Fixed Gear History
Bike Messenger

The fixed-gear bikes that are so popular among college campuses and urban culture today are actually rooted in bicycle messenger services.

Bicycle couriers are usually found in dense urban areas with a central business district. Businesses will often use these messengers to deliver packages, legal documents, checks and other sensitive material because they are faster than automobiles and can maneuver through traffic.

Although messengers use all types of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids, the single-speed, fixed-gear bike is the overarching symbol of bike messengers.

While the compensation for bike couriers is usually fairly low, especially considering the on-the-job risk, the freedom and spirit of the bike messenger community has kept the industry alive.

An online article for Wired magazine says the fixed-gear bike is becoming increasingly popular among college students and young, urban cyclists because of the bike’s “pure lines, low cost and street cred.”

"Now all the college kids want them because they have had courier bags for the last five years and now they want the bike to go with it," says Jim Wirtanen, a bicycle messenger for 12 years in the streets of Boston.

Track riders on a veldrome

Fixed-gear bikes are not only ridden on the streets, however. The bikes have also long been used in velodromes, or bike-racing tracks. These are circular tracks with steep embankments similar to NASCAR speedways. These races were a popular spectator sport in the 1800s, and New York's Madison Square Garden was originally built for a velodrome.

Sources

  1. Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_messenger
  2. Wired- http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2005/04/67149
  3. New York Times- http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/nyregion/thecity/29gear.html