Until recently, that magical bike used to be the fixed-gear bicycle. For years, the "serious" cyclist would spend the winter "training" on a converted road bike, thus reaping the improved spin, fluid pedal stroke, increased stamina, restored virility, male pattern baldness reversal, and assorted other benefits that supposedly came with it. But then, the fixed-gear fad happened. Suddenly, "serious" cyclists could no longer reason that they were partaking of some secret training knowledge that had been handed down from pro to pro for generations; nor could they reconcile the fact that all these new fixed-gear cyclists weren't somehow becoming superhuman cyclists even after prolonged contact with the fixed-gear drivetrain. Thus, they abandoned this practice and left it to the plebes, but not before totally laying waste to its credibility like a thatched hut in a Vietnam Zippo raid:
This is truly a shocking reversal. Once an essential training tool, the fixed-gear bicycle now has "no place in a serious road cyclist's training routine," and it's been relegated to the scrap heap along with toe clips, downtube shifters, and smiling. Not only is the fixed-gear bicycle no longer helpful in building fitness, but it's actually the very antithesis of riding a bicycle, since "Your muscles aren't required to act." This might come as news to you if you've ever pedaled one up a hill or even along a flat surface, but then you're probably not a "serious" cyclist. What the "hipsters" are mistaking for "Zen" is in fact sloppy inefficiency. "You can keep your little toys," says the roadie. "We're moving on."
So what is the new fixed-gear (or ass-toning sneaker) in the roadie cosmology? No, it's not the single speed mountain bike. Chris Carmichael tried pushing that one a few years ago, but it never caught on with the roadies. (Rumor has it that a few tried it, but they either had fun or died, and in either case they were never heard from again.) The new roadie secret training weapon is the totally fun-proof PowerCrank:
If you're unfamiliar with PowerCranks, they're basically regular cranks that are broken, and for the small price of your cycling enjoyment (and $900) they may give you a slight advantage over your Cat 4 adversaries if you use them correctly. They will also teach "your muscles to fire in absolute perfection and coordination," which is a sensation of orgasmic bliss that makes that whole fixed-gear zen thing feel like a middle school dry-hump in corduroys.
PowerCranks have been around for a long time, but now that there's an actual roadie edict to abandon fixed-gears and take up PowerCranks the results will surely be profound. Of course, when I say "results" I don't mean race results--nobody will notice a bunch of club racers placing in the high-50s instead of the mid-50s. No, the real effects will be felt in the world of "urban" cycling. Until now, the fixed-gear rider could enjoy that naughty feeling that he or she had stolen something from the roadies and was "pissing them off." Now, though, it's as though the sibling has said, "I don't want this toy anymore, take it," or the parent has said, "Wanna smoke? Here's a carton, and don't leave the closet until you've finished it." In either case, the fixed-gear is bound to lose what little mystique it still has--until they themselves move on to PowerCranks, PowerCranks become the new fixed-gear, people wax philosophical about how their "muscles fire in absolute perfection and coordination" when they ride their PowerCrank bike to the bar, and the cycle begins anew. (At that point, roadies will take up the dandy horse.)
But as roadies chase the dragon of fitness, and urban cyclists chase the dragon of cool, and PowerCranks become "Fixed-Gear 2.0," it's important to remember the real victims--the fixed-gear bicycles themselves. Who will ride them? (Well, apart from track racers, but not only are they small in number, but they're also just weird--like triathlete weird.) Unfortunately, the answer to that question may be "nobody." Even now it appears that people are getting off fixed-gears faster than a helmet thread gets off-topic. A reader even informs me that some fixed-gear owners are now preserving their bikes and trying to rent them as props:
BIANCHI Pista Concept Available for Photoshoots, Movies etc... (Beverly Hills)
Date: 2009-12-19, 8:28PM PST
Reply to: [deleted]
I am offering my newly built 2008 model Bianchi Pista Concept for rent. This is the most desireable Fixed Gear bike out there! Everything on the bike was custom built. It is in immaculate condition. After i completed building the bike i decided id rather not ride it but display it as a piece of art. This bike gets looks and compliments wherever it goes. I am offering the bike for Photoshoots, Movies, Commercials etc... The bike is in working and rideable condition. Please only email me if you would like to further discuss rental opportunitys, I am not interested in selling the bike! ALSO Cinelli Vigorelli available, inquire.
While I feel compelled to point out that neither the mass-produced frame nor the mass-produced components on this bicycle were "custom built," I also think this is a sound business decision and that the seller should continue to build his stable. Thanks to Al Gore and this whole "green" thing there's tremendous pressure on Hollywood studios to put bikes in their movies, so there's almost certainly a big future in bicycle prop rental:
Production Coordinator: "Hi, we're filming a movie and we need a bicycle for the main character. He lives in LA, bit of a douche, breaks up with girls via Twitter, and is really into hats."
Hollywood Bike Rentals: "Say no more, I have a Cinelli Vigorelli that would be perfect."
Production Coordinator: "Great. Actually, it's a buddy comedy, and he's got two friends. One of them's sort of a pretentious fop with an extensive vinyl collection who's really into wine and cheese, and the other's a dorky Zach Galifianakis type who works in IT. He's a virgin and the movie's about his friends trying to get him laid."
Hollywood Bike Rentals: "OK, we'll I've got a Rivendell for the fop, but unfortunately the recumbent's already being used in an episode of 'The Office.' You might try Ed Begley, Jr."
Besides that, there's also the vast world of reality-based television. Another reader recently informed me of a new show (albeit Internet-based) called Pedaling. From what I can tell, it's a "collabo" among Specialized bikes, Capo Forma clothing, and Whole Foods, and it features people riding around and eating: