Teenagers and freestyling youngsters have taken to the fixed-gear biking scene. An increasing number of young people in urban areas around the United States now roll on bikes that not long ago were only pedaled by messengers or seen under racers on a velodrome track. Further, the “watch me!” generation, helmet cams always on, has produced thousands of YouTube videos to show off tricks performed on track bikes heretofore only possible on a skateboard or a BMX bike equipped with pegs.
Mea culpa: We at GearJunkie take pride in staying on the cutting edge, delivering scoops on new gear, and writing on trends before they hit the mainstream view. But… sometimes we miss the boat altogether, as is the case (we recently discovered) with this activity, called fixed-gear freestyle, or just FGFS. Basically, FGFS means doing tricks on a fixed-gear bike, often a pared-down, BMX-like model but with 26-inch wheels and no brakes. The original idea, sparked off more than five years ago, was that “riding a [fixed-gear] track bike is crazy hard, so anything you did on it in terms of tricks was considered pretty cool.”
That quote comes from Jeffrey Frane, the sales and marketing manager at All-City Cycles, which sells a bike called the Airwolf (marketed as “the most modern fixed gear freestyle frame out there”) and is one of the major players on the FGFS scene. Frane said as early as 2007 people “started to see how rad they could get on a track bike, it started with skids and progressed from there.”
In action, FGFS looks like an amalgamation of artful, choreographed track-bike riding and BMX trickery, plus with a dash of Danny MacAskill-like trials stunt work thrown in. The tricks are intricate and slow, with bar spins, grinds, small air, and backwards riding. It’s not spectator friendly, and in fact it appears pretty contrived when compared to the fast-rolling action of, say, skateboarding or an urban freeride session.
“BMX’ers as a whole typically hate it,” Frane said, himself admitting that FGFS is “inherently kind of dumb.” He continued, “BMX bikes are way better for tricks, but the thing about FGFS is that it’s really fun and challenging, and the bikes are way sweet to just bomb around town on and use for transportation.”
A young generation of tricksters have taken to FGFS, and we here at GearJunkie are all for getting outside in the city and pushing limits or just plain having fun. Is FGFS here to stay? In the bike world, there’s a fair bit of backlash about the activity. (See “Does Fixed Gear Freestyle Suck,” a post on TheFootDown, for one example.) And even Frane concludes that other than the practical nature of these bikes as transportation “there’s just no reason to do tricks on a fixed-gear other than the fact that you enjoy it.”
Enjoyment? No matter the weird looks you might get, honestly, that’s reason enough right there.