Author Topic: A Freewheeling Manifesto


A Freewheeling Manifesto
« on: May 24, 2015 »
Is a freewheeling manifesto necessary? As the rider of an unfixed, some would mistakenly say broken singlespeed, I think so! The main problem with manifestos is they're often very wordy and people get bored before they know why they're supposed to be revolting.

Ever since Sheldon Brown described coasting as a "pernicious habit", a significant minority of cyclists have taken him seriously. These cyclists ride bikes which can't coast because they've had the fun removed. (The fun is located in the rear hub.) Everybody else, from the Flintstones to Ma Walton, knows that coasting is why bikes were invented; if early models couldn't coast, it's simply because technology was a bit slow to catch up with its promise.

Fixed gear riders will secretly acknowledge the truth of the following statement:

Pedalling is the lazy man's coasting.

Think about it. (Just not too hard, or it will make your head hurt.) When you're riding fixed there is no element of free will: you pedal or die, much like sharks. This is "fun" in the same way galley slaves regarded rowing as "a lark".

Also, it's easy. How can I say this when pedalling, especially non-stop-pedalling, especially non-stop-pedalling-at-150rpm-down-a-hill-like-there's-no-tomorrow because-indeed-there-may-not-be can seem so hard? Because you have no choice. Your legs are only doing what they must to keep the pedals from breaking your kneecaps. That's some fearsome fun!

What I mean when I say pedalling is the lazy man's coasting is that riding fixed in the above horrifying scenerio is accomplished by relaxing the legs in question and, in effect, ceding control of them to the bicycle. True fixe artistes soon learn to disconnect all motor control below their waist. Ergo their "laziness", which is not meant as a slur but merely as the most accurate descriptor of the state of locomotion without conscious effort. While it's true that theoretically they put in effort to climb the hill in the first place, everybody knows that the fixed drivetrain is the only true example of perpetual motion in the world, each turn of the cranks powering the next, again no effort required.

Freewheeling, on the other hand, requires a continuous series of decisions to do something rather than nothing, else progress eventually ceases. Not only is it very philosophical, it's far more zen than fixed could ever hope to be. Each and every pedal stroke is a command from the brain that the legs are free to disregard whenever it suits them – which could happen at any moment. Therefore coasting, which at first blush appears to be rather indolent (or pernicious as some would have it), is the always temporary state of repose between sweaty mental gymnastics. Think of that galley slave being whipped: that's the brain talking to the legs of a free man. Does that sound remotely lazy?

If none of the foregoing convinces you, ask yourself, do you really want this to be your end stage?

Tour de France originator Henri Desgrange

“I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailleur? We are getting soft. Come on, fellows. Let's say that the test was a fine demonstration--for our grandparents! As for me, give me a fixed gear!"

“Hope I die before I get old," he added.

It has just occurred to me that a manifesto is a declaration of policy and aims. The former is so easy it hardly requires a declaration – the policy is freewheeling. As for aims:

• Educate the masses
• Gain political influence
• Force a referendum
• Destroy all copies of "Can't stop, don't want to" Premium Rush
• If we're lucky, to be parodied by Armando Iannucci

Remember: fixed = broken


Don't break it like Beckham
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2017 »
It has belatedly come to my attention that Brooklyn Beckham rides fixed, and is therefore a potential recruit to the freewheeling cause. If only I can get his publicist, or better yet influential girlfriend, to pass this along; a celebrity endorsement could really get people to think.


Está loca
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2020 »

I'd never do that!
Without gloves.


« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2021 »

Dear John,
If you’re reading this – a possibility only worth entertaining because I’ve emailed you the link – first of all, thank you. Not only did the brake caliper arrive the very next day, but you took the trouble to set pen to paper: a small personalised touch which had the outsized effect of immediately advancing Hubjub to the rank of Most Favoured Company status in my books. This despite the fact that it specialises in fixed gear, which unfortunately is an abomination for reasons set forth in the opening post.

As has been extensively documented by fun scientists in peer-reviewed papers I’m sure, the most salient point of your list of 10 GOOD REASONS TO RIDE FIXED is simply not supported by the evidence.

10. Fun
Lots. Really. A multispeed makes you into an engine. A fix lets you be yourself. It just feels better.

Painful as it may be for martyrs to the fixed cause to admit, not being able to freewheel is anything but "fun". I trust this still from the documentary Braveheart will make the case nicely:

Moving smartly along, what *is* fun is reading copy that hasn't had all the life squeezed out of it. ABOUT US:

Sadly towards the end of the noughties rapacious commercialisation of the fixed wheel bicycle market occurred which turned into a glut when those who were simply followers of fashion moved on. Hubjub was almost a victim of the bloodbath...

I'm glad Hubjub survived. Although you know your market much better than this singlespeeder, if you can find it in your budget to hire a freewheeling liaison officer, now you know where to find me.


The F word
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2021 »
John got back to me, cementing our relationship as vendor and vendee. He then indicated, without being so gauche as to put it in writing, that the liaison position is mine for the taking if I am willing to make a blood oath that steel is real. This is a deal-breaker, as my heart belongs to ti. No hard feelings.

On revisiting the list of reasons to ride fixed, one thing led to another, as it so often does, and presently I found myself reading the following:

Fixies are fun!

Ignore all the nonsense about achieving bicycle zen and becoming one with your machine. It was rubbish back in 2008 and it’s rubbish now.

That doesn’t change the fact that riding fixed is a hell of a lot of fun. Some days gears are a godsend and freewheeling is where it’s at, but we love variety and the novelty of riding fixies has never worn off.

