Where are the fixed-gear bike riders?
Rohin Dhar explains:
At Priceonomics, in order to build our bicycle price guide, we measure what kind of used bikes people are trying to sell and the quantity sold in any city. By mining our database of 1.3 million bicycle listings, we can tell what are the largest markets for used bicycles, how the prices vary by region, and where people who prize fixed gear bikes live.
Fixies (fixed gear bikes) are considered to be a strong indicator of hipsterness. For those unfamiliar, a fixed gear bike requires riding in a single gear and the only way to stop the bike is to pedal backwards to help skid the bike to a halt. You can’t “coast” on a fixie; when you are biking downhill, your pedals will keep moving so you better keep pedaling too. Because of the minimalism of this fixed gear system, the bikes tend to be aesthetically pleasing but somewhat challenging to ride. . . .
In short, fixed gear bikes = hipsters, and New York boroughs that have more fixies per capita should have more hipsters per capita. We sampled our data to see the number of used bikes for sale per capita in each borough with the term “fixie” or “fixed gear” in the product title to create the Fixie Index.
To our surprise, fixies are nearly twice as popular in Manhattan than Brooklyn! Moreover, Manhattan is almost 20x more hipsters than the Bronx, and infinitely more so than Staten Island. One might argue that maybe bikes in general are just more popular in Manhattan than Brooklyn, and that’s why there are more fixies per capita there. In fact, the opposite is true. There are more bikes offered for sale in Brooklyn than Manhattan, but only 8.3% of them are fixies versus 9.5% in Manhattan. Of course, if you drilled down by neighborhood you could get a more nuanced picture, but sweeping generalizations are more fun!
Next, we apply this methodology on a national scale. Which cities are most hipster based on their affinity for fixed gear bikes?
Before we ran the numbers, we were pretty sure the answer would be Portland. San Franciscans (which we are) take a particular delight in being weird, but not being quite as weird as the people from Portland. This seemed like a great opportunity to point out “hey we like these impractical but cool bikes in San Francisco, but we haven’t taken it too far like those misguided folks out in Portland.”
Unfortunately the data did not comply with our desire to tease the people of Portland. . . .
Good stuff. Data! I just have one comment. I’ve never actually ridden a fixed-gear bike (the closest to it was a bike I rode as a kid that had no rachet, so it was sort of like a fixie but when you pedaled backward it would engage a brake. But it was fixie-lke in that you couldn’t just coast on it), but it’s my understanding that fixed-gear bikes can have hand brakes.