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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 31, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's no denying that bicycle riding is a staple in ever-advancing American culture. For most the unique skill set required to master balancing and propelling one's self on two wheels happens in youth; for many in fact only a few years after having learned how to walk. From there it isn't uncommon for the bicycle to become a mode of transportation, a companion, a hobby right up into teen hood and despite its years of loyalty, it will likely end up suspended from a rafter-hook in the back of the garage once driving age comes about.

However, for some, being granted the privilege to operate a four-wheeled motorized vehicle on public asphalt is hardly justification for abandoning the simple machine that represented a milestone achievement so many years before. It is these individuals who will most relish in the words and images collected in Fixed.

The inherent tragedy in works like Fixed is that rarely do even fans of the piece truly appreciate the sheer undertaking involved in the creation process. In this case the immense research and photography responsibilities are shared between two individuals, Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard. In all and especially to those who care little for the details, the book succeeds in every one of its intentions.

Before taking a look at the hard facts of the book itself, let us first define the very concept of a fixed wheel bicycle. Technically the fixed-wheel bicycle was the second revolution of bicycle propulsion, the first of course being direct drive, where the pedals attach directly to the wheel (explaining the ridiculous size of early bicycle's front wheel- the only conceivable method of increasing the bike's top speed).

The fixed wheel may conjure up images of that first bicycle you likely learned to ride on whereby a chain connects a front sprocket directly to the rear, which is affixed directly to the hub of the rear wheel. No freewheel to let the pedals stay motionless while the wheels continue to spin, no gear selecting for when the slope of the terrain changes, and unlike the bike you likely first learned to ride on, no coaster brake that engaged by weighing the pedals rearward. No sir, the true fixed-wheel bike goes forward with forward rotations of the cranks and backward via the same logic. Should you find yourself sailing down a steep hill, try to keep up with the wildly spinning pedals below your feet. And here's where it really gets interesting, most true fixed-wheel devotes refuse to run brakes of any kind.

The book itself is hardcover-large but with flexible covers, fits nicely onto most bookshelves. Better still is that it really looks at home upon coffee tables and tends to inspire a browse and conversation by nearly anyone who happens upon it. Within its 144 pages there are 378 color illustrations and nary a single page therein without some interesting stat or fact.

The authors break down the editorial content quite logically, literally beginning with the bicycle's earliest documented history, then progressing to racing history and origins, from there to the evolution from track bike to street use (including the scenes today in many cities around the globe), then finally to recent bicycles that were built strictly as mechanical art forms; sculptures on wheels if you will.

Of course since this book deals strictly with the fixed wheel bicycle, the history lessons are a bit dogmatic in terms of scope. I found myself yearning to discover a bit more on the bicycle's evolution to include such innovations as multi-gear transmissions, disc brakes, and suspension but alas such tangents are better suited to a complete history of the bicycle (something this particular book never makes claims of being).

Such gripes notwithstanding, the material within is truly quite informative without ever crossing that delicate line into being boring, dry, or relevant only to participants. In fact, I could go as far as to say that the book's greatest strength is its ability to take the wealth of information contained within and to pace it out evenly and intelligently so that the reader is carried effortlessly along.

A self-admitted neophyte in the realm of early bicycle racing, I found myself truly amazed with some of the long-standing records and achievements set by highly motivated individuals (such as reaching speeds of 72mph on a fixie). Additionally the rules and regulations that different nations of the world implemented to keep things honest throughout the ages was equally fascinating.

The middle sections that take a look at the fixed-wheel bike scene as it stands today in several influential cities around the world is sharp in contrast to the earlier chapters but equally appealing in painting a picture of the lifestyle of those involved. A technology-junkie by nature, I have to admit that even I came away with newfound admiration for the motivation of those individuals (the messengers especially) who choose to conquer the cityscape with perhaps the simplest machine ever invented. The book's authors definitely managed to capture the sense of rebellion, of the underground nature of the movement in these pages.

