Whether you are in Los Angeles, College Station, London, or Shanghai, you can’t miss them. Spilling into car lanes, doing tricks on the sidewalk, generally not stopping for stop signs, the fixed-gear bike movement continues to spread. While the niche trend to create an uber-customized bicycle is an example of how globalization can be homogenizing, the fixed gear movements are also a fine example of how local culture manifests itself in every trend. Each fixed-gear culture has a distinct personality and these personalities are demonstrated, in part, by the types of rides they organize. Below are a few events that exemplify cultural differences within the larger fixed-gear community.
Cheerily riding along in the UK
The Brits started the Tweed Run, which purported to be “a metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style; a leisurely jaunt through the Empire’s capital.” The daytime gathering allowed riders to enjoy sightseeing, while showing off their finest tweed, herringbone, and wool attire. The ride is meant to be a throw back to a bygone era. (Later, many major cities around the world would throw their own tweed runs.)
Party on two wheels in California
A city without much history, comparatively, LA’s rider culture is focused on modern, hedonistic pursuits. While LA’s Midnight Ridazz and CRANK Mob rides also have an element of costume (for example, 80′s prom night), their rides are somewhat less refined. Starting at 10pm on Saturday night, CRANK Mob bills itself as “a monthly bike ride dance party masquerade carnival sextravaganza“. Instead of quietly riding through the city and enjoying tea and bickies, riders wheel somewhat noisily through the city, sipping alcoholic beverages, and blasting their boom boxes.
Still developing the community and culture in Shanghai
Fixed-gear culture has recently clipped into China. In a bid to raise awareness of fixed-gears in China and establish a larger following, in late 2009, a group called People’s Bike organized Shanghai Alleycat, which was a weekend of mass rides, races, and stunt competitions. Perhaps because it’s being developed by a mix of western expats and Chinese citizens, with support from the government, Chinese fixed-gear bike culture seems to be the most eclectic culture of those discussed here. (enoVate has a great article about the rise of fixed-gear bike culture in China. Thanks @bernardhor) It will be interesting to see how this nascent group evolves, as more native riders join the fixed-gear movement.
I’d be interested to know the personas other fixed-gear groups have developed around the world. If you have comments or insights, leave me a note. I’d like to hear from you.