Sunday, July 25, 2010

50 Miles Without Coasting

I have ridden Marianne for about 50 miles now as a fixed gear, so I figure that I can offer my impressions without feeling that I am speaking too soon. I have taken her both on city rides in traffic and on trails (the Charles River Trail and the Minuteman Bikeway), both with the Co-Habitant and alone. And I think the fixed gear conversion was the best thing that could have happened to this bicycle.

Popular culture has created the unfortunate association between fixed gear and danger, brightly coloured track bikes, and "hipsters". But that is ridiculous. The only distinguishing feature of a fixed gear bike is that it does not coast.  You can turn your loop-frame or your beach cruiser into a fixed gear if you like, set the gearing low, and enjoy pedaling leisurely around town on it. It will be just like a single speed, only you can't coast. That's all.

I know that most people enjoy coasting, but I have never been crazy about it. On my regular bicycles I try to always be in a gear that will allow me to pedal. Coasting - especially at high speeds - makes me feel as if the bicycle is a wild horse galloping out of control and dragging me along, with me barely managing to hold on to the reins. This is especially frightening on winding downhills - so I try to switch into a high enough gear that will allow me to pedal, and then I feel that I have better steering control. I have no idea whether this is based on real physical principles, or whether it is all in my head. But the result is that I welcome the "no coasting" aspect of fixed gear bicycles, rather than think of it as a drawback.

For the same reason, in many ways I find fixed gear bicycles easier to ride, not more difficult. What else is easier about them? Well, remaining stable at very slow speeds - which is a useful skill in the city. You can only coast for so long before your bicycle stops, but if you push on the pedals again, your speed will increase too much. On a fixed gear, you can pedal in slow motion, and the bicycle will remain perfectly stable while going at the exact speed you want, no matter how slow. This is especially useful when you are trying to go around pedestrians, or inch your way forward to the red light at busy intersections. If you have a poor sense of balance and coordination like I do, you may find fixed gear to be helpful in situations that would otherwise leave you flustered.

As I have mentioned earlier, Marianne was a particularly good choice for a fixed gear bike, because her over-responsiveness is now an asset. As before, she turns super-quickly and easily - but now, she does it only when I want her to and the responsiveness no longer feels like "twitchiness" or "squirreliness". It feels like I now have an extremely maneuverable bike, of which I am in full control - as opposed to a bike that was more maneuverable than I could handle.

The thing that took the most getting used to, was trusting the brakes enough to speed up. I kept having to remind myself, that this is not the track bike I rode in Austria; this bike has brakes and I can come to a complete stop any time, just like on a  regular bike! After the first couple of rides though, this finally sunk in and I've stopped worrying about braking.

After a couple of days, we re-did the bars by wrapping the entire surface in cork tape, to allow multiple hand positions. We also removed the rear brake (it really was unnecessary) and placed the front brake lever on the right handlebar for easier access. The bell is now mounted on the stem.

My gearing on this bicycle is 42-tooth in the front and 19-tooth in the rear (with 170mm cranks and 27" wheels).  That is a pretty non-aggressive gearing that is good for everyday cycling in hilly areas. I may get a smaller rear cog eventually (which will allow me to go faster, but will make things more difficult on hills), but I don't feel the need for that yet.

There has been some discussion about foot retention and whether I plan to get clips for the pedals. On a fixed gear bike, there is the danger of the feet slipping off the pedals, and the pedals then smacking you in the ankles. This can happen when going over bumps at high speeds, or when flying downhill. I do recognise the risk, but let me put it this way: Given that I have brakes and I don't go very fast on this bike, I think there is more chance of my falling as a result of using clips, than there is of my getting smacked with pedals. I may try Powergrips at some point, but I've seen them in a local bikeshop and even they look scary. I did not do well with half-clips. Are Powergrips easier?

I am sure the novelty of the new Marianne will eventually wear off, but for now I can't seem to stop riding her. After a seat post adjustment (more on this later), the bicycle now feels fairly comfortable on rides under 20 miles. Taking it on a very long ride last night was overkill though, and various parts of my body are now hurting. I think I will stick with the Sam Hillborne for those, and leave Marianne for the city.

