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OUGD503 - Studio Brief 1 - Collaborative Practice - IOS7 & Application Aesthetics Research

I assumed that the best place to start when looking at the aesthetic elements of IOS7 was apple's website, and even when filtering out excessive sales pitches throughout, left some good information on the foundations of it.








video

I thought I'd document some practical use on my own iPhone 5, from the lock screen to the unlocking screen, an opaque sheet of white slides over the screen more and more until the screen has switched, this blurs out the background wallpaper and gives a sense of a new dimension on top of the screen.






The tool bar at the bottom of the screen has this same effect behind it to separate it from the rest of the apps.





When you start up an updated IOS7 app, the first thing you see on all of them is a landing page, this will either consist of a high resolution photo with a logo on top or just a logo, this works as a gateway to the app whilst it loads properly. Here are some examples:











This is a good example of an IOS7 application taking advantage of the whole phone's screen and not filling it with buttons and toolbars (Authentic Weather). This is really stripping back the IOS as we knew it which is a huge benefit to the system and usability. Every page you get to from here has to be swiped to, from the top, either side or bottom.



Top.





Bottom.







Left.







Right.







More and more apps are following this rule of swiping as methods of navigation to fit in with the new IOS7 but also to take advantage of the whole screen for legibility and ease of use. If we were to design an application for IOS7 we would have to keep these elements in mind to allow it to flow more naturally with the OS.


An Ambient, Environment-Sensitive UI

The big focus on today’s unveiling was the apparent simplicity of the apps and icons. But for all the simplicity, the most telling element of the new UI is its complex adaptability to external environmental conditions.
The biggest—and perhaps most elegant—element of the new system is its responsivity. For example, iOS 7 uses the accelerometer to adapt the screen in parallax, achieving those new sorts of depth Ive mentioned. And using the phone’s light meter, it seems that the new icons and background adapt to the lighting to improve readability automatically—a bit like the previous iOS' ability to adapt screen brightness to environmental conditions.
Another nice responsive detail? The text and line color of the control panel change according to the color of your home screen image. And, finally, the time and weather seem to appear accurately on the app icons. Goodbye to the endless sunny-and-72-degree days.

Layering and Depth

The details of the icons and apps are certainly simpler than they are today. But the visual ecology they exist within is far more complex. How? Well, first of all, icons and text aren’t siloed into individual icon buttons or bars. Very often, Ive’s Helvetica Neue Ultra Light type appears directly on the screen. That seems like it’d be simpler—but it’s actually a bigger graphical challenge to orient users to text that's floating in space, rather than text anchored by buttons.
The screen itself was presented as a dense layering of image effects, too. In an exploded axonometric view, we saw a crisp clear background serve as a foundation for a middle layer—the apps—topped off with an elegant blurred panel that serves as a background for the control center. We can glean something about the future of iOS in the use of layers. Rather than treating the homescreen and apps as unique, 3D spaces, iOS 7 uses layering to provide context, instead. It's a bit like Google Now, in a way. Rather than treating the UI as an architectural metaphor, it's treated as a series of layers, or cards.

The Typeface

Say hello the Helvetica Neue Ultra Light, a slimmer variant of iOS' standard Helvetica Neue. Neue was designed nearly three decades after the original Helvetica. It was redesigned because its early translation into pixels left much to be desired—for example, the italicized version was hastily slanted from the original, and the kerning and widths were irregular and disorganized.
So, in 1983, Linotype commissioned an update for the digital age. The width system was standardized, the curves were redrawn and cleaned up, and even things like punctuation were rejiggered for digital viewing. In a way, Helvetica Neue, and its variant Ultra Light, was one of the first classic typefaces of the computerized era. As a typeface for iOS, it couldn’t make more sense: seen on the sparse banner for today’s conference, the light iteration of Neue looks elegant and clean.
But the increased use of Ultra Light is something of a risk. In many contexts, Ultra Light becomes unreadable—and without the frame and background that all iOS text once lay against, it runs the risk of becoming meek and fragile. It’s certainly beautiful on blurred backgrounds—but if users decide to use a louder, crisper background, it could become problematic.

The Stock Apps

The new icons, just as we imagined, have lost much of of the reflectivity and depth of the old. The figures themselves have been given an update too: a rainbow-hued palette, and black-and-white backgrounds, make for a lovely little set of icons. There's also a set of wire-frame-esque icons that appear on the blurred, layered background of the lock screen.
Like the new typeface, the icons seem to borrow a bit from a golden age of signage and typography design: the 1930s (and later, the 1970s), when an Austrian designer named Gerd Arntz and his partner, Otto Neurath, developed a visual language of pictograms called Isotype. Their language was intended to transcend traditional language barriers using typographic symbols.
What does this have to do with the iOS 7 icons? Well, the original iOS icons borrowed their rounded edges and simple icons from pictograms—a heritage that's been muddied by increasingly realistic details. By eschewing real-world visual cues for simpler icons, Apple is returning to its roots in pictograms and Isotype. In a way, we can understand this as Ive integrating a rich history of pictogram design into Apple’s design language.
With all of these elements surrounding IOS7 there's only one way to keep it looking as appealing as the operating system itself at the same time as working as successfully and that is to take the above on.