Finally, I found myself quite impressed with the final section devoted to the bicycle as an art form despite unfounded initial misgivings. The simplicity of the bicycle's design and purity of form and function truly offer a magnificent canvas for the visionary artist. Some may believe that metallurgy, welding techniques, and lugs represent the opposite end of the creative-beauty spectrum but Fixed reminds us all that there is exquisiteness to be found nearly everywhere in the works of inspired individuals.

Complaints are few and far between and could probably be categorized into two groups. The first, as mentioned above, is that the material here could very well cause a bit of reader frustration in its penchant for omitting nearly every bicycle development that veers from the fixed-wheel history. I suppose in the book's defense, there are dozens of categories and further tangents it would have had to venture into had it decided to make mention of such things (multi-geared road bikes, single speeds, BMX, mountain bikes and so on). Truly the bicycle scene is an ever-specialized one and again, this book never makes claims of providing a complete history.

My second complaint, which is equally minor, is that the authors reveal their British heritage nearly constantly through the dialect differences between the English language and "American". No fault here in and of itself, but I have to confess as an American that it does take a little getting used to. Color = colour, constructor = constructeur, tire = tyre, etc.

In all though, very minimal complaints to report even from this, a mountain bike magazine editor. The material is interesting and just packed with intriguing facts, stats and tidbits. The photos are crisp and quite appropriate to the words and the information is broken down and presented intuitively. The mark of a good book in my opinion is one that leaves its reader reflecting upon it days after completion. Fixed made the grade.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Fixed-gear bicycles are a special but relatively unknown subset of bicycles and bicycling: thought by many to be confined to the track and velodromes and thus relegated to the obscure and arcane. Fixed gear bicycles have the front chain ring directly connected to the rear sprocket via the chain so there is no coasting and no changing gears. "Fixed" is authors Edwards and Leonard's attempt to show the origin of fixed gear bicycles, how how they became specialized, and the diversity the fixed gear culture currently enjoys worldwide. The proclaimed intent is, "an exploration through interview, image and archive of why these bikes are special." Clearly the focus is on the bikes themselves but exploring the bicycles and their unique aspects, we learn about the individuals who ride them.

The book itself is packed with beautiful pictures of the bicycles. The captions are very descriptive but the grouping on the page makes them a little hard to follow and the typeface is very small. Also some of the quotations are PG13.

My first encounter with the fixed gear culture was in the early '80s when I was a high school student working in a semi-pro bicycle shop. One day the owner brought in an old track bike he had picked up. It was very different from the road bikes I was building and riding. Sleek and Spartan with the straight rear dropouts (which I learned later allowed for adjustability when changing the sprocket size) and downward sloping neck, clearly was a machine build for speed. The only accommodation for an accessory was a hole in the fork so a rider could install a hand brake for road use. I never took the plunge but to this day, when I see a bicycle messenger or a bike with no brakes, I look at the rear dropouts to see if it is a true track frame.

I thought the book was very good and I was pleased to see coverage of more groups than just track riders, Keirin racers in Japan, and bicycle messangers. I recommend this to anyone riding fixed gear bicycles or truly interested in exploring the whole of bicycling and the fixed gear culture. The pictures alone make it worth it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 28, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Fixed" is all about fixed-gear bicycles and fixed-gear bicycling; it's about those ultra-sleek, minimalistic track bikes that are built with no shifters, no freewheel, and even no brakes. These bikes are made for speed and efficiency and nothing else.

The book takes us through the early days of fixed gear cycling, telling us in word and illustration about the early racers, the brutal but popular six-day bicycle races, and forward into the era of modern track racing. Along the way we meet the cyclists and cycles that characterized each era. The second part of the book goes into the street culture of fixed-gear cycling; we encounter the bicycle messengers of New York, San Francisco, and beyond; we learn something about roller racing throughout the years; and finally, we read about the unusual and fascinating sport of bicycle polo. The third and final part of the book, titled "Beyond Riding," is a potpourri of articles mostly about the bicycles themselves, the people who make them, and the sheer artistry of it all.

The book is copiously illustrated with excellent black-and-white and color photography, including some rare period photos that you won't find elsewhere.

If it sounds like this is the perfect book--- it's not. The book is set in a tiny, thin, dim typeface that at its worst is completely illegible against darker backgrounds, and at best is an eye-strainer that all but youthful eyes will not be able to bear for sustained intervals. It is a shame that a book this rich and this good is so seriously marred in such a manner. (My copy was a final, not a pre-publication draft, so my comments stand.)

