Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hipster bikes, Warsaw, Summer 2013

The style's still here; the New Orthodoxy for the Fashionably Hip on Two Wheels. How should your bicycle look if you wish to draw admiring glances from the less-trendy? The bikes below look similar at first glance, but here's a guide to distinguish the faux from the hip.

Above: Pink front rim, blue rear rim, matching saddle and grips. The frame is from Pan Heniek's scrapyard; note the forgivingly raked front forks, relaxed angles and the long wheelbase, characterised by the space between crank and rear wheel. The diagonal drop-outs suggest the bike once had dérailleur gears. In other words, the frame's an old-school original, but not one intended for single-speed track-bike use. Lack of visible braking system a desperate attempt at gaining street credibility. As fixie as they come, road-bike pedal straps. A certain charm - but not the real deal.

Above: This is more like it - straight front forks, tighter, rear triangle, rearward facing drop-outs suggest this frame was designed for a fixie. Flip-flop hub is visible (cogs on either side); front and rear brakes a concession towards safety; handlebars are not fashionably narrow. This plus a matching saddle-and-grip combo and matching rims and tyres are a sure sign the rider's a conservative at heart, albeit within a modern aesthetic. Padlock weighs as much as the entire frame.

Above: Here's a nice one! No old-fashioned toe-straps on the pedals, but wide foot straps. Pukka fixie frame (straight front forks, rear-facing drop-outs); brakes front and back. But what marks this bike out from the other two is the colour combination - lime-green saddle, chain (!) and front tyre, orangey-red rear tyre and handlebar grips, matching rims, matching yellow cranks, pedals and padlock (!)

Above: not a fixie (the rider's freewheeling down Al. Szucha); rather, this is a home-built single-speed made from an old racer. Note front and rear brakes, inner chainring (entirely redundant!) and non-matching wheels and rims. Resprayed lime green - and why not!

Above: no compromises in this fixie conversion. A lady's frame (damka), but that doesn't stop the hipster boys from being seen riding such a bike. Note - no brakes, flip-flop hub, no pedal straps, toe-clips or shoe-cleat fastening system. Note purity of colour - white, black, silver. Look at the chainset. And look at the cargo rack on the front. A courier's bike? One way or another, it takes no prisoners!

A thousand miles away. Hipsterism and its attendant fixie-culture is truly global, thanks no doubt to the internet. Behold, below, a fixie I snapped off London's Oxford Street earlier this month.

Very similar. Deep rims, frame-coloured spokes, straight forks, colour-coded tyres and saddle. Short wheelbase and rear-facing forks single this bike out as having left the factory destined to be ridden fixed gear. And note one other thing in common to all six bikes - Warsaw and London - there's no brand, no logo. Very Naomi Klein.

At the start of this season, my local hypermarket Auchan had three fixed-wheel bikes on display, all going for a mere 559 zlotys (£110). Made in China, cheap components, but proper fixie geometry, deep rims, flip-flop hubs, no rear brake... fire-engine red... all for less than the price of the cheapest pair of fixie wheels from a normal bike shop. I passed on this purchase, but all three were sold within a few weeks. To quote Danny the Dealer from Withnail and I: "They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man".

This time last year:
On Jarosław Gowin and leadership in Polish politics
[file now under 'history, what-if']

This time two years ago:
Death of a Polish pilot

This time three years ago:
Doesn't anyone want to recycle my rubbish?

This time four years ago:
End of the school year

This time five years ago:
Midsummer scenes, Jeziorki

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