By Benjamin Leatherman
In the week’s feature story, I delve into the recent growth of the Valley’s fixed-gear bike scene, covering how local cyclist have latched on to the single-speed (and often brakeless) two-wheeled pedaling machines over the past few years. Getting on a fixed-gear (called “fixies” for short) takes some skill and getting used to: the pedals are perpetually in motion; and one has to use reverse pressure with their legs in order to slow down or stop.
Riders told me about how they dig fixed-gears because of the bike’s simplicity (it features no extra components like derailleurs, cables, or gear shifters) and the fact it’s just a fun little beast to ride. The bikes are also good for some stunts, as you’ll see in the following videos of local fixed-gear fans (including members of fixie group Hot City Destroyers) rolling and tricking around Phoenix and Tempe.
In the feature story I also cover the rise of “alleycats,” or multi-checkpoint urban bike races where participants speed through parts of the Valley on their fixies in a quest to see who’s the fastest. Alleycats migrated from burgs like New York City and San Francisco and were created by the bike messenger community in said cities. As such, the races can mimic the trials of a cycling couriers, where riders will obtain objects or complete tasks and challenges in (somewhat) gonzo fashion.
For instance, last October’s Dagger Death Race (which went down close to Halloween) had folks zooming through Tempe and south Scottsdale completing some pretty “interesting” challenges. As you’ll see in the following YouTube clip (set to the Murder City Devils track “Press Gang") participants left en masse from the parking lot of Kore Bike Industries in Scottsdale, stopping off at such locations as the Rogue Bar or at Tempe Butte Cemetery to obtain a rubbing from the grave of one E.W. Hudson, Jr.
Local BMX pro KC Badger, one of the race organizers, described to me how those involved also visited a few houses during the race where they had to chug either a beer or a shot of hot sauce, toss a “random object at a barn,” or engage in other physical tasks.
As I described in my story, alleycat riders will occasionally break some traffic laws during the events, like one dude who took his bike on the Loop 202 during the DDR.
There was also a pretty off-the-chain after-party following the race at Sunset Clothing Xchange in Tempe where prizes were handed out and fixies fans celebrated long into the night.
See more from local fixies in our slideshow "Fixed-gear Frenzy."