Fixie Fixation

The fixie fixation has commenced. With the simplicity, freedom and speed that fixed gear bikes have to offer, they have recently started to attract people of all ages, especially the younger generation.

By Annie Tran:

Photos by Jonathan Yong

A student demonstrates his skills with his fixie bike.

The fixie fixation has commenced. With the simplicity, freedom and speed that fixed gear bikes have to offer, they have recently started to attract people of all ages, especially the younger generation. “Fixed gear bikes [also known as fixies or track bikes] are my passion,” senior Korhan Badir said. “It’s probably something I’ll take with me through life itself and something I’ll enjoy no matter what.”

Without the ability to coast, the fixed gear bike sets a different standard for bikes since the pedals are always moving when in motion. “The fixie is great to ride, but it kind of tires you out,” sophomore Rebecca Kah said. “The good thing, though, is that my core and my legs are getting a lot of muscle from the constant pedaling so it’s okay.” Fixed gear bikes also allow the user to bike backwards, because when the pedals turn backwards the wheel moves with them. “Fixies are [based on] the concept of having a fixed back gear. It lets us do all types of tricks on it,” freshman Kyle Zhu said.

Some fixed gear bikes lack brakes, which trades safety for lightness and speed. “My bike didn’t have brakes on it, which wasn’t exactly legal, so I biked mostly at night,” Kah said. According to California law, a licit equipped bicycle must have a brake that permits the rider to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. To stop on a fixed gear bike, riders must skid on the bike and lean a bit forward. This practice of braking is considered dangerous and should not be tried unless one is experienced. “If you’re going to ride a fixie, you better know how to stop on your bike,” Zhu said. “Otherwise, you’re screwed because cars go fast on a lot of roads and you could just end up scraping something and landing on your face.”

Badir and juniors Michael Castillo and Aston Sun consider themselves well-seasoned bikers with enough zeal and adventure in them to complete complicated and dangerous tricks at a fast speed. “I learn a lot of my tricks from friends, the web and a lot of random bikers I meet at races,” Castillo said. Some of the most fundamental tricks that fixed gear riders learn first are track stands, wheelies, and bunny hops. “These tricks are all real basics that are essential if you’re going to ride a fixie,” Zhu said. However, when doing these tricks, one must do it in moderation and not go overboard. “I’ve been attempting to do a lot of tricks recently and it kind of got to my joints like my knees and my wrists,” Zhu said. “I hurt my wrist about a month ago trying to do a trick and it still hasn’t really healed.”

The fixed gear bike was one of the first forms of a bike to be invented, and has slowly started to make a comeback in the Bay Area in recent years. These fixie aficionados discovered the fixed gear scene through YouTube channels, friends and blogs. “I originally attended [Palo Alto High School], and fixed gear bikes are pretty big there,” Castillo said. “I’ve learned a lot of things through the web and my brain is kind of like fixie mush because I know so much about this stuff.” Badir, Sun and Castillo have also competed in local races in San Francisco and San Jose, where bikers race around obstacles.  Badir describes racing as being the purest form of biking as one with his fixed gear bike. “You are one with the bike, and after a short sprint, you can feel your heart almost beating out of your chest,” Badir said. “That is the feeling that arises when on a fixed gear.” Castillo and Sun have participated in three races each, and Castillo  placed second in one race.

[pullquote]“You are one with the bike, and after a short sprint, you can feel your heart almost beating out of your chest. That is the feeling that arises when on a fixed gear.” —senior Kaan Badir[/pullquote]

Zhu picked up fixed gear biking from Badir and his brother senior Kaan Badir and paid a little under $300 in total for his bike off of Craigslist. However, since brand-new fixed gear bikes cost approximately $200 to $1000, Zhu recommends riding someone else’s fixed gear bike first before buying one. “Fixies take some time to get used to so you have to play around with it first,” he said. “Plus, if you buy one, I think you should get it off Craigslist or something instead of splurging. Unless you’re like the Badir brothers that are like super bike fanatics.” Sun, another fixie fanatic, has recently listed his bike  for sale for $7050. These expensive prices are mainly due to the rare specific cut-out frames.

Kah, Badir and Zhu admit that the appearance of fixed gear bikes play a role in their love for the bikes. “There is no real difference or gender for bikes, just different sizes,” Kah said. “That’s also an additional reason to why I got the bike. It’s like getting new clothes: buying pretty new clothes makes me happy. The same feeling applies to the bike.” Zhu spent several hours a week spray painting and working out kinks on his bike, which he built piece by piece by himself. “My bike frame was originally orange and I bought orange wheels to go with it, but then I kind of got sick of how bright it was so I spray painted it purple,” Zhu said.

The Badir brothers have also customized their bikes to their own desires and needs, however they think “riders shouldn’t get a fixie just because of their looks, that’s not the right philosophy,” Badir said. “Fixies should be ridden for their purpose: Ride the fastest you can with the two wheels, chain, cog, seat and handlebars provided.”

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