Thursday, January 3, 2008

Something to Ponder: Is there a fixed-gear cutoff?

It was officially cold in New York this morning--11 degrees according to the thermometer by the Brooklyn Bridge:



Or, if you're Canadian, European, or pretentious, -12 Celsius.


Of course I realize that not everybody considers this cold. We know all about the extreme temperatures in the Rockies, which fluctuate like a Pro Tour rider's hematocrit. And we're all too familiar with the Bunyanesque tall tales of riders in places like Minnesota who boast that commuting to work in 27 inches of snow is commonplace, and who, when the mercury starts seductively tickling the freezing point's undercarriage, consider it time to take off their arm warmers and bask in the rays of the sun and their own feelings of superiority.

Nonetheless, I feel it's safe to say that 11 degrees is pretty cold. I have a three-point system for determining when it is officially cold outside, and this morning satisfied all three of my conditions:

1) You have difficulty pronouncing words with more than one syllable (the Novocaine Effect)
2) Wiping your runny nose is painfully abrasive (the Frozen Glove Mucus Effect)
3) You cannot differentiate between wind chill- and saddle-induced crotchal numbness (the Genital Numbness Ambiguity Effect)

Now, I’m not one to brag about riding in the cold, nor am I one to criticize those who choose not to subject themselves to it. For each one of us, there’s a point at which cycling goes from enjoyable to unpleasant, and the Universe does not award points for suffering—if it did, anybody who’s ever listened to Ben Folds or watched Bike TV on NYC public access would ascend straight to Nirvana. And if you are riding in the cold, not everybody’s impressed. While some people see a dedicated cyclist braving adverse conditions, others see a frostbitten moron who didn’t have the sense to shell out two bucks for the subway and who’s going to spend the bulk of his day waiting for sensation to return to his extremities.

Still, though, I would have expected to see at least one fixed-gear rider this morning. Instead, it was as though I had stepped into an alternate dimension in which the entire fixed-gear phenomenon never happened. And not only did I not see any fixed-gear riders, but I didn’t even see any of the usual locked-up fixed-gears that have become part of my commuting landscape. The green bikesdirect.com Mercier in front of Saatchi & Saatchi; the pink and white brakeless conversion in front of the gym; even the diminutive, de-decaled chrome Pista in front of the cafe; all gone! In fact, when I entered the URL for fixedgeargallery.com, I half-expected the site to be gone as well. (Fortunately for lovers of brakeless rattletraps everywhere, it was still there, in all it’s craptastic glory.) The only bike I see on the street every day that was still there was this one:




Then again, when you pay for Dura Ace, you ride every day. You gotta get your money’s worth!


The illusion of a post-fixed-gear Apocalyptic world was finally shattered when I saw someone walking with a fixed-gear. I was uncertain if he was walking due to an aversion to the cold or a mechanical problem, and I must confess that I didn't stop to ask if he needed help. (I mean, it's cold out!) I did, however, slow and perform a visual inspection of the bicycle, and everything seemed to be in good working order. That should count for something.

Still, though, this eerie dearth of fixed-gears had me wondering if there is indeed a fixed-gear temperature cutoff--a point at which the environment becomes so inhospitable that these riders cannot ride. Certainly there weren't that many bicycles of any kind, but they were out there. I even saw a Beautiful Godzilla, who blithely ran a light and turned into oncoming traffic as comfortably and casually as if it had been a balmy spring morn. In any case, I shall continue to observe, and if such a cutoff does exist I shall attempt to quantify it.

So far it would appear that the cutoff is above 11 degrees.

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yesssssss!!!!!!!

Ka_Jun said...

Who farted?

Anonymous said...

You didn't see any FG riders because fashionistas are pussies.

Ka_Jun said...

Good capture of the Minnesotan "My skin only freezes at -10F and only then will I crack out some cold weather gear" self righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Woot 5th!

Winston said...

I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at 830 on my fixed gear this morning. Where were you, and where do I pick up my prize? My frame pad size is medium.

Xonuff said...

This thermometer goes to 11.

guero canadiense said...

-14 C in Toronto.
Fixed gear messengers and commuters still in evidence.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Winston,

Did you get a look at the temperature at 8:30? It is crucial in establishing the cutoff!

At 8:30 I was still cowering inside.

--BSNYC

Winston said...

The watchtower thermometer said 13F when I passed by. My face still hurts a little. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

woogie woogie

Luke said...

I rode a track bike to work today and my stomach hurt because I foolishly did without glove liners. Any points?

