Fixed-gear bikes spark police crackdown in Berlin

95 posts in this topic

 

it seems pointless to be arguing this point on here, but i'm a glutton for punishment so i'll give it a go. yes, intuition says that a bike without brakes is dangerous. but fixed gear bikes have a really good braking system built into them -- you can stop the bike very quickly and efficiently by controlling the speed of the rear wheel using the pedals and chain. it works exactly the same way a traditional rear brake does (slowing down/stopping the wheel), except it doesn't loose efficiency in the rain and the brakepads don't need to be replaced twice a year.

 

german law states that a bike must have two independent mechanical braking systems. i've put a front brake on mine, and my drivetrain is a very effective braking system, so i therefore am biking within the law.

Well within the law as it pertains to brakes maybe, and that is debatable but what about all the rest of the gubbins the German law says you need to be street legal. I would guess that you probably have about zero amount of that?

 

As for the brakes you reckon it is a good system but I can't see how it can be when the only way to slow down your back wheel is to pedal slower than the wheel is turning which means the only brakeing mechanism is your muscles which are no way as effecient as a decent roller brake or even the old fashioned back pedal type brakes, which also do not lose efficiency in the rain or wear the brakepads out.

 

I am not saying you shouldn't ride your junkheap bikes and enjoy yourself but no complaining when you end up either fined by the cops or splattered across the road when your "more efficient" brakeing system lets you down.

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wow. why so full of hate, mate? chill out, the world's not out to get you, you know?

 

i can only speak from personal experience (and from what i see from my friends), but my braking distance is the same on my brakeless fixed geared bikes and my geared road bikes -- none of which, i might add, are junkheaps.

 

oh, and german law otherwise says that to be streetlegal, your bike needs to have a bell, lights and reflectors, and to not damage the roadsurface. should police be confiscating bikes that don't have bells, too?

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sorry. are you seriously suggesting that your arguement against fixed gear bikes is that someone might steal one and not be able to handle it?

Yes, just like if you'd lend it to your friend. If your bike is unsafe in everybody's hands except yours, then maybe it doesn't belong on the road. I could say my cars brakes are shot but because I drive slowly and gear down, it's ok. I am afraid that wouldn't fly with the law.

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that's a bad analogy. i'd say its more like a ferrari. safe if you're used to driving it, but i wouldn't borrow my mate's enzo and expect it to drive like a ford escort.

 

or, say, if i'd only ever driven an automatic, i'd feel uncomfortable borrowing my friend's stick shift and thinking that i'd be safe.

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wow. why so full of hate, mate? chill out, the world's not out to get you, you know?

 

i can only speak from personal experience (and from what i see from my friends), but my braking distance is the same on my brakeless fixed geared bikes and my geared road bikes -- none of which, i might add, are junkheaps.

 

oh, and german law otherwise says that to be streetlegal, your bike needs to have a bell, lights and reflectors, and to not damage the roadsurface. should police be confiscating bikes that don't have bells, too?

No hate just exasperation at the whineing of "it's not fair" when people get nicked and fined for breaking the law.

 

The reference to junkheap bikes was from the earlier posts - do try and keep up. :)

 

As for confiscating bikes - I know that the cops do fine people for not haveing bells/reflectors etc usually as an extra when the rider gets stopped for doing something else dangerous.

 

Still can't see how you can claim that your leg muscles are as efficient as a friction brake though.

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Still can't see how you can claim that your leg muscles are as efficient as a friction brake though.

well, we'll have to agree to disagree. again, i'd say that i pose no more hazard to myself or others on my brakeless fixed gears as on my geared bikes. i have, to stay within german law (and moreover to not have my bike confiscated) put a front brake on my fixed gear bikes though.

 

and i would heartily agree that a fixed gear novice shouldn't ride brakeless.

 

a front brake, by the way, provides 75-80% of the stopping power on a bicycle equipped with both front and back brakes.

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a front brake, by the way, provides 75-80% of the stopping power on a bicycle equipped with both front and back brakes.

can't disagree with you on that one

but please remind us all how good a front break is in the wet?

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The braking power is cut by the same percentage as a front and rear braking set-up would be. Stability might even be better because you are less likely to lock the rear.

 

PS It's "brake", for you and several others in this thread

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Thank you for your answers Binaural but I was hoping that Teddy would comment on it hence the reason I quoted him

so I will await his reply before making further comments

 

(and yes I know my spelling is bad but a least I give it a go) :P

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(and yes I know my spelling is bad but a least I give it a go)

Haha, I wasn't having a shot but I hang around a few bike forums and that, after derailleur, must be the most commonly misspelt words

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Thank you for your answers Binaural but I was hoping that Teddy would comment on it hence the reason I quoted him

so I will await his reply before making further comments

 

(and yes I know my spelling is bad but a least I give it a go)

The braking power is cut by the same percentage as a front and rear braking set-up would be. Stability might even be better because you are less likely to lock the rear. ;)

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ok so your agreeing with Binaural then I take it ;)

 

so would you say a front brake give you better stability & braking in the wet is what I am reading here

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well again it's sort of dependent on your set-up.

