123 with no bar tape as soon as I figure out what the next exclusive, ironic, alternative conveyance is.
Then I’ll be getting all the alt-pussy!
For now, though, I’ll have to reluctantly pedal around on my Purple Bike, rolling my eyes when frat boys skid to a conspicuous stop next to me, shakily trackstand for a couple seconds, then exclaim at me, “Nice fixie, bro!”
Clearly, it’s time to start brainstorming.
Postulating the “next fixed-gear” alternative conveyance trend has been a pasttime of bicycle bloggers for years, now.
By “bloggers” I of course mean uberblogger BSNYC who has proposed mopeds, “p-fars”, dutch city bikes (can anybody find that post?), and a synopsis of everything I’m about to say, but said two years ago before he had polished the “BSNYC voice”.
But what does BSNYC know about being cool? He’s probably like 38 years old and married (also I’m pretty sure he lives in Park Slope (for Denverites, that’s equivalent to living in Washington Park (whereas 5-Points would be Bushwick (I guess Capitol Hill would equate to Williamsburg?)))). He’s not a bikefag. He just a hater!
Screw that guy, anyway. Here’s my take on the next fixed-gear trend, evaluated according to the criteria most important to bikefags.
Criteria #1: Exclusivity
There’s no point wearing/drinking/reading/listening to/buying/riding something if mainstreamers/squares/normal people/entry-level alts have access to/know about/want it, is there? How would this enhance your alternative brand?
Lack of exclusivity, this is our dilemma. Any douchebag can now go to Urban Counterfeiters and buy a R=public fixed gear bike in all the coulourwauys of the rainbow. So now the NOS, all-NJS-certified, Phil-Wood-Chris-King-Makashima dream bike that you spent so much money on technically classifies you as the same type of cyclist as said douchebag, even though that douchebag wouldn’t know DP18s from B43s..
Obviously we can do better.
Criteria #2: Irony
Perhaps the most important factor for determining the value of anything in the “alternative lyfe” is, of course, its irony.
“Wow, riding a track bike on city streets! That’s wild, man.” might have rang true in 1985, but today the concept of riding a hybrid on city streets seems immensely more unexpected than riding a track bike. Riding a track bike is now the norm.
To really wow the public, alternative commuters must now ride/shred/drive/etc. a conveyance that not only surprises the mainstream populous, but also bewilders them to the point of pointing and laughing.
A conveyance that will provoke mainstreamers to laugh at you and perhaps call you a “faggot” is the goal of every alternative commuter. And sadly, a purple track bike no longer elicits this reaction.
Criteria #3: Street-Cred
Street credibility may have at one point been the most compelling reason to ride a brakeless track bike on city streets.
“It’s like them bikes that them crazy bike messengers in New York City ride! Gawlee!” one might have exclaimed years ago.
But those days have passed. Today, that same astonished simpleton is jaded and would likely mutter, “Wow, another fixed gear.. Just like every other asshole and their cool dads too..”
Because of mainstream adoption of fixed-gear bicycles, the “fixie” enjoys about as much street cred as a longboard. If this were a post about “what will be the next longboard?” (entry-level hippie/natural resource management/stoner/college boy conveyance), I’d be done already.
But since the fixed-gear now has the kind of “quad cred” that blandly subversive college kids at state universities now covet, all the urban-themed, graffitti-embellished makovers in the world can’t bring it back. It has been “dis-cred-ited” and must be replaced at once with a conveyance that is, as BSNYC puts it, more “street credulous.”
Criteria #4: Aesthetics
A bunch of fussy, dressed-up hipsters won’t stand for a conveyance that doesn’t look the part. And aesthetics was, and still is, one of the most compelling reasons to ride a fixed gear bike.
As I mentioned in a previous post, track bikes “rule hard” because they look good.
Still, the fixed-gear must go because of its shortcomings in the other criteria. It’s time to find something else that looks good.
Criteria #5: Impracticality
One of the most important features of the fixed-gear is its impracticality. Like the single speed, the fixed gear is usually in the wrong gear (unless you live in a flat, windless landscape with no stop lights). Additionally, the rider can’t coast, giving them yet another talking point in the “fixed gears are totally wild, man” argument. And by riding an actual track bike with no brakes or provision for fenders or knobby tires, the track bike becomes even more impractical, endowing the rider with the kind of self-satisfaction that more than makes up for any discomfort or limitations.
But the masses have now mastered the fixed gear bike. And nowadays “track bikes” have gone soft. My Purple Bike is a perfect example of this plushness. It’s drilled for brakes and fenders, it has tire clearance (barely) for 32mm cyclocross tires, and it has easygoing 73 and 74-degree head and seat tube angles.
I mean, at this point why not just put a goddamn Nexus 3-speed coaster hub on it?
There’s got to be a bulkier, more unwieldy way to get around!
The Fixed-Gear is failing us!
If we don’t act quickly, we’ll be living in a world where track bikes have waterbottle-cages brazed on! Where entry-level alts and ultimate-third-dimension-meta-über-hipsters must wear the same shoes! Where alternative cyclists and mainstream “square roadies” are indistinguishable from one another! In this drab, grey dystopia, Mike Sinyard will be our supreme overlord and we will bow before him and ride identical tiawanese-produced, crabon commuter bicycles. The “Specialized Police” will snatch newborn children from their mothers’ arms, conduct power-meter and wind-tunnel tests on them, and then divide them into “normal” or “S-works” citizens who will wear gray-and-black or red-and-white respectively. At this point, the New World Colorway will be complete!
But is this unfathomable dystopia too far-fetched?
It is happening around us all the time! Every time you, dear bikefag, ride your fixed gear bicycle, and defy the natural one-upsmanship that makes humankind such an inspiring and heartwarming species.
The fate of the human race rests upon our coming together and finding a suitable alternative conveyance – if only for the next five years!
Bikefag Guide to Brave New Alternative Conveyances
In the coming weeks, I’ll be analyzing a variety of conveyances according to the criteria described above to determine the best candidate for a replacement for the fixed-gear. Any kind of conveyance will be considered (hovercraft, those shoes kids wear with wheels in them, zeppelin, etc). In fact, since the fixed-gear bicycle was the old alternative conveyance of choice, the odds of the new conveyance being a bike seem pretty unlikely. Any suggestions are strongly encouraged.