I thought to look into the history of isotype and review whether it should be an element we bring into our own application.

Isotype (International System of TYpographic Picture Education) is a method of showing social, technological, biological and historical connections in pictorial form. It was first known as the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics (Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik), due to its having been developed at the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum in Wien (Social and economic museum of Vienna) between 1925 and 1934. The founding director of this museum, Otto Neurath, was the initiator and chief theorist of the Vienna Method. The term Isotype was applied to the method around 1935, after its key practitioners were forced to leave Vienna by the rise of Austrian fascism.

Origin and development

The Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum was principally financed by the social democratic municipality of Vienna, which was effectively a separate state (known as Red Vienna) within the new republic of Austria. An essential task of the museum was to inform the Viennese about their city. Neurath stated that the museum was not a treasure chest of rare objects, but a teaching museum. The aim was to “represent social facts pictorially” and to bring “dead statistics” to life by making them visually attractive and memorable. One of the museum’s catch-phrases was: “To remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures”. The principal instruments of the Vienna Method were pictorial charts, which could be produced in multiple copies and serve both permanent and travelling exhibitions. The museum also innovated with interactive models and other attention-grabbing devices, and there were even some early experiments with animated films.
From its beginning the Vienna Method/Isotype was the work of a team. Neurath built up a kind of prototype for an interdisciplinary graphic design agency. In 1926 he encountered woodcut prints by the German artist Gerd Arntz and invited him to collaborate with the museum. Arntz moved to Vienna in 1929 and took up a full-time position there. His simplified graphic style benefited the design of repeatable pictograms that were integral to Isotype. The influence of these pictograms on today’s information graphics is immediately apparent, although perhaps not yet fully recognized.
A central task in Isotype was the “transformation” of complex source information into a sketch for a self-explanatory chart. The principal “transformer” from the beginning was Marie Reidemeister (who became Marie Neurath in 1941).
A defining project of the first phase of Isotype (then still known as the Vienna Method) was the monumental collection of 100 statistical charts, Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft (1930).

Principles

The first rule of Isotype is that greater quantities are not represented by an enlarged pictogram but by a greater number of the same-sized pictogram. In Neurath’s view, variation in size does not allow accurate comparison (what is to be compared – height/length or area?) whereas repeated pictograms, which always represent a fixed value within a certain chart, can be counted if necessary. Isotype pictograms almost never depicted things in perspective in order to preserve this clarity, and there were other guidelines for graphic configuration and use of colour. The best exposition of Isotype technique remains Otto Neurath’s book International picture language (1936).
“Visual education” was always the prime motive behind Isotype, which was worked out in exhibitions and books designed to inform ordinary citizens (including schoolchildren) about their place in the world. It was never intended to replace verbal language; it was a “helping language” always accompanied by verbal elements. Otto Neurath realized that it could never be a fully developed language, so instead he called it a “language-like technique”.

Diffusion and adaptation

As more requests came to the Vienna museum from abroad, a partner institute called Mundaneum (a name adopted from an abortive collaboration with Paul Otlet) was established in 1931/2 to promote international work. It formed branches containing small exhibitions in Berlin, The Hague, London and New York. Members of the Vienna team travelled periodically to the Soviet Union during the early 1930s in order to help set up the 'All-union institute of pictorial statistics of Soviet construction and economy' (Всесоюзный институт изобразительной статистики советского строительства и хозяйства), commonly abbreviated to IZOSTAT (ИЗОСТАТ), which produced statistical graphics about the Five Year Plans, among other things.
After the closure of the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum in 1934 Neurath, Reidemeister and Arntz fled to the Netherlands, where they set up the International Foundation for Visual Education in The Hague. During the 1930s significant commissions were received from the USA, including a series of mass-produced charts for the National Tuberculosis Association and Otto Neurath’s book Modern man in the making (1939), a high point of Isotype on which he, Reidemeister and Arntz worked in close collaboration.
Otto & Marie Neurath fled from German invasion to England, where they established the Isotype Institute in 1942. In Britain Isotype was applied to wartime publications sponsored by the Ministry of Information and to documentary films produced by Paul Rotha. After Otto Neurath’s death in 1945, Marie Neurath and her collaborators continued to apply Isotype to tasks of representing many kinds of complex information, especially in popular science books for young readers. A real test of the international ambitions of Isotype, as Marie Neurath saw it, was the project to design information for civic education, election praocedure and economic development in the Western Region of Nigeria in the 1950s.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotype_(picture_language)

