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What's the deal with fixed gear bicycles?

Posted by Jon H.

I mean, really? Can someone please tell me why people ride fixed gear, so called "fixie," bicycles? I see them all over SF, and I've even ridden a few. All I can tell is that they are a lot more dangerous than other types of bicycles, and they look way cool. So, is it a matter of looks? Is it just cooler to have a fixie? Or, is there a real, substantive reason to riding such a thing?
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Hi Jon! There are a lot of reasons I can think of for folks riding fixed gear...I can at least tell you mine! First's true, fixed gear is a fad and they are cool machines - it does look pretty cool to see someone ride a fixed gear when they really know what they are doing. There are also those "wannabe" emo hipsters with their tattoos and Fall Out Boy fashion - not my bag...wankers. They usually end up blowing out their knees from trying to be too "cool" running way too steep gearing. I am a cycling purist...I ride for pure enjoyment and well as for utilitarian purposes like commuting or getting groceries for dinner; I could care less whether anyone thinks I'm cool...been riding since right after I started walking; it's in my blood. So beyond that hipster element, I will start out with the utilitarian rationales first. I live in Washington DC. The There are quite a few thieves out there who look for bikes and/or parts to steal. Obviously, with one gear there is less to steal. If you leave brakes off...even less. Another reason, especially here in DC, is the ever-changing weather. As you have ridden fixed gear before, you would have immediately noticed that when you don't pedal, you stop! This aspect of fixed gear can be very helpful on rainy or even snowy days...more control/traction if you know how to use it. Fixed gears *can* be good for training since they force you to develop smooth cadence rhythm in relation of speed of travel...just have to be careful not to start out with too strong a gearing ratio so as not to fry the knees. Aside from those more "concrete" reasons, I find fixed gear riding to be absolutely addictive - this sort of zen state is reached as one rhythmically matches cadence with revolutions of the wheel. One thing I like about having one-fixed-gear as opposed to a freewheel w/cog cartridge is there's no racket from the freewheel bearings or "catchy" gears chattering and needing frequent's like ninja mode...nobody hears you coming as you zip by...and very little maintenance to keep it running smooth. You have less opportunities for losing the chain...and never "miss" a gear...unless the chain breaks or something! The fixed gear is the ultimate machine, it draws you in and you become the machine and eventually achieve a very satisfying balance of rhythm, force and velocity.

I agree with most all of the above.

My daughter will tell you, I ain't cool, but I do loved fixies.

Why? Simplicity, cost and utility. As a long-time cycle mechanic, I never wanted to spend too much time tinkering with my own daily set of wheels. When I busted a spoke on my commuter (I was doing a 64km/ 40mi daily commute back in those far off days of youth) I chucked in a spare track wheel (oh the joys of horizontal dropouts), ditched the derailleurs, shortened the chain and became hooked.

The city is not the best place to learn fixed riding, but, oddly, that's the habitat of the urban hipster fixie crowd.

Around a 67" gear is a good starting point for going fixed. Low 70s his plenty high enough for most mortals. Those hardmen of the road and track back at the beginning of the 20th century used to windmill around on 90 plus inch gears. Whew!

The connected feel to the bike and the mechanical silence are big attractions for me too. I'm also sure that my CV fitness improves after a bout of fixed-only riding. You can't slack on a fixed, tailwind/downhill, you spin - headwind/uphill, you grind. Always working. When I hop back onto a geared bicycle, I find that I hardly ever coast - fixed teaches you to keep turning those wheels.




Okay, these are reasons, but I guarantee you, 99.9% of fixies ride just because of the fashion statement, just like they wear really tight jeans not for comfort or any possible explanation but fashion. You can sit here and go, well, there's no extra material to flap in the wind, and that just gives me some zen thing about being one with my clothes, blah, blah, blah, whatever. I used to race velodrome with fixed gears, and my coach forced me to use a fixed gear on the road to train, and that was a pain in the a** but it was to make me a better racer not allow me to get in touch with my zen side. I'd never use a fixie. Riding a bike is all about comfort, how about you take off that bike saddle and really get a zen become one with the bike experience???

The oldest and simplest type of bicycle is the "fixed-gear" bicycle. This is a single-speed bike without a freewheel; that is, whenever the bike is in motion, the pedals will go around. You cannot coast on a fixed-gear machine.

Many enthusiastic cyclists ride such bicycles by choice, at least part of the time. Why would anybody do that? It is not easy to put into words. There is an almost mystical connection between a fixed-gear cyclist and bicycle, it feels like an extension of your body to a greater extent than does a freewheel-equipped machine. If you are an enthusiastic, vigorous cyclist, you really should give it a try.

There are many reasons, including: Fun, Fitness, Form, Feel & 'Ficciency!



Fixed Rate ISA

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