I was walking through the Jean-Talon market some months ago with archaeologist daughter (AD). We noticed quite a few very chic couples, slim, speaking Parisian French, precisely dressed in that paradoxically fussed-over, “I don’t care about clothing” look, and carrying babies in those front-facing knapsacks we used to call “snugglies” (usually the men are doing the carrying in the best traditions of modern feminism). AD turned to me and said, “Babies….the new urban hipster scarf”. She has a wicked sense of humor, and I started laughing uncontrollably at the metaphor.

I was reminded of that today when someone sent me a link to a custom bike builder in New York named Bertelli.

Some of the most beautiful minimalist bikes I’ve ever seen. And the frameset colors are nothing short of spectacular in their muted and understated beauty.

But if you’re a long-time veteran bike rider and have ridden many different frame geometries and “groupos” (cranks, handlebars, etc.), you will quickly realize that these must also be some of the most absolutely uncomfortable things to ride for anything more that 15-20 minutes. I rode fixed-gear track bikes for two seasons in the 1980’s at the Olympic velodrome; they’re very fast, and loads of fun….for a little while. But now “fixies” – bikes with only one gear and no freewheel, so that you can’t stop pedaling – with track geometries, have become the urban hipster gold-standard; there’s even an international magazine out of France called Fixé, which celebrates fixie-culture.

While I can see their utility in urban environments where distances are short and maneuverability is critical, the lack of brakes makes them crazy dangerous, and the lack of gears makes sustained hill-climbs a nightmare. Not to mention that any ride over an hour will absolutely kill your hands, butt, and back because of the brutally sharp frame geometry.

Ahhh, to be young again and be willing to suffer the indignities of style for the sake of fashion and looks.