Fixed gear trick riding not as new as you think

Posted by on October 17th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Stumptown Joustdown-32.jpg

Nope.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Scientific American has unearthed an amazing bit of bike history from their archives that shows the popularity of fixed-gear freestyle is nothing new.

In a blog post on Friday, the magazine shared images from an article they ran in 1899 featuring “two well-known trick riders,” N.C. Kaufman of Rochester, NY and Lee Richardson of Milwaukee, WI. As I looked at the images, I was struck by how similar Mr. Kaufman’s moves were to what I’ve seen by some of our local trick riders.

As I’ve shared in stories from 2010 and in 2008, urban trick riding is alive and well in Portland; but I never would have expected that these young riders were simply carrying on a proud tradition started in the 19th century!

Check out the similarities between Portlander Ben Ficklin in the photo below from 2008…

Fixed gear riders on the Esplanade-6.jpg

(Photo © J. Maus)

And a photo of Mr. Kaufman from 1899…

I guess this puts the whole, “Fixies are the new rollerblades” thing to rest. Right?

Check out more great images from Scientific American.

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26 Comments
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    Shozo October 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Almost everything in cycling was discovered, invented or done first in the 1890s.

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    sabes October 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    No. No it doesn’t.

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    BURR October 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Inline roller skates have been around since 1760, and were mass produced in the US starting in the 1880s as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_skating

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    Al from PA October 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    In Europe it’s called “artistic cycling,” and has never gone away; it’s a kind of gymnastics/dance with established rules and competitions.

    See, for example:

    http://www.ok-cycling.de/schultheis-sprinkmeier/e-index.html

    This type of cycling is also widely featured in Europe in small circuses.

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    Mindful Cyclist October 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I remember calling that kind of stuff “Freestylin'” when I was a teen in the 80’s. If anything, I thought the fixed gear trick riders of today were just imitiating that.

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    deadbuny October 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    jeez, next you’ll be telling us that tall bikes were invented in the late 1800’s…

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      sorebore October 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Sure… They were 58 and 62 inch Penny Farthings.

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    john October 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Major Taylor was a quite good trick rider… Among other things..

    And tall bikes were invented in the 1800’s .. called the High Wheeler…

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      deadbuny October 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      high wheelers are different…

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        Dabby October 18, 2011 at 12:02 am

        Boneshakers….

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          deadbuny October 18, 2011 at 3:12 am

          pennyfathings, blah blah… whatever you call them they’re not the tall bikes i was refering to…

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            deadbuny October 18, 2011 at 3:18 am

            *pennyfarthings

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        sorebore October 18, 2011 at 10:49 am

        Yeah, they are way sexier.

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          deadbuny October 19, 2011 at 2:37 am

          make one then…

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    Uncle Muscles October 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    FIxies are still the new rollerblades. If these fixie dudes had any sense or talent they would be riding bmx, DJ or trials bikes. Ya know, bikes that make sense for the sort of thing they’re doing. Just like rollerbladers with any athleticism would be riding skateboards. Boom.

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      sorebore October 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Well U.M. … Some folks dont have a budget for a quiver of bikes, so having a fixie sturdy enuff to do a few tricks on on your way to the bar makes alot of sense. Dont forget that within your one sided view, you excluded some chicks who I have seen do some cool effin’ moves on 700c wheels.

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      sorebore October 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Oh and I forgot… Bam!

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      jered October 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

      YESSSSSS! As a curmudgeon skater I have to agree. BOOM indeed. I mean who else in this world can we make fun of – hicks, the french, rollerbladers and fixed gear riders.

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    Deeeebo October 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    For some time now I’ve wanted to make a tshirt that had a picture of an SUV on the front with the caption “I will never drive this offroad” and then a picture of a fixed gear on the back which read “I will never ride this in the velodrome”.

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    -J October 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    To the extent that all bike handling skills are a matter of style, I think that some people just pick better equipment. I have seen some sweet tricks on wheelchairs, which are also “fixed”.

    If you have not seen him already – google Danny MacAskill to witness some of the most amazing feats of bike control ever. There is a reason that he rides a trials bike and not a fixie, though I am sure he could easily pull some wicked elephant trunk skids if he wanted to…

    Free your wheel and your mind will follow …

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      sorebore October 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      Danny MacA. may be the single best bike handler ever to ride the face of this planet. IMO. (with a nod to your style point of course.)

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    Champs October 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I don’t know if “fixies are the new Rollerblades” is supposed to be a slam on fixies or Rollerblades… but it should be.

    That comment is hypocritical, but at least it’s because there’s a fixie in my quiver.

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      deadbuny October 18, 2011 at 3:08 am

      …and rollerblades?

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    Joe Adamski October 18, 2011 at 10:36 am

    the guy in the 1899 photo.. one of Dan Kaufman (of Crank my Chain) forebearers?

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    Mashugina October 19, 2011 at 12:27 am

    John Cardiel, Julien Stranger, HUF, Matt Rodriquez, Stefan Janoski, Jovante Turner… all well respected professional skateboarders who ride fixed. Are you going to tell them to their faces that by doing so they are comparable to rollerbladers? (Next time they swing by Burnside, let ’em know you were the hater talking shit online.)

    Here’s an idea: instead of whining about what type of bike someone gets enjoyment out of riding, why don’t you haters let people (i.e. your fellow bicyclists) just be and shelve your negative/insecure shit? It’s old, it’s tired and it’s a total fuckin’ cliche (“Haters Are The New Rollerblades”?) I know it’s hard to believe, but there are people out there who like things you don’t, and no amount of alienating, wannabe-BikeSnobNYC snarkiness is going to change that. Deal with it, get over yourselves and ride YOUR fuckin’ bikes!

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    Shozo October 24, 2011 at 6:28 am

    “jeez, next you’ll be telling us that tall bikes were invented in the late 1800’s…”

    Which of course, they were. Interested parties can google “lamplighter bikes”.

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