Fearless, brakeless and senseless

Disc BrakeI’m as pleased by the popularity of fixed-gear bikes as must be knee surgeons and the manufacturers of garish powder coat.

Anything that makes riding bikes fashionable is OK by me, and not just because I’ll be able to snap up some bargains on eBay in a couple of years time when the wave of craze recedes.

The only problem I have with the whole phixed phenomenon is the subset of riders on the streets who are simply dangerous: The Brakeless.

There’s nothing inherently risky about fixed gear bikes, but it seems to carry some unexplainable kudos to ride them brakeless.

Now, for experienced, strong and confident riders I think this is a stupid, reckless and idiotic idea.

For novice riders, especially those wearing bulky trainers and loose straps, as is the fashion, this is tantamount to suicide.

I’ve even seen younger riders, mostly under 15, on brakeless BMX bikes, jamming their feet against the back wheel to stop.

What sort of parent lets their kids ride a freewheel bike with no brakes?

The bizarre practice has even spread to adult geared riders, some of whom I’ve seen remove their rear brake to emulate the fixed gear aesthetic.

That’s not a smart move on city streets.

If this were only dangerous for the rider involved it wouldn’t irk me too much. I might offer some casual advice at red traffic lights, but it wouldn’t keep me up at night.

The thing is, if something goes wrong, they could take someone down with them; an old woman crossing the street, a child in a pushchair or, even worse, me.

I pulled up at a red light in London last year, only to be shunted from behind by a rider who’d wasn’t paying attention.

Unhelpfully for my argument, he had two brakes. He just wasn’t paying attention.

But that’s sort of the point: sometimes the unexpected happens, and when it does, it’s handy to have a brake to reach for. Of course, looking where you’re going helps, too.

Anyway, relying on nothing but a chain to protect you from a world of hurt isn’t wise. Chains can snap.

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One thought on “Fearless, brakeless and senseless

  1. Pingback: Red Bull alleycat shot from helicopter « stop reading this and ride a bike

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