Fixed Gear Phenomenon
YPULSE gave a guest commentary to Issa Sawabani from Fuse in VT. I’ll hand it to FUSE, they’ve done a solid job of maintaining their presence in the action sports marketing place. Of course, BBPR owns it when it comes to action sports PR ;-), but their capes go well beyond ours.
I’ve never met Issa, but his analogy between fixies and skaters is on point. I personally don’t want anything to do with the bikes, but I see strong similarities between the kids on them now and me in the height of my skating days (well before I drove to skate spots).
Fixed Gear Phenomenon
By Issa Sawabini, Partner at Fuse
If you don’t know about the fixed gear phenomenon it should be on your radar. These bikes used to be exclusive to track racers and serve as the maintenance free transportation of choice for urban bike messengers. Now “fixies” are the passion of hipsters around the world.
Fixed gear bikes have become a new canvas for personal expression, customization and self identity. There are a growing number of custom parts available in a full range of colors. The bikes have become a combination of transportation, art and even status. With cutting edge artists, leading lifestyle boutiques, and even pro skateboarders getting involved, the fixed gear phenomenon is hot.
The discovery, freedom, risk, expression, customization, self identity and fun that come with a custom bike matches almost effortlessly with other sports that have grown to become pillars of youth culture. It’s not surprising that a social scene has been born around the fixed gear craze. You customize it and ride it on your own, but it’s more fun to ride with friends. If all this sounds familiar it should – online gaming, skateboarding, snowboarding and other action sports all have a similar set of individual and social characteristics.
There are brands like Bianchi and Colnago that are earning the badge value of top action sports brands like Burton and Volcom. Influential shops like Trackstar in New York City have emerged not only as leading destinations to buy bikes and parts, but also as the compass steering trends among influential riders. Local riders and bike shops are organizing events and there are dozens of websites to post pictures or your bikes to share with others.
With the emergence of fixed gear culture, the bike world is facing its own “new kid on the block” controversy. True fixies don’t have breaks. Riders slow down in a hurry by locking up the back wheel and skidding. In a big emergency, like a chain break, the only option is jamming a foot in between the frame and wheel. It’s not uncommon to see a crew of fixed gear riders roll through a stop sign at full speed. Stopping is difficult, inconvenient and a lot less fun than just riding. Stopping on a steep downhill is even more challenging. Blowing through stop sign is illegal and dangerous and some communities have labeled fixed gear, brakeless bikes a “Suicide Bikes.”
And of course now the fixed gear phenomenon becoming more mainstream. Kanye West is into it.
Love it or hate it, fixed gear sub-culture is growing beyond San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and The Lower East Side in New York.