in defense of brakes

nothing i’ve seen in cycling yet has been as constructive as the fixie trend because nothing i’ve yet seen has put as many bums on bikes. also, a fixed gear or single speed bike is lovely to ride, once the operator has a modicum of fitness. gears are unnecessary to the point of being almost irrelevant in most city commutes, and they clutter and distract. a perfect drive train without gears is a lovely thing to ride.
looks good and has a front brake. thanks to ffffix.com
like any new trend though it carries some baggage. for the fixie trend our biggest baggage — beside the wonderful crumpler messenger bags — is the brakeless bike. bike’s without brakes cannot under any circumstance stop as quickly as a bike with brakes. bikes with only a rear brake can stop only about a quarter as quickly as a bike with a front brake. front brakes, as anyone would know who knows their bikes, as the most important brake on the bike.
messenger bags, the only baggage for fixies
two facts

  1. front brakes are the most important brakes. they do by far the most braking. 
  2. a skidding tyre does not have the same stopping power of a rolling tyre. why the hell do you think the automotive industry spent about ten bajillion dollars developing abs?
pure fixies, no brake fixies, they cannot ever have the stopping potential of a braked bike. see facts one and two above. your average fixie rider relies on locking up the rear wheel to skid to a stop. this isnt a good look in an emergency and could get you a ride home in an ambulance.
i know fixie’s give you more control, problem is, i’m not really talking about the fixie experts here, i’m talking about the new legion of fixie converts. (but even the world’s greatest fixie expert can’t defy the rules of the universe. see fact one above. and then get some brakes sucker.)
for a while i got around with only a rear brake. this all stopped when i crested the chevron island bridge in the wet and saw a line of cars stopped on the other side. i locked up the rear brakes and slid toward a porche on one side and a mercedes on the other. there was no way i could stop so i straightened up and skidded between the two cars. then i went home and ordered a new front brake.

front brakes are awesome. but they’re also a little tricky to get the best out of. i wonder how many fixie converts are brakeless just because they never learned to use the front brake properly and never realised it’s full potential. 
if you like doing bar spins  then you’ve got a pretty good argument against front brakes. thing is, bmx riders have been doing bar spins for year, some of them with brakes. arguing that bmx bikes represent anything about bikes and brakes is going out on a limb, but hey, bmx are ridden by kids and they almost never go fast enough to need brakes. and when they do crash those kids bounce back up. point is, they have bar spin technology with brakes and we dont. the only fixie i’ve ever seen with barspin brakes is the redline ubs.
redline urbis

in mountain biking we learn to get every sweet last drop of stop out of our front brake. the faster you can stop the harder you can charge. and that’s a point that doesnt stop when the dirt turns to tar macadam. i like riding fast in traffic and i like sprinting into situations that very specifically rely on stopping on a dime if something goes wrong, say that car in front closes the gap, chucks a uey suddenly and without indicating — oh, as if they would — or decides to turn left when they’re indicating right. the point about brakes is they allow you to charge hard and stop when things go wrong. fixie pure means you have to always allow extra stopping distance, extra drops of caution, and that aint cool and it aint nearly as fun as being a hard charger. 

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