In real life, more people are wanting to emulate fixie riders and messengers like the one portrayed by Gordon-Levitt. This is putting a whole new demographic of hipsters and younger people on the bikes, and the trend is sickening to some core, longtime urban riders.
The blogger Bike Snob NYC has called the hipsters who dress like messengers (and ride fixies) “Fakengers.” (Get it, “fake” + “messengers”?) I have personally heard a lot of backlash toward the rising trend from within the urban bikers I know.
Sign of the trend: Riding my fixie around the city over the past week, at least four youngsters (teenagers and “tweens”) have given me “Nice bike!” or “Is that a fixie?” type quips as I’ve rolled past. Interest is piqued with the junior-high set.
Conversely, during the same period, in separate conversations with three core riders — two bike messengers and one bike-shop worker — I’ve been told about their recent moves away from the fixie space. All three talked about a newfound appreciation of gears, as in “Man, I rode fixed for years but now gears are so nice!”
The core-community mindshift comes with the rise in interest from the mass market and the groms. The kids have discovered the indie rock band only the in-the-know used to love, and now some of the cachet is gone.
One of the top alleycat riders in the U.S. told me recently that he’s been “having a blast” on a geared road bike. He’s racing on it, too, though he said to keep that information on the down-low.
Another example: A major bike-parts maker recently decided to not participate in a review article with GearJunkie because the word “fixie” came up in the conversation. (The test bike was a fixie.) The rep noted that he “hated the hipster trend,” or something to that effect.
But that is the exception. Most bike brands love anything that will sell more parts or complete builds. Niche manufacturers and brands have cropped up by the dozens who focus solely on the fixed category.
For me, the trend — most obviously exemplified with the release of “Premium Rush” — is not a bad thing. I like seeing people psyched on any form of bike riding. Fixed has motivated many people to get on a bike and ride to work or school, or maybe get to a race or try freestyle moves in an alley somewhere with friends.
I have ridden fixed for years, as noted. To me, the bikes are fast, fun, challenging, and great “tools” for the quick start-and-stop style of riding in traffic on clogged city streets. I like them for urban alleycat racing, too.
My design preference for most all things leans toward the minimal, and as such I like how fixies are clean, simple, and quiet machines on the move.
The fixie I ride most, based on a frameset from Wabi (see image above), is a pared-down racer with 48X18 gearing. It has a scandium frame and weighs just 16 pounds complete, leaping to a start like a drag racer from a standstill at a stoplight. I didn’t need Hollywood to tell me fixies are cool. Apparently, though, many other people did.