Monday, May 14, 2007

Fixed Gear Norway

I spent about a year and a half with my fixed gear in retirement. I didn't think I could stand the hills. I discovered mountain biking last year, and prefer off-road riding when the weather is bad--- which is often. I managed to bike through the worst of winter, and have been kicking myself for insisting that we found a house on an easy bus route to my work. I have not ridden the bus since we moved here. I would rather bike through the worst Stavanger weather than take the bus. Now that winter is mostly over, I have been rediscovering fixed gear. Besides, it makes commuting to work more of an adventure, and it requires more effort.

A few days ago I was out in the middle of nowhere, taking it easy. I spied a group of cyclists in my mirror, and at an intersection glanced over to see they were from the Stavanger cycling club. I figured they would overtake me. They didn't. They rode right on my wheel for a few miles, making no attempt to pass. As we approached a busy road, where I was turning right, a car with the right of way was almost in the intersection. Without braking, I slowed my pedaling. I probably should have signaled to those behind me, but this was a T-intersection with a car speeding through it. The bike behind me slammed into the rear of my bike. He locked up his wheel, and somehow we both stayed upright. I was a little embarrassed, but it really was not my fault. He was the one drafting some strange wheel.

He asked me if it was a special kind of bike. I gave him a brief rundown. At that point, the rest of his group caught up. I don't know what kind of riding they were up to beforehand, but I wasn't riding very fast. I don't know how this group managed to split up. They took off, and now I was behind them. It was just as well, since there was a major hill coming up in a few miles leading down to Sandnes. They coasted down the hill-- far faster that I could ever hope to on a bike that didn't coast. Eventually they slowed down again, and I passed them and headed home.

As I approached Stavanger, a taxi had the right of way in a roundabout. I slowed my pedaling to time myself. He completely messed up my timing by stopping-- in the roundabout- to wave me through. I wonder if he thought I wasn't stopping. I cannot stop pedaling-- it is just that simple. I had similar problems in the US at four-way stops. I would pedal right to the point of stopping. Drivers do not know how to process this information. So far, I am the only fixed gear rider around-- that I have seen. Now it is time to spread the gospel.


Hjalti said...

Interesting. Do you think the unfamiliarity with fixies is particular to Stavanger or more of Norway? Sweden seems to have a pretty big fixie culture. Does Oslo or Trondheim?

filtersweep said...

I have never seen them in Oslo-- but that doesn't mean much. I am heading to Trondheim in a few weeks and will report back.

Most people commute by mtn bike in Stavanger. In all fairness, the terrain isn't very well suited to fixed gear. There are hills everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Nah, it's been around Oslo for a couple of years. But the trend isn't really catching on. To be honest I think riding with a fixed gear is more or less a hipster thing. Only natural then that the swedes, that seem to be far more occupied with following trends, are heavily into the fg thing.

The norwegians are much to practically oriented to bother. Besides, as you say, Norway is far to roller coaster shaped...

Nevertheless and for the record: Fixed gear IS mad crazy and the bikes sure look fine when completely stripped down to a bare minimum!

Kind Regards

Kenneth Tangnes

Anonymous said...

Im living in Sandnes and sometimes ride to Stavanger.. Im riding a Nishiki fixed gear.. I think all the hills just give a good challenge. Fixies are the most reliable and practical bikes there are, since they have the least amount of parts.. I think Norwegians just dont know enough about bicycles to appreciate them. They would rather drive or take the bus. Look at how many more bike lanes Sweden and Denmark has compared to Norway!

It is a shame tho that fixies have gotten so trendy.. Too many people owning them just too look cool and not understanding why people started riding them in the first place.. But Ill be ready to buy up all their fixie parts when the trend is over and theyre tired of them.. haha