There are a million and one books about cycling out there but very few about fixed gear bikes and the culture that we all love being a part of. We often hear about ‘the new fixed gear craze’ and stuff like that but the truth is that the fixed gear bike is nothing new, it has been around forever and building in popularity for the last 25 years in the major cities of the world. ‘Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture’ is a book that does a bloody good job of covering the history, design and greatness of everyones favourite kind of bike.
From the book’s website: “FIXED is the first book to document global fixed-gear culture. It joins the dots between the bike’s design, its racing heritage and the customization that marks its appearance on our city streets. It meets the track stars, tricksters, messengers, hill bombers and polo players the world over, linking them to the artists, designers and framebuilders whom the bike has inspired.” That’s a pretty good summation, it’s not all hyperbole; the book does a great job of clearly and concisely covering the history of fixed gear riding the world over through interviews, excellent photography and good old fashioned research.
All major aspects are dealt with in a series of well organised chapters. Starting with the origins of the fixed hub in 1873 the authors Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard look at the early days of Le Tour de France; L’Eroica; the popularity of 6 day events 100 years ago; modern track racing and keirin racing in Japan; British time trailing and The Hour record kick off the first part of the book and they pack a whole load of interesting history into the first 50-odd pages. The behind the scenes photos of pupils at keirin school are particularly interesting as is the chapter on time trialling.
Edwards and Leonard then go on to look at when track bikes started being used on the streets of New York City by Caribbean immigrants in the late 1970’s and they look at the popularity of the fixed gear with messengers over the last few decades, again everything is illustrated with excellent photos from each period and it all ties together forming a coherent timeline.
The Mash SF and Macaframa crews are covered in the chapter on San Francisco as are the shops that have played a big part in the scene that has emerged as probably the most ‘famous’ one of all. The crazy bikes of Tokyo tie in nicely with all the talk of NJS parts earlier in the book.
The early days of fixed gear freestyle is touched upon before moving on to look at London and how it is maybe the toughest city in the whole world to ride fixed in. Roller racing and polo are up next with a look at the early days and the modern scene. The book ends with an in-depth look at the bike itself including the Keith Haring customised Cinelli Laser; the Vans/FGL fixed gear freestyle bike, The Paul Smith designed Mercian as well as a few others.
All in all this is a very clean, well designed book that offers a great introduction to the history of the fixed gear bike and it’s use. It covers a lot of ground over its 144 pages so some parts are very brief but it is so well illustrated that I didn’t finish it feeling like I had been short changed, it’s something that you can keep on your coffee table to just thumb through whenever you fancy some visual stimulation. If you are even remotely interested in track bikes or just bikes in general then you should definitely get this book!