48 comments:

  1. I use Powergrips on my Bridgestone, which is my most frequently ridden bike. As far as ease of getting in and out, they are pretty much the same as half clips (which I have on my second and third most ridden bikes, LOL.) You can install them with a larger loop to make "setting" your foot easier, but you also loose a little of the grip by doing that. They loosen over time and you have to readjust, but not an issue. It's only about twice a year. Overall, I'm a big fan of Powergrips for utility and ease of use.

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  2. Nothing like a "sleeper" fixie ;-)

    I ride my Redline 9.2.5 in fixie mode most of the time, and no one but me knows it. I like the fixed gear for control and because it pulls muscles into use that I wouldn't normally use riding a freewheeling bike. I did have to gear mine down a bit to allow for my advancing years. LOL

    Aaron

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  3. Regarding perception of fixed gear bicycles, this one is a fixed gear too Http://www.flickr.com/photos/hollyandpatrick/2526377905 :) looks like that was a great way to improve your relationship with Marianne :)

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  4. Portlandize - wow, thanks for the link to that! If I were to get a cargo bike for carrying art supplies and photo equipment, that would be my choice.

    MandG - When you say "lose a little of the grip" - do you mean in terms of efficiency? Because I don't really care about that, and it would be entirely a safety issue (i.e. to prevent my feet coming off the pedals should I happen to go over a bump at high speed). Will they still work for that purpose if I set them up a bit loose?

    Aaron - Sleeper fixie : )) I like the "no one knows it" aspect. To look at Marianne, no one would think it is fixed gear, unless they check closely. She is the anti-"tarck bike".

    What muscles get put into use that are not normally? I am ignorant f this stuff, but I do feel a difference.

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  5. I am fascinated. My biggest issue with riding the two wheelers is the whole riding slowly and touching down and then restarting. But the way you describe it- a fixed gear might help that a bit as I could move slowly without so much wobble etc. Hey- make sure you bring her to P-town this summer as the slow riding and turning between people will be an asset there for sure. I was there last night walking and remembered how hard it was to bike though the crowds.

    although I do enjoy coasting a lot.... But if I cold go downhill slowly ( I am gathering that is your slow down your pedal- the bikes will be forced to slow even on downhill no???

    I dunno- I might have to try this out...

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  6. I love my powergrips. I find them extremely easy to get out of, but then I don't have them very tight. I don't expect to get a lot of useful pull on the upstroke. I just like them because they allow the foot retention, which is useful in some situations. To get your feet out, you simply pull backwards. I'm not sure how they compare to half-clips, but they are worlds easier to use than a clipless pedal set-up.

    I've got a single speed bike with the flip-flop hub which I've been running as a single speed with the freewheel. I've always thought idly about running her as a fixie. You've almost got me convinced.

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  7. i saw an aggressive fixie rider this afternoon, and at every intersection where she had to come to a stop, she lifted the back of the bike to rotate the crank (requiring the rear wheel to rotate) to get the pedal where she wanted it to be for her next launch. have you found this to be necessary? what do you do when you stop and find the pedals at 12:00 / 6:00?

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  8. Vee - Yes, that is exactly the sort of thing I find fixed gear to be helpful with. I was riding home today and a minivan took its sweet time parking while blocking the bike lane and being generally indecisive. On the fixed gear bike, the experience of going around it while negotiating traffic in the other lane was so much easier than on my other bikes.

    Rose - Thanks for the Powergrip feedback, looks like they might be worth trying after all.

    somervillain - I am used to riding bikes with coaster brakes, so this was not a problem for me. On a bike where you can't rotate the pedal backward, you eventually get used to stopping with one foot on the upstroke. I don't know how, but I do it automatically now. If that doesn't work out, or if I make a false start in traffic and the bike moves forward, I simply quickly push it forward a tiny bit more until it's on the upstroke again. I think picking up the rear wheel is an unnecessarily difficult solution, though I know some fixed gear riders like to do it. You won't see anyone with a 40lb coaster brake bike picking up their wheel, yet somehow they manage to start at intersections!

