Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fixie Love

In which I reflect on being a bike messenger also meatpacking, then put together a new fixie. Alice Neel record a song called Fixie Love and, you guessed it, I make prints.

The author at last month's cyclovia in Kakaako. not my bike, but the colors work.
My last full time job in New York was bike messenger. For a good year and a half I was out on the mean streets 5 days a week, 7-8 hrs a day, summer, winter, spring and fall.  After my first six month my 12- gear bike got stolen and I got a Panasonic track frame from the small anarchist messenger service I worked for and put a fixie together. Nobody called them that back then. It was a track bike, ridden by roughly half of New York’s messengers. Nobody else wrote one on the street in those days. That x-mas I moved to Light Speed where a fellow rock'n roller worked. Light Speed was one of the best companies with 3 dispatchers and about 140 riders. If you wanted to make money you rode every day, fast and reliable.  The dispatchers liked you and that’s how you got the better jobs, crossing zones, rush deliveries, oversizes and you still worked when it got slow, like during lunch, which I often ate in elevators or even on the bike. I started early and liked to be done around 4:00 PM, before my focus waned and all the workers in the office towers flooded the sidewalks and streets. I got run over twice, deliberately, had a crowbar and a baseball bat swung at me,  got yelled at and yelled myself, catapulted over the handlebar, slid out on metal plates, on ice, had a my breath in a wool scarf, that was wrapped around my face, frozen solid, stopped by cops numerous times and remember riding down Broadway singing on top of my voice. Bikemessengering attracts independent spirits. While what you are doing is set, the way you are doing it is up to you, you can dress as funky as you want and nobody leans over your shoulder. I made a video on it. It is described in more detail in the post Mystik Mood.

Cover for Mystik Mood DVD

 “…bike couriers have an injury rate three times higher than workers in the infamously dangerous occupation of meatpacking.”  Jeffrey Kidder, Urban Flow, Bike Messengers and the City, Cornell University Press, 2011.
In 2007 after visiting Germany and staying in NY twice, I decided to put another fixie together. It would be fun to put together, to ride one again and help me manage the parking and commute to and from the UH Manoa campus. It was a project that my friend Stephen and I worked on together. The only fixies I saw on Oahu at the time was in and around the art building.

Stephen Whitesell with his 70's Guerciotti. Classic (not a fixie)

2007 fixie near finished. we changed the crankset and...
...added final touches.

Art building fixie with
lugged frame,  nice details and

 sparkles even. very stylish.
 In 2008 Stephen Niles, Will Williams III and I formed the Rock'n Roll band Alice Neel. We are all painters. We wrote and recorded two songs, Ala Maona Bowls and Fixie Love, both can be listened to and downloaded for free. This inspired me to work on a few prints, with the idea in the back of my head to use one as cover for a 12" disco remix of Fixie Love, which hasn't happend yet, but is still in the plans. Here is a video of ALICE NEEL playing FIXIE LOVE at a party in my studio.
Fixie, 4 plate woodblock on BFK,  12" x 12", dieter runge 2012
fixie, plate 1 (background)

fixie, plate 2 (frame)

fixie, plate 3 (tires, saddle, handlebar)

fixie, plate 4 (all the rest)

9 fixie prints framed on my studio floor.

Part of the bike messengers's gear is the bag. The bag that everyone used during the 80's in New York was made by Globe Canvas in a basement at the edge of Little Italy and Chinatown. The price was $20. It was very strong with vinyl lining, watertight. With daily messenger use it lasted for about a year, which reflects on the heavy use not on the quality of the bag. It was adapted from a bag used by workers on telegraph poles. I have used one of these bags ever since I left NY, and it has been my desire to pay tribute to the globe canvas bag for a long time, especially since they closed down their business. Also to make sure that I would always have one. There are other quality bags out there, but I loved the simplicity and quality of the original Globe Canvas bag.
My great late friend and taiji student, the abstract expressionist painter Amy Russell had given me a bunch of canvases that she wanted to throw out and I had kept them for more than 10 years with exactly this idea in mind. The design is true to the original Globe Canvas bag, including the vinyl lining. I added the labtop pocket and we played a bit with the arrangement of the straps in order to show more of the painting. Notice the stainless steel buckle, which allows for quick shortening or lengthening of the strap, messenger style. Each one is made from one painting and has a different color vinyl lining, a truly unique piece of usable art.

orange bag

4 bags were made

inside with lab-top pocket
 The bike show at the Arts at Marks the fall of 2012 inspired more bike art, mainly a big 4'x'4' woodblock print of two Trackracers.

trackracers. woodblock print, 46" x 48", dieter runge, 2012

Alice Neel at the bike show

bike show at Arts at Marks, September/October 2012

Three trackracer prints on linen hung in the windows at the bike show, visible from both sides. 2012
metallic in NY

and fixie gang in downtown Honolulu

Sergio Garzon biking to an art opening in Kaimuki
The German company Urbike offers the buyer to choose a different color for each component. A bike store on San Francisco's Valencia Street lets you choose the color of your frame amongst several hundred colors. You can also still find an old frame and do it all yourself. Check out what the kids do at KVibe in Oahu's Kahlihi.

KVibe summer 2012
Forks at Kvibe

Bike show at Kvibe summer 2012

nice colors Kvibe 2012

All lined up at Kvibe, 2012

I welcome that fixies have arrived in the mainstream, because it seems to help bring more people on bikes. I love the aesthetics and there is a lot of room for personal expression. I see more and more  kids riding fixies (or single speeds). The more the better. 
Here is a video of the Levi's flagship store in SF. Levis designed a pair of jeans for urban riders. No judgement.


Over the past years I have been collecting clips for a Fixie Love video. I want to do a video on Oahu, basically following the song and am looking for collaborators. In this short clip I ride down Market street in San Francisco.

looks cool - got spare?

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