Hong Kong Profile: Brian Fu

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Brian Fu is perched with his legs on either side of a small wooden stool, his knees bouncing up and down as he talks. It’s as though, somewhere in his mind, he’s always cycling. That’s not surprising – the infectiously energetic 44-year-old has been interested in bikes all his life, and is known as the ‘godfather’ of the fixed-gear scene in the city. He is credited as the first person to bring these stylish, minimalist bikes, which have the gear fixed to the wheel, to Hong Kong. 

“People always ask why I like cycling, but I don’t really know. I just wanted to try all kinds of bikes, even when I was young,” Fu says. It was when he left Hong Kong in 1983, to attend high school in the US, that he first noticed the bike messengers and their fixie bikes. 

“In the 1960s, fixed-gear, or track-bikes, were only used in the velodrome,” Fu explains. “The messengers took the track-bikes and started riding them on the street; they used to ride them without brakes. There are a lot of bike thieves in America, but if they take this kind of bike they won’t be able to ride it, and they’ll fall off and get caught – that’s how it all started. I really like the idea of the fixed-gear bike because it’s so clean. No extra cables – just two wheels, a frame, a seat and a handlebar. I always loved it!”

After returning to Hong Kong in 1993, Fu kept his interest in ‘all kinds of different bikes’, but left fixies on the back-burner. That all changed in 2005. “That was when suddenly everyone went to fixed-gear,” declares Fu. “You know why? Lance Armstrong announced his retirement. He was the idol of most American people. After he announced his retirement, people were lost! They wanted to seek something crazier. So they all went to fixed-gear.”

At that point, Fu knew it was time to get involved, too. He set about ordering his own fixed-gear bike from the internet. “I ordered every part online and I built up the first-ever street track-bike in Hong Kong,” he says. “I started riding around and I knew that I was the only one, so I decided to do something about it. I started a blog and was blogging every day, at least 10 to 15 posts per day. I blogged non-stop! People started emailing me, asking how they could get a bike. I started sourcing all these parts for them – I was just trying to help them. I wasn’t making money.” 

Fu had soon turned his hand to importing bikes and opened his own store in 2008. “It was the first fixed-gear bike shop ever in Asia, outside of Japan,” he says proudly. “But I didn’t make any money. It was just a passion. I sold about one bike per week!” After almost giving up on the idea when the lease expired, Fu received a chance phone call from Eric Lee, a fellow enthusiast who somehow persuaded him not to give up. The store re-opened in 2010 in Kwun Tong as Rodafixa (RDFX for short); this time with Lee as a partner. Fu and Lee now sell both fixies and road bikes out of their store in a Kwun Tong industrial building.

Unfortunately, on the very same day that their new store opened, Fu lost nine teeth in an accident with a taxi as he cycled home at night. (“I had a nickname, B9T – Brian’s nine teeth!”) However, the accident hasn’t fazed him, and he still wakes up at 5am twice a week to go for a long ride around Hong Kong Island. “At that time, there are no cars, so it’s safer,” he says. Fu, however, prefers not to participate with the recent trend of cycling late at night. “I know there are a number of groups who ride from midnight until 6am, and they go to have breakfast together. The only reason I can think of is that they don’t want to wake up early,” he laughs. 

Fu admits that the scene among fixed-gear riders is not as close-knit as it used to be. “I think that feeling is fading away,” he says candidly. “[It used to be] if you ride fixed-gear, we are friends! But it’s slowly turning into a trend; the kids think they are cool with a fixed-gear.” Overall, though, he’s happy as long as people are cycling. “In the last 12 to 18 months, 30 new bike shops have opened in Hong Kong. I think cycling will just keep on going, because right now, gasoline is so expensive. I think the future is cycling.” Layla Ho

RDFX Rm A806, 8/F Union Hing Yip Factory Bldg, 20 Hing Yip St, Kwun Tong; rdfx.cc.

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