MOST people who know what fixies are would probably say something like “Oh, they’re just for hipsters”. And it’s funny, because fixies are basically bicycles. So why all the hate?

The fact is, fixies are just fixed-gear bicycles, meaning they don’t have gears or brakes, and the chain is fixed to the back wheel of the bike. It’s the kind of bike Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in Premium Rush rode, which is why he was doing those cool skid moves whenever he needed to brake.

It begs the question though – why ride a fixie if it’s so much trouble?
“It forces you to pay more attention and to stay a step ahead while you’re riding. It’s challenging but fun as it keeps you alert all the time,” said Fadli Rosli, 32, owner of Grafa, a local fixie haunt in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Fadli got into fixed-gear cycling after stumbling across some YouTube videos, back when fixie culture still wasn’t that big in Malaysia. “There’s something very peculiar and sublime about the kind of cycling you see in those videos. It organically draws you into the life of bike messengers.

Plus, they look really cool!” he said.

Eventually, Fadli decided to spread his love for fixies by starting Grafa, a cafe that caters not only to cycling enthusiasts, but fixies as well. Since the birth of Grafa, the fixie community in Malaysia has grown quite a bit, though it’s still considered very much an “underground” scene.

Many tend to associate fixies with hipsters because over the past few years, that’s who the fixed-gear trend really resonated with, starting with those in New York.

Hipsters, named as such for shunning mainstream culture and commercialism, were starting to adopt fixie culture as it was symbolic of breaking free from the constrains of modern urban life – traffic jams in particular. And of course, fixies were so not mainstream.

Ahmad Falique Najmuddin, 25, however, picked it up three years ago simply because he feels it’s a healthy way to pass time and just hang out.

“It feels amazing to be on the bike because you get to cycle with your friends.” said Falique. “Back when we started, we would cycle around the stadium in Kelana Jaya (Selangor) just for fun. It was definitely a passion for most of us.”

A huge part of the appeal of fixies is also about pushing yourself. They aren’t the easiest bikes to ride.

“We love challenging ourselves to go up on hills (particularly difficult since fixies don’t have gears). Every week we would challenge ourselves to go further,” said Falique, who was involved in a 150km fixed-gear international tournament in Singapore last year.

Some enthusiasts, like Muzaimi Zolkarnain, have even started their own fixie groups.

Muzaimi formed RatsKL in 2008 with six friends, just to organise fixie meet-ups. The members have taken part in fixed-gear competitions like the KL International Fixed Gear Tournament and the Tour of Singapore.

“I fell in love with the art of cycling when I was in London six years ago, and everyone was into fixed gear at the time,” said Muzaimi. “Watching people cycle always fascinated me, and before I knew it, it became one of my hobbies.”

If you’re interested in giving fixie riding a go, Fadli imports fixed-gear bicycles at Grafa.

It won’t exactly be a cheap hobby, though. An entry-level bike can cost around RM600 to RM1,000, but a really good one could go up to RM17,000. Starters could opt for second-hand bikes, which was how Fadli first got into it.

“My first bike was a converted second-hand bicycle which I bought for RM150 at a local bicycle shop. All our friends got them from the same shop. It didn’t last long, though. It served me for three months till I got a new track bike,” he said.

But despite the misconceptions about fixies, at the end of the day, it’s just a hobby that brings young people together.

“Most people find it hard to meet up with their friends because they’re tied to work, but we always make time for each other to catch up through cycling events. Our hang out is definitely one of a kind, and we’re always anticipating our next meeting.“ said Muzaimi.

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