However, some time ago I wrote about a fixed-gear meth lab in Brooklyn, and this Craigslist post from a dissatisfied customer perfectly illustrates what happens when a slipshod mechanic and an ignorant fashion victim collide without airbags:
RE: "Once You Ride Track You Never Go Back" DO NOT BUY! - $1 [Original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/398741324.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2007-08-16, 5:23PM EDT
If you're thinking of buying a fixie and want to get one cheap, you may have noticed the seller posting "Once You Ride Track You Never Go Back." She sells converted road bikes out of her apartment in Brooklyn, and while her prices seem reasonable - when a good track bike / fixed gear runs around $500+ - there's a reason for the bargain: she sells absolute shit and knows it! Let me explain why buying from this person is a bad idea; hopefully to save the next poor newbie from losing a couple hundred bucks:
Firstly, let me explain that I, myself, bought a $200 converted road bike from her one evening after falling in love with it: my first tour around the block on a fixed gear blinded my investigation of the bike. Knowing what the going rate for a fixie was, I thought it was best to pick up this steal of a deal. Bike felt pretty fine when I got it, and I used to ride BMX, so I figured any bike mechanic duties I'd have to handle would be simple - as she told me, the bike will need routine maintenance like any, but it was 100% ready to go. Cool!
So, now for the downward spiral of bullshit. A week later, I'm coming up on Delancy Street at a good rate of speed, begin to slow down a bit by putting resistance on my pedal rotation, and "crack!" -- off shoots a pedal. Apparently, the shitty aluminum crank arm the bike came with was stripped pretty good, and my brisk riding ate the last thread off the arm. Thankfully I wasn't flattened on Delancy that night, but daaaamn was I pissed. So, I call her -- no call back. I call again from a different number a couple days later, she picks up. "Ohh, bring it by and I'll take a look at it." Ok, no. Not coming back to you're dungeon of an apartment for some more shitty parts - that's where i thought I'd cut my losses. I started doing research on bikes, rode more, did more research, rode more, etc. I replaced my crank arms, swapped out my bars, painted it, etc. I did, however, keep the wheels she gave me -- I wanted to get a new set, but funds were tight, etc. Anyhow, I'm out last weekend and pull an easy skid and feel my cog slip -- kind of a typical issue; assumed I needed to tighten my lockring. Well, turns out my lockring was perfectly tight, but not only that - it won't move at all. And I'm a pretty strong dude - the lockring feels like it's welded or something!! Well, surprise: It is! This moron know-nothing welded the lockring to the hub, as well as the track cog. Apparently, the weld job she did on the cog came undone and slid on the hub, stripping the threading on the hub behind a welded lockring. Can't get in there to fully investigate because, like I said, the damn lockring is welded on! Buy new wheels? Maybe. But a new wheelset will probably run me over $200, and I don't have the cash for that right now because I need to replace...oh right, the OTHER PROBLEM...
If the wheel issue wasn't enough, the headset on the bike is missing bearings and the main threading for the headset is mildly stripped as well, so it gets the shimmies every now and then when it loosens up. Such a bad look. I need to replace that too...
But...I wont. I'm cutting my own losses and deciding to save the rest of you from such an terrible CL'er. I'm in the process of building my own Cannondale the way I want, and doing it the right way. Hell, if I took any mechanic cues from the broad I bought my bike from, I'd be eating pavement by now for sure.
If I remember correctly, she lives somewhere off of Taafe -- if you show up to a loft with a big steel door and no AC, be sure to turn your ass around and run. If not only because she's sweaty and has a shitty tattoo, run because she'll waste your time trying to rip you off while chain-smoking American Spirits. You're better off on foot than on one of her bikes. Remember, folks: a monkey wrench is not a bike tool.
Do some research, ride a friend's bike, know what fixed gears are, and be something of an able mechanic if you plan on getting into the whole track bike thing. I love them, but not without a sad history of 1000 frustrations. DO NOT BUY A FIXED GEAR FROM THIS GIRL!! SHE LIVES OFF TAAFE: STAY AWAY!
This is one exciting narrative! If anybody out there works in the film industry I suggest buying the rights to this guy's story, since "Flattened On Delancey" sounds like the action/adventure/comedy "Rush Hour" type film we cyclists have been waiting for. (I'm thinking Johnny Knoxville as the hapless cyclist whose crank arm falls off on his way to the Williamsburg Bridge, causing him to lowside and skid 40 feet under a truck in a shower of sparks with a cheap Sakae crank arm still strapped to his Chuck Taylor.) Not to be too harsh on the victim here, but come on--this guy's "pulling skids" without ever having even once looked at his cog, which he only discovers was welded on after it starts slipping. (Yes, the mechanic is certainly a "moron know-nothing," but the rider's not exactly Peter Chisholm of Vecchio's either.) There's just something pathetic about riding around town on a ripoff conversion that's gradually falling apart like the Wagon Queen Family Truckster in "National Lampoon's Vacation."
But I suppose that's the consequence of something becoming this trendy; people who haven't been on a bike since they were 12 are now trying to gain entree into the exciting, color-coordinated, and fun-to-accessorize world of urban fixed-gear riding as cheaply as possible and without doing due diligence. Certainly the mechanic's a big part of the problem, but the rider is just as much to blame--at this point the fad has spread so far that even kids in trailer parks have learned enough about fixed gears to keep their own bikes from falling apart.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying fixed gear riding should be the exclusive domain of seasoned cyclists. Far from it. It drives me crazy when people talk about the special skills you need to ride a fixed gear. (Uh, it's the same as riding a regular bike except your feet keep moving.) At the same time, though, there is more to riding a fixed gear (or any bike) than following what seem to be the Three Commandments of Fixed Gear Riding: 1) Thou Shalt Have Thine Keys Exposed At All Times; 2) Thou Shalt Not Tape Thine Bars; and 3) A Helmet's Okay, But A Brake Is Gay.