It’s common for a photographer to devote themselves to a few specific genres of photography. Some may choose to focus on architecture or landscapes while others may prefer portraiture or street photography. But Hou Zitong, a 23-year-old Beijing native, has decided to point his lens at a niche subject matter: bicycles, or specifically, fixed-gear bikes.
通常，每个摄影师都会有自己专精的摄影类型或主题，有人侧重拍摄建筑或风景，也有人喜欢专门拍摄肖像或街头摄影。而 23 岁的北京摄影师侯子通则把镜头对准一个比较小众的主题：自行车，或者再具体一点，死飞自行车（Fixed Gear）。
Fixed-gear bicycles are bikes named for the fixed cog fitted on the rear wheel. This setup means that, unlike regular bikes with a freewheel mechanism, if the wheels are moving, the pedals are moving too, making coasting impossible. While it can be tiring to ride, a fixie’s appeal lies in its simplicity. With fewer moving parts, they’re lighter and sleeker than traditional bikes. Some riders even forgo brakes, which also frees them to perform maneuvers that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. (Brakeless bicycles are illegal in many areas, though some enthusiasts insist they’re safe.) In China the popularity of fixies has waned since its peak in 2013, though dedicated communities of riders still exist,
死飞以安装在后轮上的固定齿轮命名。这意味着不同于一般自行车的飞轮构造，如果死飞的车轮在移动，踏板也会跟着移动，使得它无法在踏板静止状态下保持滑行。虽然骑起来比较累，但死飞的魅力在于它结构的简洁。由于移动部件较少，它们比传统自行车更轻、更顺畅。有些车手甚至会选择不安装刹车，以获得更多操控上的自由，做到更多之前做不了的动作。（无刹车自行车在很多地方都是非法的，即使有些爱好者坚持它们是安全的。）在中国，死飞的热潮在 2013 年达到了顶峰。虽然现在热度有所下降，但仍然存在着许多活跃的死飞车手团体。
Hou is one of these devoted riders. He’s loved both photography and fixies for as long as he can remember. During high school, he was already cruising the streets and shooting whatever caught his eye. Surprisingly, though, the idea of aiming his camera at the cycling culture he loved didn’t come about until much later.
In his early days as a freelance photographer, financial uncertainties were a constant. On one particularly bad month without any jobs, he considered the unthinkable—selling his beloved fixie. “My income at the time all came from photography jobs, but freelancing as a photographer, opportunities were sparse,” he says. “I remember I only had 300 RMB in my bank account, and I had no idea what I’d do after that was gone, but I didn’t want my family to think photography wasn’t a viable profession. So I thought about selling my bike. But I wanted to remember it, so I decided to try to get some cool snaps of it. They turned out rad as fuck, and that’s how it all began for me. I actually didn’t even end up selling my bike. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine that I even considered it. Maybe it was some sort of divine intervention that was guiding me.”
早期担任自由摄影师的时候，侯子通的经济收入很不稳定。在情况特别不好的月份里，他甚至连一份工作都没有。他不得已开始考虑那些难以想像的出路，例如卖掉自己心爱的死飞。“我当时完全靠摄影谋生，但实在没什么活儿。我清楚记得银行卡里只剩 300 人民币，我不知道花完这些钱后该怎么办。我不想向家里拿钱，让家人觉得摄影这个行业不可行，所以我只好考虑卖掉我的死飞。”他说，“为了留念，我想为它拍一张帅点儿的照片，结果拍完发现实在他妈太帅了。一切就从这里一发不可收拾，当然最后车也没卖。回想起来，我到现在也没法理解为什么那天会有卖掉死飞的想法。可能是暗中有某种力量在指引我走上拍摄死飞这条路。嗯，我想是这样的。”
Despite how niche fixies are in the world of sports photography, Hou’s decision to follow his heart has paid off. In recent years, he’s landed opportunities to work with cycling brands around the world, including Taiwan’s nabiis and Spain’s Dos Noventa. These opportunities have given him the chance to visit—and more importantly, ride in—cities he’s never been to before. “Shooting fixies has been a bridge of sorts for me,” he says. “It’s allowed me to go to different places and meet a lot of other riders.”
While the focus on cycling culture is a hallmark of Hou’s work, what makes his photography truly stand out is the sense of unfettered freedom that’s captured in every frame. His snapshots of riders weaving through traffic, towing themselves on moving trams, and bombing down steep hills encapsulate both the dynamic energy of cities in motion and the thrill of moving with the ebb and flow of that energy. It’s the same energy that he relishes every time he’s out riding, and the same energy that’s kept him infatuated with the sport for over a decade.
“You get to enjoy the city in different ways depending on when you ride,” he says. “In the daytime, with traffic and pedestrians, it’s like a constant tussle between you the city, but at night, you can enjoy the calm. Without cars, it’s just you, your music, and the rhythm of your peddling. But no matter the time of day, the best thing about fixies is the sense of freedom when you ride. It makes me feel like I own the city. Believe me, it’s something everyone should experience.”