Don’t stop peddling. You can’t.

Fixed-gear bikes are growing in popularity; one shop says they make up 10 percent of business

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Published March 21, 2007 by ASU Web Devil 
by Matt Mueller

Fixed-gear bikes are growing in popularity; one shop says they make up 10 percent of business

Watch out for Nick Padilla and Mark Gabriel on campus – they might run you down.

The two students ride fixed-gear, or "fixie," bikes and are noticing an increased number of students are also using the gearless bikes.

"It's cool to see more kids on [fixed-gear] bikes," said Gabriel, a print making senior.

Fixed-gear bicycles are similar to old Schwinn 10-speeds, but with one difference: the rider cannot stop pedaling.

The pedals are connected directly to the rear wheel by a chain, so when the wheel is in motion, the pedals are too.

The bikes have fewer moving parts, making them more dependable than their multi-speed counterparts, and they also require less maintenance and are lighter.

Dave Roberts, an employee of Domenic's Cycling on Mill Avenue and 10th Street, said the store has started producing custom wheels, frames and even custom-built fixies.

In fact, fixed-gear bicycles and parts account for nearly 10 percent of the shop's business, he said.

The 29-year-old fixed-gear biker said the fixed gear trend began at Domenic's in 2005.

"I'm not sure what these kids were into before, maybe they walked or skateboarded," he said.

Riding a fixed-gear bicycle is like nothing else, Ben Ko, a fixed-gear event promoter, said in an e-mail.

"There's a connection to the road you get from riding fixed that cannot be described until you've tried it," Ko said. "I find it to be akin to running. [Riding fixies is] just faster than your legs alone could ever take you."

Fixies are more than bikes to local event participants Padilla and Gabriel.

The ASU students created a Tempe grassroots bicycle cooperative and have focused their efforts toward the fixed-gear bikes.

The goal of their cooperative is to help people new to fixed-gear bikes learn to fix simple things like flat tires and help them assemble bikes, said Padilla, a philosophy senior.

The pair also offers pointers on how to ride fixed-gear bikes.

Chris Reichel, a cycling enthusiast, said for him, fixie riding is a way of life.

"It's not a handbag. It's not a belt. You can't get it at the mall. It's not a fashion accessory," Reichel said. "You don't get into it [fixed-gear riding] to fit in."

Reach the reporter at: matthew.j.mueller.1@asu.edu.