It’s just after 3 p.m. on a Saturday when I roll into , a fixed-gear bike shop off Magnolia Boulevard. It’s around the corner from the , where I just made a pit stop for an iced coffee on the way home from a ride along the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank with my new bike.
I figure the shop, which specializes in minimalist road bicycles with no gears or brakes, is a good place stop – I’m in need of a new Presta valve cap for my tube and another bike lock for casual rides that don’t warrant my super-heavy-duty, nearly-five-pound U-lock. But I am by no means a fixie rider; I enjoy shifting to lower gears on hard hills far too much to ditch them.
I park my new white 21-speed Raleigh inside the store as I see the other customers have done, and I hook my helmet onto the handlebars. I immediately wonder if I should’ve rode in on my old vintage bike instead for the sake of fitting in.
For the past four years I’d been riding my dream bike: a champagne-colored Univega Nuovo Sport women's road bicycle with a charming black vintage seat, a loud chrome spinner bell and a quaint front wicker basket (which, of course, is removed for those serious rides). It’s a bike – sans the bell and basket – I’ve seen many riders re-work into a “fixie”: strip off the gears, get rid of the brakes and it transforms into a not-even-the-basics bike. But after finally accepting the fact that its 52-cm. frame is simply no good for a person barely over five feet tall, and after months of fruitless Craigslist searches for frames 48-cm. and under, I recently invested in a brand-new bike for riding to work.
In my more active bike days, I’d pedaled through as many as two Midnight Ridazz group bike rides a week. By the 15th mile, I assumed my struggle in keeping up was due to a weak gluteus maximus rather than my oversized bike. It was at those rides that I saw the popularity of fixies spread from a close-knit community of cyclists to the streets of the mainstream.
Eyeing State's dozens of pastel and neon frames with vibrantly-hued wheels and colorfully-taped handlebars, I’m reminded of my old riding buddies. I look around to see a few young guys working on bikes in the back, and I’m not even sure they notice me wandering around.
There’s a group of teenage boys looking at rims – they’d been walking ahead of me on the sidewalk with their fixies, so I figured we were heading to the same place.
I tend to assume being a fellow cyclist means an instant camaraderie. Like my old Ridazz friends, everyone in the store seems to share the same free-wheelin’ attitude. But unlike them, nobody seems interested in geeking out about gears, talking about upcoming rides or sharing a good route or two. Well, at least not with me.
I start becoming self-conscious. "Is it my dorky helmet?", I wonder. Perhaps I don’t seem their type: I realize most of my outfit – my shoes, shirt, gloves, running belt – coincidentally has some shade of my least-favorite color, pink. Maybe I'm the one that doesn't look friendly enough – Did my breezy afternoon ride from Valley Village to Burbank and back to NoHo somehow give me an unapproachable, disheveled appearance?
I conclude my visit may just be bad timing. Not too long after I arrive and without saying a word, I head out of the store, hop onto my bike and ride back home reluctantly empty-handed.
is located at 11223 1/2 Magnolia Boulevard in the NoHo Arts District. Business hours are Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.