You’re a bicycle aficionado that’s why you are taking the time to read a buyers guide. No off-the-rack at a big box store bike purchase for you. There is no replacement for a great bike ride as it satisfies an urge to be one with nature, while moving – an opportunity to do something beneficial for your mind, body and spirit all at once.
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Of all of the types of bicycles you can choose from a fixed gear bike offers some unique features that you will not find with other bike varieties. Let this guide assist in your purchase of your first fixie – that’s the fixed gear bike’s nickname.
Top 10 Best Fixed Gear Bikes For The Money
What Is This Thing Called Fixie?
A fixed gear bike is a machine with one gear that is directly attached to the rear wheel. Fixies also differ from traditional road bikes by what they don’t require:
- derailleurs – think of it as the bicycles transmission system which consists of a chain, multi-sized sprockets along with the apparatus to move the chain to various sprockets as the speed increases
- shifters – set on the handlebars of the bike they are used to operate the derailleur system. They can also be used to operate a hub gear system
- double or triple chain-ring cranksets – the part of the drivetrain that changes the energy of pedaling to motion.
Typically this bike has no brakes either, although some fixie riders do opt to have brakes on their bicycles. A discussion of some of the other options that can be added to (or subtracted from) a fixie is found later in the guide. The experience of riding this stripped down tool is more like DRIVING this stripped down tool. Enthusiasts have tried to explain the fixed-gear experience by describing it as the difference between riding a stick shift automobile and a car with an automatic transmission – with the fixie being the stick of course
All of your speed is determined by how fast you pedal. Riders always have to pedal – remember no coasting. If you pedal backwards you cycle in a backward direction. Fixies offer much more control to their riders since it embodies the spirit of a much freer ride.
The Different Types of Fixed Gear Bicycles
Again here is where you will note the paring down of this style of biking. There are only two main versions of Fixed-Gear:
Track Fixed-Gear Bikes – are fixies that are designed for velodrome (indoor or outdoor bike tracks primarily utilized for racing) use. Though some renegades try to ride their track bike on the street, it can actually be a dangerous thing to do. These bikes do not have brakes. Most velodromes forbid bikes with brakes on their track due to the proximity of the riders, the fact that the cyclists are going in one direction, as well as the presence of banked curves – no corners. The reasoning is that brakes are not needed for velodrome use.
Track fixed-gear bicycles are also designed for speed racing and have a tauter geometric construction. Due to the smooth and flawless condition of the velodrome surface, track bikes are built with a more rigid frame as opposed to a bike meant for street use. This type of frame construction makes the track bike better for racing. Conversely this construction model is renders the track bike unfit for the terrain of city or country. In short, these bikes are built solely for velodrome use.
The reason it is so easy to make the mistake of taking your track bike out on the town in innocence and ignorance is because of all of the changes that professionals and biking enthusiasts make on an individual machine. Be careful here even if you know a lot about cycling, it is crucial to use bikes in the habitat that is appropriate to that tool in order to avoid calamity.
Road Fixed-Gear Bikes – the fixie that is designed for street use is the same bike however the construction of the frame is less rigid and has a looser geometric configuration. Cyclists who opt to take their track bike on the road typically do so because they used to race and can’t do without the free feeling of the bike. They will find that their track bike on the street diminishes their freedom because they have to devote strict attention to everything they do. The street has obstacles while a velodrome is completely clear – the only focus is speed.
Sounds Crazy – But We’ll Ask Anyway – Why Choose A Fixed-Gear
Fixed-gear cycling has become a passion for the cycling community. It has become very popular as of late and is traditionally thought of as the cycle of choice for urban bike messengers. People choose fixed-gear cycles because they want the freedom of being able to control the speed they they traverse their path in.
- the more work you have to put in to cycling the better the cardiovascular reward – You are constantly pedaling the fixed-gear tool as a result you get an intense workout on any surface. Since your pedaling is constantly needed for the bike to move, your pedal stroke is perfected. Dead spots in the pedal stroke are eradicated. The concept takes practice to get used to especially since most are taught on standard bicycles replete with all the gear related machinery
- aesthetically the bike is thought to be more attractive – the bike looks better because it doesn’t have all of the hardware – (read – tranny system – or shifting mechanisms on the handlebars that take away from its sleek and streamlined appearance
- fixie riding helps riders think: more about their surroundings as opposed to thinking about changing gears, fixie cyclists have to know the terrain of their path in order to adjust pedaling, slowing and stopping, an upcoming hill is always a challenge but the challenge is maximized on a fixie as you do not coast down a hill as with a traditional bike.
