By Nick Ginster Translated by Ann Lee
Photos courtesy of OZOTW
What's old is new. With roots stretching back to bicycle racing of the 1800's, fixed-gear bikes are hitting the streets of New York, London, Tokyo, and Taipei en masse. Once considered fit only for racing inside a velodrome, fixed-gear bikes have jumped off the track and are quickly creating their niche among today's urban-riders.
In the 1980s, early pioneers of urban fixed-gear riding turned to these simple machines because they were inexpensive, easy to maintain and less likely to be stolen. With one gear, no freewheel (the rear cog is "fixed" to the rear wheel, so whichever direction the pedals turn--forward or backward--the rear wheels follows), no suspension and often without brakes, fixed-gear bikes are the epitome of simplicity.
In cities like New York, bike messengers have been using fixed-gear bikes for years. These riders can be seen hitting the streets of major cities around the world; no matter what the weather or the traffic throws at them, they ride. Considered by some to be daring, brave, foolish, rogue, insane, fringe or just plain tough, messengers and their lifestyles are the foundation of the fixed-gear revolution.
With an increase in the complexity of bicycles these days--including exotic materials like carbon fiber and titanium, or state of the art technology such as electronic shifting--there is something inherently attractive about a bicycle that contains little more than a frame, fork, handlebars a couple of gears and a chain. Simple is beautiful, and this elegant simplicity is definitely a draw for fixed-gear riders. Urban riding in general has gotten a boost in recent years, due to higher gas prices and a general awakening worldwide to our personal environmental impact.
But why is fixed-gear riding exploding? The answer is as varied as the riders. Some point to the simplicity, freedom, fashion and lifestyle a fixed-gear bike allows. Others hold a more esoteric view that a fixed-gear bike creates a symbiosis between man and machine, connecting a bike and its rider so they become one; others just enjoy the freedom to weave effortlessly through the city with a breeze on their face while fellow commuters sit in frustration as traffic creeps along.
Whatever the draw, urban fixed-gear riding is here to stay. Clubs are popping up all over the world and riders are participating in more fixed-gear rides, races, Alley Cats and meet-ups every day. Right here in Taichung, members of OZOTW Fixed-gear meet weekly to ride, have friendly competitions and show off the latest gear. The Nabiis crew in Taipei has a strong following as well and has put on six FRiDERDAY riding events, with the seventh coming up soon. These events allow fixed riders to come together to ride and explore each others cities.
So the next time you're sitting in your car or on your motorcycle and a fixed-gear rider casually glides past, look twice, and maybe you'll catch the pure beauty that only a fixed-gear can offer. Better yet, why not come and join this quiet revolution in urban cycling?
Taipei: Nabiis Crew www.nabiis.net
Taichung: OZO Fixed-gear www.flickr.com/photos/ozotw/
Tainan: WASP Tainan Fixed-gear Club
COG Magazine (high-quality, full-color quarterly): Information at www.cogmagasia.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
COG available in Taichung at OZOTW FIXED-GEAR
Address: 83, WuQuan 3rd St, West District
Tel: (04) 2375-8416