Wednesday, January 09, 2008

fixed gear bikes and safety

Fixed gear bikes look cool, but unless they have brakes, are extremely dangerous.

Fatal in fact.

Here are some quotes from the following news article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel

  • Despite differing opinions about the safety and practicality of fixies, one thing all interviewed for this story agreed on was that riding in traffic, whether on a fixie or not, requires that cyclists and motorists both be acutely aware of their surroundings.
  • "Riding a fixed-gear in town without a helmet does not seem like the best way to go to me," Potter said. "I've been hit several times by cars myself, and that's with a regular bike. Sure there's people out there who are really good at it and it's no problem, but that's probably about 2 percent.
  • "It's definitely contrary to self-preservation, I would say."

Here is the full article:
Recent death puts spotlight on biking fad
I.A. Stewart
Sentinel Correspondent

SANTA CRUZ -- To stop his bicycle, Josh Long leans forward, over the handlebar, and uses the clips on his riding cleats to pull the rear wheel off the ground. He then immediately stops pedaling, causing the chain to quit pulling and the rear wheel to stop spinning. When the back tire touches back down to the pavement, the bike skids, slowing its forward momentum, eventually coming to a complete halt.

"To say that these bikes have no brakes implies that they have no stopping power, which to those of us who enjoy life [riding a bicycle that could not be stopped] would just be absurd," Long said.

Wednesday, Lucian Gregg, 18, died in a traffic accident at the bottom of a hill on East Cliff Drive at Jessie Street when he crashed his fixed-gear, brakeless bicycle behind a FedEx truck that was making a right turn onto Jessie Street ahead of him. Gregg was flung from his bicycle and died of severe head trauma. He was not wearing a helmet. Police do not know if he was hit by the truck, but his bicycle was not damaged.

Enthusiasts of fixed-gear bicycles, or "fixies," as the bikes are commonly known, maintain that cycling accidents occur frequently and often do not involve brakeless bikes, so concluding Gregg's death was a result of the type of bicycle he was riding, and not just a traffic accident, is premature. But the attention that Gregg's death has received raises questions about the safety -- and legality -- of fixed-gear bicycles.

A fixie is a bicycle that cannot coast. The rear wheel only moves forward when the pedals are pushed [a fixie can be pedaled backward]. Fixies originally were developed for racing in indoor velodromes, where braking, coasting and changing gears are of little importance. Fixies also are used as a training bike for cyclists who wish to exercise muscles in their legs and develop stronger pedaling technique.
( read complete article - click here)

Bottom line: wear a helmet, it will SAVE YOUR LIFE.

And if you don't die, suppose you only got, oh, just a wee bit of severe head trauma? That's also extremely bad sh1t: a broken brain takes a long time to fix, possibly never. And a brain is very, very useful for this one reason only: it tells us when we're having fun!

15 Comments:

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous fix it said...

"brakeless" is legal in Washington DC

1204.1 Each bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which enables the operator to cause the braked wheels to skid on dry, level, clean pavement; provided, that a fixed gear bicycle is not required to have a separate brake, but an operator of a fixed gear bicycle shall be able to stop the bicycle using the pedals.

it's not the bike, its how you ride it!

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger kurtdriver said...

I like my helmet and my brake, but often ride with people who do not have brakes. Their skill in stopping is such that I have no qualms about riding behind them. The kid on California did not know how to stop his bike. I suspect you used a simplistic article from a second rate newspaper to justify your own opinions. (I also used to think it stupid to ride brakeless).

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger Cycle Fun Montreal said...

Hi Kurtdriver. I appreciate your opinion and state that we are all free to do dangerous things if we so choose.

Our opinion is that (experienced riders or not) doing an emergency stop at maximum force is a guaranteed life saver. Been there! Using brakes permits maximum stopping power.

Of course, riding brakeless is only one of the many ways one can have an accident on a bike. BANG!

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger LukeBrown607 said...

I have a front brake on my fixie, and hardly ever use it...but! it is there if I need it.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I ride a fixed gear and prefer it to a freewheel any day. There's definitely a difference when you ride a fixed. You become one with the bike so you can control it a lot better than a freewheel. I have a single brake on my front wheel but never use it because after riding everyday for 6 months, your legs become steel. but yeah always ride with a helmet. That's a given.

 
At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

My Brother was hit by a car just two days ago on his fixed gear. He was traveling 45km/h when a car pulled out in front of him. He tried to stop the bicycle but had limited time. Thank god he was wearing his helmet because it saved his life. He ended up with a broken collar bone some bad gashes and a trashed bike. If you read this I don't care how much of a pro you think you are, helmets save lives.................

 
At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone really think a city/street fixie can do 45 km/h? Not likely.

But what is likely that helmets and brakes can save your brain, which we hope you think is worth saving.

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger feyfoys said...

45 k/h ?
Rememember that fixie's are track bikes... They probably hit close to 70 on the track..
45 is almost fast.. at 55+, just brace tight...
Its all about your gear ratio..
I would say over 3.0 for sure.. (to get high speed)

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

uh, i've ridden a track bike hooked up to a cycling computer and with a standard 3:1 ratio it's really hard to hit 45 km/h. You basically need a hill and the wind at your back and your legs spinning like a deranged hamster in a wheel. On a fixed gear once you hit your cadence you have basically hit your top speed which is maybe 25-30 km/h I doubt the average fixie rider in city conditions tops out above 35 km/h. Velodrome riders and time trialists have crazy gear ratios that if you rode every day would completely destroy your knees.

 
At 6:19 AM, Blogger little nemo said...

as you brake your weight shifts to the front wheel, reducing the braking power of your rear tyre, which is why your front brakes are much more effective than your rear brakes. I have been in a number of situations with only a rear brake where the brake has not provided enough braking power to stop in time to avoid a collision.

It doesn't matter how much you are one with your bicycle; the same physics apply to us all, and regardless of the control you have over your bike you have none over the other traffic.

I hardly think that this is a reason to ban fixies, but I feel, at least in my town, that you would have to be riding slowly or just be lucky if you never encounter a situation that needs a front brake.

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger little nemo said...

as you brake your weight shifts to the front wheel, reducing the braking power of your rear tyre, which is why your front brakes are much more effective than your rear brakes. I have been in a number of situations with only a rear brake where the brake has not provided enough braking power to stop in time to avoid a collision.

It doesn't matter how much you are one with your bicycle; the same physics apply to us all, and regardless of the control you have over your bike you have none over the other traffic.

I hardly think that this is a reason to ban fixies, but I feel, at least in my town, that you would have to be riding slowly or just be lucky if you never encounter a situation that needs a front brake.

 
At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bla!

 
At 10:46 PM, Anonymous brakelessfixierider said...

Just for the record, fixie's were not developped as track bikes. They were developped as the first bikes ever. Brakes and freewheels didnt come until later. Now having an opinion on something is ok but unless it is an informed opinion it is not a valid opininon. You can stop a fixie without brakes in approximately the same distance as a normal bikeand in some cases even shorter. When you block the wheel and perform a skid, the friction coefficient is actually higher than with rim brakes. I'll admit it's a steeper learning curve but if you practice in downtwon traffic well...your bike is fine, it's your brain that needs to be re-examined.

Always wear a helmet!!!

 
At 10:52 PM, Anonymous brakelessfixierider said...

Oh and to the anonymous rider who can barely hit 45kmh on a track bike. I hit 45kmh all the time on a mountain bike with studded tires, on a flat road. I'm gonna go ahead and say that 45kph is just about my cruising speed on my fixie. Maybe he's thinking mph!

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Cycle Fun Montreal said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 

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