no one line


A Note on Terminology
October 20, 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: bikes, fixed gears, the cycling world, track bikes

In the interest of linguistic precision, I support a slightly anal retentive delineation between fixed gears and track bikes. It’s a squares-and-rectangles situation: all track bikes are fixed gears, but not all fixed gears are track bikes. However, I liberally salt the earth of this fertile metaphor with the point that some track bikes are not track bikes, but fixed gears.

My old everyday IRO was a fixed gear, though it was built with a track frame. With flat handlebars and a brake, it would be difficult to confuse it with my track bike.

Fixed gears have a long and glorious history that has little to do with velodromes – Dave Moulton writes about the days of British time trialling, with riders using fixed gears. And of course, an old European racer’s winter training routine was simple: ride 2000 kilometers in a fixed gear, geared between 60 and 70 inches.

What all of this means is that it’s okay to refer to your fixed gear commuter, your every day bike, as a fixed gear, not as a track bike. More importantly, it’s okay to build fixed gear bikes that are not track bikes. It’s okay to forego steep angles, tight tire clearances, brakelessness, and high gears in favor of road geometry, provisions for fenders, road handlebars with one or two brakes, and a sense that yes, fixed gears can be exciting and cool without pretending to be track bikes.

A few years ago, when riser bars became de rigeur, the fixed gear trend took another step away from track bike purism – a mistake if ever there was one – and inched toward practicality. That said, I’ve sold my every day fixed gear, basemented my track racing bike, and the only fixed gear that I’ve got is currently one of these track bike bastards, my lovely Pogliaghi, equipped with clips and straps for around-town riding.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

AMEN.

(And nice to know another member of the Felt family.)

Comment by KFuller

Did you just get a question published by Joe Parkin? Nice.

Comment by Karl

[…] I found some REALLY nice mud to play in up here. 1 day ago The Artifice of a Derailleur October 28, 2009, 11:51 pm Filed under: bikes, fixed gears, fun For the first time in years, I have more geared bikes than fixed gear bikes. The ratio swung quite recently from 1:3 to 4:3, not because I acquired three geared bikes, but rather, I acquired one, sold a fixed gear, and mothballed another (giving it “half a bike status”), giving me two geared bikes and one and a half track bikes – when, yes, are track bikes according to my terminological standards. […]

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