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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fashionable and Famously Forgettable Fixies For Formosa

The Taipei Times ran a lengthy article about the growing fixie trend in Taiwan. I have seen several around and just chalk it up to the general trend, which is now several years old, finally making it to Taiwan.

For those who are not in the know, a fixie, or fixed gear bicycle, is a bike with only one chainring in the front and the rear cog is welded to the rear hub. This makes for a light, simple bike that works well in flat, urban riding, but is not very practical for a lot of other riding.

The fixie trend originated originated among the urban bike messengers in major US cities as the motion and braking are applied through the pedals. The pedals are always in motion as long as the wheel is moving, just as you might find with track bikes. These make ideal trick bikes.

Unfortunately, at least in my own opinion, the trend has been taken over by "hipsters" who find a beautiful steel framed classic bike. Colnago, Pinarello, Nishiki, 3Rensho, Masi... you name it. They will then dremel off the cable and brake hangars, for a smooth frame, and then paint over the original paint in monochrome color schemes to render the bike more of a fashion accessory than a fully functional bike. In Seattle I saw more hipsters walking their fixed gear bicycles than riding them.

The saddest part is that, like most of us, these hipsters grow up to some degree or another and move on to new trends, thus rendering the bike more or less disabled.

There are a few companies out there that focus on fixed gear bikes exclusively. In Taichung IRO bikes on Zhong min South Rd. is a popular spot for fixies. I have seen a couple other shops in southern Taichung near the Art Museum, but I have not had a chance to get the addresses. I hope people who are interested in this type of riding will buy a dedicated fixie than cut up an old Nag.

Happy riding!

The Huffington Post Meets Taiwan Cycling: Michael Turton Writes A Gem

Michael Turton, a man I consider one of the keystones of Taiwan's blogging community, an excellent riding companion, and a good friend, has written a magnificent piece about biking in Taiwan for the Huffington Post.

What is riding Taiwan? Taiwan is going a thousand meters up a massive mountain in a single morning, and buying drinks from scantily-clad betel nut girls in their roadside stalls. Taiwan is piercing curls of smoke on a rolling dawn as the farmers burn off their fields, and speeding past the stink of mud and trash oozing from the muck of a canal next to the ocean. Taiwan is a landslide in the road and a viper lounging alongside it. Taiwan is bantering with the old women selling water and steamed buns on a chill winter morn, and exchanging hellos with farmers spraying fruit trees in the fading light of a summer's eve. Taiwan is gliding into the local fishing port for sashimi, and lapping up the last few klicks to the only noodle stand for a hundred leagues. Taiwan is looking down on the lovely Liyu Reservoir and peering up at the terrifying landslide scarp at Jiufen Ershan. Taiwan is riding next to chasms as deep as geological eras, and hearing the whistle of teapots in houses far above filling the mountains as a crisp dawn cracks across the peaks with forty kilometers of desolate mountain road in front of you. Taiwan is.

For me the article is extra special as the experiences he writes about are also my experiences. Michael and I have biked thousands of kilometers together and each kilometer is full of everything that IS Taiwan and everything that is friendship.

Only a person who is deeply attached to this land can really express it in words like Michael has done.

Taiwan is, like most places, a country of complexities, paradoxes and pluralities. When you live here a while, and even more so, when you experience it by bike, you come to see some of the beauty in the burning, the trash and chaos of the roads. It is not a fascination with the "strange" and "exotic". It is an appreciation of the nuanced complexity of life and lives going on. It is also an appreciation of being a part of it all for as little time as it may be. Biking in Taiwan is living.

Please follow the link and enjoy this piece and Michael's wonderful pictures.