Sunday, January 13, 2008

It was a bike to die for

On 01.09.08 a young man by the name of Lucian Gregg crashed his fixie bike and died. The location of the crash was E.Cliff and Jessie, which is only about 80 yards from where I crashed my bike a year ago. The local rag ran a few articles about fixies. This was a response I considered. Prior to submitting a response, some fool sent a letter to the editor claiming the crash was the fault of the trucker, who probably passed the biker and turned right in front of him. All the evidence points to the probability that the truck driver was well ahead of the biker prior to the crash. A witness saw the truck's brake lights come on along with it's turn signal, giving the bicyclist more than enough time to stop. Unfortunately the biker seemed to not notice the actions of the truck until it was too late. Hear is my reply:

After reading your article on the “fixie fad”, I thought I might clarify a few points over looked by I.A.Stewart. I am a League of American Cyclist certified instructor. I'm an avid cyclist and bike mechanic for over 30 years; for last 7 years I have been riding a fixed gear bike. I also have commuted to work for the last 5 years on the same stretch of road where this accident happened and a year ago (before it was re-surfaced), I crashed breaking 5 ribs. Having a brake made no difference (I hit a newly formed pot hole); wearing a helmet probably saved my life.

In IA Stewart's article he says “Fixies originally developed for racing indoor velodromes". The truth is closer to Josh Long’s comment that fied gear bikes are, “what people have been riding for 150 years". The first bicycles did not have freewheels (the part of the hub that lets you coast), which have only been around for about 100 years. Riding a fixed gear gives one the same pleasure as driving a Model A down the street. It is the riding without brakes that came from the velodromes, and that’s truly where it belongs. To rely on skidding the rear tire for emergency stopping is the realm of the young and stupid (stupid meaning without life experience). A brake on the front wheel, allow the front tire to do about 80% of the stopping. Stopping with just a rear “brake” reduces your stopping ability by the same amount. When I was a kid, most bikes ridden by children my age, had coaster brakes. These brakes are most like stopping a brakeless fixie, as it relies on the chain, pedals and rear tire to stop, but has the added advantage of letting you coast. But as anyone who ever tried to stop a pedal brake knows, they also were very inefficient, as you could skid the rear tire with no effort at all; and when the tire is skidding it is not stopping. What happens in a skid is the tire material is ground off the tire and becomes little balls between the road and the tire. Add to that that a fixie road tire has half the tire patch (the part of the tire that is in contact with the road) and twice the rolling energy (caused by a larger wheel diameter) as your average Stin ray or BMX tire, and you are not going to stop very efficiently.

The bike had *Velocity rims, *Formula hubs and *Sugino cranks (* high end parts popular with fixie riders) but no brakes; it was a bike to die for. Today the bike community mourns the loss of another one of it’s own; his youth makes the loss even more painful. Make no mistake, that the lack of a brake caused this accident and most likely Lucian’s death. Much had already been said within the biking community about the foolishness of riding without brakes on a fixed gear bike, hopefully this will start a meaningful dialog that will prevent another loss of life.*


1 comment:

harley said...

truly appreciated this article as I am a brakeless, helmetless fixie fool and have even suffered my own crash in my hometown downtown which has no available bike lanes, almost lost my left ear Goghesque and still mash around suicidal, even bombing four of the seven bridges in Jacksonville FL today, but alas, all fools die hard or else live amiably into old age and wisdom...earnestly seeking a proper helmet and will affix my polo front brake soon...