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They see me co-opt'n They hatin'
May 25, 2008 1:56 PM   Subscribe

We've discussed fixed gear bicycles before.

In the intervening years the cycling phenomena has taken on new proportions. While those early adopters, bike messengers, maybe a dying breed they leave behind a design that gained some respected proponents. Almost overnight the fixed gear bicycle attracted a certain type who found that the messenger-imparted street-cred, not to mention the low cost of entry, fit nicely with a hip aesthetic and do-it-yourself lifestyle. It wasn’t long after that amateur videos and music began to circulate celebrating, or perhaps embarrassing, the fixed gear culture.

Though the movement hasn’t been without its terms of derision it has relentlessly grown. Now major manufacturers churn out off-the-shelf fixed gears and at least a few in the entertainment industry have capitalized on the craze. All this commodification has led some to speculate that high gas prices have made urban bicycle commuting more appealing to a wider audience. So perhaps the fixed gear, or at least its more user friendly single-speed version is here to stay...
posted by wfrgms (99 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
MetaFilter is King of Fixed-Gear Culture.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Urban bicycle commuting isn't going to take off until someone invents a reliable method for preventing them from being stolen. A few minutes of research and a couple of relatively cheap tools will render the vast majority of the locks available useless within minutes.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:06 PM on May 25, 2008


Where do the US presidential candidates stand on the issue of fixed gear bikes? It may come down to that for me.
posted by mullacc at 2:12 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm all for biking. I still think the fixed gear thing is madness.
In NYC, it's dangerous enough on a bike. But hey, I've got something like respect for people who are willing to get crushed in traffic because its esoteric.

I don't get why someone would try to up the danger of riding, but there it is.
Maybe it's because I've seen someone after they got his by a car and dragged, and thought they were dead, because half their head was gone, only to hear them scream as they regained consciousness. It was like a Verhoeven special effect.

Oh you Hipsters! Is there no fashion you won't be a victim of?

(does this mean I'm hating? those single-speed versions sound like a rational alternative...)
posted by Busithoth at 2:12 PM on May 25, 2008


Urban bicycle commuting isn't going to take off until someone invents a reliable method for preventing them from being stolen.

The solution? Ride a shitty bike that a) no one will want to steal, and b) is easily replaced.

Really, there is no good reason for anyone but the most serious of serious cyclists to pay anywhere remotely close to $1000 on a bike.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dude, did you just make a fixie post and link to a bunch of corporations!? For shame!

How about beautiful, hand-made bikes made by Vanilla, Jonny Cycles (wow!), Don Walker, Alien, ZR, or Fast Boy.

Or self-published magazines and book/dvds like Cog, MASH, and

There's hand-made bags, clothes and accessories too.
posted by dobbs at 2:24 PM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sys Rq: Really, there is no good reason for anyone but the most serious of serious cyclists to pay anywhere remotely close to $1000 on a bike.

Yeah, god forbid anyone have, say, a halfway functional full suspension mountain bike, which start at about $800. Or even a cheap road bike, which start at about $600.

In general bicycles that are well-built enough to be safe start at about $300 new (and even that is pushing it), which is enough that I wouldn't want it to be stolen. Used bikes are only for those with enough repair skill to ensure their reliability - this is the vast minority of people in general and still a minority among cyclists.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:25 PM on May 25, 2008


The Cycle Messenger World Championships are also coming up in June in Toronto.

those single-speed versions sound like a rational alternative

That's what I ride: a single speed bike with a coaster break built in. I absolutely love it--it has everything I love about riding from when I was a kid and none of the crap I hated that got added to my bikes as I got older.
posted by dobbs at 2:32 PM on May 25, 2008


Mitrovarr, What are you talking about?
posted by fatllama at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a two speed 'kickback' once that I loved. Schwinn, natch. Stingray I think. Slicks. Banana seat. Sissy bar (is that PC?). What happened to two speed 'kickbacks'? Do messengers ride them? (Sorry for the derail...)
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2008


Used bikes are only for those with enough repair skill to ensure their reliability - this is the vast minority of people in general and still a minority among cyclists.

this is the sentiment behind our throw-away culture. i'm not sure i understand it.
posted by localhuman at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Damn, make that this link.
posted by fatllama at 2:37 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


In general bicycles that are well-built enough to be safe start at about $300 new (and even that is pushing it), which is enough that I wouldn't want it to be stolen. Used bikes are only for those with enough repair skill to ensure their reliability - this is the vast minority of people in general and still a minority among cyclists.

A craigslist search for such bikes in any metropolitan area invalidates your argument.

On a different note, I just moved away from DC and will not be missing fixie culture.
posted by The White Hat at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2008


fatllama: Mitrovarr, What are you talking about?

Oh, the original post mentioned urban bicycle commuting. I was just suggesting that the problem with that isn't anything connected to fixed gear/singlespeed stuff, but the lack of anything resembling a functional lock. It is a bit of a tangent, I suppose.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2008


The White Hat: A craigslist search for such bikes in any metropolitan area invalidates your argument.

Used bikes should be presumed unsafe unless you A. have the personal skill necessary to confirm they are safe (most people don't) or B. pay to have them checked out by a professional mechanic (not cheap.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:41 PM on May 25, 2008


Mitrovarr: Let me put that the way I meant it: There is no good reason for a bike to cost anything like $1000. I can buy a Honda scooter for that much, and a fixie has something like twenty parts. Come on.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:41 PM on May 25, 2008


Mitrovarr: if cities were flooded with accessible public bicycles, there is less/no incentive to steal them. Same solution to your issue of cost. And maintenance.
posted by fatllama at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2008


We've discussed fixed gear bicycles before.

Probably not the best lead-in link. You might want to put something a bit more... ummm.. engaging on the front page than a MeFi google search link. Not that post isn't great.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2008


ok, fourteen comments in...time for a ranting derail about how cyclists should stay off the road, and off the sidewalk as well, and should follow all the road rules, but not to the extent of exercising their right to take up an entire lane, etc etc.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


fatllama: Mitrovarr: if cities were flooded with accessible public bicycles, there is less/no incentive to steal them. Same solution to your issue of cost. And maintenance.

Since when have cities not been flooded with bicycles? They already are. And as for cost and maintenance, there's already a huge cheap bike market (the department store bike.) Unfortunately they're not safe or efficient, and I'm sure they try. Perhaps it simply isn't possible to build one that cheap (alternately it could be that people are idiots and want a crappy unreliable 21 speed FS bike that doesn't actually work instead of something less fancy but usable.)

