Introducing Bloodbear, my 1972 Raleigh Super Course Fixie
In yesterday’s blog I talked a bit about the vintage 1972 Raleigh Super Course bike I picked up, which has been converted to a fixie. A lot of my friends ride fixies, but this is my first one.
Today’s blog is mostly going to be a photo gallery, but before I dive into that I wanted to answer the questions that I received in response to yesterday’s blog.
One obvious question is, “If the bike doesn’t have brakes, how on Earth do you stop it?” There are a few methods of stopping a brakeless fixie:
– The most basic way to slow a fixie with no brakes is to resist the pedals, which are always turning when the bike is in motion. This technique will allow you to reduce your speed, but it’s not going happen quickly.
I said in yesterday’s blog that I was undecided about adding a brake. I’ve now decided, and I will be adding a front brake (a rear brake on a fixie isn’t really needed). Having a brake is much safer, especially in a group ride situation, and I really don’t want to be eating up tires for no reason.
Another question–and a good one–is “Why would you NOT want to be able to coast”?
There are a lot of reasons why fixies are great (but not for everyone). Here are a few:
– The incredible workout. Getting up to speed from a stop with just one gear takes MUSCLE and POWER. Hitting hills with just one gear is HARD. Not being able to coast, rest your legs or stand and stretch at any point is BRUTAL. Think about this: after battling your way up a hill (and doing so with a single gear), while everyone else is spinning out their big ring and going aero for a nice fast coasting decent, fixie riders have no choice but to keep pedaling. And not just pedaling–generally pedaling insanely fast (140-150+ RPM) since there is no gear choice.
– Simplicity. Fixes really are the purest form of cycling. It’s just you, the bike and the road (or trail). No gears to worry about, no derailleurs, very few things to break or go wrong, no freewheel and, often, no brakes. Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable riding without a brake, but it seems downright stupid to do so before I have mastered the required skills.
– Become a better cyclist. Learning to tame one of these beasts takes practice and skill. Fixie riders are forced to pedal at a very wide range of cadences, and they are often riding way outside their comfort zones.
Easier isn’t always better. Challenges are what makes life interesting.
I love this little snippet from Stephen Regenold, who is editor of GearJunkie:
The first time I rode a fixie, in 2006, it nearly killed me. My legs locked in motion with the wheels, I built some speed to crest a rise.
On top, I gazed ahead down the hill, and started to descend. In an old habit I stopped pedaling and attempted to coast. Bad move. My cranks bucked sharply and the bike swerved, the pedals forcing my feet in circles as the frame cut air on the steep downhill.
The machine was alive! This horse wanted to run, and I wasn’t about to stop it. I felt a rush, the intoxication of riding on the back of something wild, a little dangerous and, most of all just plain fast and fun.
I bought this vintage fixie for fun social rides with my friends. My Madone is still my go-to speed machine, and that won’t be changing any time soon. However, if the fixie bug bites–and I expect that it will–I will probably add a fast racing fixie to my stable at some point. In fact, my friend Roger Sutton has a Jamis Xenith Team carbon frame that he’s offered to sell me just for this purpose.
Anyway, I hope that answers your questions. If you have any more, just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Here’s a gallery of pictures I took last night. While I was working on the bike, her name came to me. Introducing “Bloodbear” (click any image to enlarge):