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  9. I am bemused by your comment about the freewheel bike being the wild galloping horse, because that was the exact opposite of my experience when I first rode fixed. I had grown too used to coasting as a means of gradually slowing down -- so, I'd relax my legs on a flat and expect my speed to dip, but the fixed gear kept insisting on keeping my legs going, hence every stop sign became a negotiation until we understood each other better.

    Personally, I've found that, for low speed maneuvers, comparing a fixed and freewheel bicycle is a bit of apples and oranges. They're different and require their own forms of control, but I don't necessarily find one superior to the other. I do feel that fixed gear bikes can negotiate slippery conditions better than freewheeled bikes and I'd be curious to see how Marianne handles winter when it comes around.

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  10. Cris - That is a good point, and I think this is a case of "different (pedal)strokes for different folks". We all have different strengths and weaknesses when cycling. I am a pretty endurant cyclist, but I have problems with balance and coordination. Fixed gear seems to solve a lot of those problems (while relying on my endurance to be perceived as enjoyable by me). So for those in the same boat, it could really work - but not necessarily for others.

    PS: Why didn't you use the brake at stop signs?..

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  11. It sounds like you are taking to this like a duck to water, so how long till you get your neck tatoo?

    Another option to get the pedal to a convenient spot when standing still is to lock the front brake, push forward on the bars and lift the rear wheel that way. On a light bike like Marianne it should'nt take much. Two hands on the bars, one foot firmly on the ground and the other leg just nudging the pedal forward with your toes on the pavement while looking about in an amused, relaxed way. It's a very fetching pose...

    Spindizzy

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  12. My feeling about fixies, at least here in Austin, is that they are associated with hipsters and thrill-seekers. Your post changes my mind about this: I just bought a vintage road bike and have been considering changing it to a fixed gear or single speed but was somewhat intimidated by the fixie-image. Most fixed gear riders here have NO BRAKE at all, and to stop, they have to use their bodies to pop the rear wheel up and create a controlled skid. I think that is what makes me nervous about this style of bike.....no brake, no rear peddling, no coasting? I do like your points about being able to control speed in traffic...ultimately that is what makes me think I should try it.

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  13. oh, you know, negligence and optimism. I do use my brakes for stop signs on a freewheeled bike ... just my old habit was to coast, listen for oncoming traffic and either brake if traffic is heard, or postpone braking until I'm closer to the intersection then either brake hard for a complete stop if I can see oncoming cars or brake gently for a rolling stop if the route is clear. I minimize braking to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on my brake pads and rims, and I realize that this is an odd habit borne from winter commuting in my youth.

    Since riding fixed, I coast less, and so downshift when approaching stop signs on my freewheel ... which is nice because it means that I startup at an easier gear and mash my pedals less frequently.

    When riding fixed, I do use the brake from time to time, but I still endeavor to work on stopping with just the pedals as a way of getting more comfortable with controlling my speed on downhills. The front brake on the Centurion is also a little old and crotchety, and certainly doesn't suffice by itself on rainy descents ... I think Cycler can tell you of one time I almost plowed past her at a light just outside the Beacon Hill Whole Foods on one such wet evening commute.

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  14. velouria, i wouldn't compare coasters with fixed with regard to starting from a stop. on a coaster brake bike, you are essentially pre-selecting an upstroke crank position before you stop, since that's typically when you engage the brake (and can apply the most force to do so). so when you stop, the crank is already in the optimal position to start. i think the reason the cyclist i saw today did the little bike-lift maneuver is because she was concerned with going *fast* and wanted to make sure she could stand on the crank at its optimal position as soon the light turned green (this is someone who was also recklessly weaving through traffic, including cutting me off), so i don't expect that all fixed gear riders do this, but it nonetheless made me realized that the crank may not "land" at the ideal position when you come to stop, and that it's not as trivial as a freewheel setup where you just simply kick of the pedal to spin the crank back to 10:00.

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  15. I'd definitely use at least clips, even if they're kept a bit loose. As Sheldon Brown states (here: http://sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html#pedals):

    "Sometimes, novice fixed-gear riders will try to use plain pedals with no form of retention system. I strongly advise against this. Riding fixed with plain pedals is an advanced fixed gear skill, only recommended for experienced fixed-gear riders."