I think bicycle commuting would be a lot more popular if people could have decent, customized bicycles they actually liked. I mean, wouldn't you rather have your car (if you have a car) then be forced to drive some beater from 1990 with no air conditioning or stereo so some meth-head doesn't steal it? I think someone needs to invent a lock that actually works. Maybe one that's actually part of the bike frame as a whole (so it can't be destroyed without destroying everything) or a transponder that gets hammered into the interior tubes and can't be removed.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


if cities were flooded with accessible public bicycles

Current cost of the war: $537,387,682,185

$300 per bike . . . . . . TWO BILLION BICYCLES

Thanks, Ralph
posted by tachikaze at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, thanks, I live in a city with hills. A derailer is a pain in the ass but when you pass 30 years of age (do not collect $200), preserving your knees becomes a major issue if you ride.
posted by xthlc at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ok. For: better bike locks, like yourself. Against: department-store bikes. For: more bike commuting. Against: lame excuses like thinking you need to buy a $1000 bike. For: city-subsidized commuting bikes along with other rational transit schemes (e.g. wildly successful Paris, linked above). For: driving whatever car one wants and not fearing thieves. Against: hipster bike attitude. Going to watch the NASA stream now, kthx.
posted by fatllama at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


there's already a huge cheap bike market (the department store bike.) Unfortunately they're not safe

Well, that explains all the lawsuits. Oh, wait, no. Cites?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even though I ride a fixed to run errands and go to the bar I think this sums up the fixed gear fad pretty well.
posted by photoslob at 3:10 PM on May 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


sheesh... I tried biking to work when living in manhattan and gave it up after two months. I ended up either sweating, banged up, soaked or irritated by the time I made it to herald square. biking in a city is a lot less idyllic than the fanboys would like you to believe.

speaking of fanboys, at least they have some sick shirts. (disclaimer: I know the dude who designed those shirts.)
posted by krautland at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2008


Sys Rq: Well, that explains all the lawsuits. Oh, wait, no. Cites?

There have been lawsuits. Example: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/02/09/BAGQHH57SI1.DTL

A simple google search will reveal more.

But really, have you ever tried to work with one or ride one? They're trash. The only thing safe about them is that they make the rider hate cycling, thus reducing the chance of a future cycling injury.

I took my 14 year old $300 hardtail and compared it to a friend's brand new FS deparment store mountain bike. It easily beat it in both mechanical efficiency and build quality. He's also managed to untrue the front wheel in less than fifty miles of city riding.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:21 PM on May 25, 2008


Mitrovarr writes "I think bicycle commuting would be a lot more popular if people could have decent, customized bicycles they actually liked."

I have a wonderful steel-alloy road bike with nice components and it's a fantastic, lightweight speed demon. Going from Portland, a very bike-friendly small city, to LA, a bike-hostile megalopolis, I have determined this: bicycle commuting would be more popular if it were even possible at all in most places. Bike community in LA is comically dangerous for even the shortest commutes. Even for an experienced cyclist LA can be scary, and I'm certain that for 99% of the driving population it's completely inconceivable. God help you if you live five miles from work and want to commute by bicycle. Even with bike lanes it would be terrifying, and I've seen more California Condors than bike lanes in this city.

If LA and big cities like it had a network of bike paths and bike lanes which were as complete and practical as the freeway system, we might have the beginning of something. As is, the idea of mass-market cycle commuting is nothing more than a perverse thought experiment.
posted by mullingitover at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Urban bicycle commuting isn't going to take off until someone invents a reliable method for preventing them from being stolen. A few minutes of research and a couple of relatively cheap tools will render the vast majority of the locks available useless within minutes.

My workplace has a secure bike parking area. When going to the shops I use a bike park with cctv and attendants.

Both facilities use less space & money than their car equivalents. We don't really need some kind of miracle bike lock, just proper resources.
posted by Olli at 3:32 PM on May 25, 2008


mullingitover writes "Bike community in LA is comically dangerous"
s/community/commuting/

krautland writes "speaking of fanboys, at least they have some sick shirts. (disclaimer: I know the dude who designed those shirts.)"

Those shirts are badass.
posted by mullingitover at 3:33 PM on May 25, 2008


People riding bikes make me happy. Although I have my opinions, life is too short to get stressed out that somebody is being too trendy because they ride a fixie, or lame because they ride a department store bike, or whatever because they've got a $5000 carbon fiber superbike they ride for an hour once every few months. Really, it doesn't matter. Just ride your bike. It's a good thing.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:38 PM on May 25, 2008 [16 favorites]


it's not a culture, it's a fad.

anyway, people riding bikes is never a bad thing (even if they're too cool/stupid to wear a helmet).
posted by klanawa at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2008


Hmm. Not sure about the "$1000" for a bike is crazy, since though the U.S./Cdn exchange is pretty equal, your dollar still goes a lot further south of the border. I just bought a beautiful -- but by no means pro -- road bike that I can use for tri's in a purely amateur fashion, and for commuting the rest of the time, and it cost me about $700 with tax and accessories. (minus "clipless" pedals and shoes -- which I'm so excited about I can't even tell you)

Still working out how best to get to work without getting killed, but they have secure bike parking so I am so there.

Fixies? So... no gears for hills, no coasting... is this something one would have to be nostalgic about being eight years old to appreciate?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:59 PM on May 25, 2008


I think if people don't want to change their lifestyle because they don't want to be inconvenienced they will always find an excuse. Saying it makes no sense to bike until _________ (insert "they come up with better locks", "they make more bike lanes", "I can afford a $1000 bike", etc etc etc) is just a way of avoiding making the change.

In societies which are not car-obsessed like the US people work around these things. They ride used bikes, and do their best to lock wisely or use two locks, and educate themselves on the rules of the road so they can be as safe as possible where there are no bike lanes. They do it because they choose to and they sacrifice things to do it. If you don't want to be arsed to bike and want to continue to complain about gas prices or traffic or whatever then that's fine, but don't work so hard to come up with excuses because they're pretty transparent. I mean, really -- a bike isn't safe unless it costs $1000?? You must be trolling because there's no way you can possibly believe that.
posted by loiseau at 4:02 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, so ... a "fixed gear" bicycle (or fixie) is the new term for ... the bicycle I grew up with? Someone gave me a bike a few years ago. I confess that I had absolutely no talent for the whole gear shifting process, despite owning a stick shift car. I guess I grew up in an area without significant hills.

What's so dangerous about one-speeds?
posted by adipocere at 4:38 PM on May 25, 2008


Fixed is different than one speed. Fixed is, well, fixed without a freewheel. Many fixed bikes don't have brakes and are stopped by jamming your leg back while hovering over the bars to stop.

There's a Wed night fixie ride here in St. Pete that has been dominated by idiots who would fit in better at a Critical Mass ride. This makes riding any bike in a group more dangerous but especially a bike that is hard to stop with no brakes.
posted by photoslob at 4:50 PM on May 25, 2008


adipocere : You're thinking of single-speed (freewheel) bikes, not fixed-gear bikes. On a fixed-gear bicycle, the rear sprocket is 'fixed' to the rear hub. This means that, when the wheel spins, the pedals spin. You cannot coast. At all.

