Fixed & What
Whilst exploring Manchester’s Northern Quarter recently I browsed in a few shops, most notably the uber-trendy oi polloi. A purveyor of clothing to the cutting-edge Mancunian-with-Attitude, it is the likely haunt of earnest young men with beards, quite possibly weighing up which £450 American workwear parka to splash their wages on. I should add that they also have a great website and a tiny mascot – a French Bulldog whose name is Claude, known to his friends as ‘boulderhead‘. I was interested to note that the clientele is also offered various bicycle accessories such as leather saddles and bags. Coupled with a lovely racing green Moulton on display in the shop, you cannot avoid feeling that, in the inner city, cycling has become cool.
Looking at the various magazines on sale near the counter, I noted that they stocked the achingly hip ‘Rouleur‘ – a title of such hipness that it pains one to flick through the expensively printed pages of bike porn. Eschewing the urge to spend reams of my hard-earned cash on such frippery, I turned [as is my nature] to the free papers by the door and picked up a copy of ‘Fixed and What‘ – a newspaper which concerns itself solely with the fixed wheel scene.
Now this is an area of the broad world of cycling which I have not had much interest in over the years. Occasionally, while riding, I will see some old-school character pounding the lanes on a single speed training bike, but this new scene is a very urban one. You only have to look at a lamp post in any major city to find a clutch of garishly coloured single speed bikes chained to it. But the ‘fixie’ scene, which originated with the London cycle courier’s need to run a low maintenance and highly manouverable bike in the busy, narrow streets of the capital, has evolved fast.
Reading the paper reveals that track cycling, the true vocation of any ‘proper’ fixed wheel bike, is enjoying a resurgence. The less fashion-conscious members of the one gear community actually apply a lot of creativity to their bike riding – witness the long-established Bike Polo scene started by the couriers in London. Indeed, with cyclists riding skateboard-style ramps, a defined dress code [Vans sneakers feature highly] and the obligatory surfeit of tattoos and beards, this scene reminds me more of the 80’s BMX culture, but on larger wheeled bikes.