19 Of The Most Popular Reasons Why Fixie Bikes Are Perfect For The City
Before we talk fixie bikes in particular, it’s important that we talk words in general so that we’re all on the same page when it comes to terminology. It’ll be painless, I promise.
Single speed: Just as it sounds, a single-speed bike has only one gear ratio (one front chainring and one rear sprocket). Single-speed bikes can be either fixed-gear or freewheel. NOTE: Most of the time, when bike riders use the term “single-speed”, they are referring to the freewheel version.
Fixed gear: A fixed gear (or fixie) is a single-speed bike that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism. The absence of a freewheel mechanism means that when the rear wheel is turning, the pedals are turning (forward or backwards!). At its most basic, that means no coasting.
Freewheel: Freewheel bikes allow the pedals to stop turning while the rear wheel continues to turn. Most modern bikes—single speed or multi gear—have a freewheel setup. Remember, “single speed” is often used to distinguish a single-speed freewheel bike (you can coast) from a single speed fixed gear bike (you can’t coast).
There, that wasn’t so bad. Now on to the particulars.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be referring to fixed gear (or fixie) throughout but the same reasoning could be applied to single speed.
So what’s the big deal with fixed gear bikes? To put it simply, they’re perfect for the urban commute. Don’t believe me? Here are 19 reasons why fixie bikes are perfect for city riding.
A geared bike typically weighs 1 – 2 pounds more than the identical fixed-gear bike because the geared bike includes shift levers, derailleurs, and heavier cranksets and cassettes (the front and rear sprockets). Sure it’s only a matter of a couple pounds, but those extra pounds can really make a difference when you’re commuting home after a long day’s work.
Less likely to be stolen
You’ve heard the stories about thieves who failed to steal a car because they couldn’t work a manual transmission? Fixed-gear is the bike equivalent of the manual transmission. Learning to ride a fixed-gear bike does take some getting used to and the first time you hop on, it’s going to feel weird. Try it and you’ll understand why fixies are often left unmolested (even when unchained) in favor of the geared bike.
Cheaper is a relative term (and depends a lot on the components you use) but, for the most part, fixies are cheaper than comparable geared bikes. They’re cheaper because they have less hardware and because they’re typically made of less expensive materials (hi ten steel vs. carbon fiber).
Easier and cheaper to repair
Fixed-gear bikes have less to repair. With regular maintenance (simple oiling and tightening), about the only things that will need to be replaced are the brake pads. And that regular maintenance we mentioned? It’s a lot easier because you don’t have to deal with complicated derailleurs.
Less to break
Speaking of derailleurs, these “moving parts” will wear out over time (as most moving parts do) and need to be repaired or replaced. This can get expensive real fast. Fixed-gear bikes don’t have that problem. Unless you really beat on your fixed-gear bike, the only things that might break are a spoke or the chain. These repairs are relatively simple and won’t break the bank like a derailleur.
A fixed-gear bike offers more efficient transfer of energy from the pedal to the wheel because of the short chain length, the straight chainline, and the absence of derailleur pulleys. And while efficiency might not be you first concern, it can make a difference on those longer rides.
You’re not really using those other gears
Most urban areas are relatively flat so you don’t need all those low gears (the ones that make it easier to climb hills). At most, you might need three. Choose a good gear ratio and you’ll only need one. Sure you might have to work a little harder when starting from a full stop, but you don’t ride your bike because it’s easy (do you?).
Less to think about
With a fixed-gear bike, you don’t have to think about which gear you need to be in (because you only have the one). You can just enjoy the ride. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy the ride on a geared bike, but a small part of your brain will always be focused on deciding whether to shift gears or not. Free your mind.
Less to do
This one’s pretty simple. No shifting necessary? That’s one less thing you have to do. Just pedal, brake, and focus on traffic.
For those of you with fitness ambitions, fixed-gear bikes improve cadence (pedal speed measured by the number of revolutions your legs make during 60 seconds of riding).
According to Chelsey Magnes writing on Gear Junkie, “A high cadence (100-110) is more efficient and better than a slow cadence (70-80) because your muscles don’t take such a beating, your lungs and heart recover faster, there’s less torque on your knees, and it allows for faster acceleration with less effort.”
Ms. Magnes goes on to add that “the fixie helps [improve cadence] because it never lets you get lazy and coast. It makes you pedal, which forces your legs into a perfect drive ratio with the speed of your gearing.”
