Riding fixed for the first time

Fixed gear bicycle

I recently bought myself a second hand fixed gear bike, from the LFGSS forums. My aim was to try out fixed gear riding around London.

The steep learning curve

Fixed gear bikes are different from the freewheel bikes most of us are used to. Put quite simply, if you stop pedalling on a normal freewheel bike, the bike will continue to move forward. On a fixed bike if you stop pedalling abruptly then the back wheel will stop spinning. If you are travelling at speed then you are likely to skid or, worse, be thrown off the handlebars.

As you can imagine, this gives the bike a bit of a learning curve. Especially, going around corners and pedalling down hills.

The first challenge

When cycling I always start pedalling by spinning the pedals into the correct position. With the right leg ready to push down and go. However, on a fixed gear bike if you spin the pedals backwards you’ll move the bike back. Therefore, you end up using one of two alternatively strategies.

The first is to simply lift the back wheel off the ground from the seat and spin the pedals. This isn’t very practical but I found myself doing it quite often. Alternatively, it comes down to timing. You have to stop the bike when the crank is in the correct position. This is tough to do. (Those with fixed gear riding experience: am I missing anything here?)

This makes coming to a full stop tough on a fixie bike as you know starting again will be a bit of a pain. I can see now why it is so important to master the track stand on a fixed gear bike. This is one thing that after riding for a while I’ve still not got the hang of.

Climbing a hill without gears

Whenever you tell someone you ride a fixed gear bike they may well retort “that must be terrible uphill”. However, things aren’t quite that simple. I found riding fixed on a short hill (just under a mile) no harder on a fixie bike than it is on a bike with gears. I might venture as far as saying that it is easier. I don’t know what it is about being connected to the back wheel or perhaps the fact that you know you have no gears so you just hunker down and get on with the job at hand. I have no doubt that on serious inclines however, gears will always win.

Going around corners

Feeling the speed as you pedal around a corner at speed is a part of cycling I thoroughly enjoy. This manoeuvre on a fixed gear requires a little more thought. You can’t stop pedalling so you have to give yourself more room for the manoeuvre and slow things down a little. None the less, this once again is something you get use to after a few rides.

Going downhill at speed

Like a child taking their first few steps I was cautious when going down the first hill. I had heard you had to “pedal backwards” if you wanted to slow the pace by resisting the downward pull of the hill. In practise this didn’t feel particularly comfortable or easy to do.

Another thing you notice with fixed riders is they spin the pedals like they are taking part in a spinning class and rushing to the finish. However, having a high gear ratio meant I didn’t really have to do this.

The fun factor

Riding fixed for the first time was a little like when you first hop on a bike. There’s an excitement in discovering a new part of the cycling world. One that is as challenging as it is rewarding. The simplicity and the style of control that you have over the bike is, in one word, fun.

I found myself wanting to try it again, learn more and get better at it. The only thing that was putting me off was the seeming lack of practicality. However, I’m sure with practise, my thoughts on fixed gear will change again. 

What’s next?

The converted Raleigh fixed gear bike that I purchased comes with a double fixed hub. The next step is to switch it over to a flip-flop hub so that I can pick between fixed and single speed. The difference being that with a single speed you can freewheel. I’ve already purchased a new rear wheel that has the flip-flop hub and I need to follow that up with a new set of brakes.

I’m interested to hear from other people’s fixed gear experiences, especially surrounding the parts I found difficult and the parts I found incredibly fun. Leave a comment below.

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63 Responses to Riding fixed for the first time

  1. Nick 13/07/2011 at 10:10 am #

    Having been a fixed rider for a few years there are a ton of things I can recommend. The track stand isn’t important and I personally find it a waste of precious energy, I see stopping at the lights as the chance for a break from riding and don’t see the benefits of pulling away faster from a standing stop or a track stand stop.

    The most important thing I have found though is chain tension… above all you should look after the chain the most as it’s your main driving force and more importantly breaking force… I use a KMC 710SL because it’s tough as nails and doesn’t stretch much (12 months and little stretch)… You can buy cheaper but you will be buying often. I see your bike has a road bike chain tensioner… I don’t think this is very safe as you should always have tension in the chain, and you can’t really do that with this kind of drop out, you will see with most dedicated track/fixed bikes they have drop outs which allows you to change that tension (extending the life of the chain). Any slack in that chain and it just takes a sharp jolt in the road and the chain can pop off (from experience and a nasty road injury from it).

