It's happened in both of my favorite sports. This urge to rummage through the history of a sport, a scavenger hunt for the unvarnished essence in the roots. It's the counterweight that launched punk rock; get rid of the orchestration and the synthesizers, the overdubbing and the bloated recordings, get back to three chords and the truth.
And so it goes with the fixed gear crowd. Raiders of the lost art, following the lead of the NYC's messenger bike movement, these local riders have stripped it down to two wheels, one gear, toe clips and steel frames, often with no brakes. What's old is new. I was introduced to fixed gear riding in 2002 by friends Yo Adrian and Dan Gatti. I wasn't immediately sold on the idea. But I'm prone to peer pressure, and I set up my first one using an old Super Course TT and a Brooks B17-N (stands for narrow) saddle, which tried to kill me on a 70-mile ride, cutting me in places that ought not be cut. My longtime friend Ed, the owner of Cycle Logic in Raleigh, gave me a doubtful look the first time I rolled my fixed gear into his shop.
Times have changed. Nowadays, Ed has three fixed gear bikes in the shop window, including a classic Japanese track frame that someone sold him. He's stocked and sold dozens of fixed bikes. I stopped by the other day just in time to see a mom and dad with an esoteric Christmas shopping list for their son ("do you have a 43-tooth 130 BCD ring....?") The fixed riders are all over town, Men in Black without Brakes, hopping the rear wheel and skidding off a layer of rubber on every emergency stop. Maybe it's a fad that will come and go as quickly as the Sex Pistols. You know, band is gone but the music lives on. Fad or not, those guys are out there riding, and I predict some are forming a lifelong habit. Here's to four decades of riding with your buddies, no matter what kind of bike you're on.
Okay, I said this roots revival has happened in both of my favorite sports. That includes surfing. Brother Rich just sent a NYT article headlined "Ancient Surfboard Style Is Finding New Devotees." Yes, some surfers have returned to the the roots of that sport, riding finless surfboards that are featherweight replicas of the thin, round-nosed, square-tailed boards ridden in pre-20th-century Hawaii.
Like I said, I'm given to peer pressure. I guess I wouldn't mind trying one out, especially after watching this video. Notice how easily the board spins without a fin, and how fluid the ride is. Enjoy.