OUGD503 - Studio Brief 1 - Collaborative Practice - Dominos Pizza Research

Domino's Pizza is recognised as the world's leading pizza delivery company. Our expertise and passion for delivering hot and fresh pizzas has earned us numerous awards and the loyalty of millions of pizza lovers around the world.
Domino's Pizza UK and Ireland Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Domino's Pizza Group plc ("DPG") which is quoted on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. DPG is the UK and Ireland's leading pizza delivery company and holds the master franchise to own, operate and franchise Domino's Pizza stores in these markets.
Our first UK store opened in 1985 and the first Irish store opened in 1991. In April 2011, the company gained exclusive rights to own, operate and franchise Domino's Pizza stores in Germany and in September 2012 the company acquired the master franchise for Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein and has an option to open stores in Austria prior to the end of 2014. 
Over 25,000 team members work in our UK and Irish stores and in a range of support functions ranging from marketing, IT and training to fresh dough production at our three supply chain centres in Milton Keynes, Penrith and Naas, Ireland. Our stores are owned by franchisees who are responsible for delivering our brand's high standards to customers.
At Domino's Pizza, our mission is to be the best pizza delivery company in the world. Our culture is best summed up in a chant that's sung in our stores: "Sell More Pizza, Have More Fun!".
Our priorities are to:
  • recruit, recognise and retain the best people
  • deliver consistently high quality food on time
  • take great care of our customers
  • innovate in ways that matter to our team members and customers
  • ensure high image standards at our stores
  • treat others how we'd like to be treated
  • take time out to enjoy ourselves
Domino's Pizza recognises that its day to day operations impact the environment. The Company is committed to delivering great tasting, hot pizzas and will aim for continuous improvement in all aspects of its environmental performance, while continuing to deliver a great service to its customers.
Domino's Pizza is committed to monitoring its carbon emissions. It has already implemented a number of projects, which have reduced its carbon emissions and has further projects in progress and planned. It will continue to put in place projects to reduce its carbon footprint.
Domino's Pizza Group has an internal environment group whose purpose is to investigate ways of reducing carbon emissions and implementing these wherever possible.

The promotional visuals for Dominos Two For Tuesday's campaign are quite poor in regards to aesthetically values and do not sell the product well in consideration to the offer.





Looking at other ways to package pizza I came across these:




The brief asks us to fix dominos ownership of tuesdays however from my research, I can't find any attempts at marketing or advertising it further than their own website. This is a huge reason i think why they do not possess the entire ownership as of yet.

OUGD505 - Studio Brief 1 - Extended Research

BÖIKZMÖIND - A Film About Bicycles, Not A Bicycle Film

BÖIKZMÖIND is a 30 minute documentary film about riding fixed gear bikes in beautiful Bristol. The film shows the diverse cross section of riders and asks why ride bikes with no gears in a city full of hills.


Shot in Bristol and made on a shoe string budget, the film shows what's possible when like-minded people with a passion for two wheels come together.




Fixed Gear Bicycles:

The oldest and simplest type of bicycle is the "fixed-gear" bicycle. This is a single-speed bike without a freewheel: that is, whenever the bike is in motion, the pedals will go around. You cannot coast on a fixed-gear machine.

Many enthusiastic cyclists ride such bicycles by choice, at least part of the time. Why would anybody do that? It is not easy to put into words. There is an almost mystical connection between a fixed-gear cyclist and bicycle: it feels like an extension of your body to a greater extent than does a freewheel-equipped machine. If you are an enthusiastic, vigorous cyclist, you really should give it a try.
There are many reasons, including: Fun, Fitness, Form, Feel & 'Ficciency!

Fixed for Fun
It takes a bit of practice to become comfortable on a fixed gear. Most cyclists, trying it for the first time, will automatically try to coast once the bike gets up to a certain speed. The bike will not allow this, and it is disconcerting. It takes a couple of weeks of regular riding to unlearn the impulse to coast, and become at ease on a fixed gear.
It is worth going through this learning experience, however, because once you do so, you will discover a new joy in cycling. When you ride a fixed gear, you feel a closer communion with your bike and with the road. There is a purity and simplicity to the fixed-gear bicycle that can be quite seductive. Somehow, once you get past the unfamiliarity, it is just more fun than riding a bike with gears and a freewheel! If you won't take my word for it, read some Fixed-Gear Testimonials.

Fixed for Fitness and Form
Riding a fixed gear on the road is excellent exercise. When you need to climb, you don't need to think about when to change gears, because you don't have that option. Instead, you know that you must just stand up and pedal, even though the gear is too high for maximum climbing efficiency. This makes you stronger.
If you have the option of gearing down and taking a hill at a slow pace, it is easy to yield to the temptation. When you ride a fixed gear, the need to push hard to get up the hills forces you to ride at a higher intensity than you otherwise might. Really steep hills may make you get off and walk, but the hills you are able to climb, you will climb substantially faster than you would on a geared bicycle.
When you descend, you can't coast, but the gear is too low. This forces you to pedal at a fastercadence than you would choose on a multi-speed bicycle. High-cadence pedaling improves the suppleness of your legs. High rpm's force you to learn to pedal in a smooth manner -- if you don't, you will bounce up and down in the saddle.
Most cyclists coast far too much. Riding a fixed-gear bike will break this pernicious habit. Coasting breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up. Keeping your legs in motion keeps the muscles supple, and promotes good circulation.

