My First Fixie

When I was younger I spent a good portion of my free time atop a mountain bike. My best friend’s dad owned a bike shop in Oakland called Sam and Rick’s and I hung out in the shop many a weekend from about sixth grade to 8th grade when I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I continued to ride mountain bikes through the great mountains of Santa Fe all through High School and when I moved to Riverside to finish my 12th grade year I rode around the streets on my trust old bike until it finally died. I haven’t really had a bike for the last ten years and I have really begun to miss it.

I had originally planned on buying a nice mountain bike, but to really get a good one I would need to spend a couple of grande and right now I have other things to spend a couple of grand on, our wedding for instance. The other day when I was walking home from the gym I passed by a group of bike messengers who always hang out at the top of Hill street and I saw a cool bike with no gears. I had heard about and seen fixed gear bikes before but I asked the messenger how he dealt with hills and he told me they were no problem and that it was actually much faster to go up hill on a fixed gear bike than on a multi gear.

When I got home I looked around on ebay, craigslist and recycler for a good deal on a used bike and I found an old cannondale for $200 which I ended up buying along with an even older KHS after talking the guy down to $174 for both of them. The cannondale didn’t have completely horizontal dropouts but they weren’t totally vertical either so I figured I would try and convert it.

It turned out that the next day was the wheel building class at the Bicycle Kitchen so I called them up and signed up to build a set of wheels. They had the hubs and rims I needed in stock and told me what size spoke to buy, which I did and last night I built both of my wheels.

Today I came back to the BK and finished my bike. I had to use a half link to get it to work, but in the end everything fit together nicely. I replaced the brake lever with a cool short Tektro RX2, put on some new pads and removed all the derailers, rear breaks and cables. I rode the bike down the sidewalk and it is a beautiful ride, although I will need to practice the whole fixed gear technique thing. Once I knew everything worked I donated the KHS to BK along with the derailers and wheels from the Cannondale.

The ride from the parking garage to my loft was exciting although only a block of riding. Being able to slow down and stop by backpedaling is really an exhilarating experience. As they say, once you go fixed you never go back and I am hooked. Yay I have a bike! [photos are here]

6 Replies to “My First Fixie”

  1. Congrats! The bike looks awesome! Looking at the length of the cranks, you might want to check out getting a pair that are shorter. I’ve heard of nightmares of people on fixed gears taking a tight turn and the pedals on longer cranks jam into the pavement. Instead of rebounding like they would on a freewheel, as you know, they keep on going and the outcome could be a bad fall or worse. Just a suggestion. Happy and safe riding!

  2. Well… be careful. Jim Cadenhead who helped me outfit my fixie/freewheel at the Kitchen was pretty strong on 165mm, but I went with 170 largely because on the street I’ll be using the freewheel side of the hub. I don’t have the yabos to ride fixie on the street yet. About the only place I’ll dare to do that at this point is around the Rose Bowl.

  3. The main reason I built a fixed gear bike is for exercise. When you ride fixed you can never coast so your are always pedaling and therefore always working. You also have more control over your bike due to the lack of coasting. You can also apply power consistently throughout the 4 strokes that pedaling consists of not just the down stroke. And its fun. If you’re riding two miles to work on the street with no monster hills and monster descents you would be just fine riding a fixie. If you want to know more about fixed gear bikes just google it and you will find a wealth of info.

  4. Swweeeeet. I see you opted wisely for that front caliper. I know all the purists scoff, but personally a choice between stopping short of a semi blowing a light and laying a trail of skid-rubber right up until the moment it creams you is no choice at all.

    Nice paint, too, FWIW.

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