Lincolnshire bridlepaths (Viking Way)

Being a bit cheeky here, but this is a video of my fixed gear road bike on some of the bridlepaths I normally ride on my KH36. I’ve had back problems for the last few weeks so I’ve been a bit cautious about mounting the big wheel uni. Fixed gear offers some of the same challenges as unicycling: you have to pedal all the time, uphill or down, watch out for pedal strikes, and everyone categorises you based on their preconceptions.

I ran across a single speed bike rider in the canyon. Then, over the course of a couple months, I ran across him a few more times. His bike was not a fixie. Nevertheless, he was definitely an outlier in terms of his tastes. Regular bike riding focuses on maintaining a somewhat fixed, optimum cadence and resistance level, achieved by changing gears. The single speed, on the other hand, required different techniques and states of exertion for different conditions. BTW, there are a lot of hills where I live. Anyway, this probably comes as no surprise, but the guy said he was interested in unicycling. I lent him a Sun 20" I picked up used for $20. I ran into him several weeks later, and he said he was making progress, but his major concern was falling backwards. I demonstrated some techniques on the grass and suggested he try the same for added safety.

One of my neighbors was a fixie rider. I asked him about stopping, and he explained something about stomping on the pedals, locking the wheel and going into a controlled slide. I went to college in Bloomington Indiana, home of the “Little 500” bike race. A pal of mine had a track bike. I borrowed it one day and ended up getting in a head-on collision with a immovable object. I was completely okay; in fact, I stayed on the bike during the accident. But I taco-ed the front wheel, and some friends nearby told me they thought someone shot off a gun; the crash was that loud. I didn’t know how to stop…

  1. Well done for spreading the gospel. Every time I get genuine interest from someone, I like to give them a chance to try unicycling. It is a wonderful and varied sport.

  2. Aha! The difference between a “fixed wheel” (UK traditional term) or “fixed gear” (US and recently the UK!) and a “fixie” is that "fixie is often used to denote a fixed wheel/gear bike used as a fashion statement. You get extra man points for not having brakes — and, yes, it is possible to stop by skidding. Eventually.

Funny thing is, the motor industry spent millions of Dollars developing ABS because basic science says that a skidding tyre will take longer to stop you than a tyre that retains its grip on the road.

In the UK, it is a legal requirement to have at least a front brake on a fixed wheel bike. The front brake does most of the work of stopping a bike. A year or so ago, a young man from London went to prison after he killed a pedestrian because he was unable to stop in time without brakes. I feel sorrier for the family of the woman who died.

That aside, I’d rather replace my brake blocks every few thousand miles than my back tyre every few weeks. My fixed wheel bike has two brakes. (My unis have none because they are low-geared and therefore easy to stop under control.)