This means that you can effectively slow and/or stop the bike using the pedals alone. (This is different from a coaster brake, where putting opposite force on the pedals would activate a brake in the rear hub.) Since you can break using just the pedals, many people invoke the gods of mechanical simplicity and discard all other brakes.

Imagine driving a car where, if you wanted to brake, you either had to shift the car into reverse and rev the engine, or you had to lock up the wheels and skid. Sound dangerous? That's what people mean. They are dangerous.
posted by suckerpunch at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2008


biking in a city is a lot less idyllic than the fanboys would like you to believe.

I disagree, but it probably helps to live in a city with a decent climate for cycling, and a pretty streetscape.

I've been getting around almost exclusively on a bike for around 3-4 years now, and it pains me whenever I have to grudgingly use a slower, less convenient, less fun & less healthy form of transportation (I have buses & trains within a few minutes' walk from home, and own a car as well). In fact, about the only time I'll willingly leave the bike at home is if it's raining heavily, or if I'm taking taxis for a night out on the town.

Of course, it also helps that about 80% of my regular life takes place within a five kilometre radius (home, work, training, shops, cinemas, galleries, parks, music venues, swimming pools, restaurants etc) and around 19 of the remaining 20% would be within 10km - the distance over which scientific studies show that a bicycle will always be quicker than any other form of transportation (once you factor in overheads like finding a parking space for your car, or waiting for public transport to arrive).

Heh. And petrol just hit $1.60 per litre here, which is roughly $1.50 American.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:04 PM on May 25, 2008


Thanks for the reminder fatllama :)
posted by acro at 5:31 PM on May 25, 2008


loiseau: I mean, really -- a bike isn't safe unless it costs $1000?? You must be trolling because there's no way you can possibly believe that.

Who said anything like that here? I'm pretty sure I said that the minimum price for a new bike with a build quality sufficient for safety was around $300, not $1000. I did justify the $1000 bike purchase as being worthwhile and not really extreme, however (for example there are some specialties where $1000 isn't even enough for a new bike - heavy-duty downhill bikes, for example, or competitive triathlon ones.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:32 PM on May 25, 2008


I ride a fixed gear bike. The bike has a front brake. I can go for days without using it, but I'm damn glad it's there and works. I guarantee you it works. I may add a rear brake -- it's superfluous, but the parts are lying around anyway.

I built it out of parts. This is the least economical way to own a bike. I spent about $350 on hubs, rims, spokes, tape, and the tools needed to put them together. The result is not all that different from what $200 could buy you on Ebay, but now I know how to build wheels. The rest -- frame, cranks, stem, racks, panniers, and so on -- came from hours of parts shopping, donations from other bikes, and bottom-feeding off rummage sales.

It moves nimbly. I do my commuting on it and grocery runs. I go on 25 mile rides. I'll be going on 50 mile rides once I land a better saddle. You can't stand up and stretch your legs when you ride a fixie, unless you pull over first.

One of the most beautiful secrets of fixed gear riding is how easy hill climbing is, as long as you have your one-and-only gear dialed in. I'm a middle aged guy riding a new, not-particularly-valuable steel framed bike with fenders, racks. It was fun to pass the folks on zillion-gear bespoke racing kit on a hill climb yesterday.

The bike turns the heads of the local hipsters, even with hanging bags full of groceries. The handlebar isn't taped yet, but that's because I'm not happy with that part of the setup yet either. Retaping bars gets expensive fast. When I'm ready, the tape will be ready too.

I'm saving up for my next bike. It will have multiple gears and the ability to coast. It will probably be a Kogswell. I intend to continue riding the fixed gear as well.

I don't do alleycats. I use brakes. I mock hipsters when I see 'em. I can't wait until this fixed gear fad dies and I can start scoring some nice 1980s era framesets for cheap again. Here's hoping the hipsters and the trolls pandering to them haven't ground off the derailer tabs and cable stops on everything that used to be good. I like coasting and multiple gears as much as I like not coasting and single gears.
posted by ardgedee at 5:56 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


biking in a city is a lot less idyllic than the fanboys would like you to believe.

I completely disagree. I live in Toronto, which has some resources for cyclists but could be a lot better. That said I absolutely prefer riding my bike to work (11km) than taking the public transit. Even in the rain I prefer it. I mostly take side streets so traffic isn't horrible. On many occasions I've actually described the ride to friends (who think I'm mad) as peaceful. I would never use that word to describe the streetcar/subway ride that I use in the winter even though the streetcar stop is literally outside my door and the subway arrives 1/2 block from work.

When I want to, I can get home from work in about 30 minutes--my record is 26. I've never made the same trip via transit in less than 40 and sometimes (due to waits between transfers) can take as much as 55. On the transit, I curse and moan that it's taking so long and am desperate to have the ride end. On my bike, I truly wish the ride were longer and often do my best to ensure it is by taking different routes and exploring the city.

I ended up either sweating, banged up, soaked or irritated by the time I made it to herald square.

I used to be the same before I switched to single speed. Cycling on my previous bike (a LeMond Nevada City road bike, which cost me about a grand) was a chore. This is not the case anymore (okay, on a scorcher day, I can arrive a tiny bit sweaty).
posted by dobbs at 6:21 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


you wrote you completely disagreed with my point and then ignored that the one I was making was not that muchabout how cycling actually is but how people make it out to be.

alas, keep your opinion. it sucked for me, so I got out and forced the fanboys in the office to by me alcohol.
posted by krautland at 6:42 PM on May 25, 2008


I'm with dobbs. My ride to work is unfortunately all uphill and there's no shower there so it's carrying a change of clothes and some baby wipes, but I still enjoy it a lot more than taking the TTC. In fact, most days I take the TTC, I end up going "Why didn't I ride?".

(Then again I'm on the Dufferin bus.)

Speaking of Toronto: There's at least three shops off the top of my head here that sell what are basically refurbished used bikes -- ones that the shops have fixed up to be safe that you can pick up for under a hundred bucks. And since those same mechanics are the ones that put all the components on your brand-new bike, I'd say you can rely on the used bikes just as much, except that the used bikes have already made it through the manufacturing-defect stage.

Yes, you have to know that these places exist and are trustworthy, but spending time talking to people and researching is how you save money on things, including buying cars.
posted by mendel at 7:19 PM on May 25, 2008


I have three bikes. One has gears and full suspension, one is singlespeed with front suspension, and one is singlespeed and rigid. Two of them cost a LOT more than $1000 and one of them (the rigid) didn't cost much at all.

The truth is that a rigid singlespeed, or 3-speed enclosed hub, bike is absolutely the best choice for most casual bicyclists. It's reliable, simple, comfortable, fast and cheap. Sadly, most folk first go to their local bike store, are terrified by the prices and the attitude, then head off to Walmart and buy some 50-lb Chinese monster with 21 shitty gears and terrible brakes which SEEMS to be incredible value for money.

