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".
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there is an pleasure for a lot of people in riding fixed... the cadence, control, etc. it's something that's hard to describe but those that get it, get it. however, those who ride brakeless fixed gears are 100% just doing it for the fashion. they may give you a million other reasons why, but there is really no reason to NOT have at least a front brake on your bike other than "i like the clean lines of a bike with no brakes" or "brakes are for pussies"
FWIW i LOVE riding single speed (freewheel). it is my favorite means of getting around town. the purity and simplicity of just having one gear to worry about but the joy of not having your legs flailing down a steep hill
DarkEnergist, I didn't realize you were in Greenpoint as well.
I had a fixed gear that I built while living in Vermont (free roadside 70s roadbike, figured I'd "try it"). Was fun to ride, and I actually liked it for commuting here in NYC in the winter, since I could "engine brake" on the slippery bridges, but I ultimately threw a freewheel on so I wouldn't loose all my speed. I hated blasting up a climb, only to be passed by everyone who could coast down the other side. I enjoy moving quickly on my commute, so I haven't used my cog since switching back.
Even when I rode fixed, it was with two brakes (and fenders too!).
Old frame, before I broke it:
fixed gear in Queens too. i sound like the opposite from you. i loved flipping my rear wheel to the fixed cog and get much better rides and workouts in compared to the free wheel. always run a front brake though, i wouldn't dare ride in NYC without one. i mean on slower rides to the bodega it wouldn't be a big deal without a brake but i couldn't imagine coming down one of the bridges without one. and just crank those legs on downhills
This is a topic I was just wondering about myself. I'm moving to Boston for a few months as of TODAY (in the airport now) and I bought a bike and am leaving my cars here in Seattle. Bought a new motobecane with a flip fop hub and I have decided I'm going to give a week on each just to see what I like. Coming from BMX I have a strong feeling i'm going to like the free wheel a lot more. BMX I ran with no brakes but it's 10x more agile so I'm DEFINITELY running front and rear brakes all the time.
I might switch back for a while, since I do like the "momentum" you feel while riding fixed. Not to be confused with "zen flow of being one with the bike"
When I lived in a pretty small town(50,000) I rode fixed with no brake and I felt completely comfortable because there was only a decent amount of traffic between 5:00-5:30pm and the whole town was flat, other than that I just took back roads and 95% of the time had the streets to myself. Riding bikes or do anything outside was not something many people did there. It was the best and most fun I've ever had on a bike. Then last year I moved to downtown Kansas City and after about 1 hour of riding I realized how insane it was to not have any type of brake in a city, and all the people I see riding around now without brakes are idiots. Now I just ride a free wheel to work because theres quite a few hills and I can't go into work a sweaty mess and its still pretty enjoyable, but I really miss riding a fixed gear in an easy, flat, slow traffic town.
The reason I say better, is because I've noticed that it's a lot easier to go up hills with a fixed gear than with single speeds because you have the momentum of the spinning wheel carrying your every pedal stroke, whereas with freewheels this is not the case. With a freewheel, you have to keep pedaling to keep your momentum going.
Even if what I just wrote was not true and you do get a better workout riding a fixed gear, it seems that the difference would be minimal, and the advantages to riding freewheel, far out-weigh any small workout gains.
Regardless, it seems like it's all just personal preference. At least we all seem to agree that riding in the streets without brakes, is f'ing retarded.
Last edited by 1.8TIM; 07-08-2012 at 01:34 PM.
Sent from my basement using two tin cans and a string.
I've rode a fixed gear for almost 4 years now only in queens though. When I was still in high school, i bought a bmx style straight fork thinking i would get into FGFS. It wasn't drilled for a brake and it was kind of scary riding without one. Needless to say, I never got into FGFS cause i don't have the guts to do tricks. Invested my money into a nice fast bike and my number 2 concern was that the fork had to be drilled for a front brake. Looked at the FTP, pista concept, all kinds of "hipster" frames, but none of them had a front brake on the oem fork so i avoided.
that's my brake story. I feel like the "less maintenance because of less parts" is kind of BS. I will say i feel very "in the zone" (billy hoyle anyone?) when i do morning laps on the velodrome or along the cross island. I haven't hit the streets ever since i started driving but back then i didn't feel much of a difference between my bike and my dad's steel road bike in terms of riding alongside cars and being sandwiched and cut off, etc.
Last edited by jonpwn; 07-09-2012 at 06:54 PM.
I have a Sturmey Archer S3X 3spd internal fixed-gear hub (I put a freewheel on mine). Unlike multi-speed bikes, it doesnt' have any front or rear derailers, or a cassette. It's just a hub with 1 cog and a cable sticking out of it, so it's pretty simple & clean looking.
If the goal of "fitness" on a bike is to reach a high cadence, maintain it and not have to mash the pedals, than the S3X is perfect. With 3 different gear ratios to choose from, I can keep the same rythm going whether I'm on flat ground, going up a hill, or flying down the other side.
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...and what mine looks like-
Last edited by 1.8TIM; 07-20-2012 at 09:50 AM.
I ride a freewheel on my single speed. Part of it comes from having bad knees from years of BMX, part of it is I like to coast down hills and from riding BMX, it's just familiar. I think fix gear bikes are cool and get the point of them...the PBR drinking, mustache having, hipster fixie dorks give it a really stupid image.
Also, people who do tricks on a fix gear bike are ridiculous. Get a BMX.