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Urban fixed-gear scene alive and well in Portland

Posted by on March 26th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-2.jpg

Ben Ficklin practices tricks on
the Eastbank Esplanade.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Portland’s urban fixed-gear scene is on a roll. A new fixed-gear website has been launched and two upcoming events are testament to the growing community of riders who enjoy the challenges and thrills of riding track bikes in the city.

Alex Kroman announced the debut of PDXFixed.com yesterday. He says he created the site to, “unite the different groups of fixed gear riders in Portland and give them a place to congregate, talk about bikes, and plan group rides.” Kroman says fixed-gear riding is on the rise in Portland and that, “it’s hard to pass a bike rack in this city without seeing at least one fixie locked up to it.”

PDXFixed.com is discussion forum where registered users can post messages and other users can add comments. The topics can be viewed by anyone but you’ve got register in order to post. Current discussions range from advice on what type of gearing is best to use around Portland to how to improve climbing skills (ever do Mt. Tabor on fixie?) and information on upcoming events.

Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-6.jpg Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-1.jpg Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-3.jpg

Hugh Nixon, manager of 21st Avenue Bicycles in Northwest Portland says his shop is seeing an uptick in fixed-gear business. “We’re seeing more and more of these kids coming in and they’re getting a fixie for no other reason than to do barspins and fixed-gear freestyle type riding. It’s not my cup of tea, but I think it’s great…they’re good kids.”

I met a few fixed-gear freestylers on the Eastbank Esplanade yesterday. They told me about an event they’re putting together this Friday (3/28) — The Portland Massacre. One of the organizers, Ben Ficklin says he hopes to turn the last Saturday of every month into “Radderday” and hold fixed-gear events on a regular basis.

Portland Massacre event poster.
More info here

The new Radderday blog says, “This is intended to be a fun event with no limits or expectations for anybody who wants to hangout, and an opportunity for fixed gear cyclists to kick ass and compete.”

Ficklin says he starting riding fixies just for fun, but liked it so much he got more serious and now wants to get others involved. Ficklin — and his friends Lucas Norris and Raymond Flores who accompanied him for an impromptu session on the Esplanade yesterday — say they like urban and trick-riding and they also like to participate in races (sometimes called alley-cats).

Other facets of urban fixed-gear riding include competitions like “footdown”, where riders try to out-balance one another, and “best skid”, where riders are judged on the length and style of a skid (and this is often the result).

Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-4.jpg

Raymond Flores

Another event for the fixed-gear crowd is coming to Portland in April; a screening of the new fixed-gear riding film, Mash. Organizers of that event have planned the “Mash2Mash” race and competitions to coincide with the showing. You can download a flyer for the event here.

In addition to urban racing and trick-riding, many Portlanders like to ride and race fixed gears in more traditional settings. The fabled Mt. Tabor Race Series features a special fixed-gear class and local riding legend David Auker leads a fixed-gear group ride from River City Bicycles on Sunday mornings from January through the end of February.

But if you want to see where the fixed-gear scene is headed, check out PDXFixed.com and the Radderday blog and head up to Mt. Tabor this Friday afternoon for the Portland Massacre.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Morgan
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Morgan

Is it true that fixed gears are the new rollerblades?

Josh
Guest
Josh

Morgan, yes it is.

Grimm
Guest

^– Yes. Now go ride your pista you wanna be fruit-booter. 😉

It seems like there are enough people riding these type of bikes to justify trying to get together a little more. And with better weather (hopefully) coming soon, maybe it will be the summer of the fixie.

jay
Guest
jay

summer of the fixie…more like summer of the pixie

weltall82
Guest
weltall82

i was a fruit-booter.

now i ride fixed.

man, i\’m NEVER going to be cool…

spencer
Guest
spencer

For all the pista haters, get a grip on reality. a piece of crap lugged bike all beat to hell that doesn\’t fit worth a damn is no better than a pista. Give me a break. the reason the pista is popular was because it was the first mass produced fixy, yet it retains track geometry. and its cheap.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Bikes good.

Grimm
Guest

I dont hate pistas, theyre fine bikes. Good and cheap and because of this they have become the cliché. And I happen to know Morgan owns one, so I flung him some s*** (in good fun).