Fixed for Feel
A fixed gear gives you a very direct feel for traction conditions on slippery surfaces. This makes a fixed gear particularly suitable for riding in rainy or icy conditions.
This same feel for traction will help you learn exactly how hard you can apply your front brake without quite lifting the rear off the ground. Most fixed-gear riders only use a front brake--a rear brake is quite unnecessary on a fixed-gear machine.
Because you are more solidly connected to the bike, you have better control of it in bumpy conditions or in difficult corners.
On any road bike, the rider must learn to un-weight the saddle to ride over bumps. Most cyclists coast to do this. A fixed-gear rider will learn to "post" over bumps without breaking stride.

Fixed for (e)Fficiency
A fixed-gear bike is considerably lighter than a multi-speed bike of comparable quality, due to the absence of the rear brake, derailers, shift levers, and extra sprockets. A fixed-gear bike also has a substantially shorter chain.
A properly set-up fixed gear has a perfectly straight chainline. This, plus the absence of derailerpulleys, makes a real improvement in the drive-train efficiency, an improvement you can feel.

Track Bicycles
Many people think of fixed-gear bikes and track bikes as synonymous, but they aren't.
Track bicycles are designed for use on velodromes (bicycle tracks). Some riders do ride them on the road, but they are less than ideal for road use.
Track bicycles are set apart from road bicycles by more than the fixed gear.
Track bicycles do not have brakes. Brakes are unnecessary on tracks, since everybody is moving in the same direction, and none of the other cyclists you are riding with can stop any faster than you can. (Most tracks forbid the use of bikes that have brakes, as a safety measure!)
It is possible to fit a brake to some track bikes, but it is often quite difficult, due to the extremely tight frame clearances. Extremely short-reach brakes are needed. Track bike fork blades are usually round instead of oval, as those of a road bike are. This makes them stiffer and more rigid laterally, a good thing for hard out-of-the-saddle sprinting, which can apply considerable side loads. Unfortunately, they are less rigid front-to-back, so if you fit a brake, the fork may flex objectionably when the brake is applied.
The frame geometry of a track bike is also different from that of a road bike. Since tracks don't have bumps or potholes, they are built stiffer, with more-upright frame angles. This is good for maneuverability, but causes them to ride harshly on real-world pavement.
In addition, track bikes have very tight tire clearance, since there is no reason to use any but the narrowest tires on the track. This can limit your choices for on-road use.
Track bikes don't have quick-release wheels, making it harder to fix a flat on the road.
Track bikes don't permit the mounting of fenders, limiting their usefulness in sloppy conditions.
Some riders do prefer to ride track bikes on the road, especially those who are or were into track racing, and have become used to the feel of a track bike. Track-bike riding has attained cult status in New York City, in particular.
If you're interested in track racing, check out Mike Gladu's "The 'drome" site
Fixed-Gear Road Bicycles
Despite the coolness factor of true track bikes, a fixed-gear road bicycle is what I would recommend for the road cyclist in search of the benefits of fixed-gear riding.
This would typically be an older road bike, modified into a fixed-gear machine. Most older "ten-speeds" are good candidates for this sort of modification.
These bikes have the appropriate geometry for comfortable road riding, come with brakes, quick-release wheels, fender clearance, sometimes even water-bottle braze-ons.
You could buy a ready-made fixed-gear road bike, but I have a detailed article on Fixed Gear Conversions that will help you build your own.

Drivetrain
1/8" or 3/32" Chain?
Many track bicycles use a wider chain than is common on multi-speed bicycles. Derailer-type chain has a nominal internal width of 3/32". Single-speed bicycles, including most track bicycles, use the wider 1/8" size. You can buy fixed-gear sprockets in both sizes.
(Some people mistakenly refer to the width as "pitch", speaking of "road pitch" or "track pitch". This is an error. The pitch is the center-to-center distance between the rollers, and all modern bicycle chain has the same pitch, 1/2"/12.7 mm.)
I would generally advise using the 3/32" (derailer) size. It is lighter, more compatible with your existing chainwheels, and likely to run smoother if the chainline is less than perfect, due to beveled side plates. In my experience, 3/32" chain is no less durable or reliable than 1/8".
For the true retro fan, another option is 1" x 3/16" chain. This used to be common on track bikes. This requires special sprockets with only half as many teeth as standard 1/2" pitch sprockets. Serious old-time trackies used "block" chain, which had no rollers. This is no longer available. Roller chain is still sometimes findable in this size.
Even more obscure is the 10 mm pitch chain promoted by Shimano a few years back. The idea was to save weight by making everything littler. An idea whose time never came.
Chain/Sprocket Life Extension
If you want to get the maximum life from your chain and sprockets, select even-numbered sizes when possible. See my Chain Life Extension Article.