M. Weed said...

I bailed and rode the train this morning... but still saw one kid on a brakeless bike rolling by with a red bandana on his face, at about 8 mph. That was at 8:35am in Philly, and it was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

daddo.one said...

oh give me a break!

I'm a 42 year old man whose 23 year old girlfiend dumped him a week before christmas, it's 9 degrees here in Boston and I went for run last night...

...if I don't drive my red mustang to work THIS morning, when, I ask, should I?

Prolly said...

I rode in this morning. Still poppin' bunny hops up curbs and wheelies when the wind wasn't howling. Good gloves, a thick balaclava, glasses, wicking base layers and warm socks are the key to enjoying yourself on cold days.

All my friends rode in as well and we'll be at the Peel Sessions doing tricks and shit tonight. The riders you see every morning need to Harden the Fuck Up...

Fritz said...

Interesting. The only reason I own a fixed gear (a conversion) was because of cold weather riding.

Jim said...

I rock the fixed gear down to about 20 degrees, same as the roadbike, but then I'm a roadie who trains fixed a lot, which in the Fixed Gear World makes me sort of like a retrogrouch Tridentine rite Catholic among a bunch of guitar-strumming hippie Vatican II fans. Same religion, basically, but they think I'm hopeless and I feel they're faithless.

Speaking of non-riding in the cold, here's an impromptu poll - if your trainer was a person, a living human being - do you hate it bad enough that you would have no qualms about sending the little bastard to a North Korean gulag? If Troy Jacobson from Spinervals was standing in front of you, would you (1) denounce him to the secret police as a Very Bad Man; (2) slap his face and call him Mary; (3) tell him exactly what you think about his upbeat Tony Little-style rah-rah routine on Spinervals; or (4) start involuntarily pedaling your legs at 110 RPM and rise out of your saddle, in spite of the fact that you aren't on your bicycle? Last question: any idea when the government is going to do something to speed up this global warming stuff like they keep promising to do? This 10 degree weather crap sucks.

thefutureofamerica said...

Pussies.

I rolled out at 8 F yesterday into a 10 mph NW headwind here in St. Louis. I thought the bridge of my nose was going to disintegrate and I would have to maintain at least 20 mph for the rest of my life, or there would be inadeqaute g-forces to keep my brains from dribbling out onto my cheeks.

My mountain bike was rolling fixed about 5 minutes in when my shifters froze solid.

datamonkey said...

It was below freezing here in WY when I rode to work this morning, didn't see anybody else on a bike, but then again it was dark. Actually I don't think the fixed gear phenomenon has reached the equality state yet, most folks I see seem to have gears and brakes, but will keep you posted. I must be in the frozen moron category, but then again the subway doesn't run through here and the car hasn't started since Nov.

Colin R said...

Pussies.

I rode a century at -10 Kelvin today on my fixie wearing nothing but a head to toe layer of Greyhound Juice.

ufniahs said...

9 am
fuggin cold (-? C)
ny morning
3/4 of the way to work,
i almost swayed into a box truck
guy yelled at me for like 3 blocks
a s s hole
i think my brain froze in one of those "cold-air-osmosis-into-skull-thru-hatandhelmet-effect" situations
note to self - get warmer socks

ufniahs said...

i think using fixed gear is the only reason my brain activity didn't stop completely

Eric "Thrasher" Troili.. said...

Hey colin_r..

Did you ride your century on Pluto..? -10 degrees Kelvin converts to a pretentious -283.5 degrees Celcius.. Cool ride..!

I gotta get me some of that greyhound juice.. Must be awesome gear..

Anonymous said...

daddo.one: Your name wouldn't happen to be Cliff, would it?

Boz said...

Frznnnn bIIKE SObn Mn here. R de newyers day. -20 wind shll. FinGrs rnt' qite thaw-ed yet. It wuz Fun.

M. Weed said...

-10 Kelvin doesn't convert to anything, because negative Kelvin isn't possible, which Colin R. already knew anyway.

hobgoblin said...

I went on a training ride today--in other words a completely voluntary, not necessary to get to work ride. And it was 10 degrees here in western CT with 30 mph winds. I actually had to put it in the small ring to pedal down a hill because the wind gusts were so fierce.

This no doubt means I am the most studly of all and will destroy everyone in the Cat 4 crits this spring.

Or maybe not.

ptwnbkr said...

heh, i too rode my beautiful functional fixie in the arctic blast (sans bandana, top tube and balaclava, but plenty o' woolies) - saw only 3 other riders, one who stopped to do the foot shake, along the entire west side greenway.

Sprocketboy said...

Hey, Jim at 1:07--

this is probably the first joint reference on Bikesnob NYC to Tridentine Catholicism and Troy Jacobson. Suffering, it's all that matters...

