Track Bikes / Fixed Gear Riding




words by J Sorensen

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Do you ever find yourself searching for a more simple, quiet ride?  Perhaps yearn for that fluid motion that exists when your feet are perfectly connected to your pedals turning your cranks at the precise cadence required to move forward without any lag.  Every ounce of energy you put into the pedal stoke is returned to you.  No coasting, no freewheeling just spinning.  Fixed gear riding is something I believe ever cyclist should experience for the shear artistry of it.  One must be hyper aware of their surroundings ready to brake at any second or swerve to avoid the runaway child, barking dog or starry-eyed tourist.

A few months back I asked my good friend and Bespoke General Manager, Trystan Cobbett to build me a track bike.  Being an accomplished steel builder he rather quickly agreed as according to him “it had been awhile since I had a steel project.”  I had absolutely no idea what to expect as I had never been on a fixed gear bike nor had I any idea of the challenge of riding that style in a city such as San Francisco.

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A few months later, true to his word, an absolutely gorgeous frame made its way into my possession.  Its pretty special to have friends that can make such amazing gifts as he surpassed every expectation I could ever have.  A custom made frame exactly to my geometry mixed with the track style I preferred.

Its been an interesting challenge learning how to ride this beast in the city.  Gear choice, cadence, stopping, navigating traffic, skid stopping, knee pain all part of the deal riding fixed in the city but even through all this learning its been an absolute thrill.  Early morning rides quiet because the lack of traffic and people have gotten even quieter, a bit more simple, and a touch more focused.  No gears to decide on so just keep pedaling.

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Fast forward to today, the next step in my fixed gear career was upon me as I had decided to venture across the Golden Gate Bridge and tackle the Headlands.  Challenging yes but I needed to feel and hear the sound of climbing something significant like Hawk Hill.  Leaving my house in Mission Bay I pedaled my way through the city slowly approaching the bridge, watching the weather turn from sun to fog and with it a significant headwind.  Summer in the city thats just how it is.  Crossing the bridge, tourist side is always an adventure but with the fixy it provides many more challenges and obstacles not normally present.  Keep it at tempo and be ready to stop at any moment.  Finally across, not sure if that was the hard part or if the 1200 ft climb will prove more difficult.  I hit the first kicker and with it my heart jumped, cadence slowed and the effort became much more tiresome.  As I got moving my head lowered and my mind eased.  My rhythm became intoxicating as I could feel my body counting the pedal strokes leaving my mind free to wander and drift above the bike.  Such a peaceful experience gliding uphill, not a sound around me to distract from the moment.  I have ridden this hill 100’s of times but today everything felt different.  My perspective had shifted.  I could see new dips in the road, cracks, paint, even the fog seemed to move and make a different sound as it rolled up the hillside ever so slowly quietly enveloping all around me.

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Once I had reached the top I felt changed.  I little bit freer, a little bit more alive, and excited to be in the exact spot I had stood so many times before.  A new perspective is what this bike has provided me with.