I was interviewed a while ago…
And here it is :)
“Okay, it’s been ages (9th February 2012) since I’ve done this interview with Andy Ellis, founder of Fixedgearlondon & Fixed Magazine (http://www.fixedgearlondon.com/). Finally I found the time to post it here. Originally interview was made for Russian portal Furfur and if you guys don’t mind to read in Russian, check the original here” http://www.furfurmag.ru/furfur/all/heroes-furfur/155461-fgl
What actually made you ride fixed geared bikes?
When I was student I struggled financially and couldn’t afford a train ticket. So I would just jump the barriers on the station. But in my final year they introduced proper barriers in this station, so you couldn’t walk through without paying. I even got caught once or twice, so I started to think what I am going to do? I found a bike left on the street, It was just a crappy mountain bike, and I decided to fix this up and ride in to college because it was only four miles away. On the first day it took me 45 minutes and it opened my eyes, because when you travel on the train you don’t see the real London or anything. So I decided to ride a bike every day. I started getting bits for the bike, I made it a bit better, and eventually I cut my time down and on the way home it took me only 25 minutes and that was faster that train. This was 8 years ago now.
Once I graduated I went down to this market on Brick lane and bought a single speed bike. At the time I didn’t know it was stolen. I started riding and it was so fast and so simple. I studied a product design at Central Saint Martins. From a design point I couldn’t believe that such a bike was so effective. From the way it looks to the way it functions. Form and function are never really balanced. There are so many things out there which look good but they are actually crap. And there are actually things that work so well but look terrible. If you take anything away from a pure fixed gear bike it doesn’t work and at the same time if you add anything to it, it looks like it’s extra. So it’s a perfect object and it’s a perfect form of transport as well. I have ridden bikes since forever, and I had all the types of them. But fixed gear bikes flicked the switch for me.
Now fixed gear bikes became quite popular. Do you think that movement has gone mainstream nowadays?
Well, I wouldn’t say its mainstream yet. I would say it is on the verge of something big. Some of the information that appears on the blogs is actually made up, some of it is just all hype. Hype can be damaging to the scene but now I think it’s doing okay. There will always be these riders who don’t really care whether they’ll get magazine interviews or not. Of course there are people who just started to ride fixed because they’ve been told that it’s cool. And they don’t actually know why they’re riding. They are doing it because it’s trendy at the moment.
What do you think going to happened in two or four years? This hype will fade away and only devoted riders will still be around?
I have no idea. We just are going to keep showing what we are doing. Even if a big Hollywood movie comes out about fixed gear or whatever, it doesn’t matter if it successful or not. These groups of people don’t give a shit. I don’t know what’s going to happen in four years. Maybe the fixed gear freestyle thing, the tricks on bikes will develop into something else. It’s something you can’t pin down you know?
What made you decide to start the magazine and the website?
I met Ted who was into bikes all of his life and he was working at the bike shop. So I would go hang out there all the time, and there were other people that came along. Over the first six months there were about six of us who were going out riding every week. Once I graduated somebody gave me a website as a present. I was going to make the website about my design portfolio, but I decided to make it about what we were doing on our bikes as a group mainly because everybody kept asking for the pictures. I called it “Fixedgearlondon” .com
Later on our group grew to 25 people. And all of them were from different backgrounds – graphic designers, photographers, journalists. Basically we had all the necessary skills directly available within our group of people. I decided that we should do some stuff. And I was like “Wow! We should start a magazine!” That was it. Fixedgearlondon has been going since 2006, and Fixed Magazine has been going since summer 2008. It was just logical.
What does attract you the most in fixed gear bikes? Is it all about minimalism?
It’s not about minimalism it’s about getting the feeling of riding. The actual feeling of riding a fixed gear bike is far more powerful than the way your bike looks. You can’t get connected to any other piece of transport that you operate, than you can on a fixed gear bike. There is no other piece of machinery that can connect you to the environment better than a fixed gear bike. Nothing! Because fixed riding is like running. Most people ask how do you stop, and I say, if you’re running towards a brick wall down the hill, how do you stop yourself? And they’re like “you just do it”. And I say – “exactly”. This is exactly the same as the fixed gear bike. You’re riding along, you see something coming in your way, or someone crossing road, you just control the speed, it’s directly linked to your brain.
Do you guys hold any competitions?