 

one of my roadbike has carbon rims, with carbon braking surfaces and carbon-compatible brakepads (front and back). it has virtually no stopping power at all in the wet. i'm exaggerating a bit, but i do have to squeeze the brakelevers so hard my hands get tired. i don't ride that bike a lot when it's raining.

 

my other racer has normal metal rims, and again they get pretty seriously affected by being wet, but not as much. i think my stopping distance probably doubles in the rain.

 

with my fixed gear bike with front brake, the front brake becomes similarly less effective in the wet. i rely on my drivetrain/back wheel to stop (which isn't as effected by being wet). in the winter, i put tyres on my fixed gear bikes that have a bit more traction. i think fixed gears are great on slippery roads. you can modulate your speed really effectively using the drivetrain. backpedal brakes are really dangerous (verging on unsafe) in the wintertime.

 

if you're wanting a bike where weather doesn't compromise your braking at all, go for a mountain bike with disk brakes and chunky, knobby tyres. not that fun to ride around the city though.

 

this is all getting a bit bikegeek now. is that what you were asking about?

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What Wikipedia has to say on fixies & braking:

 

 

Some fixie riders think brakes are not strictly necessary, and brakeless fixed riding has an almost cult status in some places, based on the perception by some riders of the experience of riding in a state of intense concentration or 'flow' where brakes are thought not to be needed. Other riders dismiss riding on roads without brakes as an unnecessary affectation, based on image rather than what is practical when riding a bicycle. Furthermore, riding brakeless may jeopardize the chances of a successful insurance claim in the event of an accident and, in some jurisdictions is against the law.

 

Physics and technique

 

It is possible to slow down or stop a fixed-gear bike by resisting the turning cranks, and a rider can also lock the rear wheel and skid to slow down or completely stop on a fixed-gear bicycle, a maneuver sometimes known as a skid stop. It is initiated by unweighting the rear wheel while in motion by shifting the rider's weight slightly forward and pulling up on the pedals using clipless pedals or toe clips and straps. The rider then stops turning the cranks, thus stopping the drivetrain and rear wheel, while applying his or her body weight in opposition to the normal rotation of the cranks. This action causes rear wheel to skid, which acts to slow the bike. The skid can be held until the bicycle stops or until the rider desires to continue pedalling again at a slower speed. The technique requires a little practice and using it while cornering is generally considered dangerous. As with the technique of resisting the cranks, the maximal deceleration of this method of slowing is also significantly lower than using a front brake. A wet surface further reduces the effectiveness of this method, almost to the point of not reducing speed at all.

 

Some fixed gear riders only equip their bike with a front brake because if the rider of a fixed-gear bike only has rear wheel braking, the maximal deceleration is significantly lower than on a bike equipped with both a front and rear brake. As a vehicle brakes, weight is transferred towards the front wheel and away from the rear wheel, decreasing the amount of grip the rear wheel has. Shifting the rider's weight aft will increase rear wheel braking efficiency, but normally the front wheel might provide 70% or more of the braking power when braking hard (see Weight transfer).

 

Knee health

 

Braking by resisting the turning cranks greatly increases stress on the knees which can lead to injury.

Seem to be a bit shit to me. Give me regular brakes over less effective, more dangerous and potentially physically damaging fixies anyday

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wikipedia is, as you know, written by anonymous internet users rather than experts. always take it with a pinch of salt.

 

the reason that many fixed gear riders don't ride with brakes is that a proper track bike isn't drilled for brakes. brakes aren't permitted on a velodrome. when i got to berlin, i had to order a special clip-on front brake from japan. it has, admittedly, become a sign of how skilled you are (and in berlin, a symbol of rebellion against stupid rules) to ride brakeless. people only talk about "the flow" to stupid mainstream journalists, i don't think anyone takes that "zen riding" crap seriously.

 

there's lots of different stopping techniques on a fixed gear bike. skidding is the most dramatic and showy -- but also probably the least effective, and goes through tyres quite quickly. to shorten the stopping distance, most riders slide the rear wheel sideways to one side slightly (or back and forth). i normally use jump-stops, where you lift the backwheel off the ground, stop the wheel in the air and then bring it back into contact with the road. doing a few of these in quick succession is very effective.

 

again, from my personal experience, my stopping distance on my fixed gears is only fractionally longer than on my geared bikes equipped with front and rear (properly adjusted and well-maintained) brakes.

 

and feel free to keep riding a bike with a freewheel and whatever braking set-up you'd like. nobody's trying to force you to start riding a fixed gear.

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wikipedia is, as you know, written by anonymous internet users rather than experts. always take it with a pinch of salt.

With an accuracy equal to Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

 

the reason that many fixed gear riders don't ride with brakes is that a proper track bike isn't drilled for brakes. brakes aren't permitted on a velodrome. when i got to berlin, i had to order a special clip-on front brake from japan. it has, admittedly, become a sign of how skilled you are (and in berlin, a symbol of rebellion against stupid rules) to ride brakeless.

