Fixed has been around since the advent of the bicycle but has been enjoying renewed popularity over the past five years, thanks in part to the presence (and popularity) of messenger culture, a sudden rekindling of interest in track and a reaction to the unrelenting quest for ever more complicated derailleur transmissions.
Taking track racing into account, fixed has been a relative niche, used by racing cyclists wanting to maintain fitness through the off (winter) season. The popularity of track racing in the post-war period (although particularly through the 1950s) spawned a genre of machines that were essentially street-legal track mounts with more forgiving geometry, drillings for brakes, bigger clearances to accommodate wide tyres and full length guards. In this guise they were practical everyday bikes which could be quickly pared down to the essentials at the evening track meet.
Many of the latest generation of road fixers offer more than a passing nod in the direction of these earlier bikes - On One's il Pompino, IRO's Rob Roy and Kona's Paddy Wagon being prime examples, although a few shops have offered off-the-peg tange fixed training bikes/frames for a good few years.
I am something of a born again fixer having built a fixed bike (a converted Raleigh) back in my teens. I rode it winter in and winter out, enjoying its lightweight simplicity until I spotted daylight where the downtube meets the headtube and so it was time to make the final passage to the great bike shop in the sky. I ran geared winter bikes for a good few seasons and toyed with the idea of a Tange framed fixed trainer in the late 1990s. In 2002 I clapped eyes on On-One's il Pompino (in essence a cyclo-cross frameset with track ends) and found myself unable to resist.
Since then I have found myself fascinated by the old road path bikes and am looking to build a TT machine around such a frame using a mixture of old fashioned and modern, yet sensitive components. I have been equally drawn into the vibrant fixed gear scene in all of its colours from old road frames rescued, renovated and converted to fixed, to pure track mounts and the complete "from the crate" road packages offered by the likes of Specialized, Giant and others.