Fixies, not so much. Fixies are a horrible idea for casual cyclists.
posted by unSane at 7:22 PM on May 25, 2008


Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah I was doing it in 1992 blah I'll be doing it when the hipsters are done blah. Blah I ride centuries and 200K brevets on mine, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Cyclist run red lights! Blah. Cyclists on sidewalks! Blah. Can't commute, blah, blah blah. Bikes suck! Blah. Bikes rule. Blah.
posted by fixedgear at 7:30 PM on May 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


Used bikes are only for those with enough repair skill to ensure their reliability - this is the vast minority of people in general and still a minority among cyclists.

Owing to a skill I like to call literacy it is really not that hard to develop the aforementioned skills.

. for Sheldon Brown

I really need to get back the the 40 year old Jeunet I picked up off the curb as a spare project bike.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:48 PM on May 25, 2008


You forgot the IRO site (which has an amazing configurator/build-a-bike applet)
posted by mathowie at 7:49 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This morning on Bike the Drive I spotted an old man cruising along on a tricycle with a filing cabinet attached to the back. It's bound to catch on.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Used bikes should be presumed unsafe unless

Oh please. You're from that tribe that also thinks there's something magic about new cars too, right?
posted by phearlez at 8:38 PM on May 25, 2008


UbuRoivas wrote: ok, fourteen comments in...time for a ranting derail about how cyclists should stay off the road, and off the sidewalk as well, and should follow all the road rules, but not to the extent of exercising their right to take up an entire lane, etc etc.

Oh, you mean like some of the fellows in this thread on another forum?

I wish I wasn't a lard ass. Then maybe I could ride a bike.
posted by wierdo at 8:44 PM on May 25, 2008


I've got nothing constructive to say except:

1. I hate fixies and fixie riders.

2. Darwin should take care of the problem over the long term.

3. Still, good post (with a crappy lead-in), thanks wfrgms.
posted by intermod at 8:51 PM on May 25, 2008


for a ranting derail about how cyclists should stay off the road, and off the sidewalk as well

Well... I wouldn't personally worry about roads, or 'sidewalks'... but the day they stay off the fucking footpaths in Carlton, and the no-cycling parts of the Exhibition Gardens, I'll start cycling to work myself.
posted by pompomtom at 8:54 PM on May 25, 2008


pompomtom: i'm confused. are you saying that you refuse to cycle, out of protest, because some cyclists annoy you?

or do you mean that the pedestrians should keep off the footpaths? that i can agree with. they're fucking obnoxious, but at least they're not as bad as some drivers.

wierdo: your "this thread" link is borked.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:25 PM on May 25, 2008


I had to login, put on my ass-hat, and comment on this thread, even though I don't own a bike (but I do want one).

First off locks: there is no such thing as a secure lock. It's the same as saying "someone needs to invent a un-hackable computer".. it just won't happen. Where there's a will, there's a way, locks are for honest people, etc, etc, yadda, yadda. If all else fails, and I _really_ want to steal your nice shiny bike with it's fancy-schmancy lock, I can always take a saw to it. Or a blowtorch. Or a shotgun.

I too believe that you don't have to spend $1000 (or $300 for that matter) to get a "good" bike. Remember that "good" is relative; I don't need suspension, or anything fancy in a bike. I just want to get around faster than I can walk. A rebuilt cruiser from the 1950s would be perfect for that. Safe? No bike is safe if you get hit by a Ford Excursion or some such vehicle. Even your silly helmet won't help you there. Even then, expensive is by no means is any indication of good build quality or safety. Just look at American-made cars.

Finally, if you need someone to look at a bicycle and tell you that it's in working order, you need to get yourself into some kind of mechanical school. It's a bicycle, ferchristssakes. If you can't work on the most simple of machines, I dunno. Some may say it's a "sign of the times", but it seems some people just can't or won't do anything themselves anymore. So to the fixed-gear do-it-yourselfers, I say good show and keep it up.
posted by triolus at 9:33 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


phearlez: Oh please. You're from that tribe that also thinks there's something magic about new cars too, right?

No, but I do think you'd be an absolute idiot if you didn't have a used car checked out by a mechanic, if you didn't have the skill to check it yourself.

I'm not saying used bikes = bad, just that you never know what it's been through and someone competent needs to look at it before you trust it. Nothing like finding out that the front wheel is slightly out of true and the brake pulses when you're going downhill at 25mph.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:38 PM on May 25, 2008


And my lack of skillz in the ways of cuttin' and pastin' are put on display for everyone to see, as if I'm a flarbuse flagdablet.

I meant here.

*mumbles something about how it must be the damn computer's fault*
posted by wierdo at 9:40 PM on May 25, 2008


dobbs, that's a beauty./
I don't see going shopping to the No Frills and it still being outside for me to ride home in./ Do You do this¿

I rode my sisters multi speed and did I evar change gears¿ Nope. Sure, we drove to a trail around a lake. The 6 miles +, I kept it in the one top gear. And I haven't ridden a bike in freakin' centuries. I had a brutal headwind a lot of the time and did a section of dirt. The place seemed busy, dodging the rollerbladers and walkers and other cyclists.

Would I ride a fixed gear bike with a brake in the city¿ Yep.
Do I need gears¿ Not likely, even up the steepest of hills, it's all about the shape you're in or not. Fixed gear bikes are for the purist, in shape, simple folks with some skills, definitely not for everyone.
There is a difference between a commuter bike and bike for riding...those $1K bikes. You don't let them out of your sight and are specific to riding only. Some may not know, that's why you see bike racks on cars... it's not a hipster thing or yupee or whatever thing.... it's about not getting your ride ripped off....get it now¿

I'd like a fixed gear with coast capabilities, you know¿ Hey, I'm simple, not that purist.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:46 PM on May 25, 2008


triolus: First off locks: there is no such thing as a secure lock. It's the same as saying "someone needs to invent a un-hackable computer".. it just won't happen.

Well, I'm not expecting perfection, but right now it takes all of two tools (a bolt cutter and a automobile jack) to get by nearly every lock on the market, and it can be done quickly. That is unacceptable. Obviously no lock will ever stop everyone, but I'd at least like something better than that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:52 PM on May 25, 2008


I just don't get the fixed gear thing at all. It took me all of 10 minutes to read in the manual about how to adjust the derailleur on my 21 speed and I rode it for 2 years pretty much every day without having to mess with it again. It really isn't hard. And as far as "fixed gear culture", I'm reading the Sheldon Brown's site and shit like " When you ride a fixed gear, you feel a closer communion with your bike and with the road. There is a purity and simplicity to the fixed-gear bicycle that can be quite seductive. " just makes me want to vomit. It's a god damned bike, people! Ride it, don't fuck it.
posted by c13 at 10:11 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Re: The coolness of bike messengers.

