Trixie The Fixie - My Frankenstein Bike
Today I (eventually) got out of bed and headed on out for my first ‘proper’ ride on my fixed wheel bike. Trixie The Fixie is a bit of a saucy minx, made mostly from a Raleigh Record Sprint I bought second hand in 1989 after my (father’s) Dawes Lightning was stolen along with every other bike on the campus of Loughborough University in the first week of the summer holidays.
Today’s ride was in and out of Newcastle, and I took it “fairly easy” . . . though I did hook up with a guy on a rather swish looking bike for the few miles from Wallsend to St Peters. A long gentle uphill eventually did for me with this though. I was a little nervous of descents, and took the down-and-up at Church Bank / Rosehill very gingerly (no jokes here about my former hair colour). I also took out pretty much a full toolkit, seeing as I’d the feeling it might be needed. Sure enough, when I was nearly home, and gaining in confidence enough to practice some skid breaking, the rear wheel came a little loose, and began rubbing against the frame. Easily fixed though, and this time I made sure the axle nuts were really tight!
- Type: Cycle
- Date: 06/08/2007
- Time: 08:15:00
- Total Time: 1:30:00.00
- Distance: 23 miles
- Average Speed: 15.33 mph
Actually, Trixie has an interesting history, involving the police, changes of identity, and more re-builds than are sensible. Read Trixie’s life story in the rest of this post.
The weekend before the Autumn term of 1989 started, I found an advert in the local Loughborough paper for a bike for sale, and after a phone call, arranged to meet the buyer at Leicester train station on Saturday afternoon. I headed down with one of my housemates, Jimmy, and after a pint in the ‘Barley Mow’ just opposite the station, we did the deal for £80. I was really pleased with this, though it was a lot of money at the time - I’d got a bike with 12 gears, a Reynolds 531 frame, and really skinny tyres.
Five weeks later, I miss-timed a corner, and had a good hard pedal strike. I started pedalling mid-way through a tight adversely-cambered junction, and the inside pedal dug into the road, lifting the rear wheel, and putting the bike way out of line for the turn. The bike careered up the central reservation, stopping just short of the oncoming traffic. I was fine, though I’d snapped the saddle, and two spokes on the rear wheel putting quite a severe kink in it. Fortunately we were only a 100yards or so from the bike shop, so I rather shakily walked her over, and left her with them over the weekend.
I went into the shop to collect the bike on Tuesday just before they closed. The owner greeted me with the phrase, “Oh, we’ve had some trouble with your bike”. I assumed this was like when you take your car to the garage, and after peering under the bonnet (hood) the mechanic makes that sucking-his-teeth noise. Far from it, as he continued, “We had a guy in this afternoon, who said that this is his bike that was stolen two weeks ago!”
Almost before I’d taken this in, the police arrived, to ask me how I was in possession of this bike. Naturally I explained that I’d had the bike for six weeks, having bought it from an ad in the paper. They wanted corroboration, and so I was put in the back of the police van while they drove round to our house to talk to Jimmy. Naturally he confirmed my story (I had to stay in the van while one of the policemen went in to question him, so I hadn’t “tipped him off”), but they still weren’t really satisfied - I could go for now, but they wanted to keep the bike while their enquiries continued . . .
On Thursday lunchtime there was a knock at the door. Joël, another one of my housemates, opened it to one of the policemen I’d met on Tuesday. He came in, while his partner went to the back of the house . . . to block my escape. I offered the policeman (PC Farley, if you can believe it!) (If you’re not from the UK that won’t be at all funny - Charley Farley was a policeman who was one of the Two Ronnies characters) a seat and a cup of tea, but he kept on insisting that stand up. And I kept offering him a seat . . . and eventually he gave up, and read me my rights!
In the car on the way to the police station, I kept thinking totally inappropriate things . . . like in response to the police caution (”You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say will be written down and may be used in evidence against you”), I should say, “Officer, stop hitting me. No not there where the bruises won’t show, Ow!”. Thankfully I kept my mouth shut.
So I was booked in at Loughborough nick, and had the laces taken from my shoes, my belt removed, all my pockets turned out, a pat down search (the back of the police car was also searched, in case I’d dumped anything in it), and then left in a cell. The Custody Sergeant dialled my phone call, but before I could speak to my mum told her that I was not allowed to say anything about why I’d been arrested. So what exaclty is the point of that one phone call you’re allowed?
After being left to stew for an hour, I had an hour in the interview room, complete with the full “there are two tapes; this is our copy, this is your copy” routine, and three police present. This was basically an hour of Nice Cop / Nasty Cop / Stoopid Cop, “come on sonny, admit you did it”. I had no receipt for the bike, and they could find no trace of the advert in the paper to enable them to contact the vendor.
After the interview, I was left alone in the room with PC Farley, to “fill in some paperwork” - a form of some description, with questions like,
- So which course are you on at the university?
- What do your parents do?
- Do you take drugs?
At this last question, my sense of gallows humour really kicked in, so I replied, “What here, with all these police about? No, put it away & we’ll have it later”.
I think it was at that point that he ticked the box marked ’search warrant required’. So after they’d put me back in my cell, they went and searched our house. Jimmy and Joël were in, and answered the policemen’s questions . . . things like:
- Aha! What’s in this bag of grass clippings? (That’d be grass clippings, officer)
- Aha! What’s this white powder in the jar in the kitchen marked ‘flour’? (Uh, that’d be flour, officer).
