April 29, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Pierce Sullivan
From unicycles to rollerblades to bikes with motors fabricated onto them, Colorado College students seem to have a knack for pushing the envelope when it comes to campus transportation. Recently, a new wheeled machine has been gaining traction on the paths of campus: the fixed-gear bike.
These rides, colloquially known as “fixies,” have a set gearing ratio and do not have a freehub on the back wheel. In other words, when the back-wheel moves, the pedals will move too. Coasting becomes impossible, and at high speeds the rider’s legs will be spinning fast.
Another quirk of these bikes is that they can be safely run without brakes. Or at least relatively safely that is. Due to the fixed gearing, a rider is able to slow down or stop by simply applying backwards force on the spinning pedals. A sharp reversal of the pedals can even allow a rider to skid a fixie.
Although they are rather niche, the rise of these bikes only seems natural at CC. Not only does the school have a vibrant bike culture, but Colorado Springs is home to one of the three indoor velodromes in the U.S. The track racing bikes used in velodromes are also fixed gear, so there is an abundance of used parts in the Colorado Springs area.
George Beck ’25 is an avid proponent of the fixie lifestyle. Beck describes how he loves the speed and style of these unique campus cruisers. He also noted the “unreal sense of superiority you feel when you tell people there are no brakes.”
Another fixie rider at CC, Nathaniel Cutler ’25, has been on board with these bikes for a while. Cutler believes that the fixie community, which has taken on a rather culty flavor, is still very inclusive and unique. While walking his fixie to a shop in his hometown of New York City after snapping his chain, Cutler was approached by another fixie rider, who offered to push Cutler on his bike all the way to his destination. Unable to pedal, Cutler was pushed along by this fellow fixie rider for 30 blocks.
The fixie community brings people together, regardless of background or status. The funky personality of these bikes can bond people in a way a skateboard never could. Although they easily fly under the radar, these bikes do broadcast a message to those on the lookout.
When asked about their fixies, both Cutler and Beck brought up the benefits of bikes as transportation, regardless of the gearing. Bikes are remarkably efficient machines, turning 98.6% of human power into motion, compared to roughly 65% while walking. Fixies only augment the benefits of riding a bike, with more reliability and a lot more fun.
This phenomenon has been spreading through CC like wildfire. They seem to strike the perfect balance of fun and practicality. I personally picked up a fixie on Facebook Marketplace for a shockingly low price, and it proved to be one of my better purchases. Cheap, practical and oozing style, the fixie checks all the boxes.
At CC, a person’s preferred method of campus transportation has become a primary way of telling the world who they are. When asked to describe their impressions of fixies in one word, CC riders’ responses ranged from “1000 cool,” to “la petite mort.” It is clear why fixies have been gaining such a presence amongst students at CC. They are practical, cheap, and a great way of setting yourself apart in a world of skateboards and foot traffic.
Beck summed up the fixie appeal perfectly: “Fixies are the most fun thing. Period.”