Fellow listmembers, and most especially those across the pond,
I have a question regarding nomenclature. When describing bicycles that feature a rear cog threaded directly onto the hubshell, with no options for coasting, my understanding was that "fixed gear" was the American term, while "fixed wheel" and "fixed gear" were both used in the U.K. Recently, someone suggested on another site that "fixed wheel" refers to such machines, while "fixed gear" merely denotes a cycle with a single gear, and to use that term to describe machines that do not coast, etc., is incorrect.
Before anyone starts shouting, I'll note that yes, language changes. Certainly in the U.S., and for that matter in the U.K., "fixed gear" has been used pretty freely to describe our non-coasting obsessions. I dug through several vintage cycling books I have to gather more data, and this has been used for at least 50 years as a general term.
Submitted for your approval and as a topic for discussion are a selection of quotes garnered from assorted cycling tomes at my disposal. This is, admittedly, dissecting the language, but what do y'all think?
Russ Fitzgerald Greenwood, SC
"A fixed gear or fixed wheel describes the arrangement whereby the cog or sprocket is a single-toothed disc screwed directly onto the back wheel hub, thus becoming integral with the rear wheel." Nigel Spencer, The Art of Cycling, Thorsons Publishers, 1949, pp. 25-26
A typical machine for club riding is shown equipped with "a single fixed gear." Reginald Shaw, Cycling, Teach Yourself Books/English Universities Press, 1953, 1971, p.49
"Whilst there are many cyclists who prefer to ride a single gear, often a fixed one ..." R.J. Way, The Complete Cyclist, 1952, p. 31
\u201cThe most basic form of transmission is a single fixed gear \u2026 (comments on chain widths) \u2026 this last type is often used to drive a single fixed gear, too \u2026 it may seem odd, but it did teach us how to pedal.\u201d R.J. Way, The Bicycle: A Guide and Manual, Hamlyn Publishing Group, Ltd., 1973, p. 41 (In the same paragraph, Way refers to track sprinter's bikes, trade bicycles and hub gears using various chain widths)
\u201cThe type of light cycle that first gained popularity was fixed with a single moderate gear, used in conjunction with a fixed wheel \u2026 the fixed wheel, single-gear cycle has almost ceased to command any allegiance, outside the ranks of racing men.\u201d Harold Moore, The Complete Cyclist, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., 2nd ed. 1944, 1947 (1st ed 1935) pp. 21-22
\u201cA fixed wheel, which is a simple cog screwed solidly onto the rear hub, is not today a popular fitment with the normal run of riders, but its benefits should certainly be better understood.\u201d H.H. England, Cycling Manual, 23rd ed., Temple Press, 1954 (1st ed. 1917) p. 57 (This could be authoritative - who has an earlier copy of this book to consult?)
\u201cThe fact that single speed bicycles are sold in such colossal numbers indicates the highly satisfactory position which cycle design has reached \u2026\u201d p. 39 \u201cThe new B.S.A. Dual Purpose gear is a two-speed hub which can be used as a fixed drive or freewheel on either of the two speeds \u2026 ideal for the club cyclist who likes his fixed wheel on the level \u2026 \u201d pp. 59-60 F.J. Camm, Every Cyclist\u2019s Handbook, George Newnes Limited, 1936
\u201cLocking of the sprocket is effected by the left-hand threaded lock-nut \u2026 Sometimes a free wheel is fitted on one end instead of a sprocket, and in this case no lock-nut is required \u2026\u201d Cycling Book of Maintenance, Temple Press, 3rd ed. 1951, 1954, pp. 43-44
\u201cIf you wish to enjoy fast road riding or racing you will require a \u201cfixed-gear,\u201d i.e., one not adjustable to other ratios while riding, without a coaster brake, without freewheeling \u2026\u201d pp. 9-10 Roland C, Geist, Bicycling as a Hobby, Harper & Brothers, 1940 (Rarity of rarities, an American cycling book written for adults during the interwar period)
\u201cThese bikes are equipped with a single-speed fixed-wheel and are devoid of all appendages \u2026\u201d Roger St. Pierre, The Book of the Bicycle, Triune Books, 1973 (writing about track machines)