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Are ‘Fixies the new Roller Blades’?

Posted by on June 17th, 2008 at 9:59 am

Stumptown Joustdown-32.jpg

Spotted at Colonel Summers Park
over the weekend.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In the bike world, few topics elicit as much heated conversation and interest as fixed gear bicycles (a.k.a. “fixies”).

BikeSnobNYC, one of the most well-known bike blogs in the world, has made a career out of skewering the fad, and my coverage of them — whether it’s about their legality or about their rising popularity in Portland — always garners a lot of comments.

I’ve only tried a fixie once or twice, so I’m no expert on the topic, but I still find this fascination with them rather interesting (if not strange). On that note, I came across two things recently that we can add to the fixie cultural notebook.

Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-2.jpg

Some choose fixies for stunt-riding.

The first is a homemade t-shirt I spotted at a bike event in Southeast Portland over the weekend. It read, “Fixies are the new Roller Blades”.

The other came during a conversation with a bike messenger downtown. He said he has taken out all the spokecards from his wheels because they’ve become co-opted by “fixie kids.”

Do these small signals warn of what BikeSnobNYC refers to as the, “fixed-gear apocalypse”?

I’m not sure about that. But, as a spectator to this interesting cultural phenomenon, I hope not.

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KLRPDX
Guest
KLRPDX

Another sign…spotted at Music Millennium. At the counter they sell what looks like locally, hand-made greeting cards. Well, not really greeting cards, they say things like \”I\’m sorry I threw up in your car last night.\”

Anyway, a couple of them caught my eye:
\”If it weren\’t for your fixie, I\’d have boinked you by now\” and \”I\’m so tired of talking about your f—ing fixie!\”

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

Spoke cards are so 2007. I think they officially jumped the shark when they got co-opted by the Obama folks with \”PRETEND\” stenciled across the bottom.

leonard maltin
Guest
leonard maltin

that shirt is insulting to fruit-booters.

judging by all the bubble gum ones out there fixies are more like the new my little pony, but with more useless accessories.

pdxrocket
Guest
pdxrocket

bah! Certainly not the \”next roller blades.\” I still have yet to run out and purchase my spoke cards, hip yet ironic shirt, and bad club haircut to be in with the fellow bike messenger, and never will.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Just came back from a family reunion in the bay area, and found out that my very very suburban cousin rides one.

For whatever it\’s worth.

Also, I\’m curious: Does my fixed-gear Redline 925 w/ fenders, thick tires, and old man handlebars count as a \’fixie\’?…

felix
Guest

Yes, you look about as dumb riding a fixie as you do roller blades so they are neck and neck.

Whats with having a special way to get on and off, you know the one leg over the handle bars. Is that the secret handshake?

bob
Guest
bob

I frat boys ride fixies to class now down in Corn-valley.

Fixies are the new SUVs

mizake
Guest
mizake

\”Yes, you look about as dumb riding a fixie as you do roller blades so they are neck and neck.\”

this coming from someone who rides a children\’s bike.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

yeah….but…

hipsters have taken the whole ironic 90s revival thing so far that neon-colored Rollerblades aren\’t quite laughable anymore. you\’re automatically disqualified from making Rollerblade quips if your friends deck themselves out in Hypercolor and snap bracelets.

OMG
Guest
OMG

The term fixie makes baby Jesus weep.

John
Guest
John

I dismount leg over handle bars because my handlebars are lower than my seat. It\’s easier.

(Yes, I should probably have a larger frame, but I\’m 6\’3\” and 62cm was the biggest I could find without mortgaging the house of a custom built frame).

eric
Guest
eric

umm…some folks were riding fixies way before the hip kids, and for reasons other than looking cool. i love riding my fixy because i love riding my fixy. simple as that. no spoke cards required.

Torfinn
Guest
Torfinn

Stereotyping people by the type of bicycle they ride is definitely one of the most intelligent things you can do.

Tarck bieks are fun, so are normal bieks.

I ride a geared Surly, my brother rides a pieced together track bike that cost more than most roadies carbon setups.

There\’s nothing hipster about it, unless by hipster you mean BA Barracus.

Head to the velodrome sometime and check it out. You might have fun.

