Bikes exist in all shapes and sizes. They are different depending on their purpose, design, and materials. Among others, one of the most popular is a fixie bike. Many people love its simplicity, but is such enough to compel you to choose it over other types of a bike? If you are interested in knowing more about a fixie bicycle, including its benefits and how to choose a good one, keep on reading and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Fixie Bike?
- 2 Fixed-Gear vs Single-Speed Bikes
- 3 Why Ride a Fixie?
- 4 The Drawbacks of a Fixie Bike
- 5 Do Fixies Have Brakes?
- 6 Mounting on a Fixie
- 7 The Anatomy of a Fixie Bike
- 8 The Dangers of Riding a Fixie
- 9 Tips for Care and Maintenance
What is a Fixie Bike?
Fixie is a short word for a fixed gear. The gear in the bike is what converts your pedaling into a specific output. This will determine the performance of the bike, especially in different environments. You must change gear depending on what a terrain requires, such as whether you are going uphill or downhill. This is what will make you more efficient. Some bikes will have multiple gears or speeds to suit various requirements.
In a fixie bike, you cannot change gears. It has a single gear ratio or speed. There is a rear fixed cog. Whenever the bike is moving, the pedals will rotate continuously. Because of the constant movement of the pedals, your legs have to keep moving.
Fixed-Gear vs Single-Speed Bikes
A common misconception amongst many beginners is that a fixie is the same as a single-speed bike. Sure, they share some common characteristics but do not be confused.
It’s All in the Hub
The main difference between the two bikes is their hub. It is a small difference, and hence, a lot of people fail to notice such. In a single-speed bike, you will find a freewheel. Once the rear wheel goes faster than the cog, it will freewheel, which is similar to what happens in a geared bike. Whereas, a fixie does not have a freewheel. Instead, the rear cog is connected to a rear hub. This is what makes the wheel and the cog turn simultaneously.
A Different Feeling
Because of the difference in the set-up, even if it is just slight, there are also variations on how you will feel. This might be hard to notice when you are on paved terrains. Meanwhile, if you are on more challenging paths, the difference in the feeling of riding the bike will be more apparent. You might feel awkward at first. Once you get used to the feeling, you will appreciate the simplicity of riding fixed gear bikes. You will feel that you are one with the bike. It gives the two of you a better connection, which enhances the overall experience in every ride.
Why Ride a Fixie?
Are you not yet convinced to try a fixed-gear bike? Below are some of the best fixed gear benefits that might make you change your mind!
It is Simple
One of the best things about the fixie bike is its simplicity. You no longer need to think about the gear ratio. This is perfect if you are riding on flat surfaces and on short trips. It might feel awkward or different at first, but once you are acquainted with the bike, everything will be easy.
It is Efficient
Compared to other types of bike, a fixie is known for being more mechanically-efficient. The transfer of power is the reason why it is efficient. Hence, this means that it will require less energy from the rider.
It Improves Cadence
One of the most notable benefits of a fixed gear bike is that your pedal rhythm improves, resulting in a better cadence. Your movements need to be more synchronized if you want to bike faster. This will teach you better coordination.
It Increases Strength
People have been using fixie bikes for many reasons, and one of the most notable would be an improvement in strength. Since there is fixed gear, you will need to rely more on your body, which will make biking a great physical activity to help you stay fit and healthy.
It Develops Muscles
When talking about fixed gear bike benefits, one more thing worth mentioning is that it aids in muscle development. This is linked to how fixie bikes help improve your strength. Since you will be using more of your body, it is beneficial when it comes to muscular development.
It is Easy to Maintain
This is one benefit directly related to the simplicity of a fixie bike. It has fewer parts, and hence, you need not exert a lot of effort in its maintenance. Those who are often too lazy to take care of this bike will surely benefit from riding a fixie.
It is Lightweight
The more components a bike has, the heavier it becomes. The result is that it might be more difficult for you to use. This can be a burden to maneuver, especially if you are in a hurry. Being lightweight, fixie bikes are user-friendly.
It is Fast
Fast fixie bikes are fun to ride. The benefit of speed is directly linked to being lightweight. Because of having fewer components compared to a standard bike, it is easier for you to ride faster.
It is Affordable
Because of the simplicity of a fixie bike and having minimal parts, it is also often affordable. This is a great city bike for people on a budget. Nonetheless, we recommend that you always look beyond the price.
The Drawbacks of a Fixie Bike
Now that we had a rundown of the fixed gear benefits, let’s also talk about their drawbacks. We want to be fair, so we’ll quickly discuss a few reasons why they might not be the best choice for some riders.