And you DC people shouldn't complain about the lack of global warming--here in Ottawa it was -1F (or -23C on the Pretentious Scale) when I went to work this morning. In a car. Stop the insanity!

urchin said...

jim at 1:07PM--
nice ecclesiastical analogies, though I hope fixed gear riding doesn't really qualify as a religion, which would put me in hell for taking communion with both the geared and non-geared brethren after the schism. And if I get a three speed, am I a trinitarian? Whoo hoo, we could go on all day, but no one would get it.

fritz at 1:07pm--
I kind of favor the fixed when the going gets slippery too. No doubt the converted track bikes so in fashion (and so fun to read this site for observations of) would not be my choice, though.
I thought the Surly aesthetic, once you dig under the punk veneer, had something to do with fixies in snow.
Fatties fit fine...do they mean the tires or the rider? I'm getting a yes on both counts here.

Polygraf said...

My ipod stops working at around 30 WHY?, I stop working around this morning. I rode, I often do stupid things like leave in the darkish (7am), but I'm leaving work early to get home before dark to soak my ass before wifey gets home, I'm busting out the metrocard if its like this tom.

bikesgonewild said...

...i remember when i was a boy...

...we rode 20 miles to school every day, in deep snow, winter & summer, w/ no shoes n' socks using rat-trap pedals & metal toe clips...
...fixed gears ???...hah, there were no gears back then, you lucky whippersnappers...

...just reminiscin'...

jeremy said...

After being sick and off the bike for almost a week, I could not wait to go on a ride last night. Even more motivating, was that it was the first (and probably only time) I would get to break out my full-finger Pearl Izumi winter gloves this year. This was due to a record-breaking low we experienced in South Florida last night. (You should have heard the nightly news and their enthusiasm on reporting on the possibility of frost and the impending 39ยบ low.) I would have gone for that ride if I could get anyone to go with me.

Apparently the cut-off is greatly skewed in warmer climates.

commie canuk said...

bikesgonewild said...

...i remember when i was a boy...

...we rode 20 miles to school every day, in deep snow, winter & summer, w/ no shoes n' socks using rat-trap pedals & metal toe clips...
...fixed gears ???...hah, there were no gears back then, you lucky whippersnappers...

...just reminiscin'...

...At least you had pedals and toe clips Mr. Rockefeller. My daily ride to school was 40 miles in deep snow, we couldn't afford pedals, or even crank arms, so we spun the chainring with our bare feet.

At Christmas, we got a nice juicy onion.

Anonymous said...

i dont know what the problem with everyone here is

i ONLY rode my fixed during the ice age

Eric "Thrasher" Troili.. said...

No negative Kelvin.. Duh.. I'm an absolute zero..

Judi said...

So glad you are back BSNY! Stay warm!

leroy said...

BSNYC --

The thing about the fixed gear rapture is that the fixies return. Depending on your view, they return like Icarus after a warm up flight or like swallows to Capistrano. But they return.

My general rule of thumb is if the temperature will go above 20F at any time during the day, it's okay to ride.

I can always start a trash fire in my saddle bag and warm myself over that.

Illinoisfrank said...

Oh yeah, well my ride to school was uphill both ways into a headwind and, and, and, other stuff...so there.

Anonymous said...

maybe you didn't see any fixed gear riders because they are smart enough to not ride in a stupidity inducing 11 degrees. If you have ever made a case for the intelligence for FG riders this post is it. We were the only ones smart enough to take the subway and not freeze our inner thighs off.

Colin R said...

negative Kelvin isn't possible

When the embrocation wears off, and you realize you're nude and 50 miles from home, your nads will beg to differ.

Anonymous said...

hey cut us some slack, I just woke up. but it was 10 degrees out when i rode home from the bar at 6 in the morning.

Jim said...

Commie Canuck - Right. But you tell that to the kids of today, and they don't believe you.

Sprocketboy - if cycyling were a religion, roadies would be the guys walking by in brown robes, whacking their foreheads with boards and chanting "Pie Jesu Domine / Dona eis requiem" [THWACK]. In fact that is the prayer I say over my aching legs in between VO2 intervals, and I only hit myself in the forehead with a frame pump, not a board. But I totally relate.

Thor said...

"tall tales of riders in places like Minnesota"

Those aren't tall tales, they're just tales of the tall statuesque Scandinavians who happened to settle here, and who just happen to be a little tougher and maybe even a little better than everyone else.


10 degrees? in Minnesota that means it might be time to shave the beard. A little spring cleaning if you will.

gator joe said...