This is why they are called track bikes and are rightly not legal for road use.

 

 

i normally use jump-stops, where you lift the backwheel off the ground, stop the wheel in the air and then bring it back into contact with the road. doing a few of these in quick succession is very effective.

And will you have the presence of mind to do this when in an emergency situation?

 

 

again, from my personal experience, my stopping distance on my fixed gears is only fractionally longer than on my geared bikes equipped with front and rear (properly adjusted and well-maintained) brakes.

Could be the difference between being under a truck or not.

 

I couldn't care less what you ride, but it's a load of shit to try and argue that these bikes are as safe as properly set up road bikes and that they shouldn't be illegal for road use.

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Laws are meant for the safety of the average people, not for the so called "experts". 10 years of motocross taught me how to do tons of tricks that would be very useful on the street while riding a motorbike but I understand why there are laws about what I can do and what I can't.

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until you've ridden a fixed gear bike and seen firsthand how they operate and how they stop, you really aren't in a position to talk about the various braking methods of bicycles. people get hung-up on the word "brakeless" because, hey, brakeless means no brakes! brakeless fixed gear bikes aren't brakeless. they just use a different method of braking. but...

 

 

With an accuracy equal to Encyclopedia Britannica.

... most of the time. if you read a bit critically and go back and read that entry again, you'll notice how fact and opinion are mixed. wikipedia is notoriously inaccurate for topics that are the least bit contentious. if i were feeling particularly vindictive, i'd amend the article, just to prove my point. but i won't.

 

 

This is why they are called track bikes and are rightly not legal for road use.

well, in fairness, a lot of fixed gear bikes on the road aren't proper track bikes. most, in fact, are road bikes that have been converted to fixed gear. and, according to german law, if you put a front brake on them, they are legal for road use.

 

 

And will you have the presence of mind to do this when in an emergency situation?

one of the really amazing things about the human brain is that it adapts. movement isn't controlled consciously. walking becomes instinct and is controlled subconsciously; you don't have to think about moving your feet to walk around, you just have to think "i want to go over there". your brain treats things like driving and bicycling in the same way. you don't have to consciously remember to use the clutch before you shift, or to spin the wheel to turn left. likewise, once a certain braking method becomes behaviour, you don't have to think about using it, you'll just do it.

 

 

Could be the difference between being under a truck or not.

yes, and again, if i wanted to ride a bike that was 100% set up for safety, it would be a very different bike to the ones i currently ride. i keep all my bikes well-maintained and adjusted; the stopping capabilities of my roadbikes aren't the norm. the stopping distance on my fixed gear bikes -- even without using the front brake -- is shorter than 90-95% of the bikes currently on the road in berlin.

 

and to be perfectly honest, the difference in stopping distances is so slight that the way that you react in an accident situation (ie. which way you steer, how you transfer your weight, how you lay your bike down if you have to) is more decisive on how/if you'll walk away from that accident.

 

 

I couldn't care less what you ride, but it's a load of shit to try and argue that these bikes are as safe as properly set up road bikes and that they shouldn't be illegal for road use.

if safety was the main concern, it would be illegal to ride a bike with a dented tube, with rust at any of the joins or on the chain, with loose spokes, without taped handlebars, with improperly inflated tyres, that's the wrong size for you, etc etc. but it's not. we make allowances and compromises every day with our safety (as does the government, with it's laws).

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until you've ridden a fixed gear bike and seen firsthand how they operate and how they stop, you really aren't in a position to talk about the various braking methods of bicycles. people get hung-up on the word "brakeless" because, hey, brakeless means no brakes! brakeless fixed gear bikes aren't brakeless. they just use a different method of braking. but...

I have ridden a fixie, for 3 straight days, all day, at Bike Expo. I don't claim they don't have brakes. I claim they aren't as effective as a regular bicycle. The evidence tends to back this claim up.

 

 

... most of the time. learn to read a bit critically... go back and read that entry again and notice how fact and opinion are mixed. if i were feeling particularly vindictive, i'd amend the article, just to prove my point. but i won't.

No shit, but what is factually incorrect in there? That's the only thing that actually matters.

 

 

well, in fairness, a lot of fixed gear bikes on the road aren't proper track bikes. and, according to german law, if you put a front brake on them, they are legal for road use.

As far as I'm aware a single attached front brake still doesn't make a fixie comply to Hermish law.

 

 

one of the really amazing things about the human brain is that it adapts. movement isn't controlled consciously. walking becomes instinct and is controlled subconsciously; you don't have to think about moving your feet to walk around, you just have to think "i want to go over there". your brain treats things like driving and bicycling in the same way. you don't have to consciously remember to use the clutch before you shift, or to spin the wheel to turn left. likewise, once a certain braking method becomes behaviour, you don't have to think about using it, you'll just do it.

Maybe you're right, but grasping the levers directly in front of my hands seems a far simpler and faster method to slow down, allowing you to easily take evasive action at the same time, compared to doing lots of little jumps to slow down.

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