September 20, 2006

Fixed Gear Revelations

It's a sad thing, really -- but I think the sun is setting again on my fixed gear time. Something has changed, and I feel lately that fixed and single speed has lost some of it's luster - at least with ME. After a near-injury, I've hung the Steamroller back in the garage, and have mounted up on the geared bike again. No sooner than I make this change, I get confirmation that is was the right choice.

I'm sitting here, logging in the blog, listening to David Bowie drone out the early verses of "Space Oddity", and I have visions of riding home last night and encountering another rider at 83rd and Mission Road --

ok, don't ask me what I was doing THAT far north on a Tuesday night...

Anyways... this guy was MONEY.

There he was, backwards ball-cap on, jeans, polo-style 3-button shirt, messenger-style bag slung-up close - and a gorgeous, no-name-on-frame blue fixxie - with a noticably huge gear. He was in the left turn lane, coming off of 83rd onto Mission Rd north-bound at about 7:15pm - and while he waited for the light he was performing the most perfectly-still track-stand I've ever witnessed. Even the traffic in the lane next to him took notice with jaw-gaped stares, as he floated above the tarmac without even a visible motion or twitch.

He was a complete ROCK, standing on the pedals, and balancing perfectly.

This happens only a day after I've decided that commuting to work on a fixxie was "killing me". First, a botched skid messes up my left quad a little - which has since healed, but hey - it happened. Downhills were becoming a "chore". Seeing riders like him puts in perspective what kind of rider *I* am. While I was nervously trying to get my own fixxie zen back this week, practicing the nervous track-stands again, hoping the light would stay green so I wouldn't have any stopping "issues", and the like, I see THIS guy on the road.

I can track stand, so long as I don't actively THINK about it.
I can hawk thru traffic with the best of them, I can even skitch - I just don't make a habit of it. But I see riders like this guy occasionally that SO totally fit the fixxie-rider mold, that I feel horribly inadequate. Anyone would!

Everything I lack in fixxie-zen, I suppose I make up for with endurance and climbing ability on geared bikes. A good friend said it best: jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. If I picked fixed-mode and stuck with it, I suppose there are certain things I WOULD pick up: but I float too much; away from gears, and back again. My goals dictate "training". Fixxie for me leans more towards the BOB-ish, touring fixed-gear rider; not the skilled, stripped-down, messenger-style, urban-soldier like this guy at Mission road appeared to be. The Steamroller as it's built-up now, with full fenders and Carradice bag, doesn't quite hold the same kind of fascination as this guy's bike did for me.

Still, the experience made me smile and nod-with-approval more than it made me self-aware and introspective - despite the comments above. Watching him perfectly parked on the pavement like he was, effortlessly propelling himself forward once the light changed - pedalling silently northbound, blinky lite flashing away - it was a gorgeous moment. As I stood opposite him with my foot down, easily rotating the pedals backwards into the optimum position for my next move, in just-the-right-gear to start up again - for a moment I felt like a slacker, envious of his skill.

If we *ALL* could do what he was doing, it wouldn't be NEARLY as cool... and that's why we need people like him: the standouts, the rebels. Me, riding to work with my fancy bag and my fenders and my gears and helmet - it's "safe", it's almost "normal". Fixed gear is a different breed. If there is indeed a picture dictionary out there, THAT GUY needs his picture next to "fixed gear".

THAT is how it's done. The rest of us are just pretenders.
Peace, bro -- if I run into you again, the beers are on me.


Anonymous said...

Duuuude. Its a BIKE. Not a lifestyle. I have been riding fixed for 17 years and I am the uncoolest looking thing in the world on my Univega conversion. Can I trackstand? Yep. One handed, no-handed for hours on end. Do I care if anyone notices I can trackstand? Nope. Skitch, skip stop...yawn. Bikes be bikes. Fixed, geared, cruiser, recumbent...whatever. The more of them that are out there, then the more experience drivers will have sharing the roads with us. Don't get hung up on style. Wear acid wash shorts and a Hootie and the Blowfish t shirt. Put a bell on your handlebars and streamers on your stays. Have fun. Good for you for riding. Seriously. You'll live longer, be in better shape, and help keep the air cleaner. I gotta go. Time to ride.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get down on yourself by not having the right style. I am probably the most unstylish person but I was one of six riders who finished Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200 km brevet on f ixie (three this year). I can't trackstand very well. I am not stylish. I am not lean. I just love to ride fixed and don't feel right riding with gears and coasting (except when touring fully loaded).

Do what your heart tells you to do and don't worry about your mind.

Look forward to seeing you on the KC Brevet series this year.

-Your friend from St Joe