I did this for a bit. It sucked. It's cool to earn money by riding my bicycle around the city, but IT'S HARD WORK RIDING FROM 9AM TO 5PM and I ended up amazingly dirty and too tired to go to hip rock and roll shows like cool kids. Aside from hipsters, no one really appreciates bike messengers even though they keep the lame fashion industry and the lame stock market industry and the lame legal system and the lame real estate market going. (Thanks bike messengers for preserving all the nasty and obnoxious businesses of NYC.) Messengers have their own special entrances to buildings because no one who uses their services actually wants them to be seen entering or leaving their skyscrapers. It involves hostile weather including ridding my bike through icy slush with at least twenty pounds of fashion on my back while it rains. Not to mention the danger of being in a huge rush between buses and taxis.

A lot of bike messengers ride with no regard to their own personal safety, which also means no regard to the safety of the objects they are delivering, which is irresponsible. Irresponsibility is cool when you are 13 but not afterwards. Bike messengers very frequently get their shit wrecked and after messengering for a little while I heard many many many story of people ruining their bodies for no reason other than some macho need to ride dangerously. Furthernore, the culture of bike messengers struck me as very misogynistic and homophobic, not to mention very hierarchical and snobby.

The money is alright after a while, after you've proven yourself to your dispatcher and leveled up your percentages, but better money can be made as a normal un-hip waiter and it's a lot easier. Consider this in particular: when you meet me, examine my little fingers on my hands, you will notice that my left 5th finger is not the same shape as the one on the right; a souvenir from my time as a messenger. Of course the service I was working for did not provide me with health insurance at the time; as far as I know, there is no messenger union. I suspect such a union would be weak to the point of non-existence.

I still love riding my bike though, I especially enjoy switching my gears and tinkering with my dérailleur. Basically, any bike part that is an additional piece to modify, replace, or fool with until I break it is a positive addition to my ride. Other people may enjoy other riding experiences and that's cool. We all need to remember that a bicycle is the result of a social process wherein the machine took various forms from the hobby horse to the velocipede to meet prevailing cultural needs in various cultural niches. Ultimately, the evolution of the bicycle is not a linear progression toward a 'perfect' form of the bicycle, it is the result of humans changing a technology to fit social trends.

In conclusion: Ride whatever kind of bicycle strikes your fancy, just don't drive an automobile or drink bottled water and always tip your waiter.
posted by fuq at 10:26 PM on May 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


>are you saying that you refuse to cycle, out of protest, because some cyclists annoy you?

Quite.

I refuse to be recognised as a part of the mob of wankers who make the Northern half of the CBD a nightmare for pedestrians (and don't get me started on Footscray!), while whinging that the bicycle lanes they don't use aren't wide enough.

Also, I'm lazy as fuck.
posted by pompomtom at 10:29 PM on May 25, 2008


I wrote an article for New Cyclist magazine (long gone) about being a bike messenger in London - how the reality of it didn't really match the supposed coolness and 'culture', as some of the more fashionable media liked to spin it (it's actually a rather grim way to earn a living, if you can call it that, in lots of ways; most of your customers consider you scum, competition between messengers can be pretty cut-throat, the good parts of the job are heavily outweighed by the crap). That was back sometime around 1989 or 1990, I think. The more things change...
posted by normy at 11:19 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's a new, fifteen-speed, 24"-wheeled bike for smaller people for $48 at Walmart. And here's a nice big twenty-one-speed bike with 700c wheels, also new, for $158 at Walmart. Walmart didn't become the largest corporation in the history of mankind by courting civil lawsuits for selling dangerous vehicles.

Cheap bicycles are perfectly safe for everyone but Mr. Mitrovarr, who'd be in danger of losing his lobbyist income from the expensive bicycle industry if he were ever spied riding one. Really, ride any bike you want, and spend as much or as little as you want for it. And encourage other people to ride, too, instead of spreading bullshit about how bicycles that cost less than $300 will kill you.
posted by gum at 11:30 PM on May 25, 2008


It's a god damned bike, people! Ride it, don't fuck it.

Can somebody find the news story about the guy who was caught fucking a bicycle not that long ago (from memory, England or Scotland, maybe 6 months to a year ago...?)

I couldn't find it in a couple of googles, and I don't want too many "sex with bicycle" searches showing up on the work interweb server.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:48 PM on May 25, 2008


Walmart didn't become the largest corporation in the history of mankind by courting civil lawsuits for selling dangerous vehicles.

It's not so much that they are dangerous; more that they're crap (although crappy components affect safety somewhat - eg brakes & rims that don't work as well when wet).

In many areas of life you really do get what you pay for, and I believe that bikes follow this rule quite closely. The difference between riding a heavy supermarket special & even a mid-range bike (which I arbitrarily define as $500-$1K) is very noticeable, and if you're going to be spending a few hours or more on your bike per week over a number of years, it makes no sense not to fork out a bit extra for something light, smooth & comfortable, imho.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:55 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Twelve million bikes are sold in the United States every year. Three quarters of them are sold by department stores, at an average price of $77.

If you want a faster, fancier, or more durable bike, go ahead and get one. I did, too! But spreading the message that you will be unhappy at best and in peril most likely if you don't spend $300 or $500 on a bike is beyond wrong -- it's literally a crime against nature in our present political economy.

As Donald Rumsfeld puts it, you fight a war with the bicycles you have. Let's encourage people to ride their $77 bikes to the store or to work. Let's not give them the impression that cheap bikes are so dangerous and lowlife and "crap" that they may as well stick to their cars.
posted by gum at 12:22 AM on May 26, 2008


I just want to throw my support behind Mitrovarr. We can encourage people to ride their cheap bikes but we'd better encourage them to get them tunes up at a bike shop first.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:01 AM on May 26, 2008


There's something terribly ironic about that Wal-Mart bike being named "GMC Denali"

I ride every day in a hilly town, and I use every one of my 27 gears. I seem to get the impression that fixie riders are riding exclusively for fun, which is great, but it's an entirely different thing from using miles covered on a bike to replace miles driven in a car.
posted by bilgepump at 2:49 AM on May 26, 2008


We can encourage people to ride their cheap bikes but we'd better encourage them to get them tunes up at a bike shop first.

actually, a few of the bikes shops near me refuse to service supermarket specials.

in other news, i had my first ever fall tonight! zipping along downhill at around 25km/h past a row of cars banked up at the lights (i was in a bus lane, as i am entitled to be), a taxi decided to pull in front of me without indicating or checking his mirrors. no choice but to brake hard or run into the back of him, so braking it was...this saw me fly over the handlbars & onto the road. luckily, only a bit bruised. the fuckwit just drove off (he must have noticed that something was up, with all the people running up to me going "OMG! are you alright?!??")

now i wage eternal war on taxi drivers. fuck 'em.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 AM on May 26, 2008


The assertion that old bikes are dangerous is laughable. It hardly takes mechanical genius to determine if a previously owned bike is in good enough condition to buy (rust? dents in the tubing? noise when the wheels spin?), and most repairs to make it rideable are not that expensive. A slight wobble in a front wheel? Yeah, it's annoying, but will that kill ya?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2008


I cycle a lot through London, and think that a fixed gear would be actively increasing your risk ten-fold. Every vehicle is a danger, every turning a risk. Putting yourself in a situation where you're unable to stop in a hurry is just like fitting a knife on your crossbar.
posted by triv at 6:14 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


We all need to remember that a bicycle is the result of a social process wherein the machine took various forms from the hobby horse to the velocipede to meet prevailing cultural needs in various cultural niches. Ultimately, the evolution of the bicycle is not a linear progression toward a 'perfect' form of the bicycle, it is the result of humans changing a technology to fit social trends.

