06 April 2008

The Danish Take on Fixies

Couldn't resist this one.

Fixie Fever

Here's the lowdown on fixed gear bikes from the Danish version of the bespoke Arena Magazine - The World's Smartest Mens Magazine. It amuses me. It's on their "Hit or Miss" column. It's a piss take on a conversation at a bike shop. Here's the translation:

"Arena Rejects"
Fixed bikes in the city.

"So you need a bike to ride through town everyday - between cars, busses and drunk pedestrians? Well, then you'll be wanting one of these cool fixies we have over here. They don't have any gears, no coaster pedals, and they can't brake. Perfect for a congested big city. Cash or credit card?"

I think it's fine if people want to ride fixies. As long as they have front and rear brakes, front and rear reflectors, two side reflectors on each wheel and a bell - just like any other bike in a civilised bike culture.

The most important factor in the normalisation of urban cycling is raising the bicycle to become an equal in the traffic, as we have done in Copenhagen. If we started allowing bare minimum fixies, then we'd have to allow cars without fenders, seat belts or lights. That would get us nowhere.

15 comments:

Samuel said...

Interesting article, but I have to take exception to "The most important factor in the normalisation of urban cycling is raising the bicycle to become an equal in the traffic, as we have done in Copenhagen." From my perspective bicycles are not equal in traffic in Copenhagen, they have their own lanes and own lights. From my experience in North America, when we say "bicycles should be equal in traffic" we mean on the same roads with the same rules. I love the bicycle facilities in Copenhagen, and personally believe it is the best way to go... but I would never consider autos and bicycles equal there.

BuddhaDave said...

Personally, I find simplicity the sexiest style.

Karl McCracken said...

Point well made, and taken. My fixie is a training bike for racing, but that doesn't mean that she shouldn't have a bell, and a stack of reflectors. Because she IS for training on streets with other users, and NOT for racing.

I'll get that fixed (sorry - bad pun) this week.

Freth said...

No brakes is NOT a good idea. You wouldn't dare go fast on it, because you can't stop quickly.

At speed, in traffic, a sudden stop would require turning it sideways ... and crashing over onto the ground. OR you could just stick your foot all the way down to the ground ... the pedal will hit you in the back of the leg ... and you'll go flying "rear over tea kettle."

I recommend wearing helmet, gloves, and lots of padding if you are riding anywhere other than a velodrome.

It's cute for doing tricks in the neighborhood ... but not for cycling to work ...

Mandarina said...

What's a fixie?

Zakkaliciousness said...

samuel: i think we agree, but it's a matter of interpretation. I mean that bicycles ARE an equal partner in the traffic because they are regarded and respected as a viable form of transport.

they are equal because the city invests great amounts of money creating infrastructure for them, just as it does for cars and busses and trains.

the fact that they have an infrastructure, including their own bike traffic lights, etc, is a sign that they enjoy equality.

the same traffic laws apply to bikes as to motorised traffic.

buddhadave: i like the aesthetic qualities of a fixie. i just don't want to see them on the streets.

karl: send photos of the bell once installed!

freth: i agree. except for the helmet part...

mandarina: exactly. :-) [but if you weren't being cheeky, then a fixie is a bike with no gears and no brakes. usually used in velodromes.]

Aaron78 said...

Fixed wheel bikes are beautiful, beautiful things and amazing to ride. I can understand the braking argument but more often than not it doesn't hold water. Braking suddenly is usually a surefire way of causing an accident, instead of avoiding one. Much better to swerve.

Svend said...

They do have "brakes", you just pedal slower. You'd have to be very skilled to maneuver one on the street but I've seen it done very well.
However, I tend to associate them with reckless daredevils, an attitude that doesn't help endear us to car drivers.

dan said...

Fixed-gear bike =/= brakeless. The only thing that makes a fixed gear bike is the drivetrain. I have brakes on mine. No reflectors, though. I use lights instead since drivers in America need an extra degree of hand-holding.

If you're talking about fixie fashion bikes, that's one thing. But please don't paint us all with such a wide brush.

dan said...

Fixed-gear bike =/= brakeless. The only thing that makes a fixed gear bike is the drivetrain. I have brakes on mine. No reflectors, though. I use lights instead since drivers in America need an extra degree of hand-holding.

If you're talking about fixie fashion bikes, that's one thing. But please don't paint us all with such a wide brush.

2whls3spds said...

I agree with what dan says...don't paint us all with one brush. I have been known to ride a fixed gear on occasion ;-) and I suspect most people have no clue it has the fixed gear. It is fully equipped for safe road riding; fenders, bell, lights/reflectors, brakes (front and rear) as well as a rack! No it is not one of the social statement look at me bikes. It is a utilitarian, I have better control in slick conditions and like the change of pace bike.

Aaron

2whls3spds said...

Also to comment on the bicycle as an equal with traffic. I think that Denmark took the correct route in what they have done with bicycle infrastructure. Will it work in other countries? Perhaps but the Danes have been at it for over 40 years (IIRC) the rest of the world has a long ways to go to catch up.

Aaron

Zakkaliciousness said...

come on, lads. read the post and the comments. fixies are cool. but if they are allowed on the bike lanes/roads, then they should adhere to the same traffic laws as all other bikes.

2whls3spd: Denmark has a head start, yes. as does the Netherlands. But dozens of countries and cities are catching up quick.

1000 km new bike lanes in Santiago, Chile. Massive increase in daily cycling in a dozen French cities. Over 60 European cities with bike share programmes and dozens more on the way.

There is political will outside of Denmark and the Netherlands to increase bike usage. It's happening. It's happening fast.

ejstrammerdebukseriklidt said...

dear zakkaliciousness
what gives you the right to tell people what bike they can and cannot ride? you should concentrate your energy on getting rid of the big cars and trucks that are actually capable of crushing people instead of " going after the 6 pounds fixed bikes. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM HERE. and every time you shout out "BUT IT HAS NO BRAKES" you are just letting everyone who has ever riden a fixie know that you have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about. Rasmus

Zakkaliciousness said...

oh i know fixies. use to ride them on velodromes. love them.

and i don't have the right to tell people what to ride or not ride and wouldn't dream of assuming i did.

i do have a right to express my opinion, though, which is what i do.

you will probably hate this article from BT last week.