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New Fixed-Gear: The Quad-Ring?

October 28, 2009


In 2001, every music magazine proclaimed that “Rock is Back.”  The White Stripes and the Strokes were getting paid.  Detroit sounded like a cool place.  Etc.

By 2006, admitting to your friends that you used to listen to the Strokes was hipster suicide.  “Indie electro” like Chromeo was all the rage.  Then it was Justice, Crystal Castles, etc.

By 2010, admitting that you once liked MGMT will be tantamount to admitting in 2008 that your bike had a freewheel.

And so it will go for the fixed-gear.  Like rock-n-roll was replaced by hipster electro, the fixed-gear will be replaced by its opposite extreme: the quadruple-chainring bike.

The “quad-ring,” “shiftie” or “Zach Bike” (named after recumbent guru Zach Kalpan who, for a time, sold a front derailleur with a 22-60+ tooth capacity) has been ridden by frail cyclo-tourists for years.  But the man who first “took it to the streets,” the man who will be known as the “Quad God” of the two-thousand-teens, is Portland freak-bike enthusiast Legislator.


This is the 4×4 Trailer Pulling Utility Bike of Death.  It has four chainrings, four brakes, nine cogs, a sick coulourway, and a guaranteed place in the Annals of Alternative Transportation.

Let us briefly hail Legislator as our new alternative transportation messiah, and then move on to the ratings.

Exclusivity: 4.5

You can’t go out and buy a quad-ring.  You have to build it.  The only reason the quad-ring doesn’t get perfect marks is because you could probably build one out of completely unwanted parts for free at your local bike co-op.

Eventually, of course, Surley will sell a complete quad-ring, then other companies will “drop” their own soulless quad-ring copycats.  The Surley will become the Bianchi Pista of quad-rings, Kona’s early model will equate to the KHS Flite 100, Peugeot will re-enter the U.S. market with a bike equivalent to today’s Cinelli Vigorelli, and a vintage René Herse quad-ring “conversion” will be the same as an NJS-certified Keirin bike.

Exclusivity will diminish quickly, so get act now!

Irony: 4

It’s a bike with four chainrings… to get to the coffee shop…

The only way to get a higher irony score would be to add more chainrings.

Street Cred: 2.5

A movement precipitated by old, frail randonneurs who needed a lower granny-gear seems absolutely devoid of street-cred – at first glance.  But remember, this is a movement created by Quad-God Legislator – a man who not only lives in Portland, a city with a higher violent crime rate than Colorado Springs, CO, but who also “palps” a menacing tarantula in his front wheel.


And the street-cred of quad-rings will undoubtedly increase as early adopters such as bike messengers and uber-bohemian Portlanders follow Legislator’s example.

There could even be “quad-ring freestyling.”  The “slow-go” would replace the trackstand.  Climbing extremely steep hills would replace the fixed-skid (no-handed climb?  Leg-over climb?).

Aesthetics: 2.5


Well, it ain’t exactly a Nagasawa..

But at least it’s not this bike:


Impracticality: 3.5

The quad-ring is practical – especially Legislator’s trailer puller.  But under all normal commuting conditions, a great-granny gear is totally superfluous.  And social climber alternative cyclists could easily one-up each other by building Penta-ringed bikes, or utilizing multiple drivetrains/multispeed cranks/multispeed hubs/custom hub spacing and 20-speed cassettes/ultra-long-cage rear derailleurs to achieve hundreds of gear combinations.

I have to give the quad-ring concept a higher score for potential impracticality.

Total Score: 17

Oooh!  Barely edged out by the cruiser board.  Still, though, this might be the next ride for the dreadlock-beard crew in 2010.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. c-murder permalink
    October 28, 2009 2:17 pm

    I should probably keep a tight lip about my college radio days back in the early days of the millennium.

  2. Steve permalink
    October 28, 2009 4:27 pm

    as with everything, Sheldon Brown was on cutting edge of everything. Why put an extra chainring on when you can just throw a 7 speed cassette on your 3 speed hub? Yeah

    • bikefag permalink*
      October 28, 2009 6:51 pm

      The answer to “why put an extra chainring on?” is OBVIOUS, Steve: So you can have FOUR!

