Oakland’s fixed-gear fixation
on October 10, 2010
Bicycles have long been ingrained in the Bay Area’s transportation culture, so it’s no surprise that fixed-gear bikes—single-gear bikes with no rear freewheel, making it impossible for the rider to coast—have found a home in Oakland.
While the bikes have a following on both sides of the bay, Oakland’s relatively flat terrain lends itself to fixed-gear bikes, or “fixies,” which lack lower gears for uphill treks. (Some fixie purists even forgo brakes, and come to a stop only by pedaling backwards against their own momentum. This would be a dance with death down San Francisco’s Lombard Street, but is perfectly manageable — or so the riders assert — along Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue.).
Picking up on the fixed-gear zeitgeist, in 2008 husband/wife team Sam Cunningham and MacKay Gibbs opened Manifesto Bicycles, a bike shop on 40th Street that sells fixed-gear bikes alongside the more familiar freewheeled kind. In spite of the slumping economy, Manifesto has thrived.
“We just took a risk and opened the shop,” Cunningham said. “We’ve been super busy.”
But Cunningham and Gibbs want Manifesto to be more than just a bike shop. Several times a year, the couple hosts a Sunday morning “Bike Church” at the store, inviting local musicians to perform as Manifesto’s customers and friends enjoy brunch on the sidewalk. The event is non-religious, but is meant to replicate the sense of fellowship Gibbs remembers from attending church as a child.
“The best part about church for me when I was growing up was after the service was over and everybody hangs out and talks and has coffee. And so I just wanted to have that kind of feeling on a Sunday morning—in relationship to bikes.”
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