fueled by fixies 

Fixed-gear bikes are fueling a new generation of riders.

Fixed-gear bikes are fueling a new generation of riders.

TWO WHEELS AT A TIME

Proto-bicycles were first manufactured in the early 1800s with iron-banded wheels. They were as awkward as they were rare. Their cumbersome, giant front-wheeled cousins, penny-farthings, were crafted from wood shortly thereafter. By mid-century, petroleum was fueling personal transportation — decades before gasoline-powered vehicles ruled our roads — as bicycles with solid rubber tires started rolling around. It was a game-changing advancement, providing durability and stability. In 1887 — two years after the first gas-powered automobile was patented — we saw the invention of the first practical air-filled rubber bicycle tire.

Stable, durable and light! Those three characteristics, plus sheer style, have been fueling the fascination with fixed-gear bikes — or fixies — for the last decade.

PETROL-POWERED BIKES

From the moment the rubber hit the road, our bikes have provided us with a singular sense of personal freedom, travel efficiency and sheer wind-in-face fun.

Petroleum is helping fuel all of these experiences. Performance-based uses of petrol are found in the tires, tubes, seats, handle grips, streamers and air horns. It’s in the spandex and lycra outfits that many cyclists wear. It’s in the specialized oil we use to keep bicycle chains well-lubricated. It’s in the pedals, brake pads and reflectors. It’s in shoe soles, elbow pads and sunglasses, as well as headbands and gloves. It’s definitely in several parts of your helmet — never forget your helmet! Petroleum is even an ingredient in today’s carbon fiber bike frames. That includes those aforementioned stable, durable and light frames of fixed-gear bikes.

FIXIES

Fixies are the preferred cycle of the hip-urban-indie set. Though usually visually striking in their minimal aesthetic — many riders go out of their way to customize their prized rides — fixies shouldn’t be cast off as some fleeting and flimsy pop culture “fashion mobile.”

How is a fixie different than any other bike? Well, stopping can be tricky, for starters. The gear cog of a fixed-gear bike is directly linked to the motion of the pedals. If you pedal forward, the bike moves forward. If you pedal backwards, the bike moves backwards. If there’s inertia in the pedal, you have to work against it in order to slow the bike down. For this reason alone, riding a fixie is an incredible workout.

Fixed-gear bikes also deliver improved maneuverability, overall lightness and bare-bones mechanical efficiency due to the direct transfer of power from the rider’s thighs, calves and feet straight to the wheels.

Just as they’re notoriously careening the streets of major cities across America, fixies are famously easy to repair and you can pick one up without breaking the bank.

While the simplistic mechanics of fixies wink at the past, their practicality, beauty and accessibility have rooted their place in the future of bicycling.