Chile From Within


Posted in bikes, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on May 1, 2007

Rossin track bike
A notable article in the New York Times describes the experience, aesthetic and culture which surrounds the apparently growing trend of riding a bicycle like the bicycle messengers do, like they did 100 years ago and like they have been doing in in Japan (moving 1.5 million Yuan a year in bets) and like they are beginning to do in Santiago, Chile, with a single speed and a fixed gear. It is well described as the following:

“The rear cog is bolted directly to the hub, so that whenever the vehicle is in motion, the pedals go around, making coasting impossible. This bike doesn’t have a shift lever or extra sprockets, and the chain is shorter and wider than on traditional bikes.

There are no fenders, and the rear wheels are probably bolted onto the frame to deter theft. You slow down by reversing the pedals, or skidding, or doing a skip stop. And that’s just the beginning of the differences between your run-of-the-mill 10-speed and a track bike, or fixed-gear bike — fixie for short — as it is also known.”

Three of the top ten finishers at the most recent urban bicycle race in Santiago de Chile rode fixed gears, a new and foreign concept, especially considering there is zero messenger industry in the city as well as being particularly unfriendly to cyclists. Although there is a fledgling service which needs all the advice, suggestions and clientele, it can get. See Mario Boldoy with Velociti Chile.

Races like the following increase chances that a messenger industry can develop. If there is a messenger industry, people will want to be like messengers, recognizing their intimate pragmatism related to their bicycles, and imitate their approach to moving around in the big city.

El Divino Boy Alleycat

But, here in Chile especially, it will take some high-end clients and serious convincing to change the way that classist and elitist Chileans value a service such as express bicycle package delivery.

There are various highly eloquent drops of knowledge in the article, including this section near the end which for me best represents the experience of riding a fixed gear.

“When you’re on a fixed gear,” said Ms. Germanotta, who works in the garment district, “it gives you a higher skill level. You have to be constantly aware, always watching the road. You don’t just ride, and it feels a little crazy.”

And it includes Kyle Fay, a designer for Urban Outfitters who is a relatively new convert. “You take the blame if you get hit,” he said. “It’s self-reliance, being responsible for yourself. It might sound kind of corny, but it’s a Zen thing, being one with the bike.”

And it includes Alex Escamilla, a 23-year-old book artist from Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

“I had a couple of friends who made fun of me for riding one because it was trendy,” Ms. Escamilla said. “But the problem with looking at bike riding as a trend is that you lose sight of everything that is positive about bikes. You know, the renewable energy source, exercise, convenience, saving money, saving time, community, seeing the city in a whole new way, blah blah blah.”

Besides, she added: “Track bikes are fun. And they’re beautiful.””



7 Responses

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  1. Randy Paul said, on May 3, 2007 at 12:55 am

    When they start doing this in cities like San Francisco, Valparaiso, Belo Horizonte, Diamantina and Ouro Preto, it will be proof of their insanity.

  2. tomasdinges said, on May 3, 2007 at 1:17 am

    Its already done in San Francisco, where the bike messenger community, and thus the fixed gear community, is very well developed…

    But Valparaiso is different, more compact and maybe steeper…than SanFran…if I saw fixed gears, there…going up…or going down…yes…this would be insane.

    What they do in Valparaiso is downhill bike racing down the stairways, passageways and roads…check out or search out photos on flickr…here are some…

    That is nuts. Favela downhill bikeracing may not be too far away?

  3. Randy Paul said, on May 4, 2007 at 2:08 am

    Its already done in San Francisco, where the bike messenger community, and thus the fixed gear community, is very well developed…

    I bet they avoid Lombard Street.

  4. Petoto said, on July 23, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I did it in Valparaíso with my fixie: is a shit!

    Look at:

    And: great races!

    See you.

  5. Gabba said, on January 11, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Viva las fixas chicos!
    Saludos desde Curitiba/Brasil, the ever growing “fixed capital” down here.

    • atom said, on October 20, 2009 at 3:11 am

      you are sure of that?
      viva el fixed gear.

  6. ushuaiatoportland said, on March 8, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I´ve ridden fixed in Valparaiso on a fixed bike tour from Ushuaia Argentina to Portland Oregon (still en route, writing from Santiago Chile).

    Not so bad. In fact I think I might have been the only person climbing hills in the city…

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