Fixie Fever has descended on an urban center near you. In places like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boulder fixed gear bikes are all the rage and the latest craze for all those who are trying to be non-conforming.
For those either into simplicity or with poor mechanical skills, I can understand the lure of a bike with only one gear and no shifters or derailleurs. The single speed craze descended on the mountain bike scene about eight years ago and was met with a similar response.
There is something to be said for not having to bother with making decisions when you are out riding your bike. Unfortunately, as a cyclist in a world full of 3000 pound cars, tuning out is a very dodgy proposition. So, even if you are riding a fixie, please don't tune out the world around you. That is a very quick way to get hurt.
And speaking of safety, one of the "trendy" (read "peer pressure") aspects of fixie riding is to ride without brakes. Yeah, you can skid to a stop if you are very skilled and the terrain is amenable, but for most fixie riders and the terrain where they live, at least a front rim brake is a very good idea.
If you look back a bit in the history of fixed gear riding, it was popularized by bike racers during the off season as they looked to improve their pedaling motion. Yes, the best bike racers in the world were the first fixie riders and they always rode with at least a front rim brake. Why then, has it become so "trendy" (read "peer pressure") for fixie riders to ride without brakes?
I don't really know, but what I do know is the increasing number of reports from my biking friends in urban areas of near misses by cars of fixie riders who were unable to stop their bikes effectively and came close to being hit by cars who had the right of way, most notably at intersections.
Yeah, it might be perceived by some to be cool to ride a fixie, but please do it responsibly. The life you save may be your own.