Commonly referred to as fixies, fixed gear bicycles are popular among urban cyclists. By definition, a fixed gear bicycle is a bicycle whose drivetrain lacks a freewheel and features one gear fixed to the rear wheel. Also fixed gear bicycles lack cranksets, shifters, chainrings and sometimes even brakes. Cyclists harbor mixed emotions about fixies, with some hailing their simplicity and others loathing their lack of cycling sophistication. Whether you are a fan or not, there is no denying that fixies offer a unique cycling experience. For starters, fixies are extremely light due to them lacking sophisticated components such as shifters. This means they are easy to transport and even carry if need be.
The simplicity of fixies is reminiscent of the good old days when fixed gear bikes ruled the cycling world. Thus, with a fixie you have full control and your peddling feels more natural as the pedals are directly connected to the rear wheel. Also, since a fixed gear bike’s speed is dependent on your cycling, you are less likely to feel bumps and dips on roads. Furthermore, riding a fixie is less challenging as all you have to do is pedal. With other modern bikes, you have to worry about things like shifting gears.
Riding a fixed gear bike will make you a stronger rider as you have to utilize your twitch muscles when peddling uphill. This is another reason some cyclists prefer fixies to other bicycles. Another reason is the smooth and quiet riding experience offered by fixies. Since fixed gear bikes are without freewheel ratchets and pullies, they make zero noise. This is beneficial if you find the sound made by the two mentioned components annoying.
However, despite their benefits, fixies are not without drawbacks. First, riding a fixie can be dangerous especially one without brakes. Not everyone is skilled on how to stop a bike without needing brakes. Additionally, riding a fixie requires a tremendous amount of physical effort, unlike with other bikes where you can shift to an easier gear. Fixed gear bikes are, therefore, ideal for short distance cycling. Also, if you are out of shape, then a fixed gear bicycle is not for you. This is because riding a fixie is similar to hitting the gym on a daily basis. Essentially, fixies are bikes designed for endurance athletes and serious runners. Hence, if you are looking for a bike for cruising the fixie might not suit you.
Transitioning from a fixie to a convention freewheel bike can be difficult. The reason being that with a fixie you are deprived of the ability to coast. As such you might find yourself trying to coast which can result in a kick on the trailing leg and even loss of control. Additionally, peddling at high speed can be disastrous as the pedals on a fixed bike tend to strike the road.
Riding brakeless fixies have a cult-like popularity among urban cyclists. Some fixie fans opine that brakes make a fixed gear bike bulky. To stop or slow a brakeless fixie some riders lock the rear wheel. This technique is however not for the faint hearted.