Recently there has been a lot of hype on “hipsters” and their appropriations. I am especially intrigued by the incorporation of “fix-geared” bikes. Fix-gear bikes are bikes with 1 gear and often no brakes. I can see the appeal considering they have less gears and parts to maintain. Is this why the hipsters have found fix-geared the way to go…because it is cheaper? Or is it making a statement of some type?
Myself, I have never heard of “hipsters” or “fix-geared” bikes until the last few years when I returned to Portland. When I arrived back in Portland after a few years, I was shocked to see how popular skinny jeans were and how many people were riding bikes everywhere. I thought originally this was a Portland phenomenon until I started seeing it anytime I left the city.
My introduction to “fix-geared” bikes came from my past manager at a place of previous employment. He had given me a “fix-geared” bike as a gift to help me get to and from work. It was something to get used to and not as easy to ride as mountain bikes, like I was used to. However they are quick and if you know what you are doing, a very efficient way of transportation. I still had no idea that they were attached to the hipster culture, even though my boss was a 40 year-old hipster himself.
So why or how have these bikes been adopted by the hipsters? Just because they are cheap, require more skill, and are not or were not the so popular mountain bike and multi geared road bikes? I don’t think so. From what I have read and witnessed from the hipster movement, I think it has more to do with counter culture. I know that bike messengers typically use fix-gear bikes to make their deliveries. Messengers have been part of metropolitan subculture for some time now. They represent freedom as they work outside all day and fly around in the face of all the “suits” that work the 9-5. This freedom and being part of a counter culture may be why these bikes have moved to being so popular in the hipster community. They also represent a counter culture. Most fix-gear bikes are brakeless, and lack of brakes can be interpreted as “not giving a damn or bad-ass”. My only conclusion after riding my own fix-gear around is that it is harder and not what everyone else is riding, so it represents counter culture and that is the appeal.
I may be wrong as to why hipsters prefer fixed gear bikes. I have heard people say that like manual transmission cars make you feel more at one with the road and vehicle, so will fix geared bikes. Maybe I have to be a hipster to know. I will admit, because I own a fix-gear bike, I had to check to see if I am really a hipster or not. I don’t have glasses with no lenses, tight jean, canvas shoes, flannel, etc… I had to check because I hear that most hipsters do not identify themselves as such due to recent negative connotation with the term. If hipsters are part of counter culture (most would agree they are) they would probably deny that is why they have the fix geared bike.