Zasu Pitts, you amateurs. It got to 30 degrees here in FLA today. We left the sprinklers running to freeze everything; had to chip the bikes out for our annual naked ride. Then, had to pour hot water on the seat to unstick my rear end. Big fun.

creepyunclescaresyourgirlfriend said...

Ok it was me. I farted.

Nigel Tufnel said...

xonuff 12:32 - Damn you, you beat me to it! I was supposed to get the "up to 11" joke!

Anonymous said...

Jim @ 107: "retrogrouch Tridentine rite Catholic"

Hey, I resemble that remark.

And a correction; saying Tridentine Catholics and Vatican 2 Hippie Catholics are the same is like saying FGs, Roadies, and Tri riders are the same since the frames are all shaped like two triangles.

Of course, that makes 'Bents and complex suspension frames the Protestants and Hindu of the bike cult.

bikesgonewild said...

...commie canuck...yer post & onions, they both make me cry...

Bnjmn said...

My creative zen stone does not work in the cold either.

It is not the cold that is an issue - it is the wind. It makes riding a single speed a joke at times. I was reduced to pedaling my brains out to maintain a 6mph pace up a hill in the Prospect Park bike loop yesterday.

Fewer single speeds because school is out? That is the case with me - no commuting to Manhattan until Jan 15.

mattH said...

Or, if you're Canadian, European, or pretentious, -12 Celsius.

I'm neither Canadian, European or pretentious. We use Celcius here in Australia because it MAKES SENSE.
0 Celcius, water freezes, 100 Celcius, water boils.
It's 29 Celcius here at the moment (that's about 84 F)

Andy Pandy said...

Before I worked out the vagaries of my Fizik saddle I used to suffer(mmmmmmm) frequent bouts of Genital Numbness Ambiguity Effect. Gave me a great insight into only what I can imagine it would be to be a member of the fairer sex. Perhaps androgynuity has its advantages.
PS Just a mild 42 dec C here ( 108 F) on the ride home the other day. Could not touch my tyres as they were unbearable

BicyclesOnly said...

I saw plenty of fixed-gears out there today. Here are two, including one guy with crew socks and his pants leg rolled up:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/2163438724/in/set-72157603606838436

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/2162636947/in/set-72157603606838436/

green army man said...

whats wrong w/ ben folds?

Kevin Jaeger said...

Good work, bicyclesonly. You managed to get a candid shot of snobby on his way in this morning. At first I thought he was the one on the nice Cannondale dressed in a skirt, but then I figured he must know better than to wear a skirt in this weather.

No, fer sure his bike is the one in this photo:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/2162633683/

His bike is the one on the right with the cable looped over the top of the handlebars.

brettok said...

I'd rather have my testicles cut off and fed to me than have to endure the torture of Ben Folds... in any temperature,

BikeSnobNYC said...

Bicyclesonly,

Great shots on your Flickr page. I was hoping to find myself on there! (I didn't.)

--BSNYC

dirtyonethirty said...

Way back in the pre-fad days of the fixie, cold weather was one of the main reasons to ride one. No worry of iced over braking surfaces or frozen freewheels. Also no locking up wheels on ice.

Thats the true test of how cold it is; is your freewheel frozen?

Kevin Jaeger said...

Great shots on your Flickr page. I was hoping to find myself on there! (I didn't.)

Don't believe the denials folks, he's just running off re-routing that brake cable, not thinking he'd ever get caught like that.

What I Think said...

Dear BSNYC -
It's the new year so I must renew my statements of adoration. The three point system? I love it. An "I Am Legend"-like world without fixies? Fabulous. There's no doubt about it, I love your blog.

joby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joby said...

its like that scene in transformers where they keep the robot immobilized by spraying it with liquid nitrogen. so if you ever get in a fight with a fixie kid just throw ice cubes at him or trick him into a meat locker and close the door on him. he'll wither up and die.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Here in Minneapolis I saw some bike commuters this morning, including one other fixie. It's easier to ride this way, dontchaknow?

the jinji said...

so, here in colorado, yesterday (as I beat my chest too) was 3 F at commute. I rode. Today, 47 degrees. . . also F. Still rode. yeah, I'm sweet. Tomorrow, likely 55 at commute time. Monday, probably 15-20.

workhorse6 said...

rookies.

CrankyCyclist said...

A bit stale, this, but perhaps relevant: http://www.icebike.org

Mark February 24 on your calendar ...

BicyclesOnly said...

Thanks Snob! This is like a big-game hunt . . . I'll just keep taking commuter shots one of these days the Snob will be unmasked.

JackH said...

Looking at the chain of that Dura Ace Chopper it looks like it has been there since the last Ice Age.

