Hood Ornament

IMG_7176We call those guys riding down the sidewalk or the street on fixies with no brakes “hood ornaments” because it is just a matter of time before they smack into or get smacked by a car; or run over a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Sure your ride may look clean and even more “retro” or even “pure” with no brakes. And certainly it is thing of beauty to see a skilled fixie power slide…. a messenger type scooting down the street and locking up the rear wheel to slide to a smooth stop, or slow down enough to check the intersection for oncoming.

For the rest of us, if we forget we’re riding fixed and stop pedaling for an instant we might just find ourselves over the handlebars or otherwise taking an unplanned and decidedly un-hip dismount. There’s nothing like a momentary unexpected hop to bring you back to the business at hand: riding yer fixed-gear bike.

At a minimum, I recommend a front brake. If you don’t panic and grab the break for dear life, you can roll to a smooth stop. Even the guys that can slide often have a brake for that occasional emergency stop. Personally, I like have front and rear. It is a bit hilly where I live and pedaling backwards only slows you so much. If you have a “flip-flop” hub and ride “freewheel” without brakes, I imagine you get new sneakers every couple of months.

You do not generally not see brakes on the velodrome. Slowing  is achieved by riding up the side of the track or using some backwards pressure on the pedals. One seldom sees a power slide on the track. And of course, how many hipsters are racing on the track anyway?

Cool as they are, if you’re going to ride your fixie on the street, a brake just might save your ass or that of a pedestrian. .. And save from creasing a car door or becoming the new adornment on someone’s hood.