Posted by: collins cycle shop | January 23, 2008

Essay:Why I Should Have a Fixie By Michael Mann

At first, I thought of calling this essay “Why I should NOT have a Fixie” simply because, living and riding in Portland, where fixed-gear riding is such a badge of coolness, I don’t want to be accused of falling for the latest bike-hipster fad. Besides, there’s nothing worse than when some old guy like me (I’m 47) attempts to be cool. I don’t smoke, I have no tattoos and I don’t much like PBR (unless it’s really hot and there’s nothing else), so what makes me think I can sport a fixie?

But the fact is, I’m a cycling evangelist. I practically live on my bike. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you my passion for 2-wheel travel frequently surpasses my love for sushi, the Raiders (don’t go there), microbrews, and (this is painful), sometimes even my wife and kids. I just get a rush from riding – any riding – and even a soggy pre-dawn commute usually puts a goofy smile on my face. When I’m not riding I’m usually talking about riding – even if my audience is less than enthused (I still don’t get how anyone could not want to ride everyday.) So for instance, when I stand before my 7th grade students and say “ that reminds me of the time I was riding in…” and they groan and drop their heads to their desks with a collective thunk, I’m just more inspired to keep preaching the bikey gospel looking for one more convert.

Equaling my passion for bikes is my drive for simplicity, and what could be more purely simple than riding a fixie? To illustrate: I recently rescued a couple of used 80’s Japanese touring bikes for my wife and I, and spent months in the basement rebuilding, tuning, and polishing them. I went back to shellacked cloth tape, cork grips, and old leather saddles. In the process I gained a renewed appreciation for 5-speed freewheels and friction shifting, for loose bearings and cups, for the old-school, adjust-by-feel, repair-on-the-road simplicity of those bikes. The ‘86 Nishiki is now my 20-miles-daily commuter. But I want more. Or, more precisely, less. I want that experience of just riding; of having a bike that is a dynamic extension of my body, a perfect tool connecting my legs to the road. I want to ride without a thought for shifting or the mechanics of the bike, but just for the pure freedom of riding. I want the essential nothing between motion and me that a fixed gear bike provides.

In exchange, I promise to honor the bike and the ride, to lay down the miles, to disregard any thought for how cool I may or may not be, and to become a better, purer rider.


  1. great essay

  2. exactly…

    Preach brother.

  3. yeah dude!

  4. As you say, “Lay down the miles” on a sweet fixie.

  5. lovely

  6. Great essay. Sounds like the missing link in your arsenal of biking gear and experiences is a “fixie.”

  7. Men like Mike give me hope for the human race.

  8. Wow, what a great essay! I know that biking puts a smile on my face even when the weather’s bad. At least I have conquered ONE obstacle and overcome it, even if ninety-nine seventh graders might conspire to throw other obstacles in my path over the course of the day. I even wrote my essay this year during our expository unit on my bike and how I wish others would commute that way. I applaud you, Mike, for setting a good example for the kids!

  9. word

  10. “Fixie”
    Isn’t that a soft drink enjoyed south of the Mason-Dixon line?

  11. Go, baby, go.

  12. You deserve it.

  13. Yo. You totally need that bike.

  14. I love that you are “converting” your 7th graders on biking. Or, are you putting them off biking… Well, anyway, I loved your essay–your “voice” came through loud and clear. I can see you slogging through the puddles on your bike very clearly in my mind. I prefer the heater running full blast in my van, but to each his own!

  15. This Mann is The Man. The essayist’s purity almost makes up for his proclaimed affinity for the gridiron criminals of Oakland. Almost.

    Well written. Passion defined.

    “Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.” ~Grant Petersen

  16. No questions, that essay deserves a bike.

  17. It is inspiring to see the passion… obsession??? OK, give Mike the bike already.

  18. I love the imagery of a bicycle being a pure, unfettered extension of the rider’s body–working as one. Michael, you inspire me, and all I have is one of my boys’ old mountain bikes to ride. I appreciate your passion for simpler travel since I love to walk long distances. You, however, get there much faster than me. Good luck with winning a new bike. You sound very deserving.

  19. Wow! I’m thinking….. you NEED this bike. Very inspirational!

  20. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and as everyone knows those that work too hard to be cool (tats, beer brands, hair styles) will never be cool because you either have it or you don’t.

  21. I used to work at Collins cycle shop with the nickname of sunnyboy. Folks there thought I looked like the kid on the front of the “sunny jim” peanut butter jar. I used to ride all the time in all kinds of weather.
    Unfortunately, for me I think the name has double meaning as I have dropped from the class of every day and every weather rider to one of the “sunny day” riders. Life changes have forced this on me but so have personal choices.
    Mike’s essay here gives me inspiration to get back on. Because of his writing I vow to begin riding my bike to work and make riding a bigger part of my life.
    Thanks Mike for the great essay. You deserve that bike!

  22. Well said. You love bikes because bikes are amazing, not because it happens to be cool at the moment. Someone give this man a bike!

  23. You make me want to go for a long ride. Alone, and maybe with a fixie myself. Give this man a bike!

  24. Nice essay Mr. Mann. You seem to be ready to “be one with the bike”, which the fixie can offer.

  25. Ride on Mike. You speak the truth of the lifestyle.

  26. if ever a man deserved a fixed gear, it’s you.

  27. howl-ooh-yah! great essay. nice and sincere. well-written and passionate. funny and true.

  28. I know what it is like to do something for the sheer joy of it….give this guy the bike!

  29. This rider delivers the gospel of the bike to a new crop of converts daily through his sermons and by example. If not for his excellent prose, than for the future of our brave new bike friendly city.

  30. I absolutely believe someone as dedicated to the ride as this guy should receive the bike. Who else to promote for you than some bike riding guru?

  31. Oh, believe me this Mann needs the daily experience of a fixie into our Gorge-eous Easterly winds. He rides for the pure joy of pedaling.
    Mike you gotta do RAAM.

  32. Mike.
    What a wonderful essay.
    I GET IT!
    And I am inspired!
    I vote for you!

  33. Great essay! You’ve got my vote! (=

  34. Mike,

    You need the fixie, great essay! But more than a microbrew? Even after a long hot day chasing hills? To each his own.

  35. I’m with you. It feels good to ride a simple bike, less bike. I think you are deserving…of less. Good luck and thanks for the words Mike.

  36. Enjoyed reading your essay. Keep riding and enjoying life.


  37. great job mr. mann I think zat you should…

    your “attempts to be cool” are greatly improved.

  38. Fixie Addendum

    Here’s another reason why winning a fixie would be wonderful. I know from classroom experience that it’s tough for a thirteen-year old to see the practical application of a well-placed comma or a meticulously chosen adjective. I’m regularly challenged with the belligerent question, “Mr. Mann, why do we have to learn this stuff?” How cool would it be if, in reply, I could just point at the picture of my new fixie on my desktop and say, “You know, learning to write well could help win you a splendid fixed-gear bike like mine!”

  39. you stole my post… now what am i gonna write?

  40. Michael does more to convince young riders that cycling is “the way to go” than anyone I know. He deserves to win the Fixie.

  41. Totally, This essay for the win!

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