  3. tristan permalink
    October 28, 2009 5:21 pm

    But admitting to liking MGMT is already hipster suicide. They were on tour with Paul McCartney!!! A better band to play up the too quiet to admit to liking in 2010 would be Animal Collective at this point. Came in like a rocket in early 2009, was overplayed everywhere, and then proceeded to be overexposed.

    • bikefag permalink*
      October 28, 2009 6:53 pm

      You’re dead-on, Tristan. And might I add that my official position on MGMT is and has ALWAYS been disdain. But I should also admit that I listened to Time To Pretend like a hundred times when it came out.

      • hyphy4lyfe permalink
        October 28, 2009 9:41 pm

        Isn’t this whole search we’re embarking on already outdated? We’ve already abandoned our fixed gears, either by adding other bikes to the stable in addittion to our ‘first little fixie’ or by jettisoning our fixed gears entirely and adopting, say, a roadbike.

        Moreover, who are we talking about here; the bike-hipster or the hipster simpliciter? If the latter, then perhaps the above is mistaken. However, if the former we should be wondering what will replace say, the ever ambiguous ‘city bike’. I take whatever is between my legs to be, very nearly, at the forefront of mainstream bike-hipsterdom and at present I’m rubbing all sorts of knock off French crap.

  4. October 29, 2009 3:35 pm

    I for one would love to have a quad-ring. I could hook up a huge trailer and take my dog & a bunch of climbing gear to New Belgium every day! I bet I could even mount a Yak to that baby, pedal up the Poudre & throw it in for a float! Sick Bra!

  5. mike permalink
    November 2, 2009 2:10 pm

    Yo, BikeFag!

    Fourples were semi-common when the littlest chainring you could get was a 24t, some guys made a gadget that let you put a Suntour freewheel cog as little as 19t on the crank as a 4th ring.

    The very first Avid product was a 20t chainring and adapter to fit 74mm triples…

    In 1984 there were cool Cannondale aluminum mtn bikes for the first time and some of my annoying friends made one-speeds out of them with Campy Record derailleurs serving as tensioners-the bikes had vertical drop-outs….

    It didn’t take long for someone to figger out that you could use a triple or fourple crank with a front derailleur and a one-speed freewheel to make…..Voila! The Vacaville ThreeSpeed!

  6. green panasonic permalink
    November 2, 2009 6:26 pm

    my ’84 gitane criterium is the beautiful parisian girlfriend i will never have.. shock me like an electric eel !!

  7. rob permalink
    November 6, 2009 11:39 am

    Now when people are like, “are you a fixed bro?” I’m like, “WTF, nah bro, I’m a road bro.”

  8. December 17, 2010 5:33 pm

    Great Blog! Cool Bike! Looks like Cook’s Bros. Cranks!

  9. P Buddery permalink
    June 11, 2016 4:38 am

    I devoted a small corner of my sense of humour and a calculator to calculate the greatest possible number of gears on bike, and it was 11,088 (or 616). One would start with an 18-speed Pinion gearbox on the bottom bracket (or not), then quad chainwheels of 48, 49, 50 and 51, then an 11-speed corncob of 11-21 attached to a 14-speed Rohloff hub. One could split each gear on the Rohloff into 7 absurdly close gears, being; 48/17, 49/17, 50/17, 51/17, 48/16, 49/16, 50/16 and 51/16. The main purpose of the Pinion gearbox is to add expense and complexity and cachet (and generate too much torque for the Rohloff); I expect that the crawler gears in the 616 speed version would be low enough.

    Still, imagine waking up and being able to ride a bike with 11,088 gears. What an important and vitally necessary thing! I don’t recall what bottom gear is on the Pinion gearbox, but I would expect first first first first gear to be too low to be able to balance. But this is a small price to pay for technical progress, and the ability to be able to pull trees over (or break the spokes and the Rohloff).

    Tell your friends! I’m sure they’ll be interested.


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