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  16. Pierre - I've read that. But I think the assumption is that I am able to use clips. The reality is, that I am not; I will fall and get hurt. Without clips, on the other hand, I might get smacked with a pedal. I will take the latter risk over the former.

    Somervillain - I cannot speak for people who are aggressive cyclists, because I do not cycle in that way and have no idea what it's like. Speaking from my own point of view, I find maneuvering a coaster brake bike and a fixed gear bike very similar.

    PS: When is the last time you rode either? : ))

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  17. The thing with a fixie is that it can be a bit more belligerent than a freewheel bike, actively trying to kick you out of your pedals, if you're trying to slow down while going down a hill, say.

    There's definitely some getting used to with clips, and I do vastly prefer my clipless pedals, as far as feeling safe goes (a quick yank, and off the pedals I am!), but it's not so bad either (you might fall once, yes, try to fall on something cushy, like a patch of grass).

    I feel it's okay to have the straps a little loose (it will be less efficient, but that's not what you're looking for here, and I'm somewhat the same), it still keeps your foot mostly in the right place.

    I never used Powergrips, although I was thinking about it for my ninja bike (a Trek District), as clips tend to leave scuff marks on my nice shoes. :-)

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  18. In the photos with you riding you appear to be well positioned, comfortable. I rode a fixed for several years in the business section of New Orleans. You're right, the fixed is the perfect bike for negotiating traffic. You are in complete control. IMO the wide handle bars are not ideal for tight traffic or if you have to transport by train.

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  19. Don - I cannot ride the flat narrow bars due to nerve damage in my hands. But I am pretty risk averse anyway, and would not go through very tight traffic, so it is not an issue. I do see upside-down NorthRoads like mine pretty frequently on fixed gears.

    Pierre - If I ever take the plunge and get foot retention on a road bike, I will go clipless rather than clips. But this is a city bike, and it would not be practical to wear SPD shoes every time I ride it. I think Powergrips may be the best I can do; I will try to pick some up next time I have a chance.

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  20. Yeah, I have plain flat pedals on my Opus Lugano city bike, and I prefer clipless for the longer rides on my road bike (for efficiency, since I'm lazy, and SPD is really quick and instinctive to get out of), but I went for clips on the District, as I didn't feel secure enough without some form of retention, and I didn't want to have to wear SPD shoes when riding it (it's also more of a city bike).

    Let us know how you like the Powergrips! Another option I was looking at was clips with leather.

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  21. (On a completely different note, the Y-shaped riverside tree that graces both of your last two posts, and frames bikes and riders, is lovely!)

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  22. If I were to go fixed (and it sounds like something you do to your dog) I'd get a 7 gear internal hub, if I could afford one. The main attraction would be cycling in winter where you can use the pedals to slow down - less drastic than using your brakes on ice. I'd still need the gears for the hills though.

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  23. This is a great post, thank you! I have been seeing and hearing about fixed gear bikes everywhere, and your perspective on it really helped me better understand how a fixed would handle. Thanks for this! I'm really intrigued by them and would love to test ride one some time. S.

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  24. velouria: "PS: When is the last time you rode either? : ))"

    i mentioned in an earlier post that i've never ridden fixed :-), but seeing what that fixie rider did got me thinking about how the crank orientation may potentially be a problem, and something i've never seen a coaster brake rider do. it was just an observation, not based on personal experience. (i have ridden many coaster brakes in my life, including one i used for a year in europe, and never had that dilemma).

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  25. One thought re the front brake - if the brake levers on your other bikes have the front lever on the left as is standard in the US, having 1 bike with the lever on the right will eventually result in a moment of hesitation when using the brakes on your other bikes. Keep it consistent so that you don't have to think about which is the front brake (front does the bulk of the braking / panic stops etc0

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  26. somervillain, your analysis of the fixed gear "bike-lift" maneuver as the mark of an aggressive or dangerous cyclist is a little unfair. This is my preferred method, and "Danger" is certainly not *my* middle name. It's just a convenient way to get your pedal in the right place. My bike is geared high, so if I misjudged and simply continued to roll until my pedal was where I wanted it, I'd end up in the middle of the intersection. Instead I apply my front brake and spin the rear wheel. It's no different in concept than someone with a freewheel rotating their pedal forward, and it's not meant to look "aggressive". It's a purely practical method, and if she looked aggressive while doing it, I'm sure it was the result of her overall body language.