    Riding fixed is awesome though, you start to really read the road a lot better and you start to flow, but I will say one thing… It’s hell on the knees.

    • Andreas 13/07/2011 at 2:31 pm #

      I must admit I do like my fast starts from the traffic lights plus challenge of track standing.

      Agreed that a better chain is a worthy upgrade – I believe this bike is fitted with KMC but would have to check.

      Thanks for tips: re tentioner

  2. Graham Ashton 13/07/2011 at 10:19 am #

    To rotate the cranks when stationery, put one foot on a pedal while the other is on the ground. Put your front brake on and push forwards on the bars – the rear wheel will lift and you can rotate the cranks with your foot. Works a treat unless you’ve got a lot of weight on the back of the bike.

    • Andreas 13/07/2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Will try next time – thanks Graham!

    • Woody 15/07/2011 at 11:07 am #

      I often do that with my geared bike. I shift down a couple of gears as I come to a traffic light – lift the rear wheel by leaning forwards, give the crank a turn to check the chain has shifted gear fully (because rotating the cranks backwards on a half gear change will derail my chain).

  3. Graham Ashton 13/07/2011 at 10:20 am #

    When stationery? What on earth am I talking about – you’re not an envelope!

    • Ash Grahams 25/11/2013 at 11:08 am #

      You replied to the wrong post. Who looks stupid now?

  4. Chris 13/07/2011 at 10:39 am #

    You don’t need a flip flop hub to run a freewheel. You can put a freewheel on a track hub – you just can’t run fixed on the ‘wrong’ side of a flip flop because you need a reverse threaded lockring.

    • Andreas 13/07/2011 at 2:27 pm #

      Yep, but I’d need to re-thread?

  5. whitey 13/07/2011 at 10:43 am #

    I think your next step should be a tight jeans rather than new wheel ;-), good luck anyway!

  6. Gabe 13/07/2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Since you pedal round corners, does that mean you can’t take corners as steeply/fast? (you’ll hit the road on the down stroke?)

    • Nick 13/07/2011 at 1:23 pm #

      Pedal strike isn’t that common, and I have yet to see anyone bail out due to it… I’ve hit curbs before the road.

      • Andreas 13/07/2011 at 2:28 pm #

        I’ve found it a little slower around corners – I’d put that down to me being cautious and not very good at it yet!

        • Nick 14/07/2011 at 10:03 am #

          Check out the guys on Mash SF http://mashsf.com/ granted blatant disregard for traffic laws and probably a lot of tumbles and unwanted road rash… but going down hill and around corners at speed on a fixed hub is possible.

        • Gabe 14/07/2011 at 11:50 am #

          Thanks Nick. Looks like a laugh. Sort of the roadie equivalent of skate vid or surf vid.

          Another noob question — what about bunny-hops and generally going over stuff. Is that viable?

        • Nick 14/07/2011 at 5:27 pm #

          @Gabe bunny-hops and kerb bouncing is possible, but I wouldn’t do it on a standard 700c wheel… they tend to buckle if you land to heavy… you can get stronger wheel rims which can handle a lot more abuse than the standard rims, they’re a little heavier but I have not noticed any difference in speed. I personally go for the Velocity Rims (deep v on the front and a B43 on the back), but H+sons also do a mean selection and if you’re going budget, then charge and halo do good alternatives (although I cannot say how strong they are).

          Saying that I wouldn’t attempt any tricks on an Alu or Carbon frame… could be costly…

  7. Simon Wilcox 13/07/2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Call me a curmudgeonly old git but I fail to see the benefit of a fixed hub for riding around town. Like sharks have to keep swimming, fixies have to keep pedalling and like sharks, fixies are interesting from a distance but bloody dangerous close up.

    Just last night I was driving along (with masses of shopping hence not on my bike) and gave my customary wide berth to a cyclist. A hundred yards down the road I pull up to a pedestrian crossing only to watch the twat on a fixie catch up to us and then just swerve in and out of the people crossing. I completely understand why some drivers and pedestrians get so annoyed with certain types of cyclists.

