“A fixie? No coasting? Why?” That is a standard question I keep hearing. When people keep asking the same question, I tend to ask myself and wonder, why!?
The first time I wondered about it myself was when Krishna Mandava, my good friend from Hyderabad posed this question. He asked on our mailing list, “Venky, tell us something about what prompted you to go for a fixed wheel, how you planned to have one and how could you realize the dream.” This was when I shared the excitement of my first fixed gear century.
The first fixed gear bike I ever saw was when our own ‘Iron man’ Matt came riding on one for, ‘Tea at Shamshabad‘ ride on August 29th 2009. I kept seeing him ride that Surly fixed gear bike from time to time and was really amazed and curious at the same time.
|Matt on his fixed gear bike. Notice the bullhorn bars.|
|Sandy’s Schwinn Madison Fixed gear bike|
|Me posing on Matt’s Fixed gear bike. The seeds of fascination were sown 🙂|
|My Bulldog on top of Nandi on its second visit there. It doesn’t have fenders now..|
When I initially looked at it and was considering buying it, I thought it would be a perfect commute bike for the flat terrain of Hyderabad. It had a chain guard, fenders and eyelets for racks too. Ideally the things we look for on a commuter.
Here are a few more questions people ask me:
- What are the benefits you see in riding a fixed gear bike as opposed to a normal road bike?
- All this climbing on the Bulldog, is it not bad for your knees?
- You need double the effort to ride a fixed gear bike. Right?
What Are The Benefits?
I really don’t care what the benefits are apart from the obvious one, no coasting. This article by Sheldon Brown might help people who want to know its benefits. This article might explain the other aspects of what might bewitch a fixed gear rider. But, for me, it just feels good. It is easier and more enjoyable to ride than any other bike I own. So, in a way, I ride it because its easier to ride and not because I see/seek any benefits from riding a fixed gear bike or because I want people to think that I’m a tough guy(Well, may be, I do).
Climbing: How it started:
Well, I think it is because it all began in Vermont. At the time I bought the Bulldog, I was riding an MTB that I built from frame up. While I built that MTB because I wanted to get out and ride even in Vermont winter, I didn’t like riding an MTB on road after the winter was gone. Around that time, I had signed up for my first 100 mile bike ride along with a team at work. I hated the prospect of riding the 100 miles on the MTB. So, since I started enjoying riding the Bulldog, I thought why not ride the Prouty on it!
It also looked incredibly challenging at that time. When that thought came to my mind, the first thing I did was to check the elevation profile of the Prouty route. I saw one decent hill. I figured that I have to learn to climb well if I were to complete the 100 miles. So, I began riding all my practice rides on it and some of them were decent climbs. Although I suffered while actually climbing, the feeling of accomplishment was really heady after the fact.
I guess it is that heady feeling, the satisfaction the ego gets after a challenging climb, that got me hooked. I began to love climbing. I never approached any climb for the first time thinking I will conquer it but with a question in mind, ‘will I be able to do it?’. Most of the times, the answer was a satisfying ‘yes’ after much toil, but for one time. But almost every time, without fail, I learn something about myself in the process when I’m climbing.
Climbing: Bad For Knees! No?
To answer the concerned questions of my well wishers who think that all the climbing could harm my knees, I honestly think that I don’t over do the climbing. At least not after coming back from Vermont. If I average it out, I didn’t even do one major climb per a month of owning the Bulldog. I don’t think I will do that either. I think even if I did one hard climb in a month, the body would be able to take it as it will get enough time to recover and rebuild. Please point out if this thinking is faulty.
I don’t want to injure myself in the process of satisfying my ego by pursuing mindlessly challenging climbs. I want to keep riding well into my grand kids’ time.
Although I agree that big climbs are challenging on a fixed gear bike, on moderate climbs, simple rolling terrain or flat roads its actually easier or at least not that difficult to ride the Bulldog. So, when my friends give me undue advantage as I’m riding a fixed gear bike and shower praises on me, I get a feeling that I’m cheating them into thinking it is hard while it is not. I also sometimes feel that they are showing sympathetic appreciation like they would show to a handicapped person. Then I remind myself of my initial thoughts when I saw a fixed gear bike for the first time or even the initial days of owning one and think may be its natural to think that way. 🙂
Now, I don’t really give much thought to the fixed gear aspect of it. I ride it like a ‘normal’ bike, which it is!