Ask a Track Bike! - April 5, 2006 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Ask a Track Bike!

Hi everyone! My name's Ephraim and I'm a track bike. What's a track bike? Great question! Track bikes are single-gear bicycles with back sprockets fixed to their back axles, so there's no gear-shifting and no coasting. Given our unique design, trackies have historically been ridden mostly by velodrome racers and bike messengers (like the one played by Kevin Bacon in the 1986 classic Quicksilver), the latter of which enjoy tattoos, scars, and forcing themselves to ride up California Street sans ability to shift gears, or coasting down Haight Street and having to negotiate the stop sign at Haight and Page with no easy way to brake; it's a toughness thing. In the last few years, however, track bikes have won over a decidedly nontough, unathletic batch of acolytes: hipsters. Grab a latte on any random corner in the Haight, Castro, Mission, etc., and you'll be treated to a veritable parade of carefully coiffed thin mints trucking along on bikes like me. Zut alors!

The trend has become so prevalent that Sucka Free City sought me out for a new advice column for and about hipsters, and this is that. So readers: Please send your hipster-related questions to Ephraim@sfweekly.com — respondents who submit the three best questions for my next column will receive a special prize. Here are some sample queries to get us started:

Q: Dear Ephraim, who's cooler: New York hipsters or San Francisco hipsters? Sincerely, 30goingon13

A: Dear 30, The answer to this age-old debate is: Neither. Hipsters, by definition, are not “cool.” Cool is for MTV and your stockbroker brother's sunglasses. Self-respecting hipsters on both coasts share a healthy disdain for anything cool, and therefore opt out of such a contest. If you were to ask which group was less cool, then we'd have something to mull over.

Q: Dear Ephraim, Track bikes look uncomfortable and dangerous. Are they? Regardless of your answer, I'm probably going to buy one. Yours, SufYanCanCook

A: Dear SufYan, See now, track bikes were designed with the velodrome in mind, wherein the terrain is ergonomically suited to fixed-gear bikes, and abrupt braking (due to the close proximity of the racers) is highly dangerous. Furthermore, we were built for musclebound riders who can go from zero to 40 m.p.h. in less than 200 meters. Coke-snorting fans of Bloc Party were not what the folks at Bianchi had in mind. As bike aficionado and SF Weekly columnist Matt Smith says, “I've got a track bike and I'd never ride it on the street.” So yeah, knock yourself out.

Remember: Send all hipster-related questions to Ephraim@sfweekly.com!