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Call it hipster or just a swift mode of transportation, fixie bikes have quickly rolled into the islands over the past several years as a growing trend that’s here to stay. You’ll see them whizzing through the bustle of Downtown Honolulu or through the intellects and scholars of Manoa’s university community. These fixed-gear bikes bring to light a colorful persona of Hawaii’s cityscape that we never knew existed.
Fixie bikes attract riders who break from convention and like to go fast!
Quick and mobile were among the reasons that fixies became the ride of choice for bike messengers in Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu during the 1980s. However, if you ask some of my fixie-riding friends, it’s the thrill of freewheeling that makes fixie a preferred way of getting around. This means the bike’s back wheel is in a fixed gear, and thus cannot coast. Often, they don’t have brakes, either, so riders need quick reflexes when it comes to navigating their way through traffic and skidding to a graceful halt. Despite those who call this technique a one-way ticket to the ER, most would agree it’s a skillful method mastered overtime.
Perhaps unknowingly, the fixie-riding bike messengers created a subculture of their own that, today, might be misinterpreted as a “hipster” fad. Contrary to that belief, however, fixed-gear bikes have been around since the 1870s and were originally built for racing. Modern-day users have quickly adapted their attire to fit their fixies; from the tight-fitted pants to the over-the-shoulder bags and retro cycling caps, some might say it’s become more of a fashion statement while others call it a lifestyle.
Through an artistic eye, bikes are blank canvases awaiting personal embellishment.
Hawaii has its own version of a fixie subculture, of which a local community arts center hopes to convey through its current exhibit called “BIKES@MARKS.” According to ARTS at Marks Garage, custom bikes are not only eco-friendly commute alternatives but also blank canvases of creative expression that promote self-sufficiency and physical fitness. Neon, polka dot, crosshatch or all of the above may creatively distinguish one bike from another, as the DIYers continuously come up with fresh ideas for bicycle art. The month-long exhibit features sample bikes from different genres, including low-riders, BMX, fixed-gears, racers, historical, work bikes and pedi-cab. Paintings and photographs also compliment the exhibit, which launched during this month’s First Friday and included a bike prom and a bike polo match on Hotel Street. The fad is in full effect, so don’t be surprised when you see packs of brightly-colored bikes during your stay in the islands.
The exhibit puts bikes on pedestals – literally and figuratively.
BIKES@MARKS • Exhibit and events showcasing custom bikes • Sept. 4 to 29, 2012 • ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96817 • www.artsatmarks.com
Photo Courtesy (first): Scot McNally