Jay go back to babbling about your \’singulator\’.

Anon.
Guest
Anon.

More people on bikes = good.

jay
Guest
jay

well, when yer as BA as i am you dont need singulators or gears. i just put my bike over my shoulder and run faster than all you fixie pixies!

joel
Guest

and lo, there was much eyeball-rolling.

Matt
Guest

Urban fixed-gear scene alive and well in Portland

Totally. Top-tube pad and colored Deep V imports are through the roof this month!

Alex
Guest

Thanks for posting about the site. I\’m hoping it\’s existence will increase the amount of social riding that is going on in Portland.

brian
Guest
brian

*****deleted by moderator***** fakengers! I hope you all get tickets.

joel
Guest

oh, and can i thank the kids in advance for the near-inevitable backlash us actual working messengers will surely experience down the line, thanks to things like \”alleycats\” on thursday at noon?

the number of muppets \”riding\” fixed downtown on the workdays is high enough already, thank you very much.

too scott
Guest
too scott

I\’m with Joel. Also, is Spencer a Bianchi rep or something? That emo sob about the validity of pistas almost came out of nowhere.

I'm a Coaster
Guest
I'm a Coaster

I think it great that it\’s getting \’cool\’ to ride a bike, even if it is a fixie. Look at what snowboarding did, resurrected the ski industry. And skateboarding helped the alienated youth find a passion and get productive. And look at what these things have brought them. Snowboard legal resorts. Skateparks! If the youth get hooked on riding bikes, we actually might have a shot at kicking the oil habit and fixing our auto-centric infrastructure. These also happen to be kids that are of age to start driving, which is when biking gets uncool real quick. Step beck and see the big picture here before you start dogging on something different. They might actually be a part of the solution, so lets encourage them!

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

What\’s a \”fixie\’?

Fixed gear freestyle? Is that like Artistic Cycling?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”If the youth get hooked on riding bikes, we actually might have a shot at kicking the oil habit and fixing our auto-centric infrastructure…They might actually be a part of the solution, so lets encourage them!\”

I agree with this. From the guys I met, to speaking with Hugh Nixon at 21st Ave. Bikes about them, they seem like good kids who have found something fun that they really love to do. Their culture — with its videos, fashion, youth, skills, etc… — reminds me of the surf/skate culture and I\’ve always thought the bike scene needs more of it.

Also, I think it\’s ironic that some messengers feel like these kids will give them a bad name…when we\’re all aware of how the conduct of some messengers have stained the public perception of biking to such great extent.

brian
Guest
brian

The fact of the matter is that cops left messengers alone until fixed gears became so trendy. Messengers on fixies end up taking the fall for fakengers who can\’t even stop on a fixie if they had to.

mizake
Guest
mizake

\”…we\’re all aware of how the conduct of some messengers have stained the public perception of biking to such great extent.\”

Ouch.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Is that another editorial comment, Jonathan?

;-0

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”Is that another editorial comment, Jonathan?\”

yes. Am I not allowed to make editorial comments?

I hope that comment isn\’t misunderstood. perhaps I should not have generalized with the term \”messengers\”.

many people know that I have a lot of respect for them but I hear over and over and over again from non-bike people (motorists) how they see \”messengers\” riding crazy downtown, etc.. etc… and much like Critical Mass, that type of public perception has a negative impact on the attempt to gain legitimacy and respect for the bike movement.

now…back to the topic of fixie freestylers…

joel
Guest

skid – well, it *would* be like artistic cycling, if they wore unitards. 🙂 i am totally 100% pro this being the genesis (rebirth?) of serious artistic cycling in the us, same as i am 100% pro the fixie craze benefiting youth in track racing. as it stands, what theyre doing lies somewhere in the grey area between artistic cycling and flatland bmx, with a healthy dose of skateboarding thrown in.

coaster – i think its great that its getting cool to ride a bike too. its about freaking time. and im not dogging the fixies – hell, i love em. im dogging the legions of barely-competent riders on them, launching themselves into live traffic, putting their lives on the line for trinkets, and spending more time futzing around with barspins than RIDING – who will inevitably get mistaken for working messengers; working messengers who will then take the brunt of things once one of the myfixedspace crowd clocks an old lady or a baby or something.

