Tag Archives: Oakridge

A New Fixation, Part III

[NOTE: The ongoing saga of Raz and the fixed gear tikit continue.]

Back at the office, my goal is clear.

Time to corner Walter. He’s the fixie dude. He’ll fill me in.

What, I ask, is the essence of the fixie?

Walter drops the basics on me. Stuff I’ve heard before. Low or no maintenance. Simplicity. Some people think it’s cool. Blah, blah, blah.

None of it registers with me. No, there’s something more at work here. I know. I felt it. I lived it.

Then he ventures into that realm.

For some, Walter says, it’s the connection. The pure connection. You and the bike. Nothing else.

Cha-ching.

Maybe more like I-ching.

I sit back down and dabble with some work. But my mind is elsewhere. That’s it. Or something like it. There’s something else going on here. Something beyond gears and pedals.

I take it home for my commute. Suddenly I’m taking a different route, without even thinking about it. I’m slipping in and out of some sort of zone.

I know, it sounds crazy. It feels just as crazy.

It’s the same feeling that has me at the base of the real Bailey Hill the next day at lunch.

Whoa. Now that’s a hill. No wonder Chris raised two eyebrows when I told him the other day I rode up Bailey Hill. I didn’t want to disappoint him and clarify which hill or which part I rode.

Here we go. Can we do this?

Wait. We? No, bike riding is about me. Can I do it, right?

Not today. It’s a collective effort. At the top it’s collective exhaustion and admiration. Don’t ask how I know. I just know.

And, I know whether or not I give this bike back, something has changed.

Way, way, down inside.

Something feels so right.

Not that it felt wrong before.

But now, it’s right.

It’s, I don’t know, maybe it’s fixed.

 

A New Fixation, Part II

[NOTE: When we last left Raz, he had spent his first 20 minutes ridin a fixed gear tikit around the neighborhood, and decided to take it home for the night.]

In the darkness of a cold Oregon night.

Through the city.

Onto the bike path.

Over the river.

Sorry Grandma, no woods.

Onward on my fixie. Usually, by the time I get home, after a day at work, I’m not all that interested in rolling on. This time, I didn’t want to get off my bike. But I had to.

My legs proclaimed that if we keep this up, they’ll be buff beyond recognition in SF. They’ll be calling out the hills. They’ll be calling out anyone. Bring it on.

I slept on it.

Then I rode the fixie back to work in the morning, understanding the nuances of addiction much, much more intimately than 24 hours ago.

It’s the kind of bike that you expect to see after someone interrupts you in a back alley with, “Pssssst. Come here. I’ve got something to show you.”

That becomes one of those moments you rerun over and over in your head. Why did I look? That’s the way I’m starting to feel. I knew better. Really I did.

Part of me wanted to run away screaming at the mere thought of a fixie. I’m just not a fixie type. Just like I’m not a suit-and-tie guy. Or a BMer dude. But I didn’t listen to those instincts.

Next thing you know, I’m spending lunch on my fixie. The early rise of Bailey Hill Road was a test, but a real test would be something like Skinner Butte in town. Sure, it’s not climbing Mount Evans. Or Washington. Or Hood. But it’ll get your heart rate up, and it’s urban. Let’s not forget the tikit is primarily a commuter bike.

Next thing you know, I’m huffing up Skinner Butte, on a wonderful sunny day in Oregon. At the top, I can see the snow-covered peaks of the Sisters in the distance. It feels like something cosmic is happening. I attribute it to lack of oxygen and head back toward work.

On my way down, though, I find myself playing a game. How long can I go without touching that brake? Going pure fixie, you know?

Seriously, the answer is not very long. This has to be an acquired taste, or talent.

When I get back to city cruising, I find my hands ignoring the brakes with an air of bravado. I know these challenges begin in the head, but at this point, my head is enjoying a front-row seat in this game of chicken between my hands and my legs.

Sick. I know. Totally sick.

The rest of the way back, my speed is up, down and all around. It’s like I’m clicking through my gears, seeing what’s right for me. Only there are no gears. It’s just me and the fixie. And we have a lot to learn about each other.

What’s this mean for my future? I’m not certain. I just know it will involve shaking legs.

Stay tuned.

A New Fixation

I spent most of one summer of my youth riding a fixed gear, of sorts. It was a unicycle.

Fixed gear on two wheels?

Not so much.

I’m not a fixie type.

Oh, I took one of the U.S. Cycling Federation Project ’96 Super Bikes for a spin once, back when I spent my time chasing around the likes of Marty Nothstein, Mike McCarthy and the Carney brothers before the Atlanta Olympics.