Centering Chainwheels
The chain tension on a fixed gear is quite critical, and is regulated by moving the rear axle back and forth in the forkends. If the chain is too tight, the drivetrain will bind, perhaps only at one angle of the pedals (chainwheels are not usually perfectly concentric). It should be tight as it can be without binding. If the chain is too loose, it can fall off, which is quite dangerous on a fixed gear.
Set the rear axle so that the chain pulls taut at the tightest part of the cranks' rotation. One at a time, loosen up each of the stack bolts, and tighten it back just finger tight. Spin the crank slowly and watch for the chain to get to its tightest point. Strike the taut chain lightly with a convenient tool to make the chain ring move a bit on its spider. Then rotate the crank some more, finding the new tightest spot, and repeat as necessary.
This takes a little bit of your hands' learning how hard to hit the chain, and how loose to set the stack bolts, but it is really quite easy to learn.
Tighten up the stack bolts a bit and re-check. Tighten the stack bolts in a regular pattern, like the lug nuts on a car wheel. My standard pattern is to start by tightening the bolt opposite the crank, then move clockwise 2 bolts (144 degrees), tighten that one, clockwise 2 more, and so on. Never tighten two neighboring bolts in a row. You may prefer to go counterclockwise, but try to get in the habit of always starting at the same place and always going the same way. This reduces the chances of accidentally missing a bolt.
Once you have the chainrings centered and secured, adjust the position of the rear axle to make the chain as nearly tight as possible without binding. Notice how freely the drive train turns when the chain is too loose. That is how freely it should turn when you are done, but with as little chain droop as possible.

Rear Wheel Installation
When your install the rear wheel on a fixed-gear bicycle -- or any bicycle which has only a chainwheel and sprocket, no additional pulleys --, there are basically three things you need to adjust simultaneously:
   The wheel needs to be straight.This basically means that the tire needs to be centered between the frame's chainstays. If it is properly dished, and you get it centered between the chainstays, it is properly aligned.
   The chain tension needs to be correct. (See previous section )
   The axle nuts or quick release skewer need to be tight.Note: if you have a nutted axle, it is vitally important that the threads be properly lubricatedwith grease or oil. You should also have grease or oil on the contact surface where the axle nut presses against the washer that contacts the frame.
Some folks who are used to derailer bikes find wheel installation frustrating, especially with a nutted hub. This is usually because they don't know the technique of "walking" the wheel back and forth in the fork ends.
Start by installing the wheel at approximately the correct position and tightening the axle nuts. They don't need to be super tight at this stage, but should more than finger tight. Check the chain tension and wheel alignment.
Most likely, the chain will be a bit loose, but perhaps the wheel is correctly aligned. Loosen one of the axle nuts and push the tire to the side so that the loose side of the axle moves to the rear, then tighten the axle nut you loosened.
Now the chain tension should be better, but the wheel is no longer centered between the chainstays. Loosen the other axle nut and re-center the wheel in the frame. This will actually tighten the chain a little bit more.
The key is to keep one or the other of the axle nuts tight at all times, and "walk" the wheel forward and back.
This takes a bit of practice and getting used to how much axle movement is needed to adjust a given amount of chain droop, but it isn't really hard as long as you keep one side secured at all times.
[I like to leave the right-side axle nut a bit loose, get the chain a bit too tight, and tap the chain with the wrench as Sheldon describes for centering chainwheels. This way, I can move the rear wheel forward just the tiny bit needed to make the chain run smoothly. The wheel will then be skewed, and I need to readjust the left end of the axle, but this has little effect on the chain. -- John Allen]
Note, this technique doesn't work with a quick release hub, but those are generally easier anyway.

Gearing
Gear choice for a fixed gear is a very personal matter, and will depend on your style, your goals, and the terrain you ride in.
I live in New England, with small rolling hills. For a bike with normal road-type wheels and 165 mm cranks, I find that 42/15 suits me best. This gives a gain ratio of 5.77 (75.6" / 6.05 m gear). This is low enough that I can make it up the hills where I usually ride, but high enough that I can go reasonably fast down the other side.
Racers using a fixed gear for winter training usually like a considerably lower gear to improve their spinning technique.
Those who live in the flatlands will likely prefer something substantially higher. When I visit my sister in Illinois, I flip my wheel around so that I can use the 42/14, a gain ratio of 6.18 (81.0" / 6.48 m).
Generally, the higher the gear, the more fun the ride, as long as your gear is low enough to let you climb the steepest hill you need to climb.
Time-trialists often prefer something higher yet. (Many British time-trialists prefer a fixed gear for these road events.) Beryl Burton, probably the greatest time-trialist in history, used a fixed gear almost exclusively. If I recall correctly, she usually ran a 52/14 or 52/13!
The higher your gear, the more desirable it is to have a brake on your bike. There are two reasons for this:
   Just as a low gear lets you apply a higher forward force to the tire for hill climbing, a low gear also allows a greater resistant force at the tire for the same amount of leg effort.
   The lower your gear, the lower your maximum speed will be, and if you're not going so fast you don't need as powerful a brake.
If you plan to do skip stops on a regular basis, you might also consider the number of skid patchesyour chosen gear ratio will create.

