Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why bicycle couriers choose to ride fixies

Fixies are ridden by urban bicycle couriers (also known as bicycle messengers) around the world.  They are generally found in the central business districts of large cities where getting around on a bicycle is faster than any other means of transportation because they don’t get stuck in traffic or need to find parking. Riding in traffic and under pressure all day, every day these men and women are some of the strongest and fittest cyclists you can find. They work their bikes very hard and if they had to ride bikes made of stuff like aluminum they would likely break them. The fixies these riders use have steel track frames modified with different wheels for street use. Because fixies don’t have gears and some don’t have brakes either, they’re very simple machines- meaning there is very little to go wrong with them.

Green fixie by Baseline Bicycles

Some couriers and other fixie fans buy and sell frames and make up their bikes the way they want them, but most riders keep things pretty simple. People who love these bikes like to heighten their simple appearance by removing everything that isn’t essential, giving them a stark, clean look. Some couriers go a little too far in their quest for lightweight simple machines and even remove the brakes.

Premium Rush poster

Premium Rush-Movie synopsis from rottentomatoes.comDodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York's agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie - super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who's used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him.

Except for this small niche of riders (bicycle couriers), responsible owners of fixed gear bikes should have them outfitted with both front and rear brakes at least until they learn to skid stop, at which point they should still keep at least a front brake.  There is no excuse for putting yourself and the public at risk just to be “cool”.


  1. Hang on. Wait a minute. NO BRAKES?

    Well that sounds just plain stupid. The things people will do just to "look cool"...

    Sarah |

  2. These bikes were really built without brakes. These are track bikes for your info. The legs and pedals are used as the braking system. Do some research on track bikes and velodrome to know why there are no brakes for fixies

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