Fixie WHIMPS!

hipster on a bike

“Fixies”, or  fixed-gear bicycles, are still popular amongst a certain subgroup of NYC hipsters.  Part of the appeal is the danger, in addition to not having gears, many fixes don’t have brakes and instead require the rider to either apply reverse pressure to their pedals, or to hop their rear wheel up, lock it, and go into a skid.

OK so these are some brave hipsters right? NOT SO FAST.

Try going into a skid on one of these:

Men on penny farthings in Los Angeles, 1886

The first bicycles to, in fact, be known as bicycles are now known as “penny-farthings”.  The name is based on the similarity in the ratio of the back to front wheel size to that of an English penny and a farthing coin  The wheels were large to increase speed – without a chain or gears,  the size of the front wheel limited how fast one could go.

“Penny farthings were also highly dangerous, and crashes leading to serious injuries – or death – were common. Front wheels grew to gargantuan sizes, with the biggest specimens measuring about two meters in diameter. If a rider hit a bump or any other obstacle on the road, riders were sent flying over the handlebar, a type of accident known as ‘taking a header’ or ‘coming a cropper'” – A Short Illustrated History of the Bicycle By Carsten Hoefer

Penny-farthings were ridden by the hipsters of the 1880’s, typically young men who wanted to show how dashing and brave they were.  In fact a penny-farthing IS a fixie, albeit one where you can die if you accidentally tilt over.  Have today’s riders gone soft?  I think anyone who rides any kind of bike in New York City should get a medal for bravery.

  1. I saw a man riding a penny-farthing in Golden Gate Park a few weeks ago. I should have taken a picture so I could post it here. The question I have is, how does one mount such a thing, much less keep it upright and moving?

  2. Life was much more thrilling before Al Gore invented the Internet.

  3. I miss coaster brakes. Not enough to give up having a wide range of gears on my bicyle, but I still miss them.

Leave a Comment


NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>