Big or Small?
Once you have decided on your gear ratio, then there's the question of which of several different equivalent sprocket/chainring combinations to use.
For instance, 36/12, 39/13, 42/14, 45/15 and 48/16 all give the same 3:1 ratio. Which to choose?

Bigger
Smaller
Good:
   Slightly less friction
   Longer chain/sprocket life
   Less chain tension
   Slightly lighter
   More log-jumping clearance
   More chainstay clearance
Bad:
   Slightly heavier
   Chainstay clearance may be a problem on some frames
   Rapid chain/sprocket wear
   Greater chain tension (increased likelihood of the axle's slipping in the frame)

These differences are mostly pretty minor. Most riders will be best served by a chainring somewhere in the 30s for technical off-road use, 40s for road or bike-path use, low 50s for track use.
Since 42-tooth rings are very commonly available on road cranksets, this size is particularly popular for conversions.
If you use a flip/flop hub, running smaller sizes gives you a bigger gearing difference for each tooth difference on the flip flop.

Flip-Flop Hubs
Many fixed-gear bikes are equipped with "flip-flop" hubs, designed to accept sprockets on either side. These permit a choice of two different gears by removing the rear wheel and turning it around.
The most common use for a flip-flop hub is to have a fixed sprocket on one side, and a single-speed freewheel on the other side. Usually the freewheel will be 1 or 2 teeth larger than the fixed sprocket.
The idea is that, most of the time you would ride the fixed gear, but if you found your self far from home and getting tired, or were in unusually hilly terrain, you would turn the wheel around and use the freewheel. This helps two ways:
   The lower gear will make it easier to climb the hills.
   The freewheel will let you rest (coast) on the descents (which could be painful with the lower gear if it were fixed.)
For each tooth difference, the axle position in the forkend will change by 1/8" (3 mm.)
Also, you should have two brakes if you will be using a freewheel.
You can also use two different-sized fixed sprockets on a flip-flop hub. Generally I would recommend only a one-tooth difference in this case. I run 14 and 15 with a 42 front myself on a couple of my own bikes.
Most flip-flop hubs are only threaded for a lockring on one side, but the sprocket/freewheel thread is the same, so you can screw a fixed sprocket onto the freewheel side. I'd put the smaller sprocket on the side without the lockring, because it's less likely to come unscrewed.
There are double-fixed flip-flop hubs, and, to me, this is the most desirable configuration. This arrangement is the most versatile, because you can set it up either with 1 or 2 fixed sprockets, or 1 or 2 freewheels.
Any standard track hub can also be used with a single-speed freewheel just by leaving the lockring off. The thread is the same. Sometimes people worry because the hub thread isn't as deep as on a freewheel-specific hub, but this is never a problem with a single-speed freewheel.
For more on flip-flop hubs, see the section on fixed-gear mountain bikes.

BMX Flip-Flop Hubs
There's another type of "flip-flop" hub generally used for BMX applications. This type is threaded for two freewheels, no fixed gear. One side is the standard 1.375" thread, the other side is a smaller metric thread. This is designed to permit the use of smaller freewheels than will normally fit a full-sized hub, 14 & 15 teeth.

Pedals
The most important characteristic to look for in choosing pedals for a fixed-gear bike is good ground clearance. You should also choose pedals that are easy to get in and out of, because both operations are somewhat complicated by the motion of the pedals.
Generally, I recommend using whatever pedal/shoe system you are most used to. Getting used to fixed-gear riding is challenge enough without also trying to get used to a new pedal system at the same time!
When I used to use toe-clips and straps, I fit two toe straps to each pedal, partly because they help keep my feet in better alignment (since I don't use cleats) and partly for safety. Toe straps can get highly stressed on a fixed-gear bicycle, and if they break, unpleasant consequences may ensue.
Sometimes, novice fixed-gear riders will try to use plain pedals with no form of retention system. I strongly advise against this. Riding fixed with plain pedals is an advanced fixed-gear skill, only recommended for experienced fixed-gear riders.

Mounting Technique
Riding a fixed-gear bicycle requires proper mounting technique. Many cyclists have bad mounting habits, such as swinging the leg over on-the-fly, or starting up by shuffling their feet against the pavement. These techniques work even worse on a fixed-gear bicycle than they do on a freewheel machine.
Getting your first pedal into the proper forward-and-up position is a bit trickier with a fixed gear, since you can't just spin the pedals backward. The trick is to put your foot on the pedal, then lift the rear end of the bicycle up so that you can turn the pedals.
I used to lift the bicycle up by the edge of the saddle, but I damaged a Brooks Pro that way--the rivets that held the leather top to the saddle frame pulled out from being stressed in this unanticipated direction!
My friend Osman Isvan recently taught me a much better technique. The trick is to straddle the bike, put one foot on a pedal, lock up the front brake and press forward on the handlebars. The forward force on the bars will lift the rear wheel enough to let you revolve the pedal to where you want it.

