I always enjoy hearing from readers, so I don’t make a habit of picking on any of you for leaving comments that I don’t agree with. In fact, differing opinions make the blog interesting. In this case though, I do feel compelled to take issue with a statement that was recently left in response to an old post:
Anonymous said… Top tube pad or not, riding a track bike on the street is dumb
While I don’t really agree that riding a track bike on the street is dumb, that is not what initially bothered me about the comment. I guess it is just a pet peave of mine, but I get irritated when people refer to any bike with a fixed gear as a track bike. To be fair, maybe the commenter was not referring specifically to the bike in the picture as a track bike (it definitely isn’t one). I think a better statement to convey his or her sentiment would have been “riding a fixed gear without brakes on the road is dumb.” Maybe I am wrong in that assumption though. Maybe he or she meant that bikes specifically made for track racing should never be on the road, with or without brakes, and that road bikes converted to fixies are perfectly OK for road riding, brakeless or not. Who knows? If we are lucky, maybe the anonymous commenter can come forward and clarify the statement.
Since I brought this track bike/fixed gear labeling issue up, I’ll use two of my bikes as examples. Above is my track bike, a mid eighties Pinarello with a short wheelbase and tight geometry. As you can see, the bike has no brakes or braze-ons. The front fork is not drilled for a brake and the round profile fork legs (compared to oval profiles) weren’t really designed to withstand the forces of braking. In the past, I had a different fork on the bike so that I could run a front brake for road riding but I just recently put the original fork back on. As it is configured now, I occasionally take it out on the road, but never really in traffic. Yeah, I can stop it quickly if I need to, but it is so much easier to gently pull a lever than it is to lock up the drivetrain with my legs.
The bike pictured below is a cheap fixed gear road bike that I built up for commuting. The bike has track style fork ends that face the rear, but I still wouldn’t call it a track bike. It was made for riding on the road, which is why I have it set up with brakes front and rear. I think the gearing on this bike is 46-16 compared to 50-15 on the Pinarello. Since velodromes don’t have hills (OK, they are banked, but you get the point), it is fine to have a high gear on a track bike. When I am riding a loaded bike on the rolling hills of my route to work though, it is nice to have an easier gear.
Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing (it wouldn’t be the first time). Perhaps the whole track vs. fixed gear distinction is just a point of semantics. Despite the tone of this rant, it doesn’t really matter to me if you use the terms interchangeably. Some of you may define the two terms differently than I do anyway. I guess my real point is that riding a track bike or a fixed gear road bike on the road is fine if that is what you really want to do. I have been riding my old Pinarello on the road for nearly 20 years, so I am as big a fixed gear proponent as anyone. Still, I think that it makes no sense to ride a track bike on the road just because it is the trendy thing to do these days. Now that I think about it, that is probably what the anonymous commenter really meant. It is time to wrap this post up, so I will just leave it at this. If you enjoy riding a track bike on the road and you are sure you can do so safely, then great; I say go for it. On the other hand, if you choose to ride a brakeless track bike on the road just because everyone else is doing it, then yeah, I agree that is kind of dumb. There are many different bicycle types out there, so regardless of what you call them, it is always best to ride what works for you.