Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Stella* Got Her Groove Back

Earlier this week, I got in my first adult-aged bike wipe-out. It was incredible.

I ride a fixed gear. I've had a hard time explaining what a fixed gear is to non-bikers, and this is as close as I can get: Picture a unicycle. A unicycle doesn't need a break because the peddles/chain ring/chain is fixed to the wheel. It also only has one built-in "gear." A unicyclist with good balance can peddle the bike both forward and backward because of the free wheel. If she wants to go fast, she peddles harder. If she wants to slow down or stop, she uses her leg muscles to halt the peddles and, thus, slow the momentum of the wheels. Now, imagine adding a front tire to a unicycle. That would essentially be a fixie. If you want to see some beautiful fixed-gear riding (and not to mention, some beautiful fixed-gear bikes), watch this.

On Wednesday I was returning from a late-night bike ride from downtown to Uptown. I crossed a pedestrian bridge and hit a sunken manhole cover that I couldn't see because it was dark. I barely caught my balance as my front wheel wobbled out of control. As soon as I got near a lit intersection, I saw my chain rattling around: I had jarred my wheels enough to loosen the bolts on the chain ring.

A chain rattling around on a "regular" bike is an issue, but it's not as big of an issue as it is on a fixed gear. If a chain falls off on a regular bike, the rider will simply lose the ability to peddle but the wheels will still move. If a chain falls off on a fixed gear, the chain, peddles, and back wheel lock into place.

I only had a few blocks to go so I decided to chance it but was not so lucky. The chain fell off and I felt myself skidding downhill with no control of my bike. All I could concentrate on was not skidding into the side of any parked cars. I skidded close to 2 city blocks until a hole burned through my tire from the friction. Once my inner tube scratched the pavement, my tire popped and threw me onto my side.

Skid marks.
Close up of tire. That was a pretty good skid!
Some scuff marks on the seat from the fall.
The chain was pulled so tightly while I was skidding that it chewed away the paint on my bike.

After I picked myself and my bike off the ground, I had to do a decent-length walk of shame back home. Because it was late, not too many people saw me wipe out (thankfully), nor did they see me trying to walk a broken bike with a non-moving back wheel.

Last night I ventured out to get a new tire and inner tube so I can get back to doing my thing around town without my car. I ended up doing something even stupider than crashing at the very bottom of a hill: I opted to not replace my white tire with another white tire. I have learned that bright colors on a bike, much like wearing bright colors while running, make the ride so much more fun.

Stella's makeover.

*I have a habit of naming inanimate things. My video iPod is Buster. My older iPod Shuffle is Cupcake. My newer iPod Shuffle is Emcee (or M.C., for Mini Cupcake). My Garmin is Mr. Anastos. My car is Felicity. My bike is Stella.


  1. hahaha!!! LOL @ Emcee/Mini Cupcake.

    Your bike now looks like my running wardrobe. Loud, bright, unmatching colors. I think there is something to be said for boldness!

    Since there were no photos of bodily injuries, I take it you came through the wipeout intact?

  2. Holy Sh%T, A, that skid sounds SCARY!! So glad that the worst of it was a walk of shame, not broken bones. I'm too uncoordinated to ride a fixie (I tried *once*). Stella is a real work of art, she's so pretty!
    I am also a fan of naming things - my car is Ethel, my tri bike is Mr. Bike, my road bike is Shirley and my mountain bike is Frederick (yes, I have three bikes. Whatever.) I'd love to hear the story of how your Garmin got his name. :-)

  3. Hahaha that's so funny! I don't have names for everything but my car's name is Penelope. Those bikes look pretty cool! My boyfriend is constantly trying to convince me to get a bike so we can do rides and stuff but the wiping out part of biking scares the crap outta me!I hope you were wearing a helmet!

  4. Wow, the wear on your tire from that skid was impressive!

  5. Love that green! Glad you didn't injure yourself. Take care!

  6. That tire is insane! Glad you're ok. Your fixie is really awesome--lots of character!

  7. Holy crap A! What are you doing? Thank God that you are okay:)

    I love that you name your things:)

    I think that we should for sure do the wine country half together next year! You will have so much fun...for sure:) We can have a huge bloggy meet up! When we were in San Fran I though about you so many running up and down those killer hills:) Your move is coming up pretty quick and I bet that you are getting so excited:)

    Take care A!

  8. I love your bike!

    The damaged looks intense, so I'm glad you made it out okay! I've only wiped out while either being clipped into my road bike (how embarrassing) or while much to drunk on my vintage roadie. However those falls alone have convinced me that I will not be cut out for fixie riding any time soon. PROPS TO YOU!

  9. Stella is so cute : ) love her new look!

  10. That was a pretty good skid!

    Uh, yeah, that was quite a skid!!! You are too hardcore - we are in awe of the fixie rider! :-)

  11. I am glad your ok

    Fixies are cool, I am working on one now

  12. Dear Stella, I am glad you are okay, you are to young to die, please be safe in the streets, pot holes are MEAN and evil, to runners and bikes and even lil' innocent grannies....

    Dear Average A,
    Fabulous taste.. P.S.I think we need to be pen pals, I had one when I was teeny tiny, I think I want one again...
    xo Rad

  13. Just found your blog and it's really distracting me from work. (I love it!).

  14. You really burned that tire up. You are very lucky to not have gotten hurt. Best of luck on your training


  15. You have to keep your head up more!!