Donald
Guest
Donald

sounds like we\’re talking about fashion, which is sort of like dancing about architecture, in my opinion

let\’s ride, people, and everyone can bring the bike of their choice

krystenr
Guest
krystenr

It\’s just a bike. Who cares what kind of fucking bike I ride? Who cares if I want to decorate it? It\’s mine. Not yours. So shut the fuck up about it.

jeff
Guest
jeff

stop the hate.

mizake
Guest
mizake

honestly though, who really gives a crap? so what if the flashy colors look stupid to you? if you want to talk about how most of them ride like asshats, that\’s one thing, but it\’s pretty stinking petty to attack them for bad taste. ahem. nvm.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Like others, I like riding my fixed gear (fixed wheel to some) bike because it is fun. I also like the ability to control the bike with my legs in addition to the handbrakes. Finally, fixed gears are easy to maintain.

I have never understood why people are upset with fixed gear bikes being popular. The more people riding bikes, the better is what I say.

ambrown
Guest

I always thought the beauty of Portland\’s bike scene is its diversity. Some people commute, some people ride mountains, some people race, some people ride with their families, some people ride for the environment, some people ride for financial necessity, some ride with their friends, some ride because they don\’t like traffic or the bus, some ride to get healthy, some ride to stay healthy, some ride to look cool, and most everyone has some combination of the above. Everyone has a different bike to help them get to their destination, and as bike advocates, maybe we should be more interested in teaming up together to allow us all to enjoy our bikes in myriad ways as opposed to factioning off and ruining the political and cultural unity that we\’re gonna need to keep Portland a premiere biking town. With this said, I welcome fixed gear bikers as an important asset in our community.

*gets off soapbox*

leonard maltin
Guest
leonard maltin

Torfinn –

stereotyping people based on their bikes is definitely intelligent, I know because it is on the new mensa fixed intelligence test.

racing a \”tarck biek\” (I think that is dutch for track bike) around alpenrose velodrome is quite different than circling stumptown to find the most conspicuous place to park your bike rack jewelry.
though the pants are just as tight.

maxadders – finally someone brought up hypercolor! I saw some on ebay the other day.

doug
Guest
doug

Would anyone agree that fixie usage is correlated with not wearing a helmet?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Even I\’d readily say that fixies are far more practical for transportation than inline skates are. I don\’t think fixies are ever going away.

Braking a fixie, even without a conventional brake is far easier than braking inline skates. Inline skate brakes suck, and a lot of people seem to think they need brakes on their skates. Inline skating is really good for what it does, but there\’s a lot of limitations.

I\’m think \’fixie kids\’ are a generational thing. The phenomena seems like \’dress up\’. They\’ll lose interest eventually and move on to some new trend. Serious riders will continue to ride fixies after that happens.

andrew
Guest
andrew

let\’s get over the choice of drivetrain in bikes. the differences between a fixed gear bike and a road bike, or any kind of bike are very very small in the grand scheme of things.

it saddens me that a bunch of young people getting into riding BIKES can cause so much bigotry.

we as a community need to be promoting and encouraging -any- type of bike riding. would you be happier if these people were driving around?

criticizing certain fixed gear riders for being \”too colorful\” or \”fashionable\” or whatever is stupid too, for the same reasons. \”oh no, biking might look cool! they\’re accessorizing their bikes!\” Seriously, what?

Anything that gets more people riding is GOOD. Even if half of them never ride bikes again after the trend peaks it will be better than if they never rode at all. And my guess is that most of them will continue riding in some form after that.

This \’debate\’ is just depressing.

JP
Guest
JP

As long as the \”hipsters\” don\’t talk smack about other people riding fixies or single speeds. I hate the feeling of scorn when riding up to Stumptown on 3rd with the load of messangers outside with their campy hats as they examine how shitty my fixie is. Just as long as people are riding a bike and not driving cars, that\’s all I care about, not wheather or not I have Phil Wood and lugged this or that.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Charles Darwin loves helmetless hipsters riding fixies!

