I used to ride bikes instead of run, and I loved it. Whether competitively in Australia or more for pleasure and exercise here in France, I’ve always enjoyed testing myself on a bike in terms of distance, over hills, up mountains, or just negotiating the traffic in some of the world’s great cities.
After a while, though, the disadvantages of road cycling start to emerge. For one, there’s the hassles of traffic. For another – and really the major one in terms of fitness and exercise – to get a reasonable workout on a bike you need to ride either really hard or really long. Given an hour of time in the morning, I could get a lot more out of a run than I could an equivalently long ride. It just stopped being all that fun…
A few years ago I finally gave away the road bike (well, sold it at a steal on Le Bon Coin…) and got myself a fixed gear track bike instead. Since doing so, I have rediscovered the feeling of fun. The track bike has a single gear, the pedals turn when the wheels do – that is, if you are moving you are pedalling, and it you are not pedalling you stop, there is no coasting – and while it does have a brake (legally it’s required if I am going to ride on the road) the real way to slow down is to control your speed with your legs.
Riding the fixed gear is great fun. It forces you to look up, think about where you want to go in the next 30 seconds not just in the next two seconds, and to identify ways to keep moving forward in traffic rather than stop. Of course I can stop, that’s not a problem, but part of the fun is looking for ways to keep moving. I tend to ride at about the same speed as I would on the road bike but it feels faster as I keep driving the bike forward.
I took the fixed gear out today with Jamie for a short trip to the shops, and we’ll take it out again tomorrow on a slightly longer trip to the pet shop in search of a new plant for his fish tank. In the last week I’ve bought a nice secure lock, too, so taking it in to work during the week should be possible, too. It’s certainly faster than the Velov and I’m guessing it will be about the fastest way to commute the five kilometers from door to door in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
With this gorgeous summer weather, I’m looking forward to it.