You probably don’t want one as your only bike, but if your marriage to cycling is in trouble and you need to spice things up, climb aboard a fixie and glory in the absurdity of pedalling everywhere, all the time. Do a skid, get a knuckle tattoo, and party like it’s 2008.

That was Matthew Loveridge of Bikeradar. While an entertaining piece of writing (something he specialises in, judging by stories such as Why every bike should have a kickstand, Why you should try outdoor cycling, and Dear bike industry: bottle cages are perfect, please leave them alone), this trope must die. My mission in life – or at least this thread – is to kill it dead.

Dead as DVD

He's right about zen, which is a state of mind rather than drivetrain. And variety has good claim to being the spice of life.

spice rack may not be suitable for the workplace

Curvy, but still bait-and-switch. Let's try another image search.

Mel B outsources her self-exam.
When I went singlespeed (it may or may not have been circa 2008), the hills around NACF HQ suddenly became much more interesting, and have stayed that way. Wisdom is knowing how far to take it and taking it no farther... or further, which relates to figurative distance, because chances are you aren't going to want to go a hell of a lot farther on fixed.

Yes, I realise people have ridden them around the world. People have also run marathons with fridges and other white goods on their back. Your point?

The nub of the issue is that pedalling everywhere, all the time, goes beyond gloriously absurd: it's Lovecraftian horror. Maybe not so much unknowable, but incomprehensible, and yes, madness. Would you date a madman or madam just to "spice things up"?

Actually a dick pic. Thank Christ you wouldn't know it.

Fixiephobia is hardwired into us. Mess with nature's order and you risk losing your grip on reality entirely.

I've been acquainted with hardcore fixie riders. One or two have been lovely people; you'd not have an inkling anything was amiss. However, most have been tragically lost to an idée fixe. It may as well be a black hole, the worst kind of singularity. The only escape is to not go there in the first place. You have been warned.

Where we're going we don't need gears
Eyes still come in handy. Just don't look at too many ugly bikes.



  • London's hard-boiled black'n'white sweetie
Re: Fakie
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2021 »

"Pedalling backwards allowed the riders to transition into more tricks and stunts over obstacles, against walls and down half and quarter-pipes. As with skateboarding and surfing, they bent the laws of physics to perform awe-inspiring stunts."


Back to the future
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2021 »
If it’s the gateway to bending the laws of physics I may have to reconsider. There could still be hope for freewheelers who want in on the action:

The transplanted hub in my Langster is the closest I've come to BMX.

The closest I get to going backwards is when riding somewhere and taking the same route home. Science says there's a better way. If I'm interpreting this right, forwards has reached an evolutionary dead end.

Of course, there's riding backwards, and there's riding backwards. (For anyone else who's impatient, the action doesn't start until 1.08)

I once found to my astonishment that I can ice skate 𐐒ɒɔʞwɒɿbƨ. This is a skill which unfortunately has little application in everyday life. Jayne Torvill lives down the road, must pop in and ask her how often she finds herself in reverse gear.


  • London's hard-boiled black'n'white sweetie
Re: Freewheeling Manifesto
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2021 »
Fank you fer postin these radical videos.

I must apolergise fer stickin my nose inter the subjec ov cyclerin as I av not got much clue about it really. I fink my research assistant as got too big fer er Jimmies wiv this one. The one time she tried one ov them fixies on a BMX she nearly came a cropper which is not surprisin. She didn't bend enny laws ov fissicks wotsoever an wos probly lucky not ter break er ankles.

London as a lot ov fixies an unfruitunately she says they even undertake er on the wrong side ov er dorky bike. We ope 'live an let live' will become the motto ov the future.


Live and let lie
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2021 »
We ope 'live an let live' will become the motto ov the future.

Generally I’m with you, but it’s difficult to envisage this thread carrying on in such a vein. Of course, I wish no harm to the riders themselves; merely that they meditate and let the truth wash over them. If only I could be there when their eyes widen in enlightenment!

I got in touch with Matthew, who replied “Fixies are indeed dumb but also lovable.” This reminds me of standardized tests as a student, when questions might come in the form of choosing that which was not like the others.

Which of these cannot be described as lovable?

Do you even have to click to see the answer?
Almost a trick question – what's not to love about Phil Wood? some will wail.


No going back
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2021 »
Crossposted from [checks watch] 2010.

Recently I went into a bike shop to escape the zombie apocalypse kill time, and saw something titanium and bike-shaped for sale. This triggered my salivary glands, as I have a ti fetish due to its high strength-to-weight ratio and the fact that basically I like shiny things.

One of the first qualities I look for in a bike is how easy it will be to scrape off the decals. It's hardly a deal breaker, but it does put me in a happier 'spendier' place. This passes the fingernail test. (Next time you see a bike in a shop with a tiny bit of the decal turned up, blame me.) Then my eyes slide down to the drivetrain.

It's got gears.

Since going single I've come to regard derailleurs almost as cancerous growths. This is entirely unfair: multiple gears are wonderful, I would almost go so far as to say miraculous. But at some point in the last few years my brain has quietly rewired itself and now regards singlespeed as the natural order.

I look at the vertical dropouts and think, OK, I'll just find the magic gear. First I've got to strip off all those superfluous Ultegra bits. Pity.

It's a pleasantly absurd train of thought, not least when contemplating the logistics of organising a new identity and plastic surgery after my wife sees the credit card statement, so I say goodbye to the bike which can't possibly know how over-specced it is and carry on my way, still drooling slightly.