Dismount Technique
You can dismount in the normal manner from a fixed-gear bicycle, but advanced fixed-gear riders might enjoy learning a special, very cool-looking dismount that can only be done from a fixed gear.
Instead of getting off to the side of the bicycle, the fixed-gear rider can go straight off the back. This technique works best if you ride with clips and straps, but if you are really proficient in disengaging from clipless pedals, try it at your own risk.
As the bicycle slows to near walking speed, disengage your left foot, then wait for the right pedal to get to the bottom of its circle. As the right pedal starts to rise, straighten your right leg and let the motion of the pedal lift you up. Let go of the handlebars, let the saddle move forward between your legs, and put your left foot on the ground. As the bike goes ahead, grab it by the saddle.
It takes a bit of courage to try this, but it is actually very easy to do. It is also extremely impressive to watch. When executed properly, it is very smooth, and you can go from riding to walking in a single fluid motion, without ever coming to a stop.

Braking
Some fixed-gear riders ride on the road without brakes. This is a bad idea. I know, I've tried it. If you do it, and have any sense of self-preservation at all, it will cause you to go much slower than you otherwise could, every time you go through an intersection, or pass a driveway. The need for constant extra vigilance takes a great deal of the fun out of cycling.
You really should have a front brake. A front brake, all by itself, will stop a bicycle as fast as it is possible to stop. This is true because when you are applying the front brake to the maximum, there is no weight on the rear wheel, so it has no traction.
One of the wonderful things about fixed-gear riding is that the direct feel you get for rear-wheel traction teaches you exactly how hard you can apply the front brake without quite lifting the rear wheel off of the ground.
This is a very valuable lesson for any cyclist who likes to go fast; it could save your life.
There is really no need for a rear brake on a fixed-gear bicycle. By applying back-pressure on the pedals, you can supply all the braking that the rear wheel really needs. In fact, it is fairly easy to lock up the rear wheel and make it skid, unless you are running a rather high gear.
Some fixed-gear fans make a point of not using their brake except in an emergency. I am not sure that this is a good idea. Heavy-duty resisting is widely reputed to be bad for your legs, and to be counterproductive for building up muscles and coordination for forward pedaling. Google for "eccentric contraction" for more on this topic. Eccentric contraction is reputed to cause micro-tears to your muscle tissue, so it actually weakens your muscles, unlike other forms of exercise.
This is a lot like car drivers who use their transmission and clutch to slow down, even though the car has a special set of parts made for the exact purpose of slowing down. Brake shoes are cheaper to replace when they wear out than clutches are.
[Exercise physiology is a relatively new science. Micro-tears in muscles are now known to initiate strengthening. Common muscle-building exercises -- weightlifting, pushups, sit-ups, Nautilus and Cybex machines, etc. use eccentric contraction -- you lift the barbell, or your body, or pull on a lever, then lower it down. But the number of repetitions in muscle-building exercises is much smaller than in cycling, typically only 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions, rather than thousands per hour of cycling. Hard resisting is probably a bad idea for the same reason as low cadence. High stress repeated too many times leads to overuse injury, and will deplete rather than build muscle. -- John Allen]

Skip Stops
Brakeless riders generally need to master a technique called the "skip stop." This is a way that you can actually lock up the rear wheel using your legs alone.
   If you lock one leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke, as the pedal rises it will start to lift your body upward.
   When the cranks get horizontal, pull up on the front pedal, while pushing down on the rear one.
   Because your body will have acquired upward momentum, when you yank up with the front foot this will temporarily partially unweight the rear wheel, making it possible to initiate a skid.
Since sliding friction is less than sticking friction, once the tire starts to skid, you will generally be able to maintain the skid until you've stopped or at least slowed down as much as you want to.
You have to really want to do it, you can't be tentative! It's easier when you're going faster.
The lower your gear , the more effectively you can "brake" by resisting with your legs.
Despite what some folks will tell you, you can not stop nearly as short this way as you can by using a good front brake.
See my article on Braking and Turning for a detailed explanation of this.

Skid Patches
If you make a habit of doing "skip stops" you will wear your rear tire out considerably faster than if you use your front brake. This problem is exacerbated by certain gear ratios, because you may tend to repeatedly skid on the same section of the tire.
Riders who plan to do a lot of skip stops should consider the ratio when selecting their chainring and rear sprocket. The mathematics of this is actually fairly simple:
   Simplify the gear ratio to the smallest equivalent whole number ratio.
   The denominator of the resulting fraction is the number of skid patches you will have on your rear tire.
Examples:
44/16 simplifies to 11/4, so there would be 4 skid patches.
45/15 simplifies to 3/1 so there would only be 1 skid patch.
42/15 simplifies to 14/5, so there would be 5 skid patches.
43/15 can't be further simplified, so there would be 15 skid patches.
This is based on the assumption that you always skid with the same foot forward.
If you are an ambidextrous skidder, and the simplified ratio has an even numerator or denominator, your number of skid patches will be the same.
If you are an ambidextrous skidder, and both the numerator and denominator are odd, the number of possible skid patches will be doubled.
[Isn't this brilliant! -- John Allen]