    If you come from big coaster brake bikes to fixed, you may not think this is necessary. If you come from small road bikes to fixed, you'll have a different approach.

    P

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  27. rural 14 - Actually, my bikes are all over the place when it comes to brake placement. Some are front left, others front right. If we ever have the time, I would actually like to reroute all of them to front right, I think it is a better system.

    townmouse - they do make fixed-gear 3-speed hubs : )

    somervillain - I know, I know. I guess my main point is that my style of riding has nothing to do with the dynamics of that style of riding, and so from my perspective the wheel thing is unnecessary and the coasterbrake method does work.

    I think P's last 2 sentences are pretty accurate.

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  28. anon and velouria: i think my comments were misinterpreted. i didn't intend to associate the "bike-lift" with that of an aggressive fixie rider, based on one observation, even though the observation was consistent with an overall demonstration of wanting to be quick at every opportunity. my comment, rather, was meant to suggest that if you are riding fixed and want to have a quick launch (something for which *any* rider may be justified in wanting), then you have to employ some technique to make sure your crank is correctly oriented. this technique can be planning in advance (as velouria mentioned she does), or the "bike-lift" that i witnessed. my main point was that the convenience of using the freewheel to rotate the crank in such situations is lost. i will also add that the "planning in advance" method becomes easier with lower gearing. velouria's bike is geared *very* low, and it takes a shorter distance to rotate the cranks than it does on a fixed gear bike of higher gearing.

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  29. I suppose having to lift one's rear wheel to adjust the pedals is at least an occasional necessity on a geared-high fixed wheel. But is that a problem? Not any more than backing into a parking spot. You always know how much time you have to park, but you don't know how quickly you'll have to leave (or race for that green light in your fixie)... :)

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  30. ( just commenting on the coaster brake stopping issue- I also automatically stop it how I want it. Although I do a lot of coasting and often while coasting down hill will pedal one degree to get my left and favorite braking foot parallel to the ground so I just step back slightly to slow down.... and I will coast with pedals in position before coming to a complete stop at intersections...

    I am so dying to try a fixed gear now. Although I am of both worlds. Not coordinated or balanced AND I love to coast. I even coast when I drive rarely tapping the breaks. ( but I was taught by a stick driver who down shifts to slow and rarely brakes unless he's stopping.)

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  31. Hooray Veloria! This post should get a silver medal for clarity and usefulness, and you should get a gold one for clear-headed courage. I predict you will find a foot retention system that works for you, and soon.

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  32. I'm still interested to hear about the rear wheel. Why no specifics, V? Did I miss where you talked about either a total wheel rebuild or what kind of new wheel was purchased?

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  33. Thanks Dave - Though I think the courage aspect is undeserved, with my low gearing and brakes and all. Now if I were riding brakeless in flipflops while drinking coffee and talking on my mobile...

    david m. - see my earlier post about the conversion!

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  34. Saw your earlier post. Buying a new rear wheel was definitely the more cost-effective choice, and wiser to stick with 27" than to try and convert to 700c for a new wheelset.

    And thank you ever so kindly for not throwing Deep V's on Marianne and making her into a skid/tarck/"mash" monster. She's still a beaut, even if she's been hobbled by the removal of the Deraileur mount.

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  35. Sounds great to have a fixed gear bike for everyday use. Even better that it doesn't look like one of these hipster fixies. Just an awesome mix you have here, I'm sure it's a lot of fun to ride Marianne now.

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  36. I second the comment on these photos. Did you take them with a timer, or were they MDI's work? Either way, some very nice compositions there.