    OK, so there are twats on all kinds of bikes ruining it for the rest of us but it seems to me that the fixie imbues a certain sense of ‘keep moving forwards’ that almost encourages that kind of behaviour.

    So, what exactly is the benefit of a fixie over gears for riding around town ?

    • Nick 13/07/2011 at 4:45 pm #

      I didn’t see the benefit until I started riding fixed, my main reason for moving from gears to track was it was costing me a fortune in the maintenance and a track bike had little to go wrong on it, and I had all the tools to sort out a track bike. Yes, in the wrong hands a track bike is bloody dangerous, and I see people riding freewheel with no back brake, which is deadly seeing as they don’t tend to look after that front brake to well either. But there are some other advantages to fixed, you do become more one with the road (not in an accident way).

      I do have to agree with you on the twat on a fixie… usually you can spot them… skinny fit jeans, retro sunglasses and a sash/courier (never seen a courier with one though) bag. There are always going to be twats ruining it for the rest of us.

    • Louise 14/07/2011 at 9:51 am #

      It’s also dangerous at the traffic lights (gone green of course) when you are stuck behind a fixie waiting for them to sort themselves out and GO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO, I’ve got fifty million cyclists up my backside and all of rush hour traffic at Vauxhall.
      While I applaud their sense of adventure, fitness levels, and expertise perhaps the amateurs should avoid riding during peak times?

      • Pete 14/07/2011 at 9:20 pm #

        I would have to say my experience is the complete opposite. When I am at the lights I also get pushed past by cyclists on geared bikes only to get stuck behind them while they try and figure out what gear they should be in. This is probably more a reflextion on the type of person than the bike.

        I do have a few other bikes I just find commuting on a fixie so much easier, far less to worry about. I dont have skinny jeans and I ride my fixie with a pannier :-)

  8. Emma 13/07/2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I’ve not felt the need to flip the hub to make my Pearson Touche fixed as I like freewheeling too much! I agree that cycling up hill without gears is almost easier so long as it’s not too steep! Good to read your novice experience, though, Andreas, doesn’t make me want ot ride fixed though ;-)

  9. skidmike 13/07/2011 at 3:32 pm #

    About a year ago I was a fixed newbie – I salvaged a trashed frame to do up and decided to build a fixie and find out what all the fuss was about. It felt dead strange at first, but once I’d remembered not to try freewheeling (thus avoiding the sensation of having hips rammed into armpits!) I started to get to grips with it.
    A year on I rarely ride anything else around town. It’s lightweight, low maintenance, fun and feels fast, though I can’t be sure if that’s just psychological. I think it’s also improved my roadcraft. I’ve yet to strike a pedal on a corner, I don’t believe anyone who says they can slow down just as well using only the pedals and, though I did fit a flip-flop hub, I’ve never yet resorted to the freewheel side. I still find downhills tougher than climbs and for serious hills, in either direction, I still go for something geared, but I’d recommend every cyclist should give fixed a try.

  10. Steve 13/07/2011 at 3:50 pm #

    The hill bit just makes me think you weren’t using your gears properly on your old bike, try a different gear next time. ;)

    I’ll go with my instincts and keep away from fixies, staying alive on some London streets is hard enough without the hassle of extra manoeuvres for positioning my pedals or having to keep them moving.

  11. keithouli 13/07/2011 at 5:48 pm #

    they did a fixed wheel ride on Gadget show, with cleats, (not a good idea) Check it out online

    • melipone 16/07/2011 at 12:57 am #

      Out of interest, what’s the problem with the cleats and fixed combo? Cleats/clips would seem the ideal way to gain better control over the rear wheel.

      • Peter 16/07/2011 at 2:11 am #

        Wow, this has turned into one fiery topic, shouldn’t it just be about getting out and riding the bike whatever it might be

        @melipone, I ride my fixed gear bike with mtb style cleats and have never had an issue. I actually have more trouble when I am on the road bike and the single sided pedals than when riding the fixed.

