|Paul Makepeace > On > Cycling > Equipment Rationale
blog - about - news - contact
All the components on my fixed gear bike I've thought fairly hard about, and here are the underlying decisions. Almost needless to say, these are personal to me; they wouldn't necessarily suit another rider. This isn't a prescriptive piece at all.
The basis of most of these decisions in my style of riding: "aggressive" in the extreme sports sense, rather than riding around with an attitude; where I cycle: London central; and how fast I want to get where I'm going: generally, as fast as my physiology can stand.
So the bike reflects a reflection of the practicalities of the job before it. Which is a shame as I love the stripped-down minimalist look of many of the fixed courier bikes I see around.
I ride with both brakes, old skool Shimano 600. Many fixed rigs have only a front brake or in some cases none, relying on back-pedalling pressure. If you ride less than 20km/h on empty country roads then perhaps having no brakes is OK but I'm regularly in a situation where I have to scrub off 35km/h in a matter of meters and that ain't happening with a 42x12 gear ratio (that's about 95" for you track freaks).
It regularly rains in the UK during winter and spring (and quite frankly a fair chunk of the other times of the year) and I don't like having mud spattered all up my legs and back. It's really just that simple. Yeah, the look sucks.
I don't take my wheels off often so there's no point for me. Quick release aids theft more than it benefits me from the occasional drop in the back of a small car.
There's another reason quick release is a poorer choice for me: the axles are weaker; there's a 3mm hole in them. Even though I'm riding a road bike I sling it up and down kerbs as though I were on a mountain bike or BMX (I used to ride BMX street/ramp when I was younger). Even though I can quite smoothly now hop up and down kerbs there's still risk and accumulation of bike damage, but that's price for making progress through traffic. The best type of axle is a super tough job designed for tandems.
OK, I do use quick release. The front wheel is on a special type of QR that requires an allen (hex) key to remove. So with a 5mm key I can whip the front wheel off. Bizarrely, my front wheel hasn't been stolen yet in over a decade (I have the original Mavic rims) so maybe bike thieves aren't carrying around hex keys.
Right off the bat I'll say I cannot understand anyone riding without clipless pedals. This invention must be one of the most important innovations in the bike world (Shimano's groupsets are too, but only at a theoretical design museum level: no-one would actually ride in real life with gears, surely? :-).
But seriously - cleats enable a stiff sole which provides way more efficient power delivery, not to mention being able to pull up on hills. There is also the stability and surety of knowing your feet aren't going to slip under load or fall off the side if bumped in any way. Clipless pedals mean a bunch fewer things to worry about.
And despite all this they're a (literal) snap to eject from. After about two minutes practice there's no reason to be any less safe dismounting than without clips--the action of twisting out is completely orthogonal to pedalling. They're definitely safer than toeclips & straps which can get tangled as well as requiring bending down to tighten.
My paint job has been described from 'gay' to 'loud' to 'wow, soo pink'. It gets seen, and I'm guessing is less appealing to thieves. I've had the current frame and paint-job (give/take some re-welding) for I think over fifteen years. So I guess something's working!
My favorite type is the white tape with the fine crystalline look that is ultra-reflective but quite discreet in daylight. I have a stripe up my rear mudguard and on the back of the seat. I'd like some of those Dutch in-spoke reflectors that use the same material and are amazingly visible at night.
I should have more reflective tape on my bike, really.
My bike recently acquired a GPS mount for my aging Garmin eMap. Wow, this device is an absolute gift for navigation. I've only progressed to the point of waypointing my final destination and following the big arrow but that's pretty much enough. It's a great way of exploring and learning how one is oriented in a city, you can go anywhere, explore any side street, new route or back alley knowing the satellites will always be there to get you out of trouble. I'll write more on this at some point - having a GPS definitely should not be seen as a freakish activity!
Here's what I discovered cutting open a Respro air filter. You can make up your own mind if you think they're optional.