Why is it that fixies say they have them for winter riding because of low-maintenance etc. but then when it comes to winter, never ride them? Perhaps those hoodies aren't as warm as they thought they were.

3ZKL said...

everyone who you usually see on a fixed gear riding to work in the morning was obviously working their internet job from home. . .WHILE RIDING ON THE NEW & SLIGHTLY DISCOUNTED NASHBAR ROLLERS SANTA BROUGHT THEM FOR XMAS.

Young jzZi said...

Ha, up here in the freezing north, near the North Pole and all, in Helsinki, Finland, I commuted this morning 5 kilometres in only -5 degrees Celsius with my brakeless track bike.

And didn't actually see almost any other cyclists, now that I think about it. Strange.

BicyclesOnly said...

By the way Kevin, the one on the right with the looping brake cable is a woman . . . and by now we all know that BSNYC is a guy.

Charlie said...

I don't know if this counts, for I commute on a thumb-shifted 1 X 8 (53 / 12-30)...

I used my car to commute to Rutgers University in New Brunswick yesterday, and today I rode my bike in at 24 F.

Hope the data is helpful,

Charlie

KT said...

My favorite thing about cold commutes (2 F outside of Boston last night) is when your eyelashes freeze in nice clumps...

commie canuk said...

mattH said...
I'm neither Canadian, European or pretentious. We use Celcius here in Australia because it MAKES SENSE.
0 Celcius, water freezes, 100 Celcius, water boils.
It's 29 Celcius here at the moment (that's about 84 F)


That would be great, except you're still in Australia.
The Imperial measurement of temperature is easy as I understand it, it's a number assigned to the shrinkage of the King George's penis at any given temperature.

Ryan said...

Commuting in the Twin Cities, MN.
http://www.startribune.com/video/12962607.html

BF FAN said...

Somebody please explain in an educated manner, why listening to Ben Folds is like torture.

runnerman said...

Kevin:

kilt! it isn't a skirt, it's a kilt, darn it! (At least, that's what the Utilikilt people said when i bought it.) As for sense, well, i was raised in Montana and lived for a long while in Minnesota -- obviously any sense i had was frozen out years ago, except for the face mask for the assmar.

quentin loves caddy said...

goddamnit i need another fuckin hit! fuck!

quentin loves caddy said...

btw, in chicago i see more hipsters on bikes than anyone else when it gets cold. and i ride when it's pretty cold, like when it was 5F the other day. on my beautiful surly cross check.
go obama!

Anonymous said...

You homos were too busy swinging dicks and comparing who had the hairiest cold-weather commute to spot the thing I'm sure a lot of long-time NYCers have been waiting to see - someone poking fun at BikeTV. What a gawdawful train-wreck of a show! Any show that regularly features a haiku on bike safety presented by a middle-aged dork on the middle-aged version of the singlespeed - the recumbent, deserves an exorbitant amount of ridicule. More please...

Joshua said...

Genital Numbness Ambiguity Effect - a.k.a. "Schrodinger's Crotch"

Anna said...

there is a point at which the Fallen hoodie and the fingerless knit gloves simply cannot stave off the frigid air, when your skinny jeans have frozen to your lithe thighs, your striped scarf is a frozen mass of spit and mucus wrapped around your mouth and nose, and your vegan sauconys, over three pairs of argyle socks, are iced into your power grips, and it just becomes unfashionable to ride your bike any longer.

msgr33 said...

Fixed-gear cutoff is the temperature at which riding fixed is a necessity, not an option, ie when the temperature is low enough that your derailleurs only shift toward 53x12 and your brakes need to be released by hand every time you use them because your cables are frozen in the housings or when your freewheel doesn't engage because there's ice in the pawls, it's time to go fixed. I found this to be somewhere in the 0-10F range when storing the bike outside or around 15-20F if your bike was stored inside and condensation has formed the ice inside freehubs and cable housing, though Iditabike riders likely have different experiences.

BicyclesOnly said...

msgr33's right, I experience deraileur and brake malfunctions <20 degrees F.

Anonymous said...

If you try and ride a fixie below 20 degrees, there will not be enough fluid circulation in your knees, so you will not have the means to stop the bike. That is why it can't be done. The solution would be to use a freewheel and brakes, but at that point, it is just much more fashionable and appropriate to walk.

jordan said...

ok come on -11c? marathon races inner city traffic but you cant handle minus 11. i guess fixed is all for style in over there eh, right now its -37 with the wind chill, minus 28 without the wind its god damned cold but the pedals still spin!

Anonymous said...

that's such a bad ass fixed gear bike!

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