        I have been riding with clipless pedals for quite a while so when ever I am in danger it is second nature to unclip. The only time I dont ride with clipless pedals is on the Boris Bikes and my feet were forever slipping off.

        Then there are those silly toeclips, I find them really dangerous because instead of concentrating on the road and traffic you get people looking down trying to get their feet in. Then when it comes to make an emergency dismount the only way to get you feet out is to pull your feet back. A death trap if you ask me :-)

  12. idavid 13/07/2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Lower maintenance? Like I spend half my weekend adjusting derailleurs?

    Fixies may be great on the track but they’re a ridiculous choice for average Joe riding in traffic. Thanks for confirming my prejudices, Andreas.

    • daloriana 15/07/2011 at 9:34 am #

      I think the point was that your rear derailleur will need more maintenance than not having one at all.

      Your average Joe might rate low maintenance as important, but then again, maybe not. Howzabout letting everyone ride what they like?

      Nice prejudices, thanks for sharing them with us all!

  13. Cycling For Beginners 13/07/2011 at 7:48 pm #

    I’ve done some fixed riding, but it was a bit hard on my knees, and honestly coasting can be both fun and handy down hills. I have started to really enjoy single speed bikes, and do agree that for limited hill climbing a single speed bike just seems simpler — I’ve also started to enjoy standing to climb more.

    Best,
    Rob

  14. jim-pob 14/07/2011 at 1:52 am #

    fixies are fur fun and posing. Anything more than 4-5 miles and gears are faster. Saying that, I still do 60-70 mile rides on my single speed (usually freewheel) just because it’s my favourite bike

    it’s not all about logic

    • Rob 15/07/2011 at 12:35 pm #

      @jim-pob – I don’t think geared is necessarily quicker in traffic? In fact, I think that’s the point – the difference is negligible and hence there is an argument to say fixed is a better town ride. I commute 18miles a day on mine and am at the stage now where I can get from Canonbury (N1) to Hammersmith (W6) in 30mins. That’s averaging 18mph and obeying all road rules.

      I find I like the challenge of riding on the fixed gear, I run 46/15 which is not really a town setting but I’ve found my leg strength has improved loads from having to hack up inclines whilst still getting a good speed on a down slope.

      Generally, there will always be people who don’t respect other road users. I find the majority of cars/trucks do know you’re there and will happily accomodate you, likewise, the majority of cyclists are courteous and respect the laws. As always, the minority will create the reputation.

      Bottom line(as jim-pob states about logic)), get on your bike and enjoy yourself :)

  15. Pete 14/07/2011 at 2:13 am #

    I had been riding a singlespeed through London almost every day for the last 4 years and always looked at the fixies with a mix of interest and madness. I love the singlespeed for the fact that it is easier to maintain and, compared to where I grew up in NZ, London is flat so you can get away without gears.

    Recently I have moved back to NZ (Wellington) and had to replace my back wheel, after 4 years of good service it was finally starting to go. I decided to go with a flip-flop hub and run a fixed gear and a freewheel. I am now a fixed gear convert for commuting it is so much fun and hardly ever run the freewheel side.

    It took a while to get used to the downhill and I can usually find not so steep roads to get around most of the city. Like in London my commute is about 40 km a day, much longer and I think I would start to struggle.

    I had the same opinion of some posters that I didn’t think my knees would hold out but if geared right you can get a right balance for the flat and the hills. I also run my bike with full brakes and use panniers to truck my gear. Those hipsters on fixies with no brakes are just nuts!!

    Here is an video of one of the ways I ride to work on the fixie: http://youtu.be/ZSNvDDA-ACo (I ride back a much flatter option)

    Andreas, you should persevere with the fixie, they are lots of fun once you get used to it.

  16. Phil 14/07/2011 at 11:15 am #

    Half the pleasure in cycling ( for me ) is in freewheeling, especially downhill. I am riding singlespeed which is just right for pootling. More gears would help on inclines, but where it is too steep I get off and push rather than make my knees worse. Personally I think fixies should have stayed on the track; brakes were invented for a good reason, and the fixed riders I have so far encountered were ( with one exception ) pretentious knobhead fashion victims.