    I have used clips or half clips since 1982, and find it disorienting to not have them. There are two things about clips that I find useful. 1) they position my foot in the proper "power" placement on the pedals, and 2) they allow me to push forward a bit as well as provide a little bit of resistance to the upward movement of my foot. The only set I currently have are some 20+ year old *short* MKS nylon MTB models on my Stumpjumper, from which I removed the leather straps. they grab the shoe just enough to keep my feet in and on, in the proper position.
    I can remove my foot from the clip either sideways or backward off the pedal. Something like this might be worth a try- I'm sure you can even get a used set for pennies at the local co-op to mess with. Try one at a time with your lead foot and leave the other out on the downside of the pedal, like you did on the Waja track bike.

    Herself, who never used any sort of retention until a few years ago, finds it a comfortable and fast system. (She's of similar height and shares the Stumpy with me.)

    Anyway you go, enjoy Marianne.

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  37. I'm not a big coaster, either, simply because when I'm riding my bike my legs seem to get into "pedal" mode and just go automatically. So perhaps a fixie is more my style than I realized. Interesting to hear that it's actually easier to ride in traffic.

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  38. Thanks for the great post. I use cork and I use varnish to color them and shellac to seal them to the elements. Here's an example of my latest set, which is meant to match a Brooks B-17 Aged saddle (after a year of use)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vxla/4785339828/

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  39. i like power grips more than the (several) other foot retention systems i've used. while most of my riding these days is casual enough that i'm happy with no foot retention, i notice that it is more difficult to ride and steer a bike no-hands when i have no foot connection. since no-hands riding relies on a sharp command of body english, more positive points of attachment enable more positive control.

    fixed gear is fun, but as my knees are invariably the first thing to hurt on any longer ride, it's a pleasure i must forego.

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  40. I warned you: Riding a fixed gear is addictive!

    Sheldon Brown used to say that French bikes like Marianne made for good fixed-gear conversions because of their ride qualities. What you say about Marianne confirms that. It's somewhat aggressive, as you say, but you need some of that in a fixed gear bike in order to control it. On the other hand, for the streets, you wouldn't want a real velodrome bike like the one you rode in Vienna because you would feel every single crack in the pavement when you ride it.

    Interestingly, Marianne is now like a kind of bike that was once fairly common in England and Continental Europe. In England, they were known as "club" bikes: They had the geometry of road bikes and were often made of high-grade tubing like Reynolds 531, but they had fixed-gears "flip-flop" hubs. I more or less emulated that when I built my Mercian fixed-gear bike.

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  41. Getting a new wheel was not only more cost effective; it was also the wiser choice.

    A hub that's made for a fixed gear has two tiers of threads on the side on which the cog is mounted. The inner set is for the cog itself. The outer set is for the lockring, and is threaded in the opposite direction from the other threads. If you mount a fixed gear on a regular road hub, the lockring may not stay on tight. The result could be disastrous, especially when you stop.

    Also, mounting a single gear would have meant realigning the spacers on the hub so that the chainline would be straight. In turn, that would have required re-dishing the wheel: moving the rim further to the right by tightening the right side spokes and loosening the left-side ones. It's usually not a good idea on an old wheel, for the spokes usually become more brittle over time.

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  42. I look away again for a couple of weeks and when I look back my little girl is all growed up and shit. What's wit dat?

    Just today I took the Peugeot mixte out for a spin, because I suddenly realized it had turned into a bike that I spend rather more time polishing than riding, and I'm not particularly down with that school of cycling. It wasn't very long before my brain started screaming "My God! This bike is broken, it needs to get fixed!"

    I haven't ridden a coastie in several months. I found it a rather strange experience despite the many, many miles I've spent on them.

    My townie this year has been the aforementioned (in an afore post), threatened cruiser, with the wheels from my 925 on it (I'm taking my time deciding whether I'm going to build a 26" fixed wheel for it or convert to 700c). Although it leaves it rather over geared (44x15) and it's "brakeless" (an oxymoron) I never skip stop. It isn't at all necessary and people who do this are having fun/showing off/don't know how to ride. You won't see people on the track doing it very much.