Amy
Guest
Amy

Why don\’t we ALL take a minute to realize we don\’t know everything. A few assholes who ride around thinking they are the shit doesn\’t have to ruin it for the rest of us. Besides.. as far as rollerblades go…
There is no comparison. Two sides to rollerblading: kids who got them for their birthdays and rode them till their feet grew too big. And assholes who skate the boardwalk in spandex. Oh wait.. three.. there were also those dudes who fruit booted up the skate parks too. Anyway – versus this whole fixed gear thing is also multi-faceted. Some are trendy kids, whose parents bought their deep v\’s and matching ouries for their riser bars.. and some people just appreciate bikes. It takes more than one or two tries to appreciate the difference in handling, the ease of maintenance, and overall experience riding fixed gear vs. your typical road bike. I rode geared bikes for years and am in better shape now after 6 mos riding fixed than I\’ve ever been in my life. I also know more about bikes than I ever did before due to taking the time to put together a custom bike; which is a big thing in the so-called fixie culture. It\’s not just riding a flashy bike – it\’s picking out every part, of craig\’s list, city bikes, ebay, whereever and putting together something for you – not just for your friends. The trend has grown at the same speed as everything else as the internet, media, and counter-culture grow and spread every day – so will everything else. So hate it and you\’ll be a hater, or just let people be!

J
Guest
J

Someone told me that track bikes are the new skateboards (which have also been used as a fashion statement for quite sometime).

Chad
Guest
Chad

Jumped on the fixie bandwagon about six months ago after my brother-in-law had my ride his to work one day. Bought my own (built up by a friend)a few days later and my old \”shifty\” has been collecting dust ever since.

Right now for my 12 mile round trip commute from NoPo to NW my fixed gear is the perfect machine. Low maintenance due to less moving parts and the fact that I get to work and back home ten minutes quicker than I would on my other bike make it a no-brainer.

I am not a hipster, I still dress like your average Portland commuter (yes, a helmet too), and have both brakes installed (and have used them both in emergencies) so this is not a fashion or a fad for me as I stopped being cool like ten years ago.

Simply put, it\’s the best machine for my current bike riding needs…and riding a fixed gear is pure biking joy like the very first bicyclists felt over a hundred years ago on their fixies.

Sam HIll
Guest

Making fun of people is lame because it\’s not really about them it\’s about you. Get over yourself.

cole
Guest
cole

let them bike.

bikes are fun, let\’s keep it that way.

Robin
Guest
Robin

BSNYC skews fixies sure, but he also rides one. He also talks sh#t about everyone else. Maybe people enjoy it more when he does his fixedgeargallery rants but I gets around to everyone from time to time.
The point is we all do silly things some times and we should be happy people are riding bikes. In fighting is bound to happen but most of the \”problems\” people have a small at best and often pretty silly .

BURR
Guest
BURR

I believe the correct word is \’skewering\’, not \’skewing\’

Paul Souders
Guest

Who cares whether Your Chosen Sporting Activity is cool or not? Rollerblades are no less fun now than they were in 1990. Do what you love, let the poseurs catch up or fall behind.

\”Irony is the shackles of youth\”

PXL
Guest

I compare the fixed gear explosion just like it was in the early skateboarding days. When skateboarding became very popular in the mid-80s… we all had our boards laced up with rails, nose guards, tail pads, trendy stickers, etc. Eventually, skateboards became more streamlined and simplistic… striping the rails, tail pads, nose guards, trendy stickers, etc. It\’s the same pattern with fixed gear bikes… becoming more streamlined and simplistic… stripping all general necessities and learning with what little you have.

Phil Hanson (aka Pedalphile)
Guest

\”Serious riders\” and \”fixies\” don\’t belong in the same sentence.

Riding a fixie is comparable to driving a car that\’s locked in gear, has no brakes, and in which one stops by switching off the ignition and letting engine compression drag the vehicle to a standstill. I actually did that when I was younger, but now I\’ve got better sense.

felix
Guest

mizake,

I don\’t ride childrens bikes, I ride minis!

tim
Guest
tim

I ride a fixie to entertain anyone who happens to see me going down a long hill.

however \”shifty\” may be just as funny.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

\”We mock what we do not understand.\”

Carissa Wodehouse
Guest
Carissa Wodehouse

I don\’t know what the fuss is about, since rollerblades are clearly awesome.