- less machinery means less bicycle maintenance – Fixie cyclists are thought to be more akin to bicycle purists since fixies are much closer to the first bike models that were ever made. A plus is that there is much less repair and maintenance required since there is much less hardware on the machine itself.
Fixies are known for helping the cyclist feel more at one with the road which is really the heart and soul of cycling. The thrill of harnessing the power of the machine within your own bodily machination seems to be the substance of the addiction to fixie riding. This feeling of increased control of the machine because you alone are responsible for the momentum of the bike seems to be the number one determining factor in why people choose a fixed gear bicycle.
What Features or Components Should You Look For When Shopping For Your Fixie
Buying a Fixie from a professional bike shop with knowledgeable staffers is critical. Though it is a simpler design there are some components to fixed-gear that make it unique and quite interesting.
The hub component of the fixed gear cycle is rather important since it is designed in such a way to make certain that backpedaling doesn’t force the cog off of the back wheel. The opposing threads of the hub can be adjusted to allow for the addition of the standard freewheel threads. As a result with a quick flip of the tires a fixed gear can become an instant coaster.
The threads of the hub can also be adjusted and positioned to permit the addition of a second gear. A fixie can be easily adjusted to allow for coasting by most professional bike shop workers. If you want some of those options in your biking experience it will require a little research to gain familiarity with the terms and distinctions of this important part of your fixie.
Bear in mind, reconfiguring the basic hub that comes with the bike doesn’t have to be a part of your first fixed-gear purchase, however it is something you should be aware of if you fall in love with the experience of riding the bike and want to develop your investment and enjoyment.
These Are The Brakes
If you cruise around the web to learn of the harrowing experiences some first time fixie cyclists endured it will make your hair stand straight on your head. Having brakes is something that many fixed gear cyclists have. It is a safety measure that some who are more experienced decide to do away with at some point in their fixie relationship. It may be a component that you want to consider when you are shopping for your bike.
A Word About Frames, Chains and Cranks
As stated these bikes are designed for those who are seeking a purist connection with their respective machine and since fixed-gear bikes are essentially stipped down versions of standard bikes they are ofttime rebuilds from varying types of machines. This unique quality adds to the overall appeal of the bike. When you are shopping for the your brand new fixie beware of this phenomenon. Many staffers may be more familiar with helping customers rebuild fixies as opposed to customizing a brand new bike.
This relates especially to the frame, chain and crank components of the fixed-gear bike. If you do not have experience with fixed-gear it is a great idea to not customize just out of the proverbial gate. Your bike store specialist will suggest you wait until you get a feel for the fixie ride and entire experience before you opt for customization of your bike.
Speaking of Fixed-Gear…Which One Would You Like?
Buying a more standardized fixie is your best bet when coming in to a bike shop to make your first purchase. There are varying models that will give you endless pleasure. Great shops will let you test out the fixie so you can learn more about how you feel as you power your machine. This will be key in getting the right bike for you. Even a complete fixie without customization or being a rebuild takes into account:
- the terrain you will be most likely traveling on – over hill, over dale or just the flatlands
- your ability to crank it – how fit are you?
- how quickly do you want to pedal?
Tips For First Time Fixie Riders
Ok you feel like you’ve read enough and you are ready to get your fixie fix on. You have your bike, your helmet and you are ready to hit the streets.
First time fixie riders need brakes period. Experiended fixed-gear riders learn how to stop and slow and skid if necessary. Since it has to be practiced and ultimately learned it is imperative that you start with brakes for safety. As stated earlier in the guide after you are comfortable with the experience you may opt to have them removed.
If you become a fan have your children learn on fixed first so there is no need to unlearn the notion of coasting.
Start out on as flat a surface as possible. It is not always easy to unlearn the notion of coasting at the top of a hill. The bike will continue to pedal and you can have a horrific spill if your legs are not pedaling as fast as the bike is going.
image credit: Syda_Productions (Deposit Photos)