Qwendolyn
Guest
Qwendolyn

What\’s a \”fixie\’?

Fixed gear freestyle? Is that like Artistic Cycling?

Yes, but with tighter pants.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

it\’s been a long time since i posted on this, or any other bicycle related site. wanna know why? because \”fixed gear freestyle\” has made me want to give up on bikes. trends are trends, and these unimaginative fashionable youths aren\’t riding bikes, they\’re riding trends. i quit. these d-bags make me sick.

and jonathan. please quit it with the \”messengers give cyclists a bad name\” line. it\’s tired, and it\’s not the truth.

bicycle messengering – the best job i ever quit. thanks, kids, for helping me to lose faith in yet another great pastime.

BURR
Guest
BURR

jeez, is everyone being judgemental enough? More people on bikes, including fakengers, critical mass riders and everyone else, is GOOD. People that are annoyed or upset by these elements of the velorution have small, small minds.

😉

Alex
Guest

Brian and Joel,

I\’d love for you both to join the site and try to help out / teach the riders who aren\’t as experienced as you. Maybe with enough \”wear a helmet and put a brake on your bike\” posts there won\’t be any kids running into old ladies on their pistas.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”and jonathan. please quit it with the ”messengers give cyclists a bad name” line. it’s tired, and it’s not the truth.

I know it\’s not the truth.

I should have been more accurate in my initial comment. I realize it\’s not fair to say \”messengers\” have given cycling a bad name, I should be more clear and should have said that

… the general public\’s perception of what they think are messengers and how they think messengers ride, causes them to paint all bikers with the same brush of negativity they associate with that perhaps mistaken perception.

joel
Guest

jonathan:

Also, I think it\’s ironic that some messengers feel like these kids will give them a bad name…when we\’re all aware of how the conduct of some messengers have stained the public perception of biking to such great extent.

zing! 🙂

dare i mention that ANYONE doing anything crazy downtown is automatically assumed to be a messenger?

the blame assigned to us for public perception of cyclists is, and always has been, out of proportion to our population. there are, and always have been, more of \”you\” than there are of \”us\” (if i may fall for a moment into the trap of that whole them/us nonsense), and i daresay that the vitriol leveled at messengers is largely unjustified.

there are perhaps 50 working messengers in portland, maybe 35 actually riding on any given day. during a recent sunny day, while riding around town, i ran into no less than 7 different groups of 3-10 kids riding around town on fixies, aping the risks shown in far too many youtube videos.

ive watched fixie crackdowns happen in various cities around the us over the last 10 years, and every single time, its been easily tied to a boom in fixie popularity amongst the non-messenger population.

i dont feel like they will give us a bad name. i feel like they already HAVE.

and seeing the greater cycling community repeat the same old tired nonsense about messengers\’ negative impact on public perception of cyclists as a whole is as discouraging as its ever been.

portlands small messenger population is largely made up of experienced, career messengers, far more so than most cities. by and large, were not the reckless hoodlums you make us out to be – surely you have us confused with some other crowd of fixie-riding young people.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

There already is ample opportunity for fixed riders to compete. Mainly at the velodrome. Obra does a very good job of handling things. I\’ll stick with them.

joel
Guest

the general public\’s perception of what they think are messengers and how they think messengers ride, causes them to paint all bikers with the same brush of negativity they associate with that perhaps mistaken perception.

thank you for that clarification, jonathan – now if we can just get people to make the leap of logic from that statement to not blaming messengers for the publics mistaken perceptions.

pushkin
Guest
pushkin

somewhere in portland is a shark, and he has been jumped.

as of the posting of this article, the pistadex experienced a slight upswing but it will not be enough to stave off the forecasted downturn.

tip: liquidate your stock now.

joel
Guest

alex –

dont come looking to me for \”put a helmet and a brake on\” posts, cause that aint my bag. im perfectly fine with people riding without either. 🙂

what id love to see them riding with is common sense, and theres really nothing i can post thatll give them that. all i can say is the same thing i used to chase down red-light-blowing rookie messengers in sf to ask them about the stupid risks they were taking: \”what makes it worth it?\”

internet forums, youtube, and the rest got us (meaning messengers) into this whole co-opting-an-underground-subculture mess. it aint gonna get us out of it.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Joel… thanks for your comment #30.. those are very important points you make.