Fixed-gear dangers:
I should warn you that there are three dangers related to fixed-gear bicycles that are not a problem with freewheel bicycles. Used and maintained properly, fixed gear bicycles can be as safe as any, but you should be aware of the three danger areas:

Pedal Strike
It is never a good thing to strike your pedal on the ground while cornering tightly. On a freewheel bike, you can coast though the corners with your pedals horizontal, thus avoiding any chance of striking. On a fixed-gear machine, you don't have this option.
If you do bang a pedal on a fixed gear, the pedal can lift the rear wheel off the road, and down you will go. This has never happened to me, but it is something to bear in mind.
How much of a problem this is will depend on your bottom bracket height, crank length, and the design of your pedals.
Most of my fixed-gear bikes have 165 mm cranks,which give a bit more ground clearance than the 170 mm's usually used on road bikes. I also make a point of using pedals that don't stick out too far.
[Avoiding a pedal strike is one reason not to follow Sheldon's usual advice to keep the bicycle in line with your body when cornering hard. If you lean your upper body toward the inside of the turn, the bicycle will not steer as well, but on the other hand... -- John Allen]

Derailment and Wheel Lock
Throwing a chain on a freewheel bike is no big deal, but it can be very dangerous on with a fixed gear. If the chain comes off of the chainwheel, it can get hung up or even loop around the rear sprocket, and can cause the wheel to lock up. If this happens while you are leaned over in a turn, you will almost certainly crash.
This is prevented by making sure that your chainline is straight, and that your chain is adequately tight.

Catching Fingers, Trousers, Shoelaces
The other danger of fixed-gear bicycles is at its greatest when the bike is in a repair stand. If you hand-pedal it and then accidentally have a finger an article of clothing come into contact with the chain or a sprocket, the momentum of the wheel will keep the drive train rolling. You can lose a finger that way.

All above from Sheldon Brown.

Survey:

I circulated a survey around my friends who ride fixed and people on the Leeds Fixed Gear community's Facebook group to get some more information from orders themselves.

The questions were:

What to you are the advantages of a fixed gear bicycle?

Do you see any disadvantages of your fixed gear bicycle? If so, list them.

Did you build the bike yourself? Or did you buy a complete build?

Do you have any other bicycles? If so, what kind of bicycle do you ride more often and why?

How do you maintain your fixed gear bicycle and how often?

Have you ever competed in any fixed gear events? (Alley-cat races, bike polo, etc) If so, which ones?

After a few days I looked at the link and had 47 responses, which was fantastic news as it gave me enough data to work stuff out fairly.


Results:

1. What to you are the advantages of a fixed gear bicycle?

83 responses:

Low maintenance x 20 = 24%
Aesthetics x 19 = 23%
Fun x 9 = 11%
Fitness x 8 = 10%
Better connection x 6 = 7%
Better control x 6 = 7%
Reliable x 6 = 7%
Light x 4 = 5%
Fast x 3 = 4%
Customisable x 2 = 2%


2. Do you see any disadvantages of your fixed gear bicycle? If so, list them.

32% of people that took the survey said they saw no disadvantages but 68% did. The reasons people highlighted were:

41 responses:

Riding up steep hills x 14 = 36%
Riding down steep hills x 10 = 25%
Hard work/Effort x 4 = 10%
Dangerous to begin with x 3 = 7%
Can't stop easily x 3 = 7%
Being labelled as a hipster x 2 = 5%
Riding off-road is difficult x 2 = 5%
Cornering x 1 = 2%
Tires wear out easier x 1 = 2%
Bad for knees long term x 1 = 2%

3. Did you build the bike yourself? Or did you buy a complete build?

79% of people built the bike themselves, this really emphasises the quality people appreciate about being able to customise every part so that they have a unique bicycle that is perfect for them. 4 out of the 10 people that bought a complete bike have customised one or more parts to make it more personal.

4. Do you have any other bicycles? If so, what kind of bicycle do you ride more often and why?

Only 23% of people that responded to the survey only had a fixed gear. This highlights the amount of people that use a fixed gear as well as other bikes because of it's toning qualities which would benefit their cycling with other kinds of bicycle.

5. How do you maintain your fixed gear bicycle and how often?

The very basic stuff was listed that should of been, there were a few people who just don't maintain it at all and people that went a bit over the top but these were the general responses that tended to be weekly and monthly which is a good rate.

64 responses:

Clean x 12 = 19%
Lubricate chain x 20 = 31%
Pump tires x 11 = 17%
Tighten bolts x 21 = 33%

The survey has given me a really good set of real-life data from local riders which will prove useful in the writing of my publication.

 

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