A Meeting of Dervishes With Fixed Gears
As seen in the NY Times.
By RAYMOND McCREA JONES
Published: July 10, 2009
"There is no coasting on a fixed-gear bicycle. Because the single gear is mounted directly onto the back wheel, the pedals keep turning as long as the wheel does. And when the rider pedals backwards, the bike moves backwards. No brakes, either: riders use the force of their legs to stop the pedals and, thus, the bike.
This gives riders much more control over their machines, and lends itself to tricks and maneuvers that have come to be known as fixed-gear freestyle, from a simple wheelie to routines in which bicycles bunny-hop down stairs or rotate on the back wheel while spinning the front wheel and handlebars, called a bar-spin.
“We all started doing tricks on these bikes because it was how we were getting around the city,” said John Watson, 28, an architectural intern who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “The benefit to these bikes is that you don’t have to go home and get your ‘trick bike.’ You can just stop and ride a little bit.”
Mr. Watson maintains a popular blog about fixed-gear freestyle bikes, prollyisnotprobably.com, and for the last two years has played host to an informal gathering of fixed-gear riders on Thursday nights under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Williamsburg. Similar meetings take place in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo and London.
The gatherings, known as peel sessions (“peel” refers to a trick in which the rider skids on a fixed back wheel), draw a mix of bike messengers, film editors, industrial designers, take-out deliverers and students to a parking lot about two blocks long and 50 feet wide at Jackson Street and Meeker Avenue. The participants vary from experienced cyclists with sponsorships for competitions like New York’s annual Monstertrack, to novices learning to wheelie for the first time.
Fixed gears date to the mid-19th century, and bike messengers in New York have long found them to be dependable and practical machines for tough city streets. But it is only in the past few years that riders, inspired mostly by skateboarding and BMX, began to push the limits of doing tricks on a fixed-gear bike."