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David Fiedler

When Fixies are Outlawed. . .

By July 11, 2009

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. . . only outlaws will have fixies, at least in Berlin, where the cops have recently started cracking down on fixed gear bikes, calling them a menace to traffic safety.

Fixed gear bikes were developed originally for track racing. They have no freewheel, which means if the bike is moving, the pedals are turning. There is no coasting. Also, these track bikes usually have no brakes, and unless they've actually installed brakes on their bikes, cyclists otherwise have to relay on their leg strength to slow the pedals and stop the bike.

Growing numbers of fixed-gear bikes in the German capital got the cops a little worried, concerned that the brakeless bikes were a danger to auto traffic. So they announced in the spring that they would begin cracking down on fixie riders who have no brakes. The result? Since April they’ve confiscated 18 bicycles.

“Fixies have become a real problem,” Rainer Paetsch, a Berlin police official told The Local, an English language newspaper. “It wasn’t a hunt, but we decided to do something to undercut this trend. . . We just want people to realize it’s too risky to ride them around the city. Then we’ll be content that we’ve helped improve traffic safety.”

Do you ride fixed gear bikes? Do you have brakes? Are these brakeless bikes a danger to their riders or others? Comment below.

Read the whole article in The Local

Comments

July 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm
(1) jpeeze says:

the correct thing to do to improve traffic safety is to outlaw man-pris…motorists would stop laughing hysterically, spilling their coffee and causing traffic infractions.

No doubt man-pris have ‘become a real problem.’

July 19, 2009 at 11:44 am
(2) burbank says:

Only a idiot would ride a bike without brakes,It is about safety and it is the law.

July 20, 2009 at 7:06 pm
(3) Russell says:

I think they said they stop with their legs meaning they stop. If you know how to ride a fixie then you know how to stop. They have tons of contests on longest skid marks on their fixies. How can you do a skid mark if their are no brakes? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Fixie brakes will always work 10 times out of 10. I bet when its really rainy out or you have old brakes or even from Walmart the brakes won’t work everytime!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxFOBmO1CLg

July 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm
(4) bicycle78 says:

I don’t see what the big deal is with brakeless fixed gear bikes. Now, what about brakeless free-wheel bikes? THAT’S a big deal. Check this video out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH5W1Z23wPg

July 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm
(5) John Grant says:

FIXED WHEEL.

If they’re going to try to get all fixed-wheel bikes of the street this is a tragedy, but looking at the background, it seems as though the “fixie” poseurs have brought this about by irresponsible riding.

Tragedy? Why? It will deprive kids of the same chances as my generation had (I was hatched in December 1933) – of riding fixed on low gears (62”-66”), and learning how to pedal fast and fluently.

When I got serious about cycling (1947) the club elders hammered into us kids the magic powers of fixed, coupled with “to be safe, a bicycle must have two efficient independent brakes, one acting on each wheel. One brake can be a fixed wheel, but you have to learn how to use it”. That was also a Road Time Trials Council (Great Britain) law at the time.

I’m off the bike now (broken down by age and sex) but my early-season hilly commute in the 1980s (28 miles each way) was on 62” fixed. Sheer magic!

May I challenge one point in your article? “Fixed gear bikes were developed originally for track racing”. Historically wrong – fixed came first, and the freewheel appeared some time in the 1900s, when racing (on track and road) was already well established.

I have a picture of the Worthing Excelsior’s founders in September 1889. They have solid-tyred safeties with front-fork foot-rests. No prizes for working out why. Another shows four Excelsior members after a time-trial in the 1950s. (Sadly they’ve now all handed in their tea-shop passes), but each has only a front brake, obviously riding fixed from preference.

Note the wheels in “sprint carriers” – you rode to an event, put your best wheels in, got back, changed wheels again, and rode home.

John Grant
Vice President (don’t ask me why!)
Worthing Excelsior C.C.

August 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm
(6) vibroluxor says:

That fixie “braking” video is BS. those guys are moving their weight over the front tire to unload the rear and skid. thats not stopping.

March 5, 2013 at 2:05 am
(7) Fixed Beer says:

In Florida the law is that a bicycle must have brakes capable of stopping the bike from 10 miles an hour in 25 feet. I can stop a brake less fixed gear from 10 miles an hour in under 15 feet. You lean forward when you want to skid, but you lean back and pull up hard when you want to stop. Now I didn’t start out brake less, I put about 2000 miles in fixed gear before removing the them. I went about 500 miles and removed the rear brake, then after another 1500 miles I dropped the front. I don’t believe that these bikes should be outlawed as they are around the world without having a riding test for all riders. Anyone can swing by wal-mart, grab a P.O.S. bike with ill fitting and unreliable brakes and go ride but somehow a skilled rider on a fixed gear is a hazard to traffic. Where I’m from bikes have the right away, and I can’t see our right to ride what we choose being lost as it has been in other parts of the world.

April 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm
(8) Cogfather says:

I’ve had every kind of bike there is (BMX, MTB geared & SS, CX, Road geared & SS) & ridden for many years. The only bike I own now is a fixed gear road bike. It has never had a brake on it. I ride upwards of 150 miles a week. I’ve never crashed it. I can’t say the same of any other type of bike I’ve ridden. Making sweeping generalized statements like, “only an idiot would ride a bike with no brakes” indicates the small minded ness of the person proclaiming such. A brakeless fixie is capable of stopping in any condiditions when ridden by a person with the requisite experience & skill. The law also says you may not exceed 65 mph on nearly any freeway. Who among us doesn’t violate that mandate? An unskilled, or unsafe rider is still unskilled & unsafe whether they have gears or brakes or not

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