Fixation

Intersection magazine...Fall 2006 coverIntersection magazine...Fall 2006...Hipster messenger

If you slap a fixed-gear bike on the cover of a magazine, especially a magazine not in the cycling section, it will likely get my attention. Intersection describes itself as

“…bringing design, fashion and culture to life for the modern man. An intimate, inspired, below the radar meeting place for arbiters of taste and opinion, it’s where diverse paths cross, united by a passion for living fast and traveling far.”

In the simplest terms…it’s a car magazine. And I’m not really sure they understand urban fixed-gear bikes beyond the parameters of fashion and modishness. Look at the cover: “Why your car needs a bike rack!”. The minimal text accompanying the 12-page spread treats the bike as a prop which hipster car owners have affixed to a bike rack and when confronted with gridlock one can then hop on their fixie and beat that damned traffic (but doesn’t seem concerned about the conundrum of the abandoned car). What’s amusing to me is that the 11 men who grace the magazine with their track bikes all live in cities (NYC or London) and either work as messengers or utilize their fixies for utilitarian transportation. And I’d be highly surprised if any of these gents owned a car. You’d be insane to own a car in either city for any number of reasons: the cost, especially at their likely respective salaries; the efficacy of travel by bike; efficient mass transit…

I haven’t quite figured out if there are cyclists on the masthead who’ve happened to successfully infiltrate the publication and are sowing the seeds of dissent from within, relatively under the radar…or…it’s all fashion of the moment to be cast aside when fixed-gear machines are no longer hipster du jour props. In the current issue one of the writers admitted to having a 1950s Holdsworth and a 1930s era Schwinn track bike as her pride & joy wheels…not a car. There’s also a compelling 2-page map of the world with country size determined by the amount of velodromes each nation has within its borders (France is HUGE, followed closely by Japan…and who would have known that Trinidad-Tobago has more velodromes than China). And the articles are largely fascinating, with transportation themes frequently only skirting the tangents (definitely not your typical gear-head, road test magazine dreck) and its international, non-US focus is easy on the eyes…a world with far cooler design principles at work.

Comments (25) to “Fixation”

  1. Peter-
    I think that the link below might be more of the magazine article you were looking for. Issue 3 is still on the stands here and has qquite a great article about bike culture with a few vignettes of some different aspects. Check it out if you can find it, fare warning $10 was more that I would spend on a rag.

    http://hqinfo.blogspot.com/2007/04/new-culture-monocle-magazine.html

  2. I welcome the unlikely revival of a certain classic cycling aesthetic within hipster subculture given the recent evolution of road-racing bikes to look like mountain bikes and the near universality of baby blue, banana yellow, and lime green shorts in the pro peloton.

  3. I hate hipsters. OK, not all of them, just most of them. I hate the kids I see rolling around Chapel Hill on their “fixed” gear bikes, which aren’t actually fixed. And they have their cycling caps, rolled up pant leg, and messenger bags without ever really having ridden a bike for the most part, and so on. Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy.

    Ride this weekend, Saturday morning, my house. Come on over Peter.

  4. Tom-
    I’m Philly bound this weekend to witness TheRaceFormerlyKnownAsCorestatesFirstUnionWachoviaUSPRO in person. Much Duvel will be consumed on Lemon Hill.

    Sebastian-
    I’m very sympathetic to classic cycling aesthetics, too. Check out the Dave Moulton blog link I have if you ever need a dose from a master who’s been in the sport forever. There’s something really cool about a 70something legendary framebuilder still rocking steel bikes (which he built) decked out with Campy Super Record.

  5. I agree with Tom, in fact I dont consider most of the fixter hipsters to be cyclists. Riding 5 blocks with no regard for anybody just to get a late or tat does not make you a cyclist. You know we actually have little fixty gang’s here in Philly? Now they are causing mischief in Chapel Hill/Durham? I need to go clean my cassette and brakes, as they are needed to ride a bike properly! And Tom, please continue to keep the faith in da RDU! And Peter cant ride with you, he will be at my house drinking beer.

  6. From what I hear, Peter and Ems almost didn’t make it to Philly, but I’m glad that they did or are going to arrive soon. I forgot about the race, and I’m sad that I’m not there drinking much Duvel, but I will be doing that in Greenville come fall.

    Yes, there are fixie gear gangs in Chapel HIll / Durham. It’s just no good. I kind of fly past them while riding home sometimes, even though I’m not going that fast. Normally, they’re too busy trying to look cool, and ride real slow, making it look like they have a fixed gear bike, when, they don’t. The best one I saw was a hipster “couple”. They were wearing lots of black, had a bunch o’ tats, were carrying Starbucks cups, and PUSHING their bikes down the sidewalk. Wouldn’t want to spill that $14 coffee drink after all.

    Yeah, I’m a hater, I can’t help.

    Have fun at the race this weekend.

  7. I was in SF recently and saw one such dude take a brutal spill while trying to take a one-handed photograph doing a trackstand facing down one of our 45% grades. Instead of producing the sound of breaking bones, though, his taut and leathery frame made a nice dull thud on the pavement before he got up, dusted his t-shirt off, and rode away. So while his bike was an affectation, it had clearly gotten him in shape too!

  8. I’m trying to put a fixed gear together for 100 mile rides this fall and winter.
    Fenders, brakes, speedplay pedals, and one rear cog.
    One 100 mile ride, fixed, equals a 1000 mile ride with a freehub. It’s true.

