Saturday, 5 October 2013

Fixated

So, it’s been just over 12 months since I purchased my first single speed bicycle – The On-One Pompino which I have been using ever since for my daily commute. I enjoyed the simplicity and challenge of the single speed so much that shortly after I treated myself to a Specialized Langster - another single speed but much leaner and lighter.
Both machines have flip-flop rear wheels providing the capability to literally flip the wheel between single speed mode (with freewheel) and fixed with no freewheel. However, up until today I haven’t ever tried riding fixed. So, on a beautiful sunny, dry autumn Saturday afternoon I flipped the rear wheel on my Langster and set off on a brand new cycling mission. Here’s what I found…

Setting Off

“How the hell is it done without looking stupid?”
Normally, I kick back the right pedal until it’s in the right position just to push off. However, with wheel fixed there’s no option to get the pedal in a good position without lifting up the bike to allow the rear wheel to move. So I found myself walking forward to get the pedal in a suitable position to clip in. Once the right foot is clipped in and the bike is in motion there’s a limited short period of time to get the left foot clipped in. I guess the best way to avoid having to set off is never to stop!

Just Pedalling

I proceeded with caution and at a very conservative pace to begin with. It’s fair to say that concentration levels were very high. It reminded me of my first time with clip in pedals. However, after a while I gained confidence and felt at ease just riding along. In fact, it’s a great feeling being ‘as one’ with the bike and in total control.

Downhill

The secret is to never forget that you’re riding fixed and not get too blasé as I did on the approach to a fairly steep downhill. My natural instinct was to stop pedalling and freewheel. Big mistake! I was almost launched into the air as the pedals continued to turn and force me out of the saddle. My concentration returned immediately.

Maneuvering

In normal riding circumstances (with freewheel) I always generally stop pedalling and freewheel when looking behind to check for traffic prior to turning right. No such luxury when riding fixed – you just keep pedalling or face getting launched over the handlebars. Not really a problem though and easily dealt with after a bit of practice. Tight turns, where the level of banking may cause the pedals to touch the ground, are impossible. I guess that such turns are to be avoided. 

Flatulence Management

It’s fair to say that I managed to accommodate all of the above issues and hope to improve with more practice. However, there’s one thing that I could not master and that is the passing of waste gas from the saddle contact point. It’s a natural function that has to happen especially after consuming protein-packed energy bars and electrolyte drinks. In the absence of a freewheel situation I was just unable to relax the appropriate muscles in order to squeeze one out. No doubt I’ll be scouring the Fixie cycling forums for the solution. 

Conclusion

An overall enjoyable experience and I can now understand how it would benefit performance in a time trial. Being ‘as one’ with the bike at high speed minimises the opportunities to relax when fatigue sets in.


More practice required! 

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