The New York Times examines the world of fixed-gear cyclists––riders whose bikes don't have multiple gears or often, not even brakes. There are no fenders of course, not on a bike that requires a skid to stop. And there's definitely no coasting, which fixed gears don't allow and seems antithetical to a subculture rooted in bike messengering. The attached audio slide show has some statements that are refreshingly honest by Gina Marie Scardino, a "fixie" who admits to some ambiguity over wanting to champion the fixed-gear style, yets still is protective of its subcultural exclusivity.
Riders of fixed-gear bikes are as diverse as bike riders in general. Messengers are big fixie aficionados, but more and more fixed-gear bikes are being ridden by nonmessengers, most conspicuously the kind of younger people to whom the term “hipster” applies and who emanate from certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn. You see these riders weaving in and out of traffic without stopping, balancing on the pedals at a stoplight and in the process infuriating pedestrians and drivers alike.
In Williamsburg and points south of Grand Street, these bikes are legion. But they are fast gaining popularity, not just in those bastions of trend followers, and not just among 22-year-olds. Fixed-gear bikes are being ridden all over New York, by messengers, racers, lawyers, accountants and college professors — a diverse and not necessarily youthful cross section of the city’s population. They’re being ridden by people who work in sandwich shops and don’t know or care about gear ratios and bike history, and by people who have been racing these bikes for years in places like the Kissena Velodrome in Flushing, Queens, with its banked, elliptical track. They’re ridden by militant vegans who are virtual encyclopedias of arcane bicycle history, by thrill-seeking members of renegade bike gangs like Black Label, by shopgirls, street racers, Critical Mass riders, your aunt.
So while Scardino admits to a certain level of fixed-gear parachoialism, it's not a class of riders ready for quick pigeonholing. Author Jocko Weyland really does a nice job of profiling a population that stands out via its adherence to an ethos of stripped-down simplicity. They're like two-wheeled Amish, picking bikes over buggies. We wrote about a film festival dedicated to bicyclists last year, including a documentary on fixed-gear bikes.