A lot of people like riding bikes. Some people like riding bikes without gears.
Dir. Alex Viriato, 2012, 40 min, Viewed via Netflix Instant
With the possible exception of the practitioners of wizard rock, I don’t think I’ve encountered a more specific subculture than the one at the center of Fixation. Quite wisely on the part of the filmmakers, the movie is rather brief. I don’t think that it could have sustained itself had it tried to extend to feature length. Instead, it comes, shows you what it’s like for the people who participate in this activity, and goes. Quick, clean, interesting and informative. It’s nothing special, but there’s a place in the world for movies like this.
The doc follows people who really love riding fixed-gear bicycles. In case you don’t know, those are basically what bikes are with none of the fancy added-on stuff. They can’t coast or change speeds. Some of them don’t even have brakes. This lends itself to a much different riding experience than you’ll get with a normal bike. It allows for a degree of control that grants a great deal of freedom to the biker. In urban environments, one can get a rush that’s not quite like any other way of movement.
The film visits communities of fixed-gear enthusiasts in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities. Within this subculture, sorts of sub-subcultures have also formed, such as different sports performed on bike. It’s the flexibility of the fixed-gear that allows for such developments. The various riders all speak of the bike as giving them almost a way to express themselves artistically. They have a level of emotional involvement in their sport that helps make the doc involving.
Any movie about speed lives or dies on how well it can capture speed, and Fixation does that extremely well. There are several biking sequences in the film, and they look pretty spectacular. There’s an exhilaration to following a biker as he threads his way through traffic at high velocity, inhabiting a blissful world of power with minimal machinery. I haven’t biked in a while, and it almost made me want to hop back in a seat and take a ride.
Fixation is short and sweet and ephemeral. I watched it because I was drained from a long day and didn’t want to watch something that would tax my mind too much, but it proved a cool diversion. And again, there is a place for movies like that.