Author: Anthony Robson

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Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 4:05 pm
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Book Reviews

42×12: The Cult of Fixed

There is no trendier movement at the moment in cycling than the Fixi, or Fixed Wheel Bicycle. This is taking cycling way, way back to the days before gears and freewheels; taking the lack of an ability to coast away from the track; making that single rear wheel sprocket a more common sight than only on messengers’ rides. Some say it’s ‘pure’; others that it improves your riding style; others still that it leads to a sort of zen-connectivity with the bike. The only thing for sure is that while fixed wheel riding has never gone away the last few years have seen a huge boom.

And once something has become trendy the social network takes over, with the internet providing all the information and imagery you could ever want. But a new book takes a leap away from the computer screen and lands firmly, heftily, on your coffee table. 42×12: The Cult of Fixed. The numbering refers to a suggested fixed wheel gearing (42 tooth chainring and 12 tooth sprocket). The reference to fixed wheel riding being a ‘cult’ is perhaps as easy to explain, with many fixed wheel riders (myself included as my daily commuter is a one-geared 44×16 joy) being truly evangelical about this particular way of riding.

42×12 is as eclectic a collection as the diverse riders themselves. It initially sets out to demystify fixed wheel riding – dragging it away from being a trend, away from being a ‘brand’, and simply about bikes and people who love bikes. It’s a convincing argument to anyone who rides fixed, but those looking in will see a publication which simply oozes ‘style’ and immediately pigeonhole it into simply being part of that trend the first words set out to decry.

It’s a hard argument to counter as you read more. The book is essentially a series of articles, loosely linked, but more because they’re all about fixed wheel riding rather than a descriptive narrative. It feels like a magazine with a hard cover, peppered with stunning photos and reasons why people forego geared momentum. Many of the articles, most of the articles, are written in a spoken style. That is they’re written down exactly as someone would speak about cycling a fixed wheel bike. This could, possibly should, make for a disjointed feel to text, but somehow it works. Perhaps it is because it fits in with the disjointed style of the publication as a whole, jumping from short article to short article. But I think in the main it’s this style which retains and honesty and truth about what is being said.

This is what marks the book away from being simply another part of the trend. This is written by the people who actually ride – there isn’t a single touch of a marketing man looking for buzzwords and niches into which he can tap. This is a book by people who love bikes, for people who love bikes. The opening words were right. And yes this means that the preaching is being done to the converted, and is most likely the reason I liked reading through it so much. It is also the reason having read it I find myself returning to look at the pictures contained inside. Yes I can put the computer on and look at thousands more, but there’s a nice immediacy to this sitting on the table ready to be picked up at any moment.

Non-fixed wheel riders may find themselves looking at it differently, though any bike lover will still appreciate much of what is being said as it relates to riding as a whole, and the images will still work for those people on exactly the same level.

When the book first arrived I had to wonder just who it was aimed at, and if it was a publication that was trying too hard to fit into a new trend, taking advantage in a surge in popularity. In the end it may end up being a book found in many cyclists’ homes for the exact reason that it isn’t trying to do that at all. Truly a love of cycling that pours from every page; being about fixed wheel riding almost seems ancillary as you reach the end.

RRP £17.95 but check out prices on Amazon for The Cult of Fixed 42×12

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