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The Track Bike Enters Its Ironic Phase

A bicycle on a BART train with paper applied to the spokes of the rear wheel
Paper Wheel. Photo by Adam Polakoff.

Recently spotted on BART was this track bike with an ersatz disc rear wheel. Mismatched wheels have long been a staple of fixie style, particularly when one of the wheels is an expensive piece of racing hardware (extra points for juxtaposing the expensive and the cheap).

Yet this track star thumbs his nose at the prevailing convention, choosing not a $500 racing disc wheel, but electing instead to cover a regular wheel with paper — and not stopping there, to cover the paper with graffiti-style art. And thus the fixie enters its ironic phase.

In other words, the two sides of San Francisco fixie culture — a surly DIY aesthetic and the fetishism of conspicuous consumption — have now bit each other in the ass: homage and mockery can no longer be distinguished.

Or can they? As Fredric Jameson put it in one of the longest questions ever written in English:

The enumeration of what follows, then, at once becomes empirical, chaotic, and heterogeneous: Andy Warhol and pop art, but also photorealism, and beyond it, the “new expressionism”; the moment, in music, of John Cage, but also the synthesis of classical and “popular” styles found in composers like Phil Glass and Terry Riley, and also punk and new wave rock (the Beatles and the Stones now standing as the high-modernist moment of that more recent and rapidly evolving tradition); in film, Godard, post-Godard, and experimental cinema and video, but also a whole new type of commercial film (about which more below); Burroughs, Pynchon, or Ishmael Reed, on the one hand, and the French nouveau roman and its succession, on the other, along with alarming new kinds of literary criticism based on some new aesthetic of textuality or écriture… the list might be extended indefinitely; but does it imply any more fundamental change or break than the periodic style and fashion changes determined by an older high-modernist imperative of stylistic innovation?

Afterthought: perhaps instead this paper wheel represents the merger of scraper bike and hipster culture.

This post originally appeared on sfist.com.

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