It is not For Climbing
A fixie bike performs best when you are riding on paved and flat roads. On the other hand, when you are climbing uphill, you might end up swearing to never ride a fixie again. Because there are no gears, you will end up struggling as you ride the bike uphill.
It Requires Constant Pedaling
Constant pedaling will work your legs out, which can help in building muscles. However, this can also end up being uncomfortable and painful. Fatigue will soon be a problem. Because of this, fixies are often used only when riding short distances.
It Takes a While to Get Using To
A no gear bike is not for impatient riders. A lot of beginners may instantly be frustrated when riding the bike. It takes quite a while before you can adjust to the different feel and function of a fixie. It is not one of those bikes where a novice can just hop on and take it out for a spin.
Do Fixies Have Brakes?
This is one of the most common questions amongst people who are new to fixie riding. There are some fixies without a brake, especially traditional models. Purists would prefer that, although, for most people, this can be quite difficult to use. The good news is that most of the models available today are designed with brakes, so there’s no need to worry!
If you are using a fixie bike without brakes, make sure that you are familiar with the laws. In some instances, such bikes can also be used in tracks or competitive sports. They are not designed for recreational use. In the United States, most places prohibit the use of a fixie without a brake. They are legal everywhere as long as they have brakes. Otherwise, independent rules apply depending on where you are riding.
How to Brake on a Fixie
For a fixie bike with brakes, stopping is a lot easier. The hand brake is often located on the right side of the handlebar, and all that you will need to do is to engage such.
However, in a fixie no brakes bike, you will have to exert more effort. In most instances, you will rely on your body. You will need to balance the position of both your legs and in turn, this is going to slow down the bike. Once you notice a decline in speed, slightly move your upper body in front of the bike. This will apply a little force, which will also put pressure on the front wheel so that it will gradually stop.
Mounting on a Fixie
Aside from learning how to stop a fixed gear bike, another important skill you need to learn is how to mount. Because the pedal will continue moving, you need to be more strategic in your approach as you ride the bike.
One of the most challenging is positioning the pedal forward and up. This is difficult because you cannot spin the pedals backward. To do it right, you should position your foot on the pedal and lift the back end of the bike so that you can move the pedal. You can also lock up the front brake and press the handlebars forward.
When it comes to dismounting the bike, the good news is that you can do it normally as you would on other types of bikes.
The Anatomy of a Fixie Bike
Before riding a fixie, you must be aware of the bike’s anatomy. The good thing is that its parts are similar to what you will find in many other bikes. A good fixie bike is a collection of high-quality parts, resulting in an exceptional performance. It is the sum of all its parts, so each component must be remarkable.
This is perhaps one of the first things you will notice in a bike, which will impact your overall experience. This is where all the other parts of the bike are attached. As it holds everything together, its quality is important. This will also affect your speed and comfort. Plus, it is indicative of the price of the bike.
If your main concern is the weight of the bike, then we suggest that you go for one that comes with an aluminum frame. It is lightweight and sturdy, but some people may find it uncomfortable. There is no or minimal shock absorption, so it isn’t a good choice if you are always on bumpy terrain.
For better comfort despite the challenging ground conditions, a steel frame can be a better choice for your fixie bike. The added weight can be an issue for some, but this is also the reason why it absorbs more vibrations compared to aluminum.
It may be expensive, but it is worth every dollar. This is the lightest of the three materials, so you can enjoy effortless maneuverability. Despite its weight, it is comfortable. Your body does not have to take the beating.
The fork in a fixie bike is similar to what you will find in a traditional road bike. It slightly sweeps forward, resulting in a better position of the front wheel. There is often a quick-release latch, which will allow you to remove the tire and wheel in an instant.
Like in other bikes, you will need a fixie with a reliable braking system. The brake must be easy to engage, providing the bike with exceptional stopping power regardless of the surface conditions.
Traditionally, there is no brake. However, today, fixed gear bikes with brakes are more common. In most cases, the brake is connected to the right handlebar. In some places, it may be legal to remove the handbrake. Nonetheless, we recommend keeping it as it can be your savior. It is important not just for your safety but also for those around you.
Your comfort is a priority when riding a fixie bike, so make sure that it comes with a well-designed seat. The saddle must be wide enough to accommodate the rider comfortably. It is also good to have a thick and breathable cushion, which you will especially appreciate when riding on a hot day. Plus, there should be an adjustable seat post. This way, you can adjust its height depending on your inseam to guarantee a comfortable ride.
