By Joel Zanatta
I have always been fascinated by the world of fixed gear bikes. What is the point of a bike without a freewheel, that does not coast and that has no traditional breaking system? After spending a day riding one I have realized that the answer is simple, a fixed gear bike is the most visceral way to truly “feel” the pleasure of cycling.
Though I would not recommend a fixie for the faint of heart, there is something incredibly pure about riding with an unadulterated direct link to your drivetrain. By removing any and everything that separates rider from bicycle you become one with the machine. If you pedal the bike moves, if the bike moves you pedal, there is no other option.
The learning curve riding a fixed wheel is steep. The first time you crest a hill and try to relax you will very quickly realize that there is no resting on a fixed wheel bike, the cranks keep turning and you get a jolt through your whole body. Hopefully you only make that mistake once. The harrowing part is when you start decending and realize that to slow down you have to engage your legs – literally slowing the rotation of the pedals with your legs.
Experienced fixed bike riders learn to lift their back wheel off the ground and skip stop or skid stop by pedalling backwards while the wheel is in the air. This is a complicated move and takes years to perfect. Though I made several attempts at this intricate move, in the end the skill alluded me.
For now I am going to stick with my freewheel and disc breaks, but I am glad that I spent some time on a fixed gear bike. Doing so gave me a keen insight into just how skilled some of these riders are. It also helped me realize that you never stop honing your cycling skills. Just when you think that you know what you are doing there is a new way to ride and an interesting alternative way to engage in something that you love.
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