Fixed Gears at Workcycles?


I’ll admit to finding the current worldwide rage for “fixies” rather amusing but then again I was stripping my friends’ and colleagues’ bikes down to minimalist, fixed-wheel, rat bikes fifteen years ago. So I do understand the aesthetic and beauty of simplicity. And I raced on the track for years and still “train” (for what goal I forget) weekly at the indoor Amsterdam Velodrome during the winter.

Besides I’d much rather see a million pretentious or wanna-be fixed-gear bikes than a million horrid, generic, silver hybrids with suspension forks… even last year’s ugly hybrids dressed up this year as considerably cuter “city bikes” with too short, plastic fenders, cosmetic racks and painted some apparently politically correct color like “sand” or teal green. Indeed if that’s the bike industry’s idea of a utilitarian bike I’d rather just ride a flat black, 20 year old steel Bianchi road bike stripped down to one gear and one brake… which in fact was my daily ride for a decade in California. I still have that bike but now it’s an extra bike since we live on the fourth floor, it’s not built for outdoor life and it’s also not a particularly practical way to carry little kids.

But I digress. Though Workcycles’ focus is heavy duty city and transport bicycles our workshops repair and modify all types of bikes. Even fixed gear bikes sometimes, and not just giant Dutch cargo trikes which also happen to have fixed wheels. We weren’t voted “Best Bike Shops in Amsterdam” (out of about 250) for nothin’. This particular fixed-gear modification I found to be interesting in a very typically Dutch (i.e. practical) way.

“Dave” visits us periodically for parts and service, almost always with dog in tow. Last week he came in with a broken chain as a result of his dog’s leash getting caught between chain and chainring. Bummer. We discussed the repair and Dave asked whether it would be possible to move the drivetrain over to the left side of the bike since his dog runs on the right side. He’d get more “fred marks” on his left leg but he and dog would be safer. I looked the bike over. It had a proper fixed-gear hub with a reverse thread lockring and a symmetrical bottom bracket axle so sure, it should work just fine assuming he’s not going to be cranking away like a track sprinter. It did turn out that the bottom bracket was trashed and had to be replaced with something shorter than what we normally use on city bikes but we found a perfect fit in my personal collection of random parts. A few hours later Dave was back on the road with a strange looking but more practical bike. I find it a down to earth example in the current rarified a-fixie-nado atmosphere of NJS track parts, collectors item keirin frames, precious colorway coordination curation and stupid wheel combinations.

Thanks for the use of your photo Dave.

11 Responses to “Fixed Gears at Workcycles?”

  1. Dave Says:

    Thanks for the new bracket. It is a real upgrade to the standard bracket that I had.

    There I two downsides of having the drive train on the left: When I lift up my bike, I can make my coat dirty. The other is that I I’m checking my ‘trappers’ all the time, as the are no longer fastening themselves like they do on regular bikes, due to the reversed orientation and thus reversed rotation of the crank.

  2. nicolas Says:

    Would a chainglider have done the job?

  3. henry Says:

    Smart thinking but the Chainglider is limited to just a handful of chainring and cog sizes, and may not run so smoothly when cut so short. Also the chainglider will only work on 1/2 x 3/32″ chain while this bike has a 1/2″ x 1/8″ chain.

  4. 2whls3spds Says:

    The dog seems intrigued by the drive train swap…


  5. Dave Says:

    She really did notice.

    And the swap has turned out for the better already. There was a moment I crossed a road, and immediately turned right on a narrow bike lane. At the same moment, a car behind me turned left. My dog looked over her ‘shoulder’ when the headlights were shining on her, and so she bumped into my bike, exactly where the drive train used to be. She was not hurt.

    So the swap has been done right on time.

  6. Todd Edelman Says:

    (Custom) chaincase?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I looked into that, but it’s not easy to find a good one that is not easy to break, or half open anyway. Since I ride fixed anyway, this is funnier and it does the trick.

  8. Todd Edelman Says:

    Davenonymous: By the way, do you know if there are any rules or mention etc. of running a dog whilst riding a bike in Dutch traffic law (on paths or streets)? I would imagine the only rule or bottom line is that you must be in control of your bike! (Here in Berlin lots of people do it the manual way – instead of using one of those things attached to a rear rack – and mostly on the sidewalk/pavement).

  9. Frits B Says:

    Todd: Dogs must run on the right side of the bike, and the cyclist must always be in control of bike + dog. That’s all.

    My own experience is that most dogs don’t mind running along a bike sometimes, but their natural behaviour is to check out their territory: sniffing to see who has been passing by, marking their own presence. Things that don’t go well with running along with a bike.
    But as this is common practice there are tons of instructions about how to proceed; just try “hond, fiets”:

  10. Dave Says:

    I have a full command set for directions and speeds, that the dog follows enthusiastically, including the commands for left and right. She even pees on command. Also, she communicates her wishes with various hints like tapping my leg with her nose when she needs to stop.

    There are a few roads where we can go very fast. This sets of other dogs on the sidewalk, who thend to go full retard when we pass them at 35 km/h. My dog never responds to those barking dogs, and stays in full control.

    I connect the leash to a stem of a handle bar, that I clamped around my saddle pin. So the dog does not pull on my steer, but on my bike, so I can stay in control under rough circumstances.

    But I live in Amsterdam, and hence I have no control over the traffic. Bikers are crazy here. They often go against the directions, and take dangerous turns. Pedestrians, especially American and German tourists step onto the road without looking for traffic, often right in front of bikers. One of my colleges is currently in the hospital for an open broken elbow. A tourist stepped in front of his bike, and he crashed while trying to avoid collision.

    The best features of a fixie are that I can feel what the bike does while slamming the brakes, and that I can stand still while pedestrians wander about in zombie mode. This last feature made me a very patient biker.

    So thanks for all the tips, but all the regular situations are under control. I did need to make my bike safer for emergency situations, though, as there are too many of those here in Amsterdam.

  11. Lennart Says:

    The reason Duch cargo bikes have a fixed rear wheel is because the rear wheel is almost always ment for use on a Moped. These don’t have a freewheel either. Just a small engine and a clutch as a ‘hand controlled freewheel’.

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