Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fixed Gear: Jumped The Shark?

BikesnobNYC says the "fixie" thing has already jumped the shark. Sure, to some it has and I can see where they are coming from. Cycling seems to run in cycles, with one or more being popular for a while, then wane, become "cool" once again, and then proceed to jump the shark again for one reason or another. There are also regional issues to think of in this light. Where something may have already jumped the shark in NYC, it's not even heard of in Ottumwa, Iowa yet. Ottumwa may not be cool or hip, but there may be a few people there who might find what has passed elsewhere and have fun with it for a year or two before realizing it may be un-hip elsewhere. Then again, this is just about riding bicycles and having fun on a bicycle, isn't it? That will never jump the shark, no matter how many hipsters think it has become uncool. Ever since it was invented, the bicycle has been fun and sometimes even practical. Fun and practicality can never jump the shark.

Will any form cycling ever truly be "mainstream" in the USA? I don't think it'll happen in my lifetime because of the existing car culture and infrastructure that has been created over the years to accomodate it. There's no way in hell that millions of US Citizens will abandon their automobiles, get off of their lazy asses and ride a bicycle to get where they need to go. Sure, the "Lance Effect" and current fuel prices have driven more to human powered transportation and recreation, but the numbers are truly not enough to make being a "cyclist" mainstream USA. Aspects of cycling are subject to mainstreaming via the media in all of its glorious forms, however physical activity is becoming a more and more difficult sale in this country. Vicarious living through the media enables an appearance of mass participation, but the number of people actually in the thick of these activities doesn't tell the same tale.

Mountain biking is a fine example of cycling that the media has mainstreamed aggressively the past ten years. The current number of mountain bikes sold annualy in the USA is astronomical compared to when I first threw my leg over a Schwinn Sierra in 1986. Seeing another mountain biker on local SoCal trail 22 years ago was a rare event and even more rare in the true backcountry. Nowdays any easy trail close to populated areas seems to be falling in line comparatively with the traffic situation on the freeways here. However, the truly difficult backcountry trails in SoCal are just as uncrowded as they were in the 80's. No matter how extreeem, hip, or cool the media makes mountain biking look, most people who purchase a mountain bike will never take it on a truly difficult outing. Even if some do dare to adventure away from close in trails that have been "sanitized for your protection", most will not enjoy what they experience and not return. It's what the USA has become.

So, what does this mean for the fixed gear community in SoCal? My crystal ball can't predict what's going to happen. It may already be jumping the shark to some here, which is fine and also understandable. Everyone's perception of "cool" is different from each other and that my friends is what makes the round ball we are planted on go around. It all doesn't really matter though because most citizens of SoCal will never leave their cars. They might also be apt to shit a chicken if you were to suggest it's fun to ride a bicycle with only one gear and no brakes anywhere, let alone on city streets in traffic. There may end up being a perception of mainstream in riding fixed on the streets caused by our lovely friends in the media, but it will never truly be mainstream USA. Mainstream SoCal? As our naysaying friends in NYC might say, "FUGGEDABOUDIT!"


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