42 x 12 The Cult Of The Fixed, Patrick Potter (2010)

Hipsters on track bikes get the coffee-table treatment

Pro-actif 9780955912139 24cmx22.5cm 194pp £17.95

There is a current among cyclists that derides fixies and the hipsters who ride them. Bike Snob NYC serves as spiritual leader of this tendency with his lancing mockery of all who comb Craigslist for vintage Pistas. For any who share this despair with fashion-fixated youth, this book will provide a rich store of ammunition.

It is a scrapbook of articles and chapters whose unifying theme is that they might to be of interest to riders of fixed wheel bicycles. So, there are sections on Kerin, Rollapaluza and the Tweed Run, as well as fat quotes from fixed-wheel scensters. These are interspersed with photographs of fixie riders against every imaginable backdrop. The pictures are certainly good, in an urban, gritty, down-with-the- kids kind of way – although they don’t represent much of an artistic advance on the better skateboard magazines of the 1970s.

The text is an extraordinary lucky bag of incoherent ramblings. Such slipshod use of language would be amusing in a high school magazine, but in such a beautifully, and expensively produced book, it jars.

This section, for example, may have been intended as a joke (although unlike one or two other entries it does not end with a note explaining that ‘this article has its tongue in its cheek’).

“What is the Pistapocalypse? The simple answer is that we just don’t know. Scholars maintain that the real meaning was lost centuries ago. Others still claim that it is a catastrophe of transportation foretold by the Mayan calendar. Well, if the Mayans were so damn clever where is their big willy civilisation now, eh? All of this aside, we can no longer afford to be flippant about this extinction level event.”

Where Potter mentions sources, he has a tendency to get them wrong. Richard Caseby, for example, is described as being a journalist on The Times, in fact he works for The Sunday Times.

Elsewhere the author announces that “Hipsters are the worst and most unholy of capitalists. They seek out authenticity wherever it hides and corrupts it into the stinking, foul fetish of brand worship with its triplet gospels of unbridled materialism, snobbery and greed.”

Funnily enough, the actual capitalists – Alan Sugar, Andy Bond and Simon King, to name but three – are more likely to be road men, but Potter’s care for the meaning of words is apparently so fleeting that it seems scarcely worth pointing out.

So, is that reason to join the ranks for the ‘haters’ as fixies call all those who pour scorn on their ways?

On balance, I think not.

Every type of cycling provides potential comedic jumping off points: replica team kits, pre-war saddlebags and body armour to name but three. And there is no doubting the scale, nor vitality of youthful enthusiasm that fixed gear bikes generate.

If this book is a key text of their sub-culture, then I hope that fixed-gear riders make up in physical vigour what they lack in intellectual rigor. But whatever it is that has got them cycling – I am delighted. May their ranks swell further and then enthusiasm spread.

TD Nov 10


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