What I Like About Riding a Fix,
by George Pinkston

The first thing that catches my eye when I look upon a pure track/fixed gear bike (i.e., one without brakes) is its clean look. There is an intrinsic beauty in its simplicity, and the un-interrupted look of its lines, regardless of the angles of the frame. It is a pure bike, stripped down to the bare essentials, without all of the unnecessary extras. It's been my experience that even people who don't know the first thing about what a track/fixed gear bike is, are drawn to the esthetic beauty that emanates from these bikes. It's sort of like taking a look at a thoroughbred horse or a greyhound. You don't have to know what type of animal it is, but there's something about its look that tells you: "Hey, I'm built for power and speed."
I tell people that a nice bike is like a work of art to me. As a result I try to build mine up with certain components and colors that "speak" to me when I see them. Although I put a great deal of emphasis on what visually appeals to me on my bikes, all beauty and no strength or durability take away from the essence of the bike.
So for me, it's a fine line between setting up my bikes in a way that shows the artistry in the bikes, while also ensuring that the components are durable and able to stand up to the type of riding that I put my bikes through. When you're out on a hard ride, it's nice to have the confidence and assurance, especially on a fixed gear, that nothing will break or fall off because you've sacrificed durability just to save a few ounces. One of the great things about riding a fixed gear is that once set up correctly, since there are fewer things on it to go wrong. It's virtually maintenance free.
Riding a fixed gear, no brakes, by its very nature requires you to be "on your toes." You can't be sleeping out there in the middle of all of that street traffic on a fixed gear, and expect to get home safely day after day. Your scope of awareness is spread out farther and wider than on the average freewheeling, brake-encumbered bike. You don't have the luxury that a roadie may have of having a lowered sense of awareness, backed up with a set of powerful hand brakes. However, when I say you're "on your toes", I don't mean that you are operating in some frantic heightened state, but rather one of serene calmness. This comes with time.
Finally, one of the things about riding a fixed gear that appeals to me the most, and brings that zen-like aspect to this type of riding, is the feeling of being connected or "at one with" the bike. When I try to explain this to others who have never ridden a fixed gear bike, I try to be as clear as possible about it. I still don't think they get what I am talking about. You have to experience it to understand it!!! I also believe that you don't "get it" as soon as you try to ride a fixed gear. It takes a while for the feeling to hit.
For instance, I remember way back when I first rode my first fixed-gear bike, over 25 years ago, I didn't have that connected feeling instantly. Instead, what I felt at first was being on a beast with a mind of its own. However, as I continued to ride it, I became accustomed to the feel of riding a fixed. Before too long, it became as natural as walking down the street.
© George Pinkston, 2003

George Pinkston is a former messenger and old-skool track rider from back in the day.

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