Big-city bike messengers have always been tragically cool and indifferent to fashion trends, because let's face it, not everyone can pull off Emo pants and 30-pound chains wrapped around the waist while riding a bike in New York City traffic.
But the influence messengers have had on bike spec the past five years has had a large impact on the bike industry as a whole, as seen in the halls of the Sands Convention Center during the recent Interbike trade show in Las Vegas.
Steel is still real, although aluminium and carbon are creeping into the scene. Price matters, but in a market where daily hard riding and equipment abuse rivals that of the pro peloton, durability and looks count more. Pioneers Bianchi ushered in the affordable and sexy chrome Pista, and now the same product manager is pulling the levers for Swobo, where fixies are becoming decidely understated in appearance. As Swobo's Sky Yaeger tells it, it's her job to listen to what the customers want, and they want a stark canvas onto which they can create a personal ride that reflects their station in life and among their bicycling brethren.
The chaps from Vancouver still believe steel is real, and have advanced the early concept of producing fixed-gear bikes for track racing into proper fixies for the road. The Kona Paddy Wagon has a longer wheelbase and room for larger diamter tyres, ideal for streets and commuting. The US$679 model includes all the necessities, plus braze-ons and fittings for mudguards and racks.
For some, evil lurks around every alleyway in big cities at night, and at first glance it seems that we stumbled upon Satan's fixie itself with the Fuji League.
Belt drives made their debut at last year's Interbike, and with a heavy influx of fixed-gear and internally-geared bikes, it appears belt drives are a legitimate option to the century-old chain. We're curious about the life span of belts, though, and will be testing several bikes in the near future. Delta's CDrive brand is simple, clever and easy on the eyes for the monochromatic crowd.
With an Italian heritage like Masi's, it's a natural fit to offer several steel fixies. The California-based company has expanded its Speciale Fixed line for 2009.
Giant has been a private-label manufacturer for several top-name companies, so it's not surprising to see the Taiwan juggernaut expand its own line of fun fixies to include "retro" models from the 1970s and '80s.
Hidden among the big boys at Interbike was upstart brand Traitor Cycles, highlighting its Pabst Blue Ribbon special fixie. Cars R Coffins own Hurl Everstone was lingering in their booth, licking his lips and chatting up the owners.
The British marquee has returned to its roots in a big way for 2009, expanding its steel offerings greatly. The American subsidiary is based in Seattle, a community steeped heavily in bicycle culture. The Raleigh Rush Hour has been up-specced for 2009, taking a nod from brands like Swobo with its subtle looks and lack of graphics.
We've reported on these guys in the past because their bikes are smartly specced and a pleasure to look at. The aptly-named Black Jack was on display, looking every inch inspired by the Austro Daimler models made by Puch in the 1970s and '80s.
The folks at Felt cover all the bases, from Tour de France time trialling and track racing to urban cool and fixies like the Curbside. Talk a bout a cross between mad messenger experimentation and old-school BMX sensibility!
The Australian rim makers have upped their game considerably the past two years, adding eye-popping graphics to suit virtually every need among fixed-gear riders looking to make a personal statement.