The book is sub-titled "global fixed gear bike culture." This subtitle is somewhat misleading. Although global aspects of fixed gear cycling are treated to a certain degree in the book, the subtitle implies a focus on modern fixed-gear cycling in its expressions throughout the world, and this is really only a small, and not especially deep, part of the subject matter.

If you are a bicycle fan of just about any ilk, and if you love great photos and a fascinating subject, this will be a great book to have and I certainly recommend it. But if you are a bit older and want to read all the text (which, by the way, is well-written, well-sequenced, and adds immeasurably to the value of the book if you're able to read it), you had better get out your spectacles and magnifying glass. It would be too bad to miss out on a book that deals so well with this slice of bicycling lore.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The authors of Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture have done a fine job of introducing the concept of fixed-gear cycling to those who know something about the art and to those who are neophytes. Andrew Edwards is a graphic designer who is also an amateur cyclist/racer, and Max Leonard is a freelance writer as well as being a dedicated cyclist. Their love of cycling shows through in their book.

This work is not a how-to manual, but rather a celebration of all things to do with fixed gear cycling. It's about those inconspicuous but sleek two-wheeled vehicles with no extra gears; bicycles built without extra gears, shifters or sometimes even without brakes. They are made strictly for effectiveness and speed, and little else.

This book is not what I expected it to be when ordered. It's not a manual or instruction book, but a splendid softbound coffee-table type of book, with photographs of fixed-gear bikes and those who ride them. Its 144 pages have over 370 color photos and/or illustrations, and scarce is the page that doesn't offer some interesting fact or statistic.

However, those with corrective reading glasses may wish to take out their strongest pair, as the fonts used were difficult to read, often small, narrow fonts set on a low contrast gray background. The text offered fascinating backgrounds on the origins of fixed gear cycling and those who participate in this avocation, which has its roots in bicycle racing and in the messenger traditions that one finds in the metropolitan centers of the world. The photographs are quite beautiful, but this reviewer (a fellow cyclist) had a difficult time reading about the fascinating background on the beginnings and culture of this pastime.

As a coffee table book, this is a 5-star offering, and if that's your direction, then go for it, because the photographs alone make it a good one. If however you're looking for solid information regarding fixed gear cycling, then you might find it somewhat lacking. It's still a solid 4-star offering, even considering the hard time this reviewer had reading the text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is absolutely great fun, for its target audience it would make a great coffee table book. Probably none of its target audience made up of insanely inspired over-the-top cyclists would own a coffee table, and if they do their probably using it as a jump ramp!

Documenting a century of fixed gear (non-freewheeling) bikes and the various uses that they have found, don't expect this book to move smoothly from topic to topic. I would guess the writers started with a great set of pictures, annotated them with random notes on 3x5 cards, tossed them in the air and then roughly categorized them! Chapter headings come from each pile's label. In this way this book is a metaphor for the experience and mindset that binds all this book's human subjects. The most oft repeated quote in the book is "a brakeless track bike on the street is a death wish". The player's in this game know the experience of high speed X-game mogul skiing if you replaced random bumps with rocks!

I used to race bikes in the 70's and my coach encouraged me to set up a fixed gear bike to work on my spin. The thrill and terror of riding such a bike in traffic is unforgettable. I accidently turned onto a long steep downhill with traffic in Boulder and know the experience of ski jumping, blind in deep woods (once was enough for me!). Now if you are interesting in dropping into the heads of people who do this and come back for more, this is your book.

If you're a normal road bike racer, who never contemplated that it would be fun to be in a criterium without brakes or helmet during downtown Manhattan rush hour with bike lanes that include building to building, sidewalks and stairs, this book can hint at the allycat racing.

Finally; this book needs a disclaimer, please don't try this at home. If you do, don't tell your parents, employer or insurer!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For one thing, one of the authors, Andrew Edwards, is not only a member of the British Brighton Mitre cycling club, but is also a graphic designer with a degree in product design from Brighton University, East Sussex, and a documentarian, and it shows in the high quality of this presentation.