No, that's not so. The advances in materials and technology drove the repeated reinvention. The highwheeler was 'making the front wheel larger only way we can think of to go faster right now.'

The safety bike was called the safety bike for a reason. When the chain drivetrain and equal sized wheels mounted on a diamond frame became the standard, highwheelers disappeared overnight. It was not just better technology, it was exponentially better. The design has remained essentially unchanged for 100+ years, with minor tweaks along the way.

To ignore 100+ years of development in favor of a one-speed bike that doesn't coast and is not equipped with brakes is an example of humans changing a technology to fit a social trend. To ride a sort-of-impractical tall bike as one's regular form of transportation is changing technology to fit a social trend.
posted by fixedgear at 6:26 AM on May 26, 2008


Here's a new, fifteen-speed, 24"-wheeled bike for smaller people for $48 at Walmart. And here's a nice big twenty-one-speed bike with 700c wheels, also new, for $158 at Walmart.

...and those are not bikes for people to ride, those are bikes for leaving in the garage, thinking "I have a bike," and feeling virtuous. The sad fact is that if one does try to use such a bike as a full-time commuter, for example, it will wear out quickly, within a single season in a lot of the cases that I've seen. They are frustratingly heavy and almost always poorly fit to the rider, which gives these casual riders very bad impressions of bikes in general. These aren't unsafe bikes, if set-up right, just awkward, heavy and really uncomfortable. Shops hate them because the parts are essentially disposable, go out of alignment easily and are not made to be repaired.

In contrast, a $300 entry level bike, with bottom-end, but name-brand components, will last essentially indefinitely. I've got one from '94 thats still in perfect shape and it was my primary commuter for many years. They're easily found used, typically for $100 or less. These bikes make up the bulk of the refurbished bikes, mentioned above. These shops exist because these bikes don't wear out before people get tired of them (unlike the Wally specials). There's absolutely nothing wrong with buying one of these used. They're usually a great deal and will last for a very long time. Private sale bikes are a different story, but, IME, the bike refurbisher guys sell decent product. These are the true bargains of the bike world. I've never had safety issues with any that I've worked on. They're generally easy to repair.

Coming back on topic, most single-speeds and fixies up until a few years ago were conversions of these older, quality bikes. Bikes are easy to tinker with. Making a single-speed from the old first bike was a way to bring a favourite old horse back into a second (or third, or...) ride that was different and fun.
posted by bonehead at 6:31 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


dobbs, that's a beauty./
I don't see going shopping to the No Frills and it still being outside for me to ride home in./ Do You do this¿


Thanks, alicesshoes! And yes, I ride my bike everywhere (work, groceries, brunch, etc.) and leave it locked up. It hasn't been stolen yet but I haven't had that particular one that long yet so I suppose one day it may be. My lock is one of those NY forgetaboutit locks which are ridiculously heavy. (Seriously, according to the manufacturers my bike frame weighs 3.8 pounds and my lock weighs 3.9.) Lugging around the lock is really the only thing I hate about bike riding.

Walmart didn't become the largest corporation in the history of mankind by courting civil lawsuits for selling dangerous vehicles.

You obviously didn't read the link above which references a case against Walmart in particular in which a series of bikes they sold was defective and that, when the jury was examining one, it broke in their hands.

Here's a short Youtube video of a mechanic displaying a bike that was brought into him for repair. It's a bike from Walmart... well, just watch the video. (And yeah, I know that the situation in the video isn't a fault of the "bike" per se and is all Walmart's doing, but that's somewhat irrelevant, considering so many bikes are sold there.)

If it's not obvious, I'm also with Mitrovarr.

I ride every day in a hilly town, and I use every one of my 27 gears. I seem to get the impression that fixie riders are riding exclusively for fun, which is great, but it's an entirely different thing from using miles covered on a bike to replace miles driven in a car.

Here's a video of fixed riders in SF. You don't get more hilly than that. These guys are messengers and ride their bikes 8 to 10 hours a day in that terrain.

People may guffaw or roll their eyes when I say it, but the thing about single speed bikes (fixies or coasters) is that you can't know what riding one is like until you've ridden one. Riding my SS bike is not the same as riding my previous road bike (which had 27 gears) without changing the gears. They're not remotely similar experiences.

I know lots of one gear riders who say this and most multi-gear riders think it's nonsense but the major difference between "us" and "them" is that we've tried both. I rode my LeMond for 3-4 years. At the time, I thought it was fine--though it was a better bike than any I'd previously owned and I felt that while riding it, the experience of riding it was pretty much the same as any other bike I'd owned as an adult. By that I mean the thought processes (what gear to be in, when to switch gears for the soon to be upon me hill, what gear am I in now that I'm stopped at a light, etc. etc.) were the same. I spent the majority of my ride (street light to street light) fucking around with gears and bullshit because, for the most part, I had to. (As you say, "you used all of your 27 gears" on your ride.) Riding SS eliminates all of that. It also eliminates the weight of the deraillers, the weight (in my case, riding a coaster brake) of the brakes, the weight of the numerous front and back cogs, the weight of the excess chain to go thru those parts, etc.) and brings the bike to it's simplest and necessary parts. The motto of my brand of bike (Iro, which Matt linked) is "You only need one." It's absolutely true... but until you've experienced it, you'll think it's a ridiculous claim.

At the same time, I think it's near impossible for most folks to just "try" a fixie at their local shop. You'll hate it and think it a death machine. Riding a single speed bike with either hand brakes or a coaster can easily be done if the shop has any and I think that the vast majority of people who try this will like it. I've never had anyone who rides a geared bike not prefer my bike after riding it for a block or two.
posted by dobbs at 6:32 AM on May 26, 2008 [2 favorites]



Walmart didn't become the largest corporation in the history of mankind by courting civil lawsuits for selling dangerous vehicles.


You obviously didn't read the link above which references a case against Walmart in particular in which a series of bikes they sold was defective and that, when the jury was examining one, it broke in their hands.

