Studies in fixie anthropology, Part 1: In which punk goes mainstream

I’m sorry to say this, all you fixie fanatics: But what started out in the early years of this decade as a relatively small, punk-style movement has become utterly ordinary.

And even so, I see no signs of this fad peaking.

This summer in Eugene, I’m seeing more fixies than ever: Boys. Girls. Young. Old. Of course, I can’t always tell, with a quick glimpse sometimes, whether all of these are true fixies. It’s likely many are what are sometimes called “coasties.”

A coastie is to the fixie as Green Day is to the Sex Pistols, by which I mean, it’s not punk at all. It’s an old road bike rudely stripped of it’s derailleur and freewheel and converted to a single-speed — so it looks like a fixie. But it has a freehub, not an actual fixed gear. You can stop pedaling and coast, which, of course, you can’t do on a fixie.

A lot of these bikes have a “flip-flop” hub, which has a fixed gear on one side and freehub on the other — a clever device, for the truly noncommittal band-wagon jumper.

But coasties have “the look” — which at this point seems to be what this fad is largely about.

To hardcore fixie riders, these folks are probably looked down on as poseurs. But this always happens with anything punk, doesn’t it? It gets sucked into the mainstream and becomes — to the great horror of its original practitioners — fashionable.

Like when you see an 8-year-old at the park with a blue mohawk.

Or blue rims:

Poseur, perhaps, but I give him points for the helmet.

Pretty soon fixies and coasties are going to be the rage among suburban dads in their 50s. At which point their kids will need to move on and find something new and different, something their parents are actually baffled and offended by.

So, let’s give it another five years before we find ourselves shocked by the rebelliousness of a vintage Campy derailleur. But in the meantime, for the present, the No. 1 bike fad in Eugene is exemplified by this sort of setup (orange mohawk, anyone?):

I will guess that this fad has even surpassed the other raging-at-full-tilt bike fad in Eugene. And you know what that is, right? Of course, you do. It’s the “cratie.”

(It takes no small amount of skill and practice to be able to swing your leg up and around and over the ergonomic stylings of a bicycle-mounted milk crate.)

It takes no small amount of skill to properly ride a fixie, too, but we’ll get to that next time.

* * *

You may remember — if you are among the select, huddled bunch who regularly read this blog: I mentioned that my brother had embarked on a cycling trip to the French Alps, having trained rigorously by commuting to work and riding up and down the parking garage ramp at his office. Well, I heard from him after he completed Day 3 of the trip — hardest day of the trip to date. He managed to survive this:

Salient parts of his e-mail:

“I am a wreck right now and going to bed. … You just have no idea until you ride to see what these guys (Tour de France riders) go through. … Computer said I burned almost 8,000 calories today.”

I think maybe I’ll stop and get a pastry somewhere on my way to work today.

Then I heard from him again after Day 4, which looked something like this:

“The Madeleine … goes on for what seems forever. … After (watching) the race (we made) a crazy decent off the mountain for over 20 kilometers weaving between cars and motor homes and people and bikes and motorcycles, often on the wrong side of the road …”

Ah, Europe. And, to think, I get irked when I encounter this:

The good news for my brother is that today’s ride is a piece of cake. Infact, he may be out there on the road right now, as I post this:

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