Each page is literally spectacular, from cover to flap-ended cover, with excellent design and photography. As a published photographer, I must allow the photography here is excellent, superior, and its presentation superb. This work, in short also serves as an excellent text in good photography and sublime graphic design. It serves not only therefore the latest and most pressing interests of the cycling world, but also of the artist. Studying carefully these photos, several upon each page without getting "busy," increases greatly one's knowledge of composition.

Even the ancient photographs from the nineteenth century look fresh, recent, answering our post-modern tastes, crisp and clear.

Take a look at what "works" in each of these photos, what makes them all compelling, dynamic and observant of the classic rules of composition, and then study how they have been placed together upon the page, dynamically interacting with one another and with the text, and you have received an excellent education not only in photography but also the graphic design of publications, as well as bikes. Easily these essentials of graphic design could be applied to your personal webpage as well, to whatever you publish, or draw, or paint.

The field of "coffee-table" books has been much maligned, although very popular a generation ago, when huge books were produced whose sole purpose was to adorn beautifully the coffee tables of the wealthy illiterate with comforting hard covered and heavy books of page after page of large format photos of, for instance, Irish castle ruins.

We can only wish this compelling, exciting book were printed so large; yet already it is printed very generously sized, and effectively, and far surpasses the "coffee table" realm.

Each photograph demands a viewing, and even the portraits are not static. The image of Larry Dufus in page 62 engagingly draws in the reader, challenges the viewer, powerfully explodes from the page in a simple B&W portrait smaller than passport size. Then the caption: "It's the equivalent of riding a wild stallion. A donkey also! The weak of heart aren't going to use it."

Of course, here in my Mexican border town, and in the largest metropolitan area nearby, Ciudad Juarez, "the most violent city in the world," those who use fixed gear bicycles are mainly the old men collecting old cans before dawn, and the street vendors arriving with their wares to their posts. I do not notice them here within this book, within this international, global study, in this world of racing, of stunt riding, of fun and games, of the whole history of bicycles, of bicyle messengers overcoming elevators.

If I, restrained, sound bitterly it is just that I wish that butcher who removed a cartilage from my right knee when I was fourteen over forty years ago had not left my chronically and forever sore, and weak in that one knee. This book makes this old fire horse eager to run free once more.

Please do not permit my going all lady gaga over the graphics mislead you into overlooking the text itself, as I have up to this point. The text is professionally crafted and selected, beautifully written, equal to the astonishing graphics, including essential citations from throughout the entire history and world of cycling. For instance the most ineffable of these citations from all cycling history may be easily mistaken for a very long strand of black hair laid carelessly, langorously, across the first acknowledgements page, after opening the hard end-flapped front cover, and seeing the beautiful broad vista concealed within its large flap, and passing one page to a beautiful vision of sky blue with delicate high cold clouds, this one long hair which curls gently like the path of a wandering cyclist, and which, upon closest and most careful examination, reveals the definitive quote upon cycling drawn from the greatest cycling novel of all time, The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien who defines the curious subatomic particle theory that we exchange atoms with whatever we come into constant contact, and that therefore the majority of the persons in the parish under consideration were half bicycle, and their bicycles half person.

In short, grab this book. You will believe you too can fly. This is a great book, and instructive to everyone, even those of us who merely stand and wait, those of us who lie upon an overstuffed couch perusing coffee table books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Twenty years ago no one rode fixed gear bikes other than track racers, very small children, and a few eccentrics. Then one day a bicycle messenger who'd had yet another good bicycle stolen out from under him realized that he'd be better off building a simple, cheap fixed gear bike from old road bike parts. Other messengers copied this, and suddenly what had initially been done from desperation became very fashionable. All the major bicycle makers (not to mention a lot of boutique makers) were turning out fixed gear bikes. Riders tired of fussing with derailleur adjustment, broken cables, and expensive shifters were turning to the simplicity of a fixie. Even mountain bikers got into the swing of things.