Original fixie bikes are equipped with riser handlebars. It promotes a more upright position when you are riding, which also improves handling. However, if you are always going uphill or riding on long commutes, this may not always be the best option.
Drop bars are also common in a fixie. It is often fully-taped, which will allow you to grip it comfortably.
Wheels and Tires
The wheel construction and size are important considerations when choosing a fixie bike. Meanwhile, you should also look at the tires, especially the material and traction. It should offer excellent shock absorption to manage vibrations. More importantly, it should have a good grip so that bike rolls smoothly while also keeping you safe, especially when riding on slippery surfaces.
The Dangers of Riding a Fixie
Riding fixie is fun, but there’s no doubt that it can also be dangerous. The risks stem from the fact that you are pedaling as long as the bike is moving. If you aren’t careful, you will end up hurting yourself.
When you are turning on a tight corner, it is tempting to strike the pedal on the ground, but that shouldn’t be the case. If you are using a freewheel bike, there is an option to coast while the pedals are horizontal. This prevents striking. On the other hand, in a bike with no gears, you cannot do this. Striking a pedal increases the chances that you will fall off the bike. The height of the bottom bracket and crank length are some things that will increase the likelihood of a pedal strike. Ensure the right height of these components and see to it that the pedals do not stretch out far.
Wheel Lock and Derailment
A chain can be problematic when you are riding a fixed gear bike. If it comes off, it will end up hanging, and this is dangerous for the rider. It can also loop on the rear sprocket, which will end up locking the wheel, resulting in a crash. A straight chain line is one of the easiest ways to prevent this from happening. Checking the tightness of the chain is also a must.
Especially when the bike is in a repair stand, it accidentally catches objects. It may seem gross, but we have heard a lot of stories from bikers who had their fingers cut! Do not let this happen to you! Be vigilant when handling a fixie. Once you hand-pedal the bike, the wheel will gain momentum, and it can catch any object, including your finger. Even when riding the bike, your shoelace or baggy pants can be stuck on the drivetrain and you will get hurt.
Tips for Care and Maintenance
Earlier, when we listed the fixed gear bike advantages, one point raised is that it is simple and easy to maintain. This, however, does not mean that you will just leave the bike on its own and expect it to deliver peak performance. To ensure the latter, below are some of the most important things you will need to do.
Clean the Frame
One of the largest parts of the bike, frame maintenance is crucial to ensure the full benefits of the bike. Over time, it is prone to rust and corrosion, especially with constant exposure to rain and sun. Use a mild soap and cloth to remove dirt that accumulated in the frame. If possible, use a pressure washer to get rid of the tough mud stuck in the frame. Finish by applying polish or wax.
Clean the Wheels and Tires
The wheels and tires are some of the most used parts of a fixie bike. While a fixie is often used for city rides, they still accumulate dirt They can harden over time and will be more difficult to remove. Make it a habit to clean your bike regularly. Remove the wheels from the frame so that they will be easier to clean. Also, pay attention to the proper inflation of the tires to ensure performance.
Lubricate the Bike
It is not enough that you clean a fixie. It is also crucial to lubricate its moving parts. This is important especially considering that you are always pedaling when the bike is moving. When there is friction, it makes the bike more inefficient. Not to mention, it can be noisy, and this can also speed up wear. Apply lubrication drops in the shift components, pivot points, and cable housing. Make sure to wipe any excess lubricant. Otherwise, they will easily attract dirt and dust.
Tune-Up the Brakes
While old fixies do not have brakes, the newer models have one. So, do not miss the brake as a part of routine maintenance. When they are not working properly, your safety is compromised. Inspect the brake pads, making sure that they have not worn out. Otherwise, the brake will not effectively stop the bike when needed. Replace the pad if necessary. If there are worn ridges, trim them. You can also resurface the brake pads using sandpaper. However, if it can no longer be spared, the best option is to replace it.
Tighten the Bolts
As a part of regular maintenance, it is also important that you tighten all the bolts. They connect the components of the bike, so they should be as secure as possible. While they are snug, it is also crucial that you do not over-tighten them. Pay attention to the condition of these bolts and clean them regularly.
In sum, a fixie bike has a fixed gear. This article talked about some of the best reasons why fixed gear is a good bike for you. From simplicity to efficiency, it delivers a plethora of benefits that will make it a notable option for most riders. Like when buying other types of bikes, make sure to consider the frame, brake, seat, and tires, among other components that will make up a fixie bike.
Learning how to ride a fixie does not happen overnight. From mounting to braking, it might require different techniques compared to a regular bike, so take the time to learn.