I should know better than to make a comment like I did without being much more clear about my true feelings.

On a side note, I just replied to an email from Beefa (a professional messenger). A few weeks ago he asked me to join him on an all-day ride along and I accepted. We\’re working on a date and I\’ll plan to do a story after it\’s done.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I think that fixies need to be as flashy as possible they are a great way to express yourself.

BURR
Guest
BURR

The Portland Business Alliance works very hard to make sure that downtown Portland is free of any elements that will disturb the Washington and Clark county surburbanites arriving by motor vehicle to shop, eat and play in downtown PDX. This includes the homeless, hipsters and bicyclists of all types.

Qwendolyn
Guest
Qwendolyn

RE: pushkin #33

The question is whether or not the feds will be waiting with a corporate bailout for Bianchi after the fixed-gear apocalypse.

Also, when the PistaDex plummets, will the velcro from all the top tube pads be recycled for use in bulletin boards and children\’s toys?

Important questions all.

Ugh
Guest
Ugh

\”with a healthy dose of skateboarding thrown in\”
dang, wish i didnt hear that one.
reminds me of aggressive inline bike dancing.

fixpush:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=b2885aR6o6s

jay
Guest
jay

does every article about track bikes on the street have to end up in a flame war in the comments section? seriously, if it\’s not all of us trying to defend the bike against some average joe cyclist who thinks fixed gears are an unacceptable danger outside the velodrome, it\’s a fight inside the subculture of those who ride them. while i\’ve been riding fixed for a couple years now and don\’t really get into the freestyle aspect (i\’d rather just go really fast, on the track or the street), i\’m not dogging them for doing what they do. maybe it\’s just a passing fad and maybe it\’ll still be here in five years… i could care less, i\’m still gonna ride my bike.

MIN
Guest
MIN

I\’m honestly a bit bummed that the introduction of pdxfixed.com had to coincide with the \”cool kids\” flipping tricks on the esplanade.

Fixed gear bicycles are just that… that have a fixed gear. Some of us don\’t have a \”cool kids\” agenda and prefer to ride fixed gears for the love of drivetrain simplicity, not because of some passing fad.

jay
Guest
jay

HOW HEAVY THIS AXE

Cheesus Christ
Guest

Top tube pads are functional in a number of ways, and, yes, slightly fashionable, if not even by default.
I mean, who doesn\’t like to match?

Steve
Guest
Steve

Rollerblades are totally different then rollerblades because you can coast. Plus you have to wear big boots.

Steve
Guest
Steve

i mean fixed gear.

Bob
Guest
Bob

At least riding a fix you don\’t have to wear spandex and listen to right said fred! Fruit Booters…

Eric
Guest
Eric

When is the mtn bike fad coming back?

pushkin
Guest
pushkin

Qwendolyn –

I was wondering the same thing about a bailout too. A mcmansion house bought at a temporarily low rate : a fantasizing homeowner :: an overpriced fgf neon monstrosity : fakenger. So maybe there is a chance of a bailout for Bianchi, unless they are still in Italy, in which case I don\’t think they are under the umbrella of fed protection.

As for the velcro from the pads, judging by recent entries on the fgg (http://fixedgeargallery.com/2008/mar/3/JamesStevenson.htm), there is a potential for them being biohazards and as such are unsuitable for children.

cl pistadex latest figures:
03/21 $315
03/22 $400
03/23 $387
03/24 $376
03/25 $326

Jeez, the market is already dropping, I was wrong to speculate an upswing. I say, sell! sell! sell!

Someone must have had an inside tip that jonathan was posting this story.

Cheesus Christ
Guest

I also agree with Joel.

There are obvious signs that point to the fact that the working cyclist is not the problem, and that the problem may in fact be partially caused by misconstrued shows of emulation.

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

Thanks for clearing up the rollerblade issue.