I was smart enough to know my limits. Didn’t dare attempt a whirl around the banked turns of a velodrome. Rolled it safely to a stop, much to the relief of the officials watching as they held their breath. People get nervous when they lend a $10K bike to someone without a USCF license.

Earlier this year, we got a rather famous fixed gear tikit back from one of our highly acclaimed clients. It arrived just in time. I needed to take a tikit down to the Bay Area.

The question was, do I dare venture forth on a fixed gear?

When the orange one-way tikit arrived from service, all tuned up, at my desk, I had no choice but to bolt outside and see what’s up. Even though I had a meeting in 20 minutes. Hey, that’s why I work for a bike company, right?

I’ve heard a lot about fixies. The whole bike messenger craze. It’s the “in” thing in the city.

But I’ve never heard anyone really come out and say, definitively and simplistically: Whoa, this is why I ride a fixie when I’m not chasing Olympic medals around the velodrome.

At least not with any argument that made sense to me.

I’ve just been left with my imagination to figure it out. Without much time on one, it’s been more than a difficult task.

So I hit the Fern Ridge Bike Path outback.

Interesting feel. Solid, more than anything, describes the sense I get riding it.

Then again, I’m tooling alongside a creek. What about climbing? There will be climbing in San Francisco.

I headed up Bailey Hill Road. Not the most extreme hill in these parts, but a hill, and close.

[I should note here that I didn’t ride up Bailey Hill proper, which is a serious test. With just a few minutes to steal for myself, I just rode up the road called Bailey Hill Road.]

This is where life on a fixie departs from cycling as we know it. It’s when you understand the true derivation of the phrase “track stand.”

It’s when you wonder since you barely can perform a track stand and look coolio at the stoplight if there’s any chance you can do that whenever gravity forces you to surrender your ascent. Which should happen pretty soon.

On occasion, I’ll try to crank it up a hill in a gear like this. When no one’s watching. When I can cry in peace and solitude.

I remember a key change in Lance Armstrong’s arsenal a few years back early in his Tour de France run when he focused on staying in the saddle on climbs as long as possible. It’s a great tactic for a time like this. Don’t get ahead of myself.

As the momentum slows and the muscles burn, the question becomes if, not when, to stand on those pedals.

Luckily, the grade eased. I made it up seated, still rolling straight — the only wobble coming from my shaking leg muscles, not the balance of the bike.

Simple. That was the sensation.

So, I thought, that’s what fixies are like on a hill. Not all that much of a revelation.

Then, I turned around.

At that point, you understand that you cannot coast at any time on a descent.

I don’t know about most people, but for me, the thought of taking my feet off the pedals for the descent conjures up the image of pedals and cranks becoming industrial strength meat grinders. And bone grinders.

That’s when I learn that the shaking leg muscles are only halfway into their full fixie form of expression. My head begins to spin at the same cadence as my legs. Strange. Very strange.

By the time I got back for my meeting, the sensation of conquest took total control of my mind. I’m not sure what this is all about. I’m just sure that, in a bizarre way, I like it.

The fixie earned a commute home. Stay tuned.

The ultimate test

I had been bopping around town with my Pocket Llama, lovin’ life.

I gravitated to the Llama because I used to ride my mountain bike all the time.

Yes, I was one of those who rode my dual-suspension mountain bike on the road as much as off. That’s because I call it my comfort bike. That’s code for just loving it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do ride trails. You have to if you live in Oregon. We have some of the sweetest mountain bike trails in the U.S. Just another reason for you to put Eugene on your vacation map.

Now, I have to be honest. I had been itching to take the Pocket Llama onto the trails. We bill the Llama as a mountain bike. As the new guy around (I started in October), I still had plenty to learn.

So, the Llama had some serious standards to live up to.

The Middle Fork Trail isn’t the most technical around. Many of our trails in Oregon are pretty smooth. Sure, there are rocks and roots. But no outta control challenges here.

It’s a rolling trail.

Lots of ups and downs.

It’s a fast trail.

A fun trail.

But not fun if you can’t keep your bike under control.

So here’s my disclaimer. I’d have to rate my mountain bike skills as intermediate at best. I never raced BMX. I have no advantage with small wheels.

And it’s Bike Friday’s small wheels that grab most people’s attention.

I could easily see myself pole vaulting a lot on a trail. Fear that small wheel would dig in.

I hit the trail with apprehension. Careful at first. But in a matter of seconds, I realized a couple of quick adjustments I had to make.

My trusty black lab Ridgely loves the trails of Oregon.