Category Archives: fixed gear

“I bent my Wookiee”

I bent my Wookiee

Well, Ralph Wiggum did as you can hear here:

Alternative version

In my case, I broke my Campagnolo C-Record (AKA Record Pista AKA Sherrif’s Star) track hub, on the drive side. I waited for a break in traffic (trackstanding naturellement) and was pulling out of my work onto the main road and I heard a ping which I though was a spoke. So I pulled up on the side of the road…my tyre rubbing on my frame and discovered that Sheldon Brown wasn’t making it up!

Edit – Some equally cromulent points are made by “11.4” about 3/4 of the way through this thread on Bike Forums.

I’ve had them since the end of 2003, so I’ve had good use out of them and the failure wasn’t so catastrophic that it resulted in physical injury and I now will have the pleasure of rectifying the situation (building a new wheel, perhaps) but it still is a bit of a bummer. I also got them for a extremely good price. The bearings also are still as smooth as the first day I got them.

I was on my way to meet some friends and colleagues at the pub, so I called for a lift and commiserated with an Amstel, as you can see below.

Commiserating with an Amstel

Here’s a picture of the pristine and untarnished works of art in happier times…

Campagnolo Record Pista Rear hub
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Sheldon Brown RIP

Sheldon and Igor

Many people who have an interest in maintaining or building bicycles will have come across Sheldon Brown’s website. I have certainly referred to it many times obscure bike maintenance questions or to point people towards some sound, comprehensive and expert advice on how to perform a particular bit of maintenance. I have recklessly ignored his advice about Campagnolo Record track hubs though…

I was saddened to hear the other day that Sheldon passed away last weekend. According to his Wikipedia entry, it was from a heart attack.

Coining a phrase? “Exenger”

Fakenger bag and Bill’s millions by pocketmonsterd. Used under a Creative Commons Licence

Before I created this post claiming to coin the term exenger (to refer to ex-cycle messengers) last May, I checked Google for any prior mentions of the “word”. Apart from some results such as some German, Star Trek fan-fiction about the USS Exenger, misspellings of the word “exchanger” and expired domain name pages for exenger.com…there didn’t seem to be any results that related to cycle messengers/couriers. I’m not claiming that I am the first dude to ever think of this portmanteau…but I think I was the first to put it online.

Anyhow, I decided to do a the same search again and lo and behold, now the first four results are courier related. How about that?

The first 2 results are from the London Fixed-gear and Single-speed site…some say the definitive fakenger website or at least right up there with the London Bicycle Fakenger Association.

Results 3 and 4 are from Bill Chidley’s Moving Target zine…a favourite blog that I recommend.

In fact, Bill has used the term exenger twice since my post according to the Moving Target blog search for “exenger”. Furthermore executing a Moving Target forum search for “exenger”, yields another 4 mentions.

Googling for ‘exenger AND courier’ or ‘exenger AND messenger’ yields results on rollapaluza.com the London roller race organizers, fyxomatosis.com (my fellow high school alumnus, Andy White’s site) and most authoratively the Messenger Mailing List archive of the International Federation of Bicycle Messenger Assosciations (the organisation responsible for the Cycle Messenger World Championships in which I competed in 2004). To the best of my knowledge, all results have been since my exenger post on 3 May 2007.

Anyhow, little things amuse little minds but it tickles me no end that this seems to have happened. Maybe it will get in the Oxford English Dictionary one day??? More like the UrbanDictionary.com

Perhaps I should buy the exenger.com domain? Erm, maybe not.

Enough time wasted on this post…I’m off to cycle Mt Mattress.

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Fakenger/Posenger/Exenger

Hi I’m Ed the exenger — Photo by the inimitable Andy White @ fyxomatosis

“From short pants to cool hats and bags big enough to hold a filing cabinet, bike messengers everywhere have a unique style. Riding a bike through the crowded streets of any city requires a wardrobe of practicality and freshness that clearly distinguishes couriers from geared-up roadies.” pedalpushersonline.com

My recent post about the recent Oxford HGV death that” linked to Moving Target “the world’s most useless messenger zine” gained me a link in its sidebar (thanks Bill), making my pageviews spike upwards dramatically. This made me pretty happy as Moving Target is a site that I regularly read.

