Fixies / Singlespeed bikes
Fixed-gear bikes are minimalist in every sense. There is only one gear, and the rear cog is bolted directly to the back wheel — which means no coasting. There are no levers or toggles, and, often, no brakes or just a front brake.
Because there is no freewheel (the mechanism that lets most bikes coast), the pedals spin whenever the wheel is spinning. Riders regulate their speed by using their legs and resisting the forward momentum to slow the bike. There is no back-pedal assisted coaster brake like the ones found on a beach cruiser. In order to stop quickly, riders must shift their weight off the back wheel and lock their legs, causing the back tire to skid.
Fixed-gears are nothing new. The first modern bicycle was a fixed-gear, the heir to the famous “high wheel” bicycle in the late 19th century. They fell out of favour for general use with the invention of freewheels, handbrakes and derailleurs.
The bikes continued to thrive in track racing, where their lightness and speed were ideal for the indoor competitions. As a result of this utilisation, fixed-gears are often referred to as track bikes. However, while track bikes do have fixed gears, not all fixed-gears are track bikes. As the scene gained popularity, riders began converting their old road bike frames into fixies.
Working on fixed-gears has become a natural hobby for people who are already passionate about bikes.
There is a general consensus, however, that the revival started within the bike messenger scene in New York City. The lack of parts to repair or be stolen appealed to the urban warriors.
Somewhere in the mid- to late ’90s, the message was communicated through the appropriate channels and West Coast bike messengers began to test their mettle on the steep hills of San Francisco. The San Francisco riders started to push the limits of their machines and began to shift the focus from utility to style.
These daring riders began to use their bikes for tricks. Stunts like track-stands, bar-spins and skidding the bike while lighting a cigarette were all conquered in addition to the requisite bombing of hills and riding at great speed through seemingly impenetrable gaps in cars.
And like any good subculture in the age of YouTube, participants posted their exploits online for all to see and emulate.
It took off from there. In many respects, fixies have become what the skateboard was in the ’90s: an extreme-sport subculture that quickly made the leap toward the mainstream. Riding a fixie has become the definition of hip. Add some tight jeans — preferably black — a messenger bag and a vintage cycling cap, and you’ve reached the apex of cool.
Like any fad, the fixie trend has its fair share of critics. Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding the trend is safety, especially in the case of riders who choose to forgo brakes.
Since riders can slow the bike with their legs, brakes are not entirely necessary on a fixed-gear and many riders choose to ride without them because of a purist sentiment or a desire to seem riskier and perhaps cooler.
More info can be found on the ever helpful wikipedia
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