  17. Tache Ovale 14/07/2011 at 12:59 pm #

    While I mix the bikes up, I find I enjoy riding singlespeed (fixed isn’t enough of a habit yet to require no extra throught!) more on my commute (about 15 miles each way, London, some inclines)… I don’t spend any time thinking I’d be doing better in another gear or faffing about changing gears… that leaves more time to be aware of what’s going on around me…

  18. Fritz 15/07/2011 at 11:05 am #

    I have no problem with fixies…not my cup of tea personally but yeah. It’s the Tour De France wannabes on the road bikes and head to toe lycra that get up my nose.

  19. Joe 15/07/2011 at 11:10 am #

    I agree with the all the comments regarding fashion victim ‘Fixie’ riders (i don’t know a single good fixed gear rider who would refer to his bike using that term BTW), they are often unskilled dangerous and give fixed gear riding a bad name. An easy way to spot them is often their lack of toe-clips or brakes – a lethal combination.

    I have been riding fixed for several years and once you get over the steep initial learning curve for city riding in my opinion it is unbeatable. There is a very good reason why the vast majority of couriers ride fixed. However it does demand an additional set of skills to ‘normal’ cycling (track standing and controlled skidding are essential) to do it well. I do wonder how many cyclists who bitch about fixed gear bikes have actually ridden one?

    • AdamS 15/07/2011 at 11:33 am #

      I have not ridden one and yes I do bitch about them because certain ‘Fixie’ riders try to turn cycling into some kind of fashion statement which irritates me.

      I cannot understand why anyone would want to ride something that was outdated shortly after the penny farthing or is designed for going round a track, and I’m still none the wiser after reading these comments.

      All this nonsense about low maintenace – unless you ride thousands of miles in a year it’s not going to make much difference. And ‘reading the road’ and ‘flowing’ – is that not possible on a normal bike?

      if you want more of a challenge them try cycling with a saucepan on your head, or possibly BMXing or mountain biking. Singlespeed I can understand a bit more but no-one can tell me it’s more efficient and by the way did you know that it is also achievable by simply not changing gears?

      Anyway just having a rant for the fun of it though…each to their own.

  20. AdamS 15/07/2011 at 11:35 am #

    By the way Joe, what is the very good reason why the vast majority of couriers ride fixed? is it because they consider themselves somehow superior to us normal riders?

    • Rob 15/07/2011 at 1:07 pm #

      on the fizz last night Adam? Also liking the “I have not ridden one but….” tirade.

      I ride 5000+miles a year, does that qualify me in your uneducated opinion?

      The reasons couriers ride fixed is that they generally flow with the town traffic controlling spped with their legs. This puts less wear on the smaller replacable parts of a bike eg, cables, pads, gearing etc. This means that their livlihood needs but a simple clean most weeks and the occasional tweak on the tension of the chain. Parts that wear and need replacing are kept to an absolute minimum and a fairly low gear ratio will allow you to ride anywhere in town with little fuss. I will also mention a fitness improvement as well (up hills = work hard, down hills = spinning – you know that shit that people pay £60/month to go and do indoors? Legs turning constantly. etc) but I’m pretty sure you’re not the type to be receptive to other people’s thoughts and opinions on fixed gear unless in line with your own. A shame, I’m sure if you gave it a go (FG not SS) then you would come to appreciate the style of riding.

      • AdamS 15/07/2011 at 4:43 pm #

        Thanks for the education Rob. You clearly know much more about bikes than I do, seeing as you cycle such long distances and all that.

        I will now grudgingly permit cycle couriers to ride fixed gear bike, however I will still campaign against the Bethnal Green types who ponce around with their tight jeans and beards and bear bellies pretending they’re the ultimate in cyclo cool.

        • Phil Russell 16/07/2011 at 2:17 am #

          Well, Adam, I get the distinct impression you don’t much like other cyclists, unless they dress, ride, and think the way you do. As a junior clubbie, I sometimes rode fixed-wheel in the winter (please forgive me), because it gives you a very controllable rear brake in slippery conditions, and a noticable saving in weight (shorter chain, no rear mech, cables, levers etc), and just the one cog instead of six—–and the other good reason is it’s fun, and makes a change.
          Oh, and I rode in racing shorts and a tight t-shirt, with ultra-light Italian track-racing shoes, while perched on an Italian plastic racing saddle with just the right amount of give in it to afford me the most comfortable ride of my long cycling life….so you see, Adam, it’s all about the right clothing and equipment for the job.
          After all, you wouldn’t go horse-riding in yer skiing kit, or swimming in yer 10-pin bowling threadz, would you? Hmmm…maybe you would.
          P.R.