Sure, I read it! The article refers to nine injuries over four years caused by defective quick-release skewers.

During those four years, department stores sold something like thirty-six million bicycles in the United States.

I'll take my chances with those odds.

I think it all boils down to how secure you feel about placing symbolically potent objects between your legs. Some people have issues, you know? Other people are just riding to work.
posted by gum at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2008


Bicycles suck. Tricycles, on the other hand, are way cool. A couple of weeks ago, there was a brand new Pashley going for just £300 advertised on a card in my local newsagents. I knew that I'd regret not buying it. However, I also knew that I'd ride it just as often as the previous owner, and it would just join the four other bikes that are cluttering up my garden shed.

Still sorry I didn't buy it though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:00 AM on May 26, 2008


Sure, trikes can be cool*. Just not that one. Other Pashley's are pretty cool though.
posted by bonehead at 9:52 AM on May 26, 2008


Fixed gears are for unicycles.
posted by Eideteker at 10:25 AM on May 26, 2008


No bike is safe if you get hit by a Ford Excursion or some such vehicle. Even your silly helmet won't help you there.

As someone who has been t-boned by a "Ford Excursion or some such vehicle" while on my bike, I can testify that this statement is dangerously false.

Perhaps if you're "run over" by a car, a helmet may not help much, but if you're hit, you're usually going to end up falling hard on the concrete. And if you fall on your head or neck, a helmet is invaluable.

I was flipped in the air and landed hard on my neck and left side. I cringe to think of that landing without a helmet.

Mostly, aside from the PSA about helmets, I wanted to echo dobbs' main contention in his last post: "You don't know until you try it yourself."

All those folks advocating Wal-Mart specials for commuting to work daily: Have you ever done it? I have. I rode a Target Magma burner bike to work when I was between used road bikes.

My conclusion: you will hate your ride and the bike will eventually fail because of extremely cheap parts. A $600-800 road bike is a better value than a sub-$100 Target/Wal-Mart special, imo.

For years, I would travel up to San Rafael recyclery to peruse their used road bikes, usually resulting in a $50-60 purchase every few years. Those were *by far* the cheapest used bikes in the area, even including Craigs List. You cannot find a decent used bicycle in San Francisco for under $100, and $200 doesn't get you much.

I maintained those used road bikes (usually Nishikis from the 70s-80s) as best I could (lube, tires, brakes) and got help from Pedal Revolution for new chains, brake cables, trueing wheels, etc.

However, at some point the bikes would eventually fall apart. Two of the frames broke.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you honestly want to ride a bike on a regular basis, you have to invest a bit more money than the change in your couch, and continue to invest in tune-ups, etc.

If you don't, you're likely to be biking on a dangerous machine, or you simply won't enjoy it at all and quit in a few weeks.

Single speeds are fun. Very light and fast without that clunky derailleur. I have tried a fixed gear only once, but they don't seem to be my style. I think I like coasting too much without those pedals ratting around my feet. ;) I'll probably try one again at some point for fun.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:34 AM on May 26, 2008


My building has a fixed floor elevator and most of my watches are fixed time.
posted by w0mbat at 11:52 AM on May 26, 2008


Dobbs, loving the serial Bike Idiot episodes, thanks.

While we're on the subject, jwz, as always, has a public service announcement on the matter.
posted by fatllama at 1:00 PM on May 26, 2008


Used bikes are only for those with enough repair skill to ensure their reliability - this is the vast minority of people in general and still a minority among cyclists.

this is the sentiment behind our throw-away culture. i'm not sure i understand it.

Amen!

I own a house, a car, a motorcycle and a bicycle and the bike is the easiest thing to DIY fix. It's also what I learned to fix first, when I was a teenager & "commuted" to school (I can't believe how many kids are driven these days.)

In fact, it was probably fixing my bikes that led me to have the confidence to re-frame a wall to put a window in my workshop.

I used to change my oil in the car & I've replaced body parts with pieces I had a pro paint, but when an over-soaked K&N filter blew up my mass airflow sensor & a sparkplug coil, I gave up. I tried to patch my (flat- grr!) garage roof & went from a trickle to a drip, but it took an expert to get it waterproof. I've changed the oil on my moto, adjusted the clutch & replaced the bent levers, but Barbie's more intrepid than I for I've decided to let a pro adjust the valves.

The Kawasaki valve adjuster tool is $41. You can buy a good portion of a full set of Park tools (was the best in the 1980's) for that. I took a class & read some books & I can tear down, clean & re-grease every bearing on a bike. The only tools I do without are a stand and a wheel truing jig. All most people will need to do is adjust brakes and dérailleur stops and fix flats.
posted by morganw at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2008


As a regular cyclist in San Francisco, I'm constantly torn between being happy for anyone taking a car off the road and then thinking WTF is anyone doing riding a bike without brakes in a city as hilly as this. Thankfully, most fixed gears I have seen of late now have at least one brake. Maybe some sanity is returning to the culture.

For the record, the only time a fixed gear beats my $2600 full carbon 20 speed road bike is when they blow a red light. Or perform some other stunt. Other than that, I'm accelerating past them 100' after a stop.

While I might think y'all are insane, good on anyone for staying out of a car.
posted by vaportrail at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2008


Jeez, that jwz is pure crap. Of course, I'm immediately DQed since I own clipless pedals, a messenger bag and a fixe. But 'advice' like 'don't do maintenance, ever' and 'pay somebody to change your flat?' Please, people, they are bikes. You might need to be a watchmaker to rebuild a Campy Ergo lever, but most other maintenance is well within reach of anyone with a tiny bit of patience. Most small, medium and large-ish cities have a Bike Church or Bike Kitchen like deal, go there and learn.

My bike cost $2601 ;-)
posted by fixedgear at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2008


It's only through MetaFilter that I discovered that riding a fixed wheel bike makes me a big wanker. I think it's not such a big 'hipster' thing in the UK as it is in the US, and I was turned on to fixed wheel bikes by a decidedly unhip friend, then learned how to look after one from the late Sheldon Brown, who was pretty much the polar opposite of hip.

Anyway, my bike cost around £100 plus maybe £50 in new components and tools, is very light (important when you live at the top of five flights of stairs) and I, a mechanical incompetent, can keep the bike running smoothly with no effort. As for safety, I have a front brake, and ride pretty slowly and very carefully, always stopping at red lights, &c.. In fact, as an already fairly sensible bike rider, I think riding fixed wheel has made me more cautious, and improved the way I ride no end: instead of whizzing along and braking when I need to, I'm now much more aware of what's around me and ahead of me, and so moderate my speed when approaching lights or junctions, instead of reacting at the last moment to changing circumstances. Since all that sounds awfully sensible and boring, I should add that this bike is more fun to ride than any other I've owned!

