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Fixed Gear Bicycles

From Bike Collectives Wiki

By now you have probably seen someone racing by with one gear and asked yourself why? Well maybe you should ask yourself why not?

  1. All the cool kids are doing it. You'll be popular! Seriously, it can be a trendy thing, but you can either join or ignore the lemmings and still have a great time.
  2. A fixed gear bicycle is perfect for cadence training. You can't coast, even down hills, so if you maintain constant speed you are also maintaining constant cadence.
  3. Try something new, riding a fixed gear is a different experience, if you are looking for a little spice in your cycling life -- here it is.
  4. Mechanical simplicity results in something that is very easy to maintain.

Q: I hear they are bad for your knees, is that true?

A: They can be, the legally correct way of addressing this is probably to consult your doctor, however... Listen to your body, it has a lot to say. If you are experiencing discomfort, stop and evaluate the situation, try the following:

  1. Make sure the bike fits, the Bicycle Collective or other bike shops can help you with this.
  2. Are you using too hard of a gear for the rides you are on? Your cadence should be fairly high, but not so much that you are spinning out. Be a spinner not a masher.
  3. Brake pads are cheaper than knee replacements, if you don't have brakes and your knees hurt -- consider the obvious.

What is it?

A fixed Gear Bicycle, sometimes called a 'Fix' or 'Fixer', is bicycle gearing without the ability to coast. That means that while the cranks turn the drive wheel will turn, and while the drive wheel turns the cranks will turn. Through this rigid attachment to one another, a fixed gear bicycle can be slowed by the rider's resistance to pedaling. Most fixed gear bicycles have one gear ratio, but some two-speed and three-speed internally-geared fixed hubs exist.


There are a few issues unique to fixed-gear bicycles and some that belong to singlespeed or single chainline bicycles:

  • Single Gear Ratio/Chainline
    • Difficult climbs; any realistic gear combination can encounter a slope that the rider cannot climb. The rider must then slalom or walk
    • Poor chain tension can wear parts at an accelerated rate (too tight) or lead to derailment (too loose)
  • Inability to coast
    • Spinning out on long/steep descents
    • Pedal strike; hitting a pedal on a curb results in loss of control or crash because of the momentum of the rear wheel jarring the bike and rider
    • Loose clothing can catch in the drivetrain, resulting in torn clothes, loss of control, direct or indirect injury to pilot
  • Brakeless
    • Skipping and skidding are commonly used for slowing among the brakeless, wearing the rear tire at an accelerated rate
    • Cogs not properly installed for a brakeless setup could strip the hub threads or come loose, causing loss of braking
    • Stopping distance increases approximately threefold versus a front brake only setup
  • Repair
    • Unfamiliar mechanics may find a spinning drivetrain leaves them short of fingers