old dirty
Guest
old dirty

yo doug, please don\’t beat a dead horse and try to troll a helmet debate into this. just like the brakeless debate, it has been done ad infinitum, ad nauseum. it\’s tired.

jon, the rollerblade t-shirt is just another ironic slogan to come out of hipsterism. i\’ve seen people riding with those stickers on their bikes downtown or at the track. it\’s not really serious. as far as messengers being mad about their culture being co-opted, this is a legitimate concern but nobody in portland pioneered messenger culture. you can thank new york in the 70\’s and 80\’s for that – so go ask those guys if they\’re mad.

david
Guest
david

Just returned from Vancouver, BC, where rollerblades are a healthy component of a very diverse transportation system…

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

It ain\’t just Portland. They\’re huge most everywhere, as is the accompanying anti-hipster backlash.

One of my bikes is a fixie and it\’s my go-to, no fear of locking it up anywhere bike. I ride the hell out of it. Sue me.

My only real beef is with all of the short-sighted \”my knees will always be 20 years old\” hacks who insist on grinding the derailluer hangers off of their beautiful lugged frames.

Those frames aren\’t being made anymore. And when you hobble a beautiful piece of history so that it can never be geared again, you reveal yourself to be the trend-blinded Philistine that you are. There\’s room for all kinds of bikes out there, and that silver brazed treasure may want to ride again with gears in your future.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

Roller bladers flail around like spinners at a Grateful Dead Concert. Sure they have nice asses, but they can\’t move in a straight line and they spontaneously erupt into stunts. The wheeled cross country skis with their ski poles are the new Razor Scooters.

hanmade
Guest
hanmade

The fixie of my dreams has a 52 inch front wheel with attached cranks..

Nick
Guest
Nick

I will say this thread has me laugh. –One more…haha! — OK.

I agree, the revolution is now. Bring your weapon of choice. I ride a \”triple roadie\” that makes me about as lame as can be. However, riding up and over the west hills can be done on a fixie (I have seen a few) but for my 36 year old knees it isn\’t an option.

A few observations. I do feel bad for the guys who have been riding fixies for years now. I can recall a few fixies around downtown in the mid-90s. They were just doing their thing. Now it has this image attached to it. Oh well.

Second, what is the deal with the knickers messenger bag and the wool cycling cap? I feel this is a fashion statement as much as anything.

~n

mad mike
Guest
mad mike

Phil Hanson,

You\’re ignorance is appaling.

I know a number of category 1 road racers who also ride track bikes (\”fixies\”) and do so both on the velodrome and off. I also know for a fact that Gary Fisher rides one.

Though I suppose Gary Fisher and category 1 road racers aren\’t \”serious\” by your estimation. You\’re dumbing down the collective IQ of this thread. Please stop.

Ayleen
Guest

After seeing Bent at Filmed by Bike, it\’s so obvious that recumbents are the new fixies…

mizake
Guest
mizake

\”Irony is the shackles of youth\”

that is so spot on.

Chad
Guest
Chad

Thanks for clearing that up Phil…I was really wondering if my 12 mile daily commute via fixie was serious riding.

Now that you have cleared that up I can go on with my silly child\’s play riding without worrying about being the serious biker that Phil Hanson can handle sharing the roads with.

But, then again I get the feeling Phil doesn\’t get out much.

sumadis
Guest

while fixed gear bikes have long been a popular training tool for \’serious riders\’, a solution for the hardcore couriers, and now a fashion accessory rivaling the white pleather rocker belt, they remain a vital component of the bicycle continuum. they may in fact be stimulating sales and popularity within the industry, and while some of us poke fun at the \’tricks\’ the kids are doing, they are taking some of the elements from bmx and urban assault and bringing them to new levels on machines that weren\’t originally built for such purposes – aka innovation bred from boredom; a beautiful thing. while the various factions of cyclosnobbery continue to snipe at one another, let\’s all remember that: some of our current world champion track racers started on bmx bikes – the mtb was derived from a beach cruiser and a will to bomb hills – cyclocross technology can be found in most modern hybrids – etc. all of which is to say; they\’re all simply bicycles, and bicyclists with open minds will always find ways to bend the applied uses of the equipment to new and exciting forms. just remember to give the hipsters a brake.