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How popular will single speeds/fixed road bikes get? How popular do you want it to get?(16 posts)

How popular will single speeds/fixed road bikes get? How popular do you want it to get?Tig
Dec 21, 2002 2:03 PM
There's no doubt that the interest in single speed road bikes is growing. Just look at sites like this and how more online retailers are adding SS/fixed parts. Part of this is from the popularity surge of MTB single speeds. I think some of the popularity is that riders are seeking a simple, cheap alternative to costly multi-speed bikes that returns them to their fun riding roots. Some will continue riding their existing bikes, riding SS only in winter for off-season training. Others will ride both throughout the year. And others will enjoy it so much, they'll go 100% SS/fixed (you know who you are!). Some might even hate it!

So, how much will it grow? How much do we want it to grow?

I don't think it will grow past a fringe group. I wouldn't mind a few more converts to keep things fun and the parts available. Out of about 60 riders in this morning's group ride, there were 2 others on fixtes with me. One is a teammate who is a dedicated track racer/fixed road junkie. One is a younger racer/LBS mechanic who is riding fixed for the winter.

I'm not sure if I'd want too many people on fixtes mixing it up in a group. Maybe not everyone is ready for the extra concentration it takes to ride one safely, especially in traffic or in a paceline. I'd never want it to be some elitist thing either. However, some of the appeal is the "fringe connection"!

What do you think?
re: How popular will single speeds/fixed road bikes get? How popfixedgearhead
Dec 21, 2002 6:55 PM
I hope that the movement will grow. In England there is a very active fixed gear scene. They have regular road racing organizations (British Time Trial Assoc) and other club get togethers and outings along with an active touring scene. I would like to see that sort of thing happen here. I think it will be some time before that happens though. One of the benefits popularity is increased availability of parts and builders providing goodies for sale. It wouldn't be as hard to get together what you would need to get involved. We can hope, and enjoy what we have until the rest of the world catches up.

fixedgearhead
I know who I am
I'm delighted to no longer be a solitary retro lunatic ...Humma Hah
Dec 23, 2002 6:41 AM
... I was considered hopelessly old-fashioned back in college when I insisted on riding the cruiser instead of a shiny new "10-speed". Now I'm a pioneer in a new "movement". Truth is, I'm just a retro-grouch who never bought into deraileurs.

The cruiser's still going strong, but I rescued one of those 10-speed Peugeots from the trash last night, very much like the ones I used to ride into the dust in college.

What I realized then, and what kept me a singlespeeder, was that gears produce no power, they just make it possible to ride without training your body to its fullest extent. Gears were necessary only for the very few racers at the time. They were wasted on the casual riders and commuters.

Singlespeed and fixed gear are gaining popularity because almost everyone who trys them for the first time is amazed by how well it works.

All serious cyclists ride to satisfy an inner craving for physical challenge. In that sense, they like doing things the hard way. Gears let you do things the hard way the easy way. Singlespeed and fixed make you do things the hard way the hard way. Simply put, they scratch the cycling urge deeper.
cruisersSteve_0
Dec 23, 2002 7:12 AM
without a doubt the ultimate in riding fun...

cant beat the comfort. Provides far greater exercise. Handlebars accommodate the beer-holder.... what more can you ask for.

One day I'll replace my previously favorite bike....a rusty-old jamis cruiser which was my high-school transportation to the beach. Finally ripped off after about 10 years of riding it everywhere, and never locking it once.

In the meantime Ill continue cruising the neighborhood on my wife's old MTB, stripped of deraileurs (but not cogs or rings, mind you), nice fat springy-seat, and high-rise bars (with beer-holder, of course). Ugly, but comfort at it's finest.
Most people actualy use just a few gears at best, some just oneTig
Dec 23, 2002 7:50 AM
When I say "most people", I'm thinking of kids, college students, casual riders, and immigrant restaurant workers who commute. Of this HUGE group of cyclists, most never use more than a few (or even one) of the many speeds available on their bikes. Almost all would be happy on a single speed as long as the bike "looks cool". Most of the time I see someone riding, they are in a high gear grinding along at a slow pace. Kids on BMX bikes already know they can get plenty of performance and fun out of one gear.

Even among fitness riders on nice modern road bikes, I'd say most of the many available gear combinations are rarely used. Of course, I'm in a flat area, so that has to weigh in on my observations!

The one advantage I like most about a bunch of close ratio gears is the ability to choose to fine tune the bike to your needs. That is a must for modern road racing (and I do love to race). However, as with almost all modern conveniences, we pay the price by losing part of ourselves in the trade. A stronger, adaptable body is what we loose when we can adjust the bike instead of adjusting our bodies. I'm not trying to turn this into a retro-grouch statement, but there is a disturbing trend where convenience becomes necessity since the industrial revolution.
There's a great falacy about gears ...Humma Hah
Dec 23, 2002 11:17 AM
... people today have bought into the idea that we NEED gears.

When the derailleur was invented, it was dreamed up by cyclists grinding up long hills on a fixie, then not being able to push the speed down the other side. For those riders, the advantages of gears were self-evident.

So someone built a gearie and, sure enough, it helped. A fixie rider could get on a geared bike and tackle steeper hills and go down the other side faster. No big surprise. So, of course, all racers had to have 'em.

But the great falacy is that you can just forego singlespeed/fixed and just ride gears and have the same effect. That only works for the most masochistic, work-ethic-driven, self-disciplined racers, the few who will push themselves consistently to the limit routinely, even with gears. Most riders will unconsciously drop back to escape gears on climbs, and will never push their spin to trackie limits.

