Is the Brooklyn-Bred “Purist” Bike Culture Officially “Over” Now?


The intensely devoted single-speed and fixed-gear bike culture of Williamsburg has long been a source of fascination for people unbearably attracted to fashionably scruffy, trim, roguish-looking people, as well as the rest of the people who ride bikes in New York, and of course, exploitative press outlets and exploitative retailers. But that may soon come to an end.

Yes, even after the 2007 New York Times story and the Washington Post story; after the various shops popped up, first in Brooklyn, then in Manhattan; after the blogs, the 2009 fixed gear story, the other 2009 NYT “Bike Snob” story, even after hipster-expat-haven Berlin banned them; even after Urban Outfitters starting slinging custom bikes online, fixed-gear and single-speed biking is still at large. It has yet to hit the epic ceiling of cultural oversaturation, the one that you thought had already happened until it does, at which point, you just know. Which, via Felix Salmon, is this:

Yes, fixed-gear and single speed biking, a supposed “purists” hobby, is now apparently being “exploited” for sale at Wal-Mart, though granted, $150 for this single-speed bike is definitely cheaper than, say, anything you’d score at Landmark Vintage, or even Urban Outfitters, or any actual bicycling shop. And single-speed bikes — which are often confused for fixed-gear bikes by those not learned in the ways of purist bike culture — represent the mainstream adoption of the culture. If you will, single-speeds are the Orthodox sect to fixed-gear’s Chasidism. And in that line of thought, what you’re looking at Goyim of purist biking: There’s nowhere more mainstream to buy anything than Wal-Mart, whose epic consumerism and trend-selling at bottom lines essentially amounts to something like cultural eugenics if it gets something someone once found pure in its hands. This is it. That moment of “over” is here. Let the Brooklyn unicycling coalition step emerge.

That said, just look at it. It’s an angry aluminum deathmachine waiting to eat anyone who tries to ride it beyond their driveway alive. Too many speed-bumps and you’re totaled, man. So! Bike Purism, dead in spirit, will probably otherwise remain as it is, if only because all the tail-end adopters who shop at Wal-Mart are basically gonna die riding that thing.