      • AdamS 15/07/2011 at 4:47 pm #

        Oh and while I swig another can of special brew I should mention that I have yet to find a bike that will allow you to strength train things other than your legs.

        Have you now calmed down as well or are you still feeling insulted by my Friday ramblings?

        • Andreas 16/07/2011 at 9:16 am #

          Guys let’s not throw the toys out the pram here – keep things friendly!

  21. Joe 15/07/2011 at 12:02 pm #

    I agree each to their own, don’t rely on other peoples opinions go into your LBS and try one or borrow a friends. If you enjoy buy one and if you don’t don’t, at least you will have first hand experience.

    From what i understand there are a couple of reasons why some couriers choose to ride fixed, there are probably more but you would have to ask one of them!

    – Track bikes are designed to go fast over short flat distances, most cites are relatively flat and couriers need to be fast.

    – City riding involves a lot of stopping and starting and track standing on a fixed gear is easier that on a geared bike. Once you master this you can effectively eliminate then need for you feet to touch the ground and be able to go from faster from a standing start.

    – You can control the bike with your feet, allowing you to make more precise movements (backwards and forwards) as well as leaving you hands feel to use walkie-talkie / mobile phone if you really need to.

    And yeah they probably superior cyclists compared to the average cyclist (including myself) after all they do spend all day everyday on their bikes.

    • Andreas 16/07/2011 at 9:14 am #

      Joe – a well considered answer. Thanks for taking the time to post that up. You put it well and a good reminder that fixed bikes may not be for all

  22. Rory 15/07/2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Gears are good. I am not ever accused of being super fit yet I burn everyone off the lights. because I slide through the gears (on my faithful old iron bedstead bike). Downside is I chew though gears and need new sets about once a year. But this is not high cost in time or pennies to keep me on the road. Fixies tend to hold me up and also they need more side-wiggle-room to accelerate which makes them a bigger target for the worse drivers out there.

    • Rob 15/07/2011 at 1:35 pm #

      I borrowed a Ford KA rallye once, it had seven gears and could accelarate like nothing I’ve ever driven. Got to 64mph and that was it…. got in the way of every fucker having stormed to the front on the roads. Everyone behind was well pissed off. But that’s gears for you ;o)

      • AdamS 15/07/2011 at 4:48 pm #

        Yes funny that I hear that even Formula One cars have gears now. Technology has come a long way.

  23. emma 16/07/2011 at 7:37 am #

    Slightly OT – I cycled in the West End last night – I admire any of you who do it regularly! I don’t generally have problems with cabbies and bus drivers but now I can see why cyclists rant. I lost count how many time cabbies pulled out in front of me or suddenly stopped without signalling to let a passenger out. I nearly rear-ended 2.

    Back OT – As a 26 mile per day commuter cyclist riding a single speed from Croydon to Shepherds Bush – Selhurst Park being the most hilly, Wandsworth Underpass going south can be tough sometimes – I see all kinds of cyclists, some good, some bad and it makes no difference what kind of bike they’re riding. You can tell the fixies riders who have been riding one for a long time. They tend to be lycra clad and just glide through the traffic and I admire those guys – sorry, haven’t seen many women on fixed. Single speed (and fixed if that’s your inclination) are great for (most of) London because it’s relatively flat. And you know those occasions where you suddenly have to stop? (and let’s face it in rush hour traffic it happens a lot.) There’s no thinking **** I’m in the wrong gear to get going again with singlespeed/fixed. I want to cycle at Box Hill sometime this summer – I need gears for that – so I won’t be riding my lovely Pearson Touche I’ll give it a go on my Specialized Sirrus. Oh, and there’s still no-one here who has made me wonder what might happen if I flip the hub on my bike but maybe now if anyone was to say “try my fixed” I just might give it a go.
    Happy cycling everyone – well, maybe not today as it’s raining ffs.

