This originally started as a comment to another blogger commenting on the fuckeditude of fixed gear mtb'rs, but morphed into a blog post.
Fixed gear mtb'rs are an odd bunch, even more odd than single speed mtb'rs. I'm going to relate a 'back in the day story' but first we need to define 'back in the day'.
'Back in the day' wasn't when they had a B cyclocross category instead of the cat 3's, that was last fucking week. Back in the day the only people that had ever even _heard_ of cyclocross were people that had lived in belgium. Back in the day, mountain bikes were a novelty, and no one had a 'cross frame that was designed and built as a 'cross frame. We had road frames that were modified by a local frame builder by welding on canti brake bosses, pinching the chainstays by the bottom bracket and moving the rear brake bridge a bit higher on the seat stays. My first CX bike started life as a Schwinn Tempo .
Back in the day was when guys still raced with toe clips (yeah, 'cross racing with toe clips!). Index shifting was considered effeminate, there were more five speed freewheels (not freehubs) than six speed freewheels, and you would see an itinerant racer with a set of chainwhips removing the 13t from his freewheel so he could put on a 21 for the putney road race in the parking lot of the west hill shop. The longsjo classic was a one day crit on lower main street (even now, longsjo was a one-day crit longer than it's been a stage race).
Back in the day, we rode fixed gears for early season training. If you didn't have a bike you could leave set up as a fixed gear, you were cajoled into removing your derailleurs, buying a track cog, lock nut, and track chain. This was a point of discipline. No sprinting for town lines in your big chainring in february (they wore ski clothing back then, some guys even wore ski goggles on really cold days, and no one had bike helmets, I remember one brisk morning wearing a ski mask and safety glasses). The idea was to force you to ride for 5 hours in an easy gear to build your base fitness. There's a good reason for junior gear restrictions, the guys from 'back in the day' figured out the damage that pushing big gears did without base mileage without having the help of sports physiology. Fixed gear riding was never intended to be the domain of the urban hipster, once Tullio invented the derailleur, fixed gears became the domain of track racers and spartanites.
Back in the day there was a local bike club called The Sons Of Italy Road Club. You won't find too much about them, they went defunct somewhere around 2001, but they were pretty active in the area in the 80s and 90s. They used to hold an annual banquet in the fall, I could be mistaken but I believe the seeds of NE-BRA were sown here. This was the first time I met Chronoman, he was wearing a nametag that said "hello, my name is Terry Bradshaw". They used to have guest speakers at these banquets, the most notable of whom was Chris Carmichael. Chris talked alot about training, and of course, about his most famous client - Lance Armstrong. I don't remember what year that was, but it was pre-cancer and post world championship. During the q&a, I asked Chris if he thought lance would ever win the TdF. Chris answered 'I think he has the potential. Barring any accidents, yes, I think he will win the tour one day'.
Now, back to where I was heading when I first started writing this epic. Another guest speaker they had was Paul Curley (HEY!). This, if I remember correctly was the last banquet they had. Paul spoke a bit on his rather extensive racing career and then dedicated the rest of his address to his training philosophy. At one point, he mentioned 'fixed-gear' and 'mountain biking' in the same sentence. They served beer at the SoI hall, and I wasn't quite sure that I had heard him correctly. So I raised my hand and asked "did you just say you went mountain biking on a fixed gear?"
He replied "yes".
Again, having made a few trips to the bar, I'm not exactly sure what I said, but I know it was something along the lines of "that's fucked!"
This flustered Paul somewhat, but he continued with his presentation. I'm sure I feel asleep.
Fast forward about 17 years. MTB racing has peaked and declined. If you have a single speed mtb, you're cool. If you have a single speed 29'r, you're _uber_ cool. And, I guess now, if you have a _fixed_ 29'r, you're so fucking cool that thick mud solidifies as you approach allowing you to glide effortlessly through, coors light cans turn blue as you ride by, and hot chicks nipples stand out when you're in the vicinity.
I say this only partially toungue in cheek. Back in the day I was thoroughly ridiculed for wearing black/brown/beige dress socks when arriving for afternoon rides after work, even though I folded them over to resemble 'crew' socks (I remember a clause in the USCF manual as late as 1989 stating "socks will be white, shorts will be black. A thigh panel with the sponsors name will be allowed"). Now, white socks are totally gay, and the uber cool wear fucking argyle.
Now, certain bloggers fully embrace the off-road fixed-gear trend. These people are far more prolific as bloggers, racers, and slackers than I. While I ridicule the off-road fixed-gear rider for coming to the party 20 years after paul curley was using it as a spartan training regimen, I envy them for my inability to jump in with both feet due to pragmatic commitments of my own doing.
I sincerely hope that off-road fixed-gear competition becomes at least as successful as off-road single-speed competition has become. I won't be doing it, I'll have respect for those that _do_ embrace it, but I still think it's fucked.