The Fixed with Fat Tyres
Experiments with tyre size I carried out a few years ago convinced me that, if there was one type of bike that would really warrant rolling on slick mtb tyres, it was an urban fixie. Why? Well, fat tyres roll well and offer excellent protection form poor roads surfaces but, thanks to their width and weight, perform poorly at high speed and when climbing. Your fixed commuter, in London at least, doesn’t see too many hills and, since gearing limits the top speed of such a bike, aerodynamics are irrelevant.
Of such thoughts was the Dave Yates Fixed Bunter born. Dave is famously willing to tackle unusual projects, and put a lot of effort into building the frame. Track ends, Unicrown fork, cantilever bosses and a high bottom bracket ensured the finished article rode as it should. The original owner, Cole Wright, insisted on the luxury of Campagnolo track hubs but the machine is otherwise reassuringly basic.
Does it do the job? RCUK publisher Simon Ormesher is the current owner. Here is his appraisal:
“Months of riding the daily commute and I had had enough of me and my Tarmac SL being assaulted on a daily basis by the roads of London. It was coming up to winter and I needed a slightly more practical bike for the trip into the office.
Richard H finally sold me on the idea of fixed wheel bikes and somehow I was coerced into purchasing the ‘fixed bunter’ you see here. It’s never going to win a beauty contest. But for the daily battle into the city, it’s the perfect machine. With its 26” wheels and fat slicks it easily fends off potholes, drain covers, and on occasion small furry animals!
My experience thus far has only been positive; I can honestly say I’m a convert to the faith. And you know what; it’s somehow much more rewarding riding into a block headwind with only one gear at your disposal. ”
The All-Steel Fixed
Made in 1932, this fine example of the Raleigh Record carried me around the 2004 edition of the Eroica. The 204kms and 4000m of climbing took 11hrs 55 and more than 30 wheel turnarounds.
The Record was Raleigh’s first foray into the world of performance cycling, and had the Reynolds manganese molybdenum steel tubing that preceded the introduction of 531. The components were all made by the Nottingham company, and were all manufactured from steel. Four models were offered including a full-race machine complete with wooden rims, tubular tyres and a wide choice of gear ratios. The next model down is the one shown with Endrick steel rims and 26×1 ¾ clincher tyres.
This example is complete and original except for the chain, tyres and spokes. Gearing is about 70” or 64” depending on which of the two fixed sprockets is chosen. Weight is about 23lbs.
Handling is very different to a modern bike thanks to the laid-back steering geometry, but the Record can be hustled along very nicely on the flat. Riding it, it is easy to see how a young cyclist in 1932 might have dreamed of owning what would have been the equivalent of a mid-range racebike today.