Going gearless - Blog by Pradyumna

I was left really saddened when my time with the sidewinder was over and I had to give the bike to TBA. I was beginning to enjoy winning it over. It came after a few trials, but I learnt some more of myself and how the sidewinder behaves while riding it.

For a whole week, I had loads of fixie fun; first learning how to ride the sidewinder and then getting a feel of the bike. I began slowly but then trusted myself not to rely on brakes for stopping, and in a parking lot, in about 3 hours or so had cracked skid-stops and track stands 101. That cracking did not come easy but felt thrilling when I did it over and over again. I had to perfect it, I couldn’t stop trying. I did try J-turns but the backward bit proved tricky, and fear of scrapping the bike's bright-yellow paint hung around like a bad dream. That’s for another day.

When I first saw the ASTR sidewinder, I immediately wanted it. The bright-yellow frame, an unusual colour for most bikes, but looked really flashy and eye-catching. I haven’t seen cycle with those colours but it wasn’t weird or strange for the ASTR. The metallic dark-red rims perfectly complimented the frame. The chrome fork and seat post went extremely well with the entire bike, and the white tyres wrapped up the entire package.

I have tried out fixies before, so when Krish offered me a fixie I was advised caution by the parents and spent a day before with another fixie, to get used to the entire “fixie” idea.

It was a good bike; I could see why people said fixies were fun.

The next day though, when I got the sidewinder, it was a completely different story. The sidewinder wasn’t fun to ride - it was a complete joy.

The first thing I noticed was that the frame geometry was quite comfortable; I nearly had my toes lopped off the day before, on another fixie, due to the fact that the front wheel would clip my foot whenever it was at the 3 o’clock position and I was turning. I was relieved to find that the leading front wheel on the sidewinder was at a comfortable length away from my toes. The seating position on the sidewinder also allowed me to look up at the road while riding, which makes the sidewinder a very comfortable bike to ride (and also helps the rider not ride into trucks or buses or auto rickshaws).

I went on a short trip the next day, to the University of Hyderabad, and found the bike not just comfortable, it was quite fast too. I found myself keeping up comfortably with the Hero Honda and Activa-type kitchen appliances that were puttering around the smooth roads in the area.

I stopped many times to take photographs and found myself thinking that the bike really, really looked good. This liking just kept crawling all over slowly I hadn’t noticed it before.

I hadn’t taken notice of the sidewinder’s looks in detail before, but when I took pictures from different angles, I realised the bike was photogenic to boot.

On the following Thursday – and, two days since I had the bike - I woke up early in the morning and rode to a nearby temple. Not a bad place, I thought, to take some more pictures.

To get to the temple though, I had to navigate first through a compacted-sand surface, then over bad, rocky road, then through slippery sand, over loose pebbles, then through a fast stretch of good road, and then keep the temple in your sights. Then one final slippery stretch and you are there.

I thought all this was sure going to be a nightmare. The thin tyres of the bike would not catch on such surfaces and I would have a rather tough time.

Surprise! The sidewinder was surely tested but performed tops in these conditions. The fixed gear really helped negotiate the pebbles and the sand and all that mud.

Quoting Premium Rush, “I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either.” A fixie can stop. Fact. And from what I experienced, it can stop much better than a regular bike with a freewheel. You have much more control with a fixie. For the record and those who need it, and also for legal reasons, there are two shiny levers that connect through cables to the front and rear, and offer oodles of conventional stopping power with loads of feel (the mongoose, Maurice rider, looked longingly at the brakes and attempted to steal them too).

After the last ride, I felt even more confident and could bring the bike to a complete stop using only the brakes, except in cases where I had to stop immediately (even then the brakes were effective).

Finally, a day before I had to return the bike, I was riding around in the parking lot downstairs. I tried one of those ‘skid-stops’. Once I was convinced that I could do it well, I began doing them at higher speeds, which resulted in ‘skip stops’, rather than skid stops. I had discovered something new with the sidewinder. This was turning out to be a lot more fun than I thought possible. The bike just kept pushing me to keep trying something, there’s a lot to learn from riding it constantly.

By the time I was done with the last ride on the sidewinder, it felt like I had been riding fixies for years. I believe I even hit 50 kmph on a flat stretch (quite fast for someone like me who rides a Trek 3700).

Getting back to a single-speed (on the Mongoose Maurice) the next day to go to school felt really awkward. Before every speed breaker, I tried to pedal backwards, only to find myself going at the same pace towards a rapidly approaching speed bump.

I know that my next cycle will be yellow, with red rims, white tyres and a chrome fork and seat post.