Fixies – a hipster‘s best friend or a dangerous trend?

An interview with Tobie Groenewald, who made the first fixed-gear bicycles in South Africa

A 'fixie' is a 'fixed-gear bicycle', a bicycle without a freewheel, meaning it cannot coast — the pedals are always in motion when the bicycle is moving. A fixie is a hipsters main form of transportation. Since Cape Town is a hipster-capital, I asked owner of Cape Town made Salvo-Fixies about the brake-less bicycles.

Tobie, introduce yourself in a few words.
I ride bikes as prevention from going completely mad. I use the fixie to commute and the BMX to play. At almost 40 I feel I still have some BMX riding left in me. You will find me doing dirt jumps over weekends and riding fixie on the streets of Cape town in the week.

What is a fixie for us who don`t know? More than a bicycle without brakes?
It is super cool-sexy-healthy way to get around without the use of a car.

I‘ve read 'A fixie is a hipster's main form of transportation'. What makes a fixie cool?
It is cool because you can create your own style in the way you dress, paint your bike or ride the streets. You can pimp an uber cool bike if you have the money or  even with very little money. NO reason not to ride. It is accessible for everyone.

Where and when did it start?
I guess in the big US and European cities with bike messengers.

What’s the difference to other bicycles?
Simplicity.

Isn’t it dangerous to ride a bike without brakes?
Yes. 

Fixies are illegal in most countries, since they don’t have brakes, reflectors and bells – what’s your opinion on this?
I think riders should setup their bicycles to their own skill level. You are dumb if you are going to ride with no brakes and you live at the top of Kloofnek.

Where can I buy myself one in Cape Town?
From various shops. BMC and Woodstock Cycle Works in Woodstock. Olympic Cycles and Crosstown Cycles in the Southern Suburbs. Hello Again in Cape Town. There will be a locally built bicycle that will be available at selective bike shops here in Cape Town very soon. You can also consider just converting an old road bike into a single speed or fixie if you are mechanically inclined.

How much must I spend on a fixie?
Anything from R1000 to R20 000plus. You can decide how far you want to go.

Where do fixie-lovers meet in Cape Town?
We have the critical mass on the last Friday of every month. It is 80% fixed bikes. There are rides organised all over Cape Town. You just need to get on the email list. Email toby@salvobikes.co.za.

by Antonia Heil, pictures by Desmond Louw


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