Anyway, during the search, they went through the waste paper basket in my room . . . and found . . . the original advert for the bike from the paper.
And so I was released! Fortunately I got home just before Jimmy & Joël had started baking - they’d mixed up the ingredients for a cake, and had placed a LARGE file in the cake tin (so that it was sticking out really obviously). They thought the police would see the funny side . . . .
They kept the bike for a further four weeks, while they continued their enquiries - basically they still didn’t really believe me, so they contacted the vendor, and took the bike down for him to positively identify it. I have this crazy image in my head of a bicycle identity parade.
I never got so much as an apology, either from the guy who’d claimed it was his bike (and being positive, I believe it was a genuine case of mistaken identity, rather than trying it on), or the police. Interestingly enough, the other guy was a nice, smart, clean-shaven, PE / Sports Science student, while at the time, I was a spiky haired, pasty-skinned, leather clad geezer. I’m sure that our relative appearances had no influence on the police’s behaviour.
Curiously enough, I had further dealings with the Leicestershire Constabulary about five months later. I got quite seriously beaten up by two guys when I was walking back home from the student’s union bar. So I took a taxi to the police station (I figured it was a Friday night, so the police would have enough on their hands to deal with, without having to come and find me), to report the assault. A nice police lady eventually let me in to the building, and had a look over my injuries. She then gave me the excellent advice,
Yes, you have been beaten up. You’d better go to hospital . . . it’s on Baxter Gate, just down from McDonalds . .
before turfing me out to make my own way there. I was subsequently transferred to Leicester Royal Infirmary, where some nasty damage to my left kidney was diagnosed. Even now, I am prone to kidney problems (what a whining sob story). So after that second incident, I have even less confidence in the police than that jailbird, Zappoman does.
Sorry, that last bit was a digression . . . Trixie underwent a metamorphosis (a bit like witness protection?) in the summer of 1990, when in preparing her for cycling into my summer job, I found that one of the rear drop-outs was cracked. So I booked her in at a shop that did frame building to have them both replaced. At the same time, as the bike would need respraying, I had the colour changed from black to white (standard practice for a ‘hot’ vehicle - respray job!). I also took the opportunity to replace the crank with a one-piece casting / spider, the rear derailleur with a Shimano 105 model, and the nasty seat post with a new alloy one.
Five years later, some more work in preparation for cycling to work (which never materialised), and she was resprayed to her current powder blue. Oh, and I found that the headset bearings were pitted, so I replaced it with a nice Shimano 105 one.
She was brought back from the dead again ten years later, when I decided to respond to my Tall Friend’s challenge of the Stratford Triathlon in 2005. I added clipless pedals, a seat with a cut-out channel (guys - you know why - it’s scary when ‘it’ goes numb, isn’t it?), and a cheap set of aero bars. I had a flying race, but was out-paced on all three disciplines by Tall Friend . . . and also on the other two Tri’s we did that year.
Last year, I discovered the delights of handle-bar mounted shifters, when I bought Wilf, my Sturdy Commuting bike. I also started to get cadence-obsessed . . . and Trixie’s wide ratios, and frame-mounted shifters, meant that when I decided this January that I was gonna get back into triathlon, Trixie was going to have to be replaced
But I wouldn’t just be throwing out / selling a gal who was my First Cycling Love, and who I’d been through so much for. Especially once I found out all about fixed wheel cycling. The height of cool AND something to make you Big and Strong and Tough, with leg muskles like Popeye.
Trixie now has:
- A brand new rear wheel with a flip-flop hub (it’s a fixed 15T sprocket on one side, and a 16T freewheel on the other, so if I get somewhere hilly, then with a spanner, I can ‘change gear’). Yeah, I know that the tradition if ‘fixing’ is that you build the bike out of bits you found in the dumpster / on Ebay. But the rear wheel is kinda safety critical. I tried re-dishing the old wheel once I’d replaced the freewheel cassette with a fixed sprocket, but that’s really hard. Especially when about half of the spoke nipples have rusted solid. I mean, I’m confident enough to re-tension the spokes on a wheel to take out a buckle in the rim, or even to replace a single spoke, but for someone who’d not been on a wheel-building course, re-dishing is really tough.
- The saddle that was originally on Wilf. He has the one that came with Gina (Giant SCR LTD), and she has the nice Specialized on with the cut-out.
- No gears - shifters, cables, mechs. Nothing. I’m even taking the redundant big chainring off this evening.
- A pair of double-sided mountain bike pedals. A lot of people say that you should ride fixed on flat, platform pedals until you get used to it. But I’ve been riding with toe clips or cleated pedals for so long that this caused me more problems than being attached to the bike. I’ve gone for MTB pedals, as my shoes that I wear with Wilf (black shoes to look vaguely smart at meetings) also have this type of cleat. More importantly, they have a grippy rubber sole, so I can ride just standing on the pedals rather than clipped in.
This weekend, I’ll probably chop the handlebars down and flip ‘em over into a ‘time-trialler-esque’ configuration. And soon (not this week), I’ll also take off the superfluous rear brake. I’ve kept this on for now for the ‘comfort factor’. And maybe over the winter, I’ll take off all the braze-on things for the gears, and that’s going to mean that Trixie’ll get yet another paint job. It seems that she’s invented herself more often than Madonna!