With their minimalist, elegant frames and endless customizability, the popularity of fixed gear bikes (often known as fixie bikes) has grown exponentially in recent years, especially in urban areas. True to their name, fixed gear bikes have no freewheel, meaning that they cannot coast and the pedals are constantly moving when the bike is in motion. The rider can slow the bike without the aid of additional brakes by resisting the motion of the pedals. This makes for a completely different experience from riding a normal bike; people either love it or hate it.
It's no surprise that fixed gear bikes have started to catch on in Beijing, since they're well suited to life in the capital. Their light frames make them easy to carry up the stairs of your six-storey walk-up for safe keeping at night (a good idea since many fixed gear bikes come in at well over 3000 RMB). The bikes are easy to stop and manoeuvre in the city's unpredictable traffic and Beijing's lack of hills means the lack of gears is not a problem.
Of course, style plays into the equation as well. Fixed gear bikes have become emblematic of the "hipster" phenomenon and the trend is spreading amongst China's hip urban youth. At the recent Beijing Design Week, the Bicycle Library, a double decker bus stocked with stylish bikes to borrow or buy (including fixed gear bikes of course), toured Beijing advocating the suitability of bikes for city life. As China gradually becomes more environmentally conscious, a cool bike is becoming a way to stand up to a culture that in recent decades has favoured status-bound cars.
Where to buy: Natooke, mecca for fixed gear enthusiasts
Natooke has long been at the forefront of the fixed gear bike scene in Beijing. The cosy shop near the Lama Temple is packed to the rafters with colourful parts and accessories, so you can let your imagination run wild when choosing the design of your bike. A basic build starts at 2900 RMB and after that the sky's the limit, depending on which parts and materials you choose. Natooke's popularity endures by virtue of their great after-sales service and genuinely passionate staff.
If you are new to riding fixed gear bikes, we heartily suggest renting one first to get a feel for it. Natooke offers a rental service for 50 RMB a day (plus 500 RMB deposit), so you can take your fixed gear bike on a tour of the hutongs. They also have a Taobao store where you can pick up replacement parts and accessories.
Where to buy: other options around town and online
Nowadays, Natooke isn't the only place you can pick up a fixed gear bike in Beijing.
The Drive Thru in Sanlitun Soho sells custom-build DEX brand fixed gear bikes. The prices are much higher than Natooke or online, but the experience is certainly quirkier. While you're at The Drive Thru pick up some imported beers, a block of Himalayan salt, or some of owner Ryan Johnston's delicious homemade flavoured salts.
Finally, as with everything in China these days, if you have a good grasp of Chinese (or just the Chinese internet) you can of course buy your fixed gear bike on Taobao. Although it is obviously more difficult to completely customize the design of your bike, Taobao is a good option if you have used a fixed gear before and want to buy an entry-level model. Prices range from around 500-1500 RMB depending on build quality and colour. Make sure you take a good look at the previous customer reviews before you buy and be aware that shipping costs may be high if you buy from a store based outside of Beijing. The Solomo online flagship store, based in Beijing, sells fixed gear bikes in a range of colours for 628 RMB.
The Drive ThruView In Map
Add: 3/F, Building 5, Sanlitun Soho, Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8590 0390/139 1113 6564
Opening hours: Sun-Thu, 10:00-22:00; Fri-Sat, 10:00-00:00
If you are interested in further exploring Beijing's fixed gear bike scene, get in touch with Beijing Fixed Gear Club, which brings together fixie enthusiasts from across the city.
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Keywords: Fixed gear bikes Beijing where to buy fixed gear bike Beijing customized bikes Beijing bike clubs Beijing
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