A fixie obliges a faster ride – the bike demands it

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Man with fixie Flandria bike in Brussels, Belgium

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Fixie riding has become a cult form in cycling. And a new life for vintage frames.

“I found the fixed gear is extremely useful in the centre of the city. It is extremely fast and wants you to go faster. It is quite impossible to ride slowly for long amount of time because the kinetic energy is more efficiently used if you keep the movement going. This bike has been in my possession for two years, now. It was mounted as a  fixed gear before but with tubular tires. I punctured once and I said that was enough. Fixing a tubular is awful.”

Photographer’s notes: Have you ever ridden tubs – tubular tires? They are incredible. High pressure, the inner tube in sewn inside the tire, then a backing of tape placed. The tire is actually flies to the rim. Clearly a special rim, shallow design, though they look like a normal wheel with thin tires. In fact, new tube/tire combinations look a lot like tubs when in profile.

When you get a flat on the road, you unstrap a spare tub from under your seat, rip the punctured tire from the rim, then put on the replacement tubular. The old glue on glue (tire and rim) holds it together. You never put a new tub, with no glue, on a wheel and expect it to stay on during a corner. All new tubs must be given a new layer of glue.

But when you get home, you have to fix the puncture. Tear the protective tape from the tire, cut open the stitching at the puncture point, repair the hole then restitch and re-glue the tire. It is labour. It takes at least 30 minutes to fix.

High pressure tires have replaced tubs for most amateur rides. They ride at higher pressure, now, versus a few decades ago, so the performance gap from high pressure to tubs is small enough to make most riders evade the nightmare of repairing tubs.

Do not expect that to happen at the pro level. At speed, tubs are so mush better than the best high pressure tires and tubes. Rolling friction is minimal and any racing tub will bring a couple of kilometres an hour more speed to almost any rider. And the grip. Oh, and the sound in a peloton, the hum of the tires. Gorgeous.

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