For those reasons, it's kind of annoying to learn that some folk will automatically think, "Fixie-riding dickhead" when I tootle past them.
posted by jack_mo at 3:02 PM on May 26, 2008


I spent about $550 Canadian on a Fiori Modena in 1990, and apart from a tune-up here and there and a few tires replaced over the years, I haven't spent a dime on it since and it still runs like a dream. I don't have a dog in the fixed-gear-or-not fight, but I'm extremely glad I shelled out on a moderately expensive bike instead of a budget line model; it was money well-spent.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:06 PM on May 26, 2008


My used road bike cost me $75, and i've recently considered going to single-speed with a coaster...

Department store bikes are complete shit, safe or not. Too heavy for a commute, i know, i've tried.

There is a pretty cool bike library around here that i've donated a few decent frames to in exchange for some parts they had lying around...

Bottom line, bike as much as possible...please.
posted by schyler523 at 3:33 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


A trike will be my next set of wheels. With a big-ass basket on the back.
posted by padraigin at 4:08 PM on May 26, 2008


PeterMcDermott: Still sorry I didn't buy it though.

Don't be. Those Pashley trikes weigh more than a lot and the gearing (three-speed hub) is much too high for the weight, before you ever load it up with groceries or whathaveyou like they're supposedly for.

Their old-style black "Roadster" though, with the chainguard and big wicker basket and boingy leather saddle? Classy. In a bowler hat, three-piece suit and hand-made umbrella with an ivory handle sort of way. Great to keep at the Chelsea flat for nipping down to that Italian bakery in Pimlico.
posted by normy at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2008


No, but I do think you'd be an absolute idiot if you didn't have a used car checked out by a mechanic, if you didn't have the skill to check it yourself.

I'm not saying used bikes = bad, just that you never know what it's been through and someone competent needs to look at it before you trust it. Nothing like finding out that the front wheel is slightly out of true and the brake pulses when you're going downhill at 25mph.


The problem with this statement is that you give the less experienced folks a skewed impression of the definition of "someone competent," and making a comparison to having a car checked out is horrifically deceptive. Putting aside all the matters of fluids and gaskets which don't concern a bike purchaser, there's two huge factors that are different: (1) almost everything that needs checking out with regards to a bike is visible without removing a single item and (2) were a part on that bike to need replacing, there's no single item with hundreds of moving parts that could be invisibly bad which could cost as much as the used vehicle itself to replace - ie, the engine.

If you want to pay a bike shop to check out a bike for you, great, but it's just unreasonable to suggest that a neophyte can't scrutinize a bike for rust and rust bubbles, spin a wheel and look for wobble, and most importantly take it for a serious test ride. That brake pulse will reveal itself just as readily before purchase as after if you take the time to test for it before handing over your dough.
posted by phearlez at 8:11 AM on May 27, 2008


Imagine driving a car where, if you wanted to brake, you either had to shift the car into reverse and rev the engine, or you had to lock up the wheels and skid. Sound dangerous? That's what people mean. They are dangerous.

Any type of bicycle is dangerous if the rider doesn't know how to ride. However, most individuals who ride fixed gears are well trained and understand the mechanics of riding this way. Messengers in cities like SF certainly aren't novices. Most of them have been doing it for years and are actually more careful than most bicycle commuters. There is an unnecessary rift in the bicycle community. Just ride your bike and leave your judgements at home.
posted by anoirmarie at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2008


I bought a used bike for $6 and commuted every day through the main Beijing bus station rain, shine, snow, Gobi dust storm, African summit, choking coal smoke, etc. I'm a big, lazy slug American and certainly not some sort of hardcore biker or bike mechanic and I'm certainly not saying that I'm somehow tougher than anyone else posting here. I was one of litterally millions of people on the road doing the same thing in some of the worst traffic and environmental conditions on earth. None of my fellow commuters had paid more than a couple hundred dollars max for a bike. Some of them commuted 100 miles a day on a bike or even used their rickety bikes as freight trucks.

You don't need a $1000+ bike.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pollomacho - if that was one of those stupendously heavy, iron-framed, single speed, horrendously-braked Chinese clunkers like I was riding in Burma - largely identical to the Indian 'Hero' brand - that's exactly the kind of bike that makes cycling a painful & tedious chore.

God, it's *painful* trundling along at about 10km/h on the flat when you should be doing upwards of 30, but are held back because that's the maximum that the shitty single gear can handle. *argh*
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:33 PM on May 27, 2008


Fixed gears are so much more fun to ride.
posted by DJWeezy at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2008


And encourage other people to ride, too, instead of spreading bullshit about how bicycles that cost less than $300 will kill you.

My anecdotal perception from years of bike riding in Davis, CA (arguably the safest place to ride in the US), is that cheaper components have a tendency to fail catastrophically while you are putting strain on them. This means they tend to fail when you are doing something extreme: accelerating from a stop, high speed turning, emergency braking. I've had hub bearings split with enough force to rip the wheel partially off the frame, chains snap, spokes break, tires blow, and brakes fail to stop me efficiently enough to avoid a collision with a van. I'm not sure more expensive components would have gauranteed my safety in all the accidents caused by component failures, but I'm pretty sure I'd have had one or two less accidents with better components.

Statistically, bicycling is ten times more dangerous than driving per distance travelled. I intend to buy a reliable bike the next time I need one. I figure this should cost me around $600, but only because I don't care about weight.

Also, I hope we can all agree that skimping on helmets is a bad idea.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:54 AM on May 30, 2008


Oh, and I can probably get that $600 bike for $100-$200 used, but only because I know the difference between a decent used bike and a crappy one.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:22 AM on May 30, 2008


You obviously didn't read the link above which references a case against Walmart in particular in which a series of bikes they sold was defective and that, when the jury was examining one, it broke in their hands.

Just for the record, that case was thrown out the next day:

"A California jury rejected claims by the families of nine injured children that Wal-Mart and bike importer Dynacraft knowlingly sold bicycles with faulty front-wheel quick-release levers. Ironically, the Marin County jury issued the verdict the day after a quick-release lever broke on a bicycle they were inspecting in the jury room."
posted by effbot at 2:19 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


> I just moved away from DC and will not be missing fixie culture.

Hard to miss fashion slaves, but the couriers who started it were/are a pretty fun bunch. Madam's Organ was always a good place to be on open mic night. One of the short list of things that I miss about DC, along with the museums, the Ethiopian restaurants, and the city council (Marion Barry FTW). The latter for comic relief, of course.

Most of the people who I ride with who commute reasonable distances out here in Los Angeles are a bit taken aback by the obsession with fixies -- they will ruin your knees eventually if you actually ride them everywhere. (Plenty of couriers have taken 'early retirement' to become dispatchers due to blown knees from brakeless fixies) When the hipsters get to be middle-aged like us, I think the virtues of moderation will be clear.
posted by apathy at 9:38 AM on June 18, 2008


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