Part it was indeed fashion, but a lot of it was the realization by many bikers that for most of us, who don't live in the mountains, and don't race, one speed is more than enough. Fixed gear bikes are simple, rugged, and light, and provide a feeling of kinship to the earliest "safety bike" riders of the 19th Century and the great bicycle road racers of the early 20th, neither of whom had more than one gear available to them.

I admit to being a bit of a fixed gear fanatic myself. I started out riding a Windsor track bike back in the 199os and eventually built myself several fixed gear bikes using old road frames. I even had a fixed-gear mountain bike for a while, and I still regularly ride my Rivendell Quickbeam (admittedly a single speed bike and not a fixie, but it's in the same spirit.)

"Fixed" is a gorgeous little book, with lots of excellent color photos illustrating the entire history of fixed gear bikes, from the earliest bikes, up through racing, bike messengers, stunt bikes, and the current trend towards riding fixies just for fun. There's good advice for the rider looking to buy (or assemble) his or her own fixie. It's an excellent introduction to fixie culture as well as an attractive book for fixed-gear aficionados to thumb through.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 17, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to applaud the authors in their wonderful effort to bring information about fixed gears and single speeds to the fore.

Having grown up in a family of racers (back in the day, in Europe) I have always been immersed in the culture of cycling (loooonog before there was a Greg Lemond, or a Lance Armstrong) so I was pleased to see some history about cycling in this book that I didn't know, and some international information about cycle designers and riders that was a refreshing change.

The book is mostly photographs, and detailed pictures of fixed gears, track bikes and single speeds, and random commentary from bike messengers and so forth that make it an interesting and widely diverse read, offering many views and perspectives.

However, I will caution that this book offers nothing in the way of "how to." If what you are looking for is a book about how to fix, build or maintain a fixed gear bike, or even what to look for when searching for a bike to purchase or convert yourself, this book gives nothing along those lines. What you do have is a book full of historical perspective, and images that feed the soul of even this old rider, who thought there was nothing that would ignite the lust for this means of conveyance any more than it ever has been.

To be honest, I need to convey that I received this book from amazon free of charge in order to review it. Even if I had paid for this book, I would be very pleased with it; it will be a long time before it gets shelved...this is a nice addition to any coffee table where you can have easy access to it--a keeper and well-worth the read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I requested this book from Vine Reviewer services because I am a member of a Maker's Collective in Philadelphia Hive76 where some of the membership are avid bikers and modders of bike technology. I hoped that as a middle-aged technology enthusiast this book would tell me about the biking hobby, its participants. the component technology, and their activities. What this book turned out to be was a beautiful coffee-table set of photographs of fixed-gear bikes and bikers accompanied by text in faint narrow fonts that gives interesting vignettes of the history and culture of these bikers. I personally (but in common with other less-than perfect vision readers) found the text difficult to read, particularly where the small narrow fonts lay on a screen of low-contrast gray background. The text that I did manage to read gave interesting background on the origins of this avocation in racing and messenger culture. I also was hoping for some background on the technology which is beautifully illustrated in the photographs but after examining the text, I am still wondering what fraction of the total street-bike population is included in the term fixed-gear bikes. But, the photographs are indeed beautiful and the text that I was able to read gives interesting background on the origins and culture of this hobby.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 28, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is a nice coffee table book if you love bikes. It has hundreds of great pictures of fixed gear bikes, both classic and current. Interspersed is text that, on the whole is fairly interesting and provides some information that is new to me even though I've read zillions of words of text about bicycles in my life.

I have been a cyclist all my life and love just about any and every kind of bike from kids clunkers to handcrafted racing bikes, from heavy duty work tricycles to recumbents. I've never been a fixed gear rider, but I've had serious cyclist friends who adore fixed gear bikes, and I've always felt a certain romance for single gear bikes and fixed gear bikes for their simplicity, and I have been friends with bike messengers, whose culture at times has fascinated me. I gave this book four stars because to me it is a treat to sit and look repeatedly at pictures of bikes.

If you are looking for a book with serious content about cycling look elsewhere. If bikes don't fascinate you, look elsewhere. But if you are really into cycling and you are the sort of person who enjoys looking at all the bikes parked on the sidewalk and studying the customization that messengers on the streets have done, then you'll enjoy browsing through this book.
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