by Peter Shikli
Years ago, I approached Will Meister for the meister.com domain name. (We're software programmers and market online utilities like Task Meister. Getting the meister domain would be handy.) So, I took a peek at www.meister.com, followed the domain pointer to 63xc.com, and found a site all about offroad fixed gear. I was knocked out. Offroad fixed gear cycling? I have a tiny group here in southern California doing just that.
We don't do it in the mountains, but on the beach. We have long stretches of flat hard-packed sand at low tide and we can ride up and down the coast. Part of the fun is to see how deep into the water we can ride. We prefer at least a few inches, and, with cooperating waves, we can go up to the seat. We've had near misses with surfers, and I've had a tire puncture from a stingray. We've got pictures.
For this kind of riding, fixed gear is the only way to go. Salt water, sand, a few feet of kelp? That doesn't work for derailleurs and gears. Even on our fixes, we usually have to replace the drivetrain each year, if not the whole bike.
We never need more than the minimum speed to maintain steerage. When we hit a soft patch, all that matters is keeping our feet on the pegs. Once we put a foot down, we can't restart until we drag the bike onto harder sand (with waves and derogatory remarks all around). The ability to back out of trouble is also a plus. If you act quickly when the front hits a soft patch, you'll still have enough hardpack under the back wheel to retreat.
Anyway, it's sun, surf, and bikinis who always look up and chat. They say we're nuts, of course. My favorite is chasing the waves: ride seaward at an angle to meet the waves, cut inland, and try to stay ahead of the foam. Without fixed gear, I'd lose every time.