Thursday, December 8, 2011

Don't Stop Pedaling

So here are some photos of the finished Bianchi project, a.k.a. "Big Red." As the title hints, it's a fixed gear. Aesthetically, I was shooting for a 1890s or early 1900s look, something that would evoke the early days of bicycling when all bicycles were fixed. I very consciously did not want to build either a trick bike or a track bike, but I did want to tune into the "pure" ethic of the fixed gear, and bringing in the historical element made a lot of sense.

I've been riding it for about a week, and since this is the first time I've ridden fixed, of course it's taking some getting used to. At first, it was fairly intimidating to feel the push back when I tried to stop pedaling or slow down with just my legs, and I was using the front brake a lot. As I've gotten used to riding it, I have started to get a feel for the intuitive response that devoted fixed gear riders talk about and I haven't been using the brake much at all. Think slower, go slower, almost like choosing to walk at a different pace.

Just as riding a bike makes me more aware of how I'm traveling through my environment than driving a car, riding fixed is certainly making me more aware of how I bicycle through my environment. Of course, the lack of gears is a big factor, but I'm also much more aware of my speed, other traffic, road surface, and topography. I'm still not comfortable building up much speed because I'm not yet entirely confident in my ability to bring the bike to a quick stop if I need to, but that's more psychological than anything, and between the front brake and my improving ability to regulate speed with my legs, I'm doing fine. Also, the gearing is fairly low (52-20) to accommodate our San Diego hills and the fact that I'm riding in an urban environment and not a velodrome.

Track stands and tricky dismounts and all that kind of thing are still a long ways off, if ever, but who knows, I might try some of that stuff as I build up confidence.

Geeky details:
Handlebars: Nitto Promenade B-617
Fixed/free hub and 20t cog: Soma
Saddle: Brooks B-66
Handbrake: Dia-Compe from my old parts bin
Tires: 27" Panaracer Pasela

The rest is what came with the bike, including the rear rim, which I used to build up the new rear wheel around the fixed hub. My LBS ordered all the new bits and consulted on gearing, etc., for which I'm grateful. I didn't want to throw a HUGE amount of money into the project on the off chance that I absolutely hated riding it, but that turned out not to be the case.