The only way most riders will ever get full advantage out of gears is to develop that stronger, more adaptable body of which you speak, and that's best done by riding a lot with no gears.
climbing "escape gears"... I like thatTig
Dec 23, 2002 2:58 PM
In the past I always "had" to drop down to the granny gear zone as soon as my legs started aching or my heart pounded too much for my liking. It was easy to use escape gears. I blamed limited fitness after taking time off for it at first, but now I have no excuses left. I'm not a climber and doubt I'll ever be, living here in Flatonia. But now with a fixed gear, I'm out-climbing damn near everyone I ride with, even the young guys who are in better shape. It isn't easy, but challenge seldom is. I like the positive change. I wish I was aware of the advantages of single/fixed a long time ago!
Heh, heh ... what those guys don't realize ...Humma Hah
Dec 23, 2002 3:45 PM
... yeah, I've frequently noticed, even on the 40-lb cruiser, that if I find myself in the company of a group of roadies that are about my average speed (and that's pathetic but it does happen on centuries) that I'll usually out-climb them, then fall back when their higher gearing lets them pull slowly away in the flats and shallow downhills.

There seem to be two kinds of climbs that take different strategies on a singlespeed:

1) Short and steep. You do a mental calculation of what it takes to get to the top, and attack it with the goal of pretty much being out of steam at the crest.

2) Long. Nothing for it but to slow down to a sustainable pace. But going even slower just prolongs the agony, so you learn to climb RIGHT AT your anaerobic threshold. And you will learn to spot EXACTLY what that point is, something that is very valuable in performance cycling.

Either case leads to a more aggressive climbing style than most folks are willing to do if they have gears to fall back on.
I agree.....Dave Hickey
Dec 24, 2002 4:41 AM
I've been on charity rides and too many people start the climb in a 39 x 25 gear(or worse). They end up spinning like crazy but they don't go anywhere. I have no choice but to climb in a 45 x 17 gear.
IronySteve_0
Dec 23, 2002 7:05 AM
So, as cyclist become 'serious', they convince themselvs they need more and more crap. "10 gears? Not enough...Gotta have 12". 12? Add another ring for 18. Or lets bump the cassette to 8 for 16 or 24. Certainly I need 18 gears, so i need to upgrade my componentry. "I can't wait for Shimano to squeeze in another cog."

"Oh, guess what, most of us really only needed 1 gear this whole time... I'll bet this 1880 technology is gonna catch on." lol

Personally, I'm split on topic...in the old days, cycling components lent themselves to fixie converions...as we continue to buy into planned obsolensence, that's getting harder, and we need specialty equipment for conversions. Increased popularity will certainly provide for more of the necessary parts.

On the other hand, I hate the ubiquitious elitist mentality (which you mentioned) in the cycling community today. I've always enjoyed the urban/fg crowd for their appreciation of functionality and simplicity. To a lesser extent, the old-time tourers had the same attitude.

As SSing increases in popularity, I see traces of elitism rapidly rearing it's head: " I want to give FG riding a try, but dont want to spend more than $5000" yikes.

Not inherintly bad for the sport, but certainly dishearting to see what used to be grass-roots cycling become just another avenue of materialism.
Fixed gear should be done primarily on bikes ...Humma Hah
Dec 23, 2002 11:21 AM
... rescued from the trash bin and put in service for under $200.

I might, someday, spend $5000 on a fixie, but if I do it will probably be one of those 100-year-old antiques that carried the first great cycling boom. There are plenty of good new fixies in the $700 range, and only championship-caliber trackies should be contemplating new $5000 bikes.
re: How popular will single speeds/fixed road bikes get? How popfixedgearhead
Dec 23, 2002 10:27 AM
One more thing to increase the interest is the fact that the major component companies are starting to go into Digital Electronic Gear shifting units. Campy is currently beta testing one of the units for production in Europe. Now that ought to drive the gearheads over to our side. I can' t imagine what it will cost to have a carbon fiber crank and digital shifting high end frame built by Colnago or some other high end maker. There will always be some who will think they can be "just like Lance" if they only can get one of those, but the majority of people will just have to look from far away due to the cost. Maybe the major companies will then start providing simple machines to those that are turned off to all that technology. Some already have.

fixedgearhead
I thought people would 'look away'Steve_0
Dec 23, 2002 11:15 AM
when the cost of a 'good' bike exceeded a grand. I was obviously wrong.
It won't catch on hereLC
Dec 23, 2002 12:26 PM
In my area where there are steep hills in just about every direction that you could ride, it is still concidered crazy to ride such a bike. I mostly get the "how can you ride that thing?" and "arn't you going to blow out a knee?" Even the strongest guys on the race teams don't do it, except for a couple of really crazy and very strong individuals. Most of the riders will never be strong enough to even think about doing it except on the very limited flatter roads so it just has no mass appeal.
It won't catch on herefixedgearhead
Dec 23, 2002 5:29 PM
I agree, It probably won't be a mass movement in the areas that have vertical streets and roads. But there are plenty of "dirt bikes" that never see off road and they are popular everywhere. All it takes is for it to become "cool" to foster the interest of the masses and then it will take off. Like any cult thing it is an inside thing for awhile and then , like Beatles Music, you can hear it in every elevator and supermarket you find yourself in.

fixedgearhead
I've promoted a fixed gear century for 3 years.MB1
Dec 23, 2002 4:02 PM
I've been riding fixtes and SS's on and off for 30+ years. More and more gearies are showing up. Fewer and fewer fixtes and SS's are showing up.

Could it be that as the cycling crowd ages the active ones, the loud ones and desperate manufacturers try to find trends where there are none?