  24. Sonnenblume 17/07/2011 at 7:16 pm #

    I recently went back to single-speed riding after a spell with a fixed wheel. Although there were many things I loved about it, it was just too much of a pain in the a*se in heavy London traffic – especially when riding on the inside. I missed being able to freewheel with my pedal above the kerb as I skirted past stopped cars. Factor in being clipped in and having to make sudden stops, and there were just too many things to think about!

    Perhaps if I could master doing a track stand, I would go back to fixed wheel.

  25. Chris 18/07/2011 at 10:23 am #

    I’ve been fixed for years now (11-mile commute each way) and it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a strength, fitness and endurance thing. I’ve ridden about 100 miles this year with gears and over 2000 with only one … and I just dance up the hills that I would previously, if not struggle with, but might have taken more time.

    Fixed forces you to think about other things – your speed, obstacles and other people’s intentions. You slow down for junctions sooner, you consider your road position, you do worry about kerbs on the inside of queues and potentially slippery manhole covers.

    But you can stop much more quickly – legs and way more efficient than brakes.

    I try to roll to a stop rather than track stand, better still to roll slowly and not actually stop – but if I can’t stop with the pedal at the right point in the cycle, then apply the front brake, shift your weight forward, and just spin the back wheel. Or perhaps practice going off on the wrong foot … go on, be a southpaw :)

    I remember that same feeling though, the first time on a fixie. The feeling of connection to the road, the wholeness of the effort. And now it’s the feeling of never having looked back.

    Gears are for those who can’t decide. Fixed are for those with bigger things to worry about …

  26. Henk 18/07/2011 at 3:51 pm #

    A “doortrapfiets”. I thought we’d seen the last of those the other side of the second world war. But now they are the height of fashion? I look forward to trying one almost as much as trying my wife’s 3inch stilettos.
    Fixies are yet another fashion item, crowding sensible bikes out of shops. Between bicycle fashion and cycling sport It is well-nigh impossible to get a practical sit-up-and-beg bicycle. The nearest, readily obtainable bike is a hybrid, but this still has the mountain-bike geometry that throws your weight forward onto your wrists and the wretched straight handle bars that twist your wrists in impossible positions. No way to go shopping.
    Amsterdam police dub fixies “kamikaze bikes” and point out that they are not street legal in The Netherlands. I doubt they are legal in the UK.
    Yes, yes, alright already. I shouldn’t judge what I haven’t tried. But as one who would like to see more people on more bicycles making more useful journeys, I can’t help feeling the fixie is at best a distraction and at worst off-putting to the majority of potential cyclists out there.

  27. Craig 18/07/2011 at 7:59 pm #

    “The first is to simply lift the back wheel off the ground from the seat and spin the pedals. This isn’t very practical but I found myself doing it quite often. Alternatively, it comes down to timing. You have to stop the bike when the crank is in the correct position. This is tough to do. (Those with fixed gear riding experience: am I missing anything here?)” Yes you are – you start with a left leg push. I have a MTB mate who can’t “ride” round right hand bends because he hasn’t trained himself to use his left.

    Then again, well done Andreas I hope you have fun with the fixie build. My first restoration was my Grandad’s fixie. I spray painted it silver and it came with a Sturmley Archer 3 speed fixed hub. Sadly, trashed when a car decided to pull out of a side road into the side of me when I was travelling home from school.