    My beef is with all of the kids scarfing up certified Japanese keirin gear. As it always is, and was with Indy rock, tattoos, and cycling in general. It starts pure and inclusive and then the rich come in a taint it with divisions driven into place by money.
    An indy band writes great music on Korean telecasters and then some kids come along with 2 thousand dollar jazzmasters made by Leo Fender himself.
    Cycling used to be a fringe, hippy weirdo sport for kids who were talented atheletes, but hated balls (ha! hated balls!) now, it’s a frat boy, mega gear, feather light money sport with club teams getting new frames every year…thanks Lance!(the ultimate non-jock jock).
    Tattoos used to symbolize individualism now, only the kids with full sleeves are down.
    Let’s all form a club of people who don’t care about the details.
    Man, I’m bitter. Ha!

  9. Jason,

    What are the ‘kids with full sleeves’ down with, apart from keeping up with their fellow Hipsters?

  10. Stanley,
    Full sleeves are just cool.
    The willingness to have them transcends normal tatoo appeal.

  11. i see these kids who live near me with these iros that are all hooked up like the best fixed gears and they dress the part but really their bikes are freewheels and teh guys wouldnt know what to do with a fixed gear if ther e was a fire and they had to ride it to safety

  12. You guys are the true l33t cyclists! All others are #2 or lower!

  13. Get over it. Just ride and be true to your own aesthete. Let them eat NJS. Let them eat IROs. Let them eat Bianchi Pistas. Let them eat their beaters. Lycra, tweed, who cares? Intersection is to be commended for bringing together aesthetes. Free your minds and your bike will follow.

  14. Intersection’s a great magazine that looks at all aspects of “transportation subculture.” It pains me to see so many purists in each of them just jumping all over the trendy hipsters. Give ‘em a break.

    Granted, a lot of these rich kids are simply into trends, but I grew up farming, playing on tractors, and making ramps for our skateboards and freestyle bikes. Everyone isn’t so fortunate. I think it’s kinda…*cute* in a way. They’ll fade fast enough, leaving cheap rides for the diehards.

  15. i ride a track bike i built my self when i was woking at a bike shop, i dont own a car. i ride in the ally cats and like to just ride around is that hipster??????? post what u think henrydec1@yahoo.com

  16. ijust moved out here from california, and ive only seen a few kids on fixies(granted i may not know where to look. is hillsborough/downtown where they spend their time?) it sounds like you guys might have alot of lames out here. i mean, single speeds? unless it’s got pegs on one side of it, then a straight up single speed makes no sense to me. as far as the whole “hipster co-opting the aesthetic ” thing. trends are trend, wait it out. but i think its important to make the dictinction between the two newer types of people that are riding fixed these days. one, the often hated on hipsters:kids that have the messenger look, but are actually students that moved from the suburbs to the city with their parents approval and financial backing. then there are the kids like me and most of my friends back home: kids that hae been in the city for a while, usually ex-skaters(like myself) or ex-bmxers that got into fixie riding because our messenger buds offered to help us build one, and because we saw an untapped potential for technical trickery. the latter of the kids have a respectable amount of skill. dont believe me? check out trackasaurusrex.com

  17. correction: trackosaurusrex.com

  18. oops! my bad! correction:trackosaurusrex.com

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  20. I grew up skateboarding and when I accepted that my ankles could no longer take it I bought a bike from the thrift shop. I rode it geared for a couple of months but thrift shop bikes don’t always hold up. I hooked up with some friends at the local bike co-op and they taught me how to “fix” my bike. I did 65 miles on my fixed gear last fall with a max speed of about 28mph. I plan to do a couple of centuries this spring. So what if I have a messenger bag and wear a cycling cap? I ride more than some of the roadies I know.

  21. Max speed of 28mph? Even a slow roadie can do a max of 28 from going downhill.
    Now if you averaged 28 (or even 20) that might be something.

  22. There’s always going to be poseurs. This is true whether you’re talking about music, tatoos, Che Guevara tee shirts or dirty, crusty grunge bands.

    The fact that people are getting bikes, even if it’s because “they’re cool”, is a good thing. If they’re not going to ride them, I’ll grab them from a garage sale a few years down the road. People have been buying cars with oversized engines for decades “because they’re cool” and the planet has paid the price dearly in terms of wars, environmental destruction and air quality. If these kids want to prop up the market for bike shops, they can go right ahead.

    In any case, cycling has needed to take a more utilitarian and old-school turn for years, anyway. Downhill, dual suspension mountain bikes with 3-inch tires come in two varieties: too expensive and cheap but flat-out useless. Modern racing bikes are nice, but cost truly horrendous amounts of money, and are far beyond what any commuter cyclist needs (carbon frames, 10-speed cassettes, $800 campy shifting systems etc). For far too long, the aesthetic has prized this kind of nonsense and left the rest of the population with department-store mountain bikes and garage-saled granny cruisers. Building a decent fixie is very possible on a few hundred dollars with an old roadie frame (most likely covered in gears that don’t work anyway), is quite practical and very fun to ride. If they weren’t practical for inner-city riding, messengers (like myself) wouldn’t use them. If mine isn’t “cool enough” for the hipsters, that’s fine, I was never cool enough for those wankers in the first place.

    Honestly, anything that gets people excited about bikes is ok with me.

  23. thank you August Spies, thank you.

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