It’s not what we’re about. We never started to do that. I hate competitions! As soon as I get in competition I feel like… I hate the adrenaline. Why do I want to beat somebody else? You should prove something to yourself first. If you want to beat someone, then you’re obviously not happy with yourself, or maybe you just want to prove something to yourself, because you want to be better then you are. I’m as good as I can be and I’m completely happy with that. Some other people in the crew they like to compete, they are younger members of the crew as well, and some of them actually compete just for fun. In 2010 we held a bunch of checkpoint races, because we had never done that before. And we held about five checkpoint races every other month. But that was more like an exercise for us, to educate different groups of people. And these races were quite successful. We had a lot of supporters, who contributed prizes.
You mentioned you hate adrenaline. But what about riding on the busy streets?
If I did feel adrenaline when I was riding down the street, I probably would have killed myself by now. Its the feeling of riding a bike, and the Zen like idea behind it for me. It’s like a finding a perfect balance. You’ve got an extreme point of adrenaline and you’ve got the point of relaxation. So there are two extremes. Something in between those, where you don’t feel anything but you know what you’re doing. Is the point you really want to be at. I love to go out riding when it’s rush hour in the morning at 8:30. For example, this main road goes all the way into town, so everybody uses it. There’s a lot of people out there with adrenaline trying to race, and I like to go out in that. It’s like going into war, I suppose. It’s like you’re the soldier who can go into war and not be in a hurry and see everyone in slow motion and be able to do what you want to do. You know, you can run over to that guy,(This is obviously a metaphor!!!) shoot him in the head or whatever, or you could just dodge all the bullets. That’s what it is, that’s what it feels like in a weird way to me. If my phone rings, I ignore it. That’s how it should be. If I see some on the street, I stop for them. If you do not concentrate when you’re riding fixed, at some point you’re dead. That’s it.
But the video on your blog where you slide between the cars, it looks quite extreme…
It’s hard to explain. Out of context, if you’re not that person on the bike in that environment at that time, you would think “wow, that’s crazy”. But you see these guys doing double flips on motorbikes… They do it all day, every day and it’s nothing for them. It’s just like okay, what am I going to do now, a double flip? And they just go and do it. They’re not panicking, they’re completely calm. For me it’s not extreme or dangerous because I know what is going to happen.
Have any of you guys had any accidents on the road?
I’ve never been in accident that was my fault. The worst accident that I ever had it wasn’t on the bike, it was skateboarding. I cracked my head on the floor. And it ‘s because I wasn’t thinking. I just was like, I’ve done this trick a hundred times, I was too relaxed, and just got caught and fell backwards.
London has reputation of a rider friendly city. Would you agree that?
I think it has that reputation because of mayor promoting that stuff. It’s not bad. I’ve been to many cities all over the world… You know, San Francisco is not promoted as bike friendly as London, but the drivers are much more respectful of cyclists. The pedestrians and the riders are fundamentally the most important thing on the road. Once I was riding with one friend across the city, he would just go through the junctions and they just stopped. Whereas here if you’re on the road and the car is running towards you and it’s your right of way, the car would speed up, beep it’s horn and shout out the window, going “what are you doing, get out of the way!” That wouldn’t happen in San Francisco.
The law says that it’s not allowed to ride without the brakes. As long as you’re riding without any, have you ever had that kind of issues?
I never had any conflicts with law, because when I ride, I ride with caution. If you’re going 25 miles an hour through everywhere and don’t give a fuck, shouting at people, you going to get pulled over. But most people don’t even know I’m there, and by the time they realise I was there, I’m gone. Legally, you have to have two brakes on the bike. The front brake, normal caliper brake and the fixed gear mechanism is considered a brake here. I’ve been pulled over by cops before. But they never said to me where is your brakes, they said oh let’s have a look at your bike. And it’s because I don’t ride like an asshole. In Berlin if you don’t have the brakes you’ll get your bike confiscated or whatever, but I think it’s just because they are scared of what could happened. I think the fixed gear mechanism is the safest mechanism to ride on the streets because you’re in control all of the time. The first bikes were fixed gear bikes, and actually gears and freewheels were introduced to make things more exiting in major races. And now they’ve got nothing else to promote so they keep adding gears and making the bikes lighter! It’s not about what bike you are on, it’s about the rider that rides it.
Andy Ellis – Æ
To see the original interview in Russian go – HERE