Now my post has fallen off the end of Moving Target’s homepage linkroll and my millions of page views are now back down to the usual tens of thousands only. So, I thought I’d attempt some blatant traffic driving and discuss the rising popularity of the fixed gear bicycle and the concept of the fakenger/posenger/ex-enger…inspired by the fact that the fakenger article on MT is its most popular apparently, so I thought I’d sell out. I can’t wait to see my Google Analytics stats go psycho!…or not.

Here is the Urban Dictionary’s definition of fakenger and posenger.

I admit it, I am a posenger (exenger). I once worked as a courier and it was one of the best times of my life. However, I haven’t delivered a package since 2001 but I’m dressing more like a “courier” now than I did when I was actually picking and dropping. Also, in 2003 almost two years after hanging up my pager, I obtained a fixed wheel/gear bike which is in direct contrast to the courier ghetto bike that I used when I was on the job.

I thought I’d attempt to coin my own term for it though, exenger… ex-Messenger…to try and differentiate myself from the hipster masses. Whaddaya reckon?

Associated with the fakenger/posenger meme is the rise of the fixed gear (or fixed wheel) bicycle AKA fixie. I’ve noticed quite a lot of internet talk about the fixed gear bike trend/craze/fad. I’ve also noticed that there are definitely quite a few more fixed gear riders on the streets of Oxford than in previous years, which I guess isn’t surprising given the coverage in publications such as Cycling Plus and also the influx of students from the USA now that term has started and the weather has improved.

I did a search on Technorati the other day and discovered that there was a big spread in the New York times last Sunday about fixed gear/wheel bicycles. Does this mean, as Iconic’s blog suggests that riding a bike with a fixed wheel has jumped the shark?

Couriers and the accoutrements of the profession have long percolated into popular culture viz. Crumpler (and other brand) courier bags becoming ubiquitous, Kevin Bacon’s Quicksilver movie and numerous articles about “urban assault riders” with “kamikaze, counter-culture” lifestyles being examples.

So, couriers have long had cred and cachet but now it’s become a damn sight easier to obtain the paraphernalia. Anyone can walk into their local Specialized dealer and buy a Langster fixie for £399/$600 or a Kona Paddy Wagon (£450) to get that special Zen, courier feeling…notwithstanding the fact that a lot of couriers don’t even ride fixed bikes. There are also an abundance of courier (shoulder) bag makers on the Web that will ship their wares to any location to help you complete “the look

My take (probably not surprisingly) on it is that I think it’s fine to mimic the courier thing…one less car and all that. However, in a bid to big myself up…with only a little digging it’s possible to discern the exengers (like me) from the fakengers who have never been a working courier. In your face fakengers…vive l’exengeur!!

Despite all that, the messenger “look” is a darn sight better than golf chic being the new punk, in my opinion…and as Iconic says:

“if, in a year, fixies are no longer hip…well, enjoy the great prices on cool bike gear.”

I might have more to say on the matter later but that’s all for now. Time to ski Mt Mattress.

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The smallest fixie in Oxford

Every now and then I go down to one of the colleges in Oxford and help out a bit at the regular bike maintenance session. Students and staff can come down to get the advice and expertise of Gerard, Andrew, Lucas and sometimes me in exchange for a little bit of beer money.

Often, the “bicycles” we work on are terrible examples of the cycle maker’s “craft”. You know the type…ones with MountainForce 3000 and British Street Demon decals on the downtube which should actually read Shitbox 3000 and Non-British Road Muppet instead. It’s kind of depressing that some of the brightest minds in the country can’t even crack open a bottle of chain lube from time to time.

Next time I go, I’m thinking of sitting out the front like a bouncer and saying things like:

“That bike’s too crap even for this poverty stricken bike workshop…you”re not coming in”

or

“I’ll teach you how to fix the puncture yourself so you don’t have to keep coming back but I’m not doing it for you”

Anyhow, the other night I tinkered with a little BMX style bike, a bit like the one pictured above. It belonged to the little boy one of the post-graduate students. When I arrived, Lucas and Andrew had just finished attending to it but when its owner came back and took it for a spin it turned out that the chain was a bit loose so I tightened it up for the young tyke and he happily pedaled off with his mum.

The thing that tickled me the most about the bike was that the vehicle was a fixie. It didn’t have a kick-back brake (there was a front caliper) or a freewheel…it was a direct drive, fixie. I nearly tried teaching the lad to trackstand or skid but decided against it.

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