Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Riding Fixed -- Science and Divinity

Two very interesting perspectives on riding fixed. The pure scientific explanation of its superiority as a simple matter of Newtonian mechanics:

[T]he fix rider can apply force to the crank wherever she or he chooses, and the human system of optimal adaptive control soon will figure out how best to do so. The fix rider can get into the power stroke at 12 o’clock, or a little before, and so utilize the entire downward stroke for propulsion. Way strong!

The free rider can apply downward force beginning only at two o’clock, and so has wasted fully one-third of the downward stroke. This is not good!

Looked at the other way, the fixer has a 50% longer power stroke than the freebie, which equates to 50% more torque and therefore 50% more power at a given cadence.

And a pleasing discusion of fixed's more elusive qualities:

Walking in downtown San Francisco several years ago, before I’d ever even ridden a fixed gear bike, I remember seeing a messenger riding through slow traffic, weaving in and out, looking like a needle stitching all the cars together. This memory sticks with me for some reason, and I suspect it was because of the utter grace of seeing him work his way through the cars, unintentionally making a mockery of the drivers sitting in traffic. I’m positive that it was a fixed gear bike he was riding, not only because they are more often than not the choice of messengers, but also because I remember seeing him pedaling when he sped up and when he slowed down, which took me by surprise. the subtle adjustments he made in his speed and direction were like the subtle adjustments a bird makes in flight. If my niece ever asks me what grace means, I will take her downtown and wait for a messenger on a fixie to pass.

Both care of FixedGearGallery.

This morning my knees and fingers were cold, but my body warm and my heart thrilling to the rush of cold air over and through my helmet. I rode slow, in part because I wasn't in the mood to fly, and in part because I wanted to lengthen the ride. Sun and wind, science and spirit.


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