    In England limited gear time trialing used to be very popular. Medium gear riders (72", which is the neighborhood of 42x16 depending on your wheel/tire size) used to break the hour for 25 miles. Sheldon liked a tooth smaller in the back (which is how the 925 is geared stock, but he liked Biopace rings too), but really, no one needs more than 72" for general riding. Touring riders generally went for something around 65".

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  43. P.S. Marianne looks très chic with the upside down North Roads. You can tell her I said so.

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  44. Justine said...
    "... for the streets, you wouldn't want a real velodrome bike like the one you rode in Vienna because you would feel every single crack in the pavement when you ride it."


    I agree that for the streets I would not want a real track bike (riding brakeless on the backroads was difficult enough; I almost pee in my pants just imagining doing it in traffic)... BUT... FYI That track bike had tubular tires that were like butter going over cracks and bumps. I am trying to forget that wonderful ride quality, lest I start craving tubulars.

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  45. Thanks for the comments re the tree pictures. I took the one where the bicycle is alone. The Co-Habitant took the picture where I am standing in front of the tree looking sullen. We agreed on the composition beforehand.

    david m - Marianne threatened to run away from home if I got Deep V's. Plus, those wouldn't go well with the fenders. Priorities!

    kfg - Thanks for your comments on gearing. I am only now starting to understand it, so this is terribly interesting.

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  46. Nice post, it describes the fixed-gear experience accurately without wrapping it in predictable hipster-daredevil-Zen cliches or making it seem like such a big deal.

    What I love about riding fixed is that the bike seems to go by itself since so much of your momentum is recycled. This makes short inclines easier too. There is a feeling of greater control especially in wet conditions.

    I don't find the pedals being out of sync to be a big issue. Just an extra push from the foot on the ground when you start corrects it. After a while you just get used to it and you can start (and stop) from any position.

    PowerGrips are probably the easiest retention to use. Try them on a freewheel bike first. Getting out of them requires just a quick flick of the heel, far less effort than even the loosest clipless pedal.

    I run a 69" gear (45x17, 700Cx28mm tires, 165mm cranks), which is about right for L.A. The classic English touring gear was 65", all the better to enjoy the scenery.

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  47. sorry to come in on an old post but i thought it might be helpful to add a safety warning regarding fixed-gear bikes. Fixed-gear bikes without a rear brake rely on the drivetrain for safe braking control. There is a small but significant chance that the chain could snap or derail while descending and/or approaching a hazard on the road. If this happens then only the front brake is left to control the bike. although the front brake alone is sufficient for perhaps 95% of braking situations, there are times when a rear brake is necessary in order to "control" the front brake and thereby prevent the rider being thrown forwards and off the bike. In addition at the end of a long ride on a fixed-gear the riders legs will be tired and the presence of a rear brake will provide some relief. It is fashionable to remove the rear brake when using a fixed gear but in this case it would be better to die a fashion death than a real death. Most fixed gear bikes ridden on the road prior to the current revival had two brakes, front and rear.

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  48. Nobody's reading this now, but in case you happen to read this, somervillain:

    Lifting to position your crank is as easy as positioning your feet on a bike with a freewheel; easier, if the freewheel bike doesn't have foot retention. It requires no thought at all once you are used to doing it. I notice the equivalent technique on the freewheel bike more now when I ride that. It is also a legitimate enough technique that Sheldon Brown describes doing it (though he says he lifted the saddle, which sounds terribly awkward to me; I always use the top tube).

    That said, with most gearings it is not usually necessary to lift the wheel as you can stop with the cranks pretty much where you want them most of the time. I usually ride 42/17 or 42/16 and find it trivial to stop in the correct position. The reason I still have to lift my bike sometimes is that I am still working on my trackstand (hey, I just built the bike last winter) and often roll out of my preferred position when I lose my balance.

    Samuel Chilbolton:
    No, the chance is not significant. Drivetrain failure is no more (and probably less) likely than rear brake failure or misadjusted brakes. If someone wants to have all three braking systems I certainly wouldn't discourage them, but it's about as necessary as having both rim and disc brakes on a freewheel bike. If you are using the rear brake to "control" the front, then you need to work on your braking technique. See Sheldon Brown: http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html

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