Easy low-speed maneuvering
According to one Reddit contributor, “In the city, you’re often riding in slower traffic and have to modulate your speed to avoid lanesplitting cars and other obstacles. It’s much easier to do this with your legs [on a fixed-gear bike] than by constantly modulating the brake.”
Feel more connected to the bike
Many riders claim you’ll feel more connected to the bike and the biking experience on a fixed-gear because you don’t have all the modern “tech” getting in the way—it’s just you and the bike come hell or steep hills. I don’t know about all that, but I’ve ridden fixed-gear for so long that it might be something I take for granted. Give it a try and see how you feel.
Sure track stands—stopping for a short time without putting a foot on the ground—can be done on a geared bike, but they are much easier on a fixed-gear bike because you can make both forward and back adjustments.
The track stand is especially useful in city riding because of all the stops and starts required (unless you’re going to run the reds). Yes, you can put your foot down, but it’s much easier (and quicker) to accelerate from a stop when both feet are already on the pedals.
Track stands are also fun so they’ve got that going for them. Whether you ride a fixed-gear or a geared bike, you’re better off knowing how to do a track stand. Give it a try.
I’m not sure exactly what use this would have—or why it would be better for city riding—but it is still a pretty cool feature of the fixed-gear bike. Like the track stand, it will take a bit of practice but imagine the control you’ll have. Stuck in traffic with no way to turn around? Just ride backward until you find a way out. Cool!
While this isn’t a motivator for everyone, it was for me. I’d been riding a bike for so long, and through so many distances and situations, that when it came time to replace my geared bike, I was like, “Eh”. It wasn’t the thrill that it had been before. Contemplating a fixed-gear brought that feeling back in spades.
Develop new skills
As I mentioned in the Novelty section above, the thought of riding a fixed-gear made me excited about biking again. I was excited because of the new skills I was set to learn. I’m by no means an “expert” rider (whatever that may be), but I have been riding for longer than I care to admit and have pretty much seen and done it all.
Learning to ride a fixed-gear opened up a new world of skills just waiting to be mastered and put to use. Suddenly, I wasn’t comfortable on my bike for a change and that was a good thing. Let the learning begin!
There’s something to be said about the simplicity of a fixed-gear bike. It’s that streamlined aesthetic that appeals to many riders young and old. Combine that aesthetic with the other factors inherent in a fixed-gear bike and you’ve got a recipe that’s bound to please.
The aesthetics of the bike are also easier (and often cheaper) to customize on a fixed-gear bike. That brings us to the next reason.
As fixed-gear bikes have increased in popularity, so too have the options for customization. Just type “fixed gear bike” or “fixie” into your favorite search engine, click on images, and you’ll see what I mean. You can tailor your ride however you see fit and express your true sense of style. Whether you like bullhorn handlebars or BMX. Whether you like a pink chain or a blue one. Whether you like colored tires or black, your fixed-gear bike can be modified to your heart’s content…often for cheap.
The optional cool dismount
As bike god Sheldon Brown writes on his website, “Instead of getting off to the side of the bike, the fixed-gear rider can go straight off the back. As the bike slows to near walking speed, disengage your left foot [Mr. Brown is referring to clips and clipless pedals], then wait for the right pedal to get to the bottom of its circle. As the right pedal starts to rise, straighten your right leg and let the motion of the pedal lift you up. Let go of the handlebars, let the saddle move forward between your legs, and put your left foot on the ground. As the bike goes ahead, grab it by the saddle and walk if necessary.” Dismount complete. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s just fun
While your daily commute may not be what you would consider fun, riding a fixed-gear bike is and that’s often reason enough for many people.
Is fixed-gear or single-speed riding for you?
No one can answer that question for you. My best advice is to find a friend or a store that will let you try a fixed-gear or single-speed bike for yourself. You’ll very quickly feel what is required of you if you choose to pursue this means of transportation. You’ll also love it or hate it (often very quickly as well). If you love it, make the leap and buy one. If you hate it, that’s okay too. There are plenty of other options out there.
If you’re not sure whether to get a fixed-gear or a single-speed, don’t fret. The wonderful thing about this type of bike is that you can purchase what’s called a flip-flop hub that allows the rear tire to be installed one way for fixed-gear and another way for single-speed (just flip it around). That way, if you find that you just HAVE to coast, you can switch back to single-speed while still enjoying everything we’ve talked about above. If you’re not convinced yet, talk to the experts at www.topfixie.com . They’ll be happy to help you decide. Now, enough writing. It’s time to go riding!