nobody knows everything about everything. when it comes to writing about stuff, there is somewhat of a precedent in the world of journalism (oh those lofty heights), where editors are wont to hand out assignments based on requirement rather than specialism. granted, in the narrow world of cycling, it's not that hard to have at least a working knowledge of a substantial portion of all that's going on; but as its appeal widens, so does the amount of information and technical doo-flabbery. and to write about it from a confident stance takes either a more active lifestyle than that currently occupied by yours truly, or more time spent on research.
while i am happily/sadly bereft of any such senior editorial influence other than my own, i have only me to answer to, something that can be viewed as either a good thing or less so, depending on what i am writing about, and whether you, the reader, are in any way interested. granted, i figure that i have enough integrity that i hope not to fail your (unknown) expectations, but the long and short of it is that i often find myself stringing words together describing something about which i know very little.
happily, this is not the case here. just under a year ago i found myself in the situation of having to learn how to ride a bike in order to review it. from a spectator's point of view, this experience would have been reasonably humorous; from the rider's point, the eventual sense of achievement did not go unheralded. i am, of course, talking about riding a bike with one gear that doesn't freewheel when the rider does. it's all very well for messrs., the wiggle brothers, to go off and cycle from london to the french capital on just such velocipedes: it's not that they are in any way cool, simply more traditionally practised than i.
however, it cannot be denied that the sole means of completing the tour de france up until 1936 has more recently become a badge of honour in certain circles. it is a method of gearing that has never gone away as far as track racing is concerned, doubtless for the same good reasons that the great and good have tried to convince why there are no brakes on the very same machines (like that makes any sense). however, my relative inability to ride just such a fixed gear machine is not a feature that i feel particularly proud of. i always feel it far more masterful to poo-poo anything if it's something that i can do, but just choose not to.
mr edwards and mr leonard would seem to harbour no such doubts, or, indeed, any such pedalling deficiency, for not only have they put together a rather illuminating (and illuminated) tome in praise of a single, fixed sprocket, they have, in my opinion, managed to do so without descending to the position of slavering fandom. while any drummer or comedian will promote the desirability of good timing, that this book has sloped in under the radar just as christmas approaches likely has little or nothing to do with the festive season; that does not, however, preclude it from fulfilling the welcome position of christmas present. because however much people like me may wish to disparage the efficacy of one gear that doesn't freewheel, we all want to be there. and even the most sanctimonious amongst the it goes up to eleven tribe will find it hard to deny the somewhat superior aesthetic proselytised by going fixed.
there's always a danger that any book commencing with chapter and associated photographs declaring the origins or history of whatever is the subject under discussion, has declared its path well in advance. not so fixed which indeed does start with the origins of the machine, but then sparkles into an eclectic collection of randomness: graeme obree features well in the opening gambit (a commendation in itself), as does his nemesis, mr boardman, along with keirin, couriers, track racing and some very notable one geared projects, including the look ma, no brakes brace of colnago master frames.
the copious use of illustration throughout means that if you only look at the pictures the price of admission is just as applicable to you as to those of us who are connoisseurs of the printed word. fixed won't necessarily wean you off multiple sprockets and the ability to relax downhill, but it will widen your interest and experience of a genre that is unlikely to be disappearing anytime soon. and even if, like me, fixed is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there, you won't be stuck on the periphery, staring blankly at shop windows when the conversation turns to phil wood hubs and lockrings.
in the world of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. this is a veritable triumph, sized just nicely to fit on that lap after christmas dinner is over.
posted tuesday 1 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................