A couple of months ago, I decided to get back into cycling. My main reason was for fitness (I've settled down, started a family...and gained a few pounds!).
I figured that a fixed gear bike would be the best & quickest way to get back in shape, so I went out and bought one.
I rode it for about a good 25-30 miles, WITH brakes, before I decided that riding fixed-gear bikes simply wasn't for me. I've since replaced the rear 13t fixed gear cog, with a 17t freewheel and it was the best decision I ever made. I have enough discipline to keep pedaling and not coast, but I also have the option to bomb hills every chance I get, at speeds that would simply not be possible if I was riding a fixed gear bike.
I understand that fixed-gear bikes with no brakes are a MUST when racing on a velodrome. I'm guessing it's becuase unlike cars with brake lights, you don't know when a bike in front of you is going to slow down...and you can't have a dozen people riding inches apart from eachother, only to have one of them brake and cause a nasty pile-up.
But what I don't get, is why so many people prefer to use them on the streets? I've heard people say that they're more reliable and not much on them can break...but I've never found derailers, brakes or gears to be very unreliable? If anything- wouldn't using the pedals to brake on a fixed gear bike cause the chain to wear out prematurely, or possibly snap on you? Also, skidding around on the back wheel definitely wears out the rear tires prematurely.
Even more importantly- what is the point of riding with no brakes on the streets?!?! I just don't get it? If you're flying around the streets in a city like New York, where you're constantly on the look-out for that cabby who seems like he's purposely trying to kill you, the last thing you should be worrying about is if you're going to be able to skid to a stop in time. Isn't it much easier and safer to just HIT THE BRAKES?
It just seems like fixed gear bikes are for- doing tricks in the park, racing on the velodrome, or riding on a high-wire in the circus.
Just curious to see what people's responses are going to be. Hopefully I can get some answers that don't include the word "zen".