  28. Filippo Erik Negroni 21/07/2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I have recently started to commute into London every day, a 32 mile round trip journey.
    I use the same bike as I did when I was commuting on Berkshire back roads: an MTB turned hybrid with panniers and mudguards.
    One thing I know for sure is that I commute mainly during or just before rush hour It could be that the cyclists I meet on my commute are not particularly fit, but to me it seems most cyclists still need to get to grips with how gears on a bike work.
    Fixie/SS riders are just useless: they speed up very slowly (they probably think they are fast….) especially from a standstill, and they eventually reach terminal velocity when I am just about at cruising speed.
    Off the lights, most cyclists don’t downshift in time, and end up in the wrong gear. Most don’t know how to downshift at slow speeds so just end up wobbling all over the place. This is *especially* true of SS/Fixie riders who have a tendency to trackstand, past the ASL, sometimes just about in the middle of the junction, only to be annihilated by me setting off when the lights change, from way back behind all the ‘gotta get to the front’ riders.
    In fact, I now make it a sort of personal spin on the whole ‘SCR’ theme: I usually end up overtaking those who stop past the ASL, still creeping into the junction, before they even make it to the lights opposite. The ones who don’t stop at the red I usually just go past shortly afterwards anyway.
    Moral of the story is that if you find your speed without gears the same as with gears, IMHO you must learn to use those gears.
    In club rides, I am usually changing gears at least twice as frequently as anyone else. And I have never has gear or wear issues on any of my bikes.

  29. Eddie 23/07/2011 at 10:55 pm #

    I don’t ride fixie but am quite tempted to try it. I read an interesting article in Cycling Active magazine a few months back about it and they featured Herne Hill Velodrome where you can do beginner track sessions (and borrow their fixie loan bikes). They’ve closed for resurfacing until September but I will definitely be giving it a go when they reopen.

    So if you like me have been curious about riding fixed this could be a great way to try it out (and learn about track cycling).

    Eddie.

  30. Bike Hire Brisbane 04/08/2011 at 6:27 am #

    I own 8 bikes in total and 2 of them are fixed gear bikes. I love them. Each bike design offers something different and each should be enjoyed for what it brings the rider. In the case of a fixed gear bike it is for the ‘purist’. Man and machine combined :) Ride !

  31. jamie 04/08/2011 at 4:54 pm #

    fixed bikes are perfectly legal – the lack of freewheel on the back wheel would constitute the rear brake.

    ive done thousands of miles on fixed bikes across london, not in tight jeans i hasten to add, and for me its about fitness and feel.

    the fitness – you cant freewhell after finiishing a climb. this means you spin your legs out – its much better for you.

    feel wise, the spin going down the hill makes you acutely aware of how you should pedal – you drive the wheel, the wheel drives your legs.

    im a much faster cyclist and athlete as a result of riding a fixed. i gain fitness and suplesse.

    to end, a quote…

    “I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft… As for me, give me a fixed gear!”
    Henri Desgrange

    :)

  32. chris rojas 10/12/2011 at 5:21 pm #

    fixie fixie fixe fixie fixie……..you got a pretty nice one,and you should come ride with me one day and my fixie crew i could teach you some new tricks and the wonders of roads

  33. Full-Time Fixie 08/07/2012 at 10:41 am #

    Hi there.

    Was good to read your article. I recently went to London on my Fixed Gear (which has breaks) and watched the bike messengers comfortably coming to a stop without breaks, track standing at the lights. It all looked very cool but beyond my current skills. I don’t think you need to know all those tricks to enjoy riding a Fixed Gear though. Best of luck.

  34. sarah 27/09/2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I love riding fixed and have two fixed bikes. Here’s my two cents for what they’re worth.

    Re; pedal position if you have a right/front break just squeeze it when stationary and push the bike forward slightly enabling the back wheel to lift so you can push the pedals forward (or back whichever is easiest) until it is in the desired position. Hope that makes sense.

    Re; going round corners, I have nearly had lots of accidents getting my pedals too close and hitting the ground whilst taking a corner.

    I wish I could track stand but I am too ashamed to take the learning curve in public.

  35. Jordan 25/03/2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Take a look at Quella’s ‘4 Reasons to Ride Fixed’ for why people are raving about the fixed gear bike.

    http://quellabicycle.com/blog/4-Reasons-to-Ride-Fixed-Gear/

  36. Karl 08/08/2013 at 10:37 am #

    I too recently bought a fixie and first thoughts were fun. I took it on a longer ride over last weekend and when I became tired my brain was telling me I had to stop pedalling. This sent me a little crazy for a while as I know what I had to do but I couldn’t engage my brain to keep pedalling especially down hill. I felt like an inexperienced child learning to ride for the first time but I just couldn’t help it. I pulled over to stop and gather my thoughts and just twiddled home feathering the brake on down hill sections. It was surreal..!

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