Fixed Gear Interim Report
Stopping is the issue. Stopping and standing still. I was standing on the pedals, horizontal position, balanced over the handle bars, shimmying the front wheel to stay upright, waiting for the light to change. I cranked the pedals backwards two full revolutions and for a moment I was actually riding in reverse.
Then I woke up.
I mentioned earlier that there isn’t a hill within 100 kilometers of Winnipeg (1,000 if you’re heading west). While that is technically true, it doesn’t mean there are no slopes. Some of the recreational trails in the city lead down to the riverside, and a downward slope presents its own challenges. Hilary mentioned there are a couple of fixed gear riders on the Isle of Wight: chapeau to them – they must have quads of steel.
The challenge on a descent (for me) is to avoid becoming a runaway train. I can apply backward pressure on the pedals for at most one quarter of a revolution. Gravity (“More than a good idea: it’s the Law”) rules for the other three quarters of the pedal stroke. In the contest between gravity and man, gravity wins. I’m not too proud to use the emergency brake.
Climbing up a slope, on the other hand, is not as difficult as expected. I probably have a friendly gear ratio that lets me stand and rotate slowly upwards.
Tight turns have an unexpected “feature”: my foot rubs against the front tyre on the down stroke (I think the bike has a shorter wheel base than my road bike.) On the other hand, I can execute tighter turns at slower speeds.
Riding for distance is not an issue, and traveling at speed seems to take less effort than on a geared bike. I attribute this to the direct drive of the fixed gear.
Have you ever noticed, when a cyclist passes, you can tell if it’s a fixed gear without looking directly at the bike? I think there is a difference in the motion of the pedal stroke. On the fixed gear, your feet are pushed by the rear wheel and rotate evenly around the complete circumference. You can’t “mash” the pedals with an uneven stroke.
So, no, I have not managed that very cool courier’s trick of stopping upright on the bike. But it is obviously on my mind – why else would I be dreaming about it?