Okay, now that I’ve lost half my readers, let’s continue. Below you’ll see a video of some guys eminently more qualified to teach you how to skid a fixie.
What qualifies these guys above to teach me how to skid a fixie? Well, not only are they about a quarter my age but they can also quite clearly skid a fixie. They make it look so effortless, I’m sure they’ve applied their mother’s cooking oil to the tyres or something.
What I can tell from watching this video is that the way to skid a fixie is to take all the weight off the rear wheel and then lock out the rear wheel with your legs. I can see where I went wrong, I knew I’d have to get some weight off the rear wheel but I wasn’t convinced I’d need to be sitting on the handlebars like these guys. What they’re doing is not unlike how I used to do a burn-out when I was kid. You took all the weight off your rear wheel and pedaled (yeah, similar, just opposite). If you were of a certain juvenile mind (that is, young and male) you could convince yourself that what you were doing was somehow very nearly almost as cool as some guy smoking up his tyres of his Monaro.
Can you stop a fixie without a skid? When I was a kid and used to ride my cousin’s track bike around Warnambool I entered it in a few road races (because he was on his road bike…in case you’re wondering). I never really contemplated what was required to stop the bike because I was young and stupid and there was barley any traffic to worry about in Warnambool in those days. (It’s now a sprawling metropolis of over of 30,000 people.) I won my first race (because of a generous handicapping system that gave me the kind of head-start only Cadel could have chased down) by a healthy margin but that didn’t stop me sprinting the finish line (because I could…and because I was young and stupid…). Only then did I finally consider how I might bring this bike under control and let me tell you I was practically in the next town before I turned the bike around.
Maybe I could have leaned over the handle-bars and dragged out a couple hundred metres of class A fixie skid. You know…had I known how to do it. Problem there was skidding a fixie wasn’t known then as the art form it no doubt is now, and rubbing out a patch of bare tyre was considered then to be the type of thing that guaranteed no-one ever loaned their bike to you ever again.
Skidding your own bike was good form but also kind of frowned upon. You were at once hero and knob-head if you smoked up a tyre and rubbed a patch so bare your inner-tube popped. You have to remember this was before we’d started using our handle-bars like a pommel horse and tearing out a really huge skid required a long steep hill and loads of rubber. A single long skid could cost you an the entire tyre if it was a really big skid.
|Early photo of a man practicing for his fixie skids.|
Obviously what you’re doing when you pommel over the bars when skidding a fixie is reducing the friction. But it’s hard enough to bring a bike to stop with just rear brakes when you have full friction. A while back I was getting round town on a bike with only rear brake and got myself in a situation where I needed to stop in traffic, in the wet, in a hurry. Instead I slid graciously toward a Beemer and a Merc with barely noticeable reductions in speed. For a moment I thought I’d have to choose which one would be the least expensive when I collided with it but then I somehow managed to slide right between the two. And this is the problem with skidding as a way of stopping your fixie, a sliding rear tyre is a pretty hopeless way of stopping a bike, especially if you’re pommelling all over your bike to help make that skid happen. Maybe you whip the tail out and that helps? Right. Try that in the handlebar-width gap between expensive European motorcars.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing this shit because clearly judging by the way I’ve tried and failed to learn a fixie skid there is a skill involved. Just stop trying to convince other people that you’re so in control and all that shit and therefore the fixie is just awesome in traffic. The very laws of physics are against you and thems are some tough laws to argue against. A whiny voice and a right-on attitude can’t make the universe behave any differently. You’ll start sounding like one of those dickheads who own Macs and have to preach to everybody about how they’re so much better than PCs. You oversell them so much that when some friend/family member does make the trip across to Mac they’re inevitably underwhelmed by what they find there. And then so many cross back to PC…just like the guy I had in my workshop yesterday. Problem is cruddy brakes are more dangerous than a cruddy OS.
I know I’m just being old and a stupid and there are things there I can’t comprehend. I remember being young (well kinda) and riding bikes with neither brakes nor fixed wheels. A brakeless bike with a freehub could be stopped by aid of the shoes mum bought you or by throwing it into a slide. Much the same way BMX boys stop their bikes still. Problem with this is I now pay for my sneakers and I’ve figured out that brake pads are cheaper than sneakers. And throwing it into a slide? Come one, I can’t even do that on a fixie. Plus I’m genuinely traveling a lot faster and further than I was as a child.
I’ll give it another go one day, try and learn that fixie skid. I know it’s something I should be able to do, given the nature and content of my blog. I’ll be keeping my front brake though. (So yeah, stay tuned for another blog in the future about me failing yet again to master the most basic fundamentals of riding a fixie.)