Riding Downhill--Part Eight of Fixed Gear 101
by Greg Goode
In this section, you'll learn new ways to control the speed of your bike. While you're learning, use them in conjunction with your brake--and take it easy.
Fixers divide hills into two classes: those with obstructions, and those without. Obstructions can include traffic intersections, stop signs, obstacles such as oil, sand, logs or pot holes, blind spots, and other dangers.
On an obstructed hill, you must "control your roll." There are two main methods:
Slaloming is the system used by skiers and rollerbladers. As you carve your turns back and forth, concentrate on digging the front wheel into the ground. This easy method actually has remarkable slowing power, and you will find it convenient when you are tired. But it is advisable only if you have enough free space for the side-to-side slalom movement. You will need about the width of one traffic lane on the road. Rare, but it happens.
Backpedaling is the classic fixed gear braking technique. As you descend, you resist the forward motion of the pedals. One leg pushes back and down on the rear pedal as it rises up and forward, while the other leg pulls up on the front pedal as it rotates forward and down. If you're approaching a red light, a stop sign or cross traffic, you might end up going at about a walking pace.
Unobstructed hills are rare. When you find one, use the opportunity to sprint! Get to know your top rpm and the hills that you can handle. Remember the cadence drills, which give you the ability to handle high rpm. If you find yourself 'spinning out' frequently, reconsider your choice of gear.