Why ride a fixed-gear bike?

  • I must confess, I don't know much about bikes. Until fairly recently, a bike was just that thing that I rode to work each day. I've been slowly learning more about bikes but I still have some newbie questions. This is one of them.

    If I recall correctly and have got the terminology correct, a fixed-gear bike is a bike with only one gear (so you can't change it) and no freewheel (so if the rear wheel is turning, so are the pedals).

    Why do people ride fixed-gear bikes? Isn't it either hard to get started (if fixed in a high gear ratio) or hard to get to a good speed (if fixed in a low gear ratio)?

    I'm not trying to insult or flame riders of fixed-gear bikes - I'm just curious! :)

    It's also hard to turn sharply (pedal can hit ground). Many don't have brakes and rely on either resisting pedaling or skidding the rear wheel, which means stopping can be hard.

    Good question! After I started riding three-speed bikes, I can understand the lure of simplicity. I'm looking forward to some answers from fixed-gear riders.

    I've created another question to track the single-speed portion of the question. http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/1983/ Here we can talk about "why no freewheel?"

    Hipster says, "Because yolo. If I'm going to ride a 1000km then I'm going to *pedal* 1000km."

  • Your understanding is correct.

    Why do people ride them? Some random answers:

    1. Maintenance is very, very low. You have to keep the tires and chain in good working order and, on a bike you ride on the road, hopefully some form of a brake. That's it.
    2. On most velodromes, you have to ride a fixed gear bike, so if you race track, you have no choice.
    3. There is something to be said for how a fixed gear will force you to develop a smoother pedaling style since you simply cannot stop. Due to this, they are somewhat popular for 'off season' training by serious road cyclists.
    4. (Hesitating to mention this...) There is a certain segment of the population that loves retro and simple things. In addition to being possibly the most efficient people moving device that exists, the fixed gear bicycle can be an important fashion accessory.

    Hard to get started/Hard to go fast?

    Yes. Generally someone who has a road worthy fixie will have selected a gear that works well for the terrain and speed that they like to ride at. I've only ridden fixed gear bikes on the track, but I'd imagine for a city fixie, you'd optimize for a fairly low speed but someone who takes these more seriously can answer better.

    Also it is hard for most people to steal them, due to "Hard to get started"

    For #3, I usually use rollers for that - after you've surged forward over the front roller once or twice you learn good pedaling mechanics (or good first aid).

    I wouldn't be too hesitant to mention #4, it's pretty objectively true. The sheer number of brightly coloured/ultra minimalist fixies is enough evidence that form seems to be at least as important as function for a lot of people.

    Right. I would imagine that 4 is key. It's the only one that can really explain the lack of brakes, too. one that you missed is that dérailleurs suck - that's partly a maintenance thing, but also a bike without dérailleurs can have a chain guard, and the chain is less likely to slip off while riding.

    #1 is almost entirely applicable to single-speed with free-wheeling hubs too. Those things take almost no maintenance.

    You miss one important point: The weight is lower (it's lighter).

    If the question was 'Why *so many people* use fixies', the order of your points should be inverted. I think you should not hesitate about the 4th point. +1 from me

    LOL. There a lot of bad replies here. Firstly a fixie is not generally lighter. Very few are under 8kg as most are made of alloy or steel. Secondly, on most velos, you need a horizontal drop-out to classify your "fixie" as a true fixie or track bike, and to be allowed to ride on a velo. If you've turned a normal racer with vertical dropouts into a single-speed (even with flipflop hubs), congratulations. But don't expect to be called a fixie rider.

    Also **theft deterrent**, anyone who tries riding off with a fixie will get bucked off at the first corner.

    Is there actually any evidence to support #3? You could argue that it allows your to be sloppier in your pedalling, since the pedals carry your legs around with them.

    Good answer(s), but you forgot to mention they are also more fun to ride ... don't ask me why, they just are!

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM