Tag Archives: singlespeed

The fixie as a cultural influence. And some fixie tricks.

So I came across a site called ‘Prolly Is Not Probably‘. It straight away made me laugh when it described itself as a “website based in Brooklyn that covers a cross-section of cultural influences. Bikes, Music, Architecture, Media, Fashion, Art, whatever.”

Let me just pull that up and run it once again: “…a cross-section of cultural influences. Bikes, Music, Architecture, Media, Fashion, Art…”

Now, I love bikes. Right from my first bike, which was a second hand Raleigh girls bike (my Dad insists it was a boys bike, but it so obviously wasn’t that I just go along with it.  He must be deeply ashamed) I have loved bikes. I’ve messed around with BMXs, road bikes, commuters,  and various forms of mountain bikes over the years. And biking effects the way I live my life. But I think it’s being a little bit ostentatious to site ‘Bikes’ as a cultural influence. Come on. Really?

Anyway, that’s really an aside. What I wanted to post about here was a trailer for a video that I found on ‘Prolly Is Not Probably’; a trailer for a film called Empire. It’s about a year old, so don’t expect anything new here. It’s a film about ‘having fun with your bike in the city’, and it looks great: nice production values, lots of footage of hip looking guys and gals doing crazy shit on their fixies, cool locations… awesome, right?

I don’t know.

For a start, as a guy who rides through some of the busiest traffic in London on a daily basis, I was wincing slightly at some of the traffic dodging going on in this clip. I do like to play it fast and loose with traffic to get from A to B as quickly as possible, I will occasionally jump red lights, and I do, almost every day, end up in a silent race with another pumped-up rider, but there’s always a bit of a nod to safety. Especially the safety of pedestrians, who don’t expect or choose to have to deal with some speeding dude on a bike when they’re crossing the road at an authorised point. I’m the last person to get all stuffy about this, most of my friends think I ride ‘like a dick’, but (and I can’t believe I’m about to type this) the guys in the vid come across as a bit…irresponsible. Take risks with your own body by any means, but don’t involve other people.

For another thing, whilst I like fixies and think their smooth lines and uncluttered profile is an attractive thing, I think they look a bit stupid doing urban tricks. It’s a bit like powersliding a caravan – it’s just not right. When you look at Danny MacAskill or the Collective guys their bikes look appropriate for the kind of riding they do. And they are. But a track bike adapted for the road just doesn’t look all that comfortable jumping off stuff. The wheels are just to thin, the tyres too skinny. Get a trial bike or a BMX. I know I’m way out of date on this and that fixie freestyling is the latest thing, but I just don’t buy it.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Urban Outfitters Bike Shop

I was surfing around the world wide interweasel the other day and came across the Urban Outfitters Bike Shop

Basically, over in the US of A, Urban Outfitters, purveyors of overpriced boutique clothing for hipsters, have decided to start selling that staple of the hipster look, the singlespeed.

Urban Outfitters Singlespeed

They sell one type of bike – the Aristotle v1.5, in partnership with Republic, a bike builder that seems to be whitelabelling the Urban Outfitters project. It looks like a fairly well constructed frame with a ‘flip-flop’ hub so that you can ride it as a freewheel or fixed, probably built in the far east and assembled in the USA (given the £399 price tag), although the website doesn’t give this info.

The shop they’ve set up for the singlespeed is pretty cool: it has a nice little app where you can customise the colours of various parts of the bike – frame, saddle, grips, chain, crank, rims etc – and see what the finished bike will look like. There are so many possible combinations that the hipster can develop that truly individual look whilst being pretty much the same as all his/her mates.

Now, I have nothing against Urban Outfitters. I buy stuff from them fairly regularly and generally like the brands they stock. And this feels like quite a sensible diversification for them – many of their clientele will be interested in a singlespeed and probably not have much of a clue about what makes a good or bad one or where to get hold of one.

But this whole singlespeed revolution that has overwhelmed London over the past year is frankly a bit annoying. Up until recently I worked in Shoreditch, and at first it was amusing to watch the cool young dudes roll by on their singlespeeds, trousers rolled up, deckshoes on the feet and oversized Aviators on the face. But it seems to have spread: I live in Peckham and all the art-school kids from Goldsmiths and Camberwell have discarded their second-hand three-speed Sturmy Archer equipped shopping-baskets for singlespeeds . I work up in Primrose Hill, and even the posh kids up there are on them. It’s nuts.

I’ve nothing against singlespeeds, fixies or otherwise. I drink with a guy in his forties called Kimbal. He used to be a cycle courier, rides a beautiful old steel-framed track bike pimped for the road and is so fit he passes for a guy much younger. He understands what the fixie is all about: one-ness with the road, an outward proclamation of your skill in handling a bike and of your profession. I like that. And I understand the (minor) benefits that a singlespeed gives in terms of maintenence because it has fewer components to damage/wear out. But really, if you’re thinking of getting a bike, seriously, as a mode of transport to get you from A to B quickly, safely and efficiently, get a bike with with gears. Especially if you live somewhere with hills. It’ll be easier, you’ll enjoy it more, and as a result you might end up cycling for life rather than giving up after a few months.

In case you’re wondering, the bike I use to commute has gears.

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