2.12.2019

Should I use fixie or single speed in my fixed gear bicycle? Pro's and Con's

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I am really digging my new SXL fixed gear road bike.  The simplicity, reliability, inexpensiveness, and free excercise makes for a combo that beats any car hands down.

These new fixed gear bikes come with a choice in the included flip-flop hub.  If you install the rear wheel one way you have a single speed experience which allows the rear wheel to turn without forcing the pedals to turn.  This means you can coast while keeping the pedals stationary.  The other mode is fixed, where there is no coast mode and the pedals will keep turning as long as the bike is moving.

Certainly single-speed mode is easier, however that does not mean I recommend a beginner start with it.  The most important thing to know is that switching from single speed to fixed gear can be dangerous.  I highly suggest if you make this transition give yourself some serious practice before riding on the sude of road in traffic. 

I accidentally made the transition myself.  After getting a flat I didn't notice that I installed the rear wheel in fixed gear mode.  This made for a harrowing commute.  When I first got on the bike I almost fell over the handlebars as the pedals pushed my body forward.  I immediatly though sonething was wrong, was the bacj wheel coming off or was my seat in the wrong position? I finally realized what was actually happening.  A couple times I stopped pedaling and instantly got a jolt forward.  When I'm merging on trafuc I usually stop pedaling to look over my shoulder, this caused me to get jolted and swerve right next to traffic.  I had to constantly remind myself to NEVER stop pedaling.  One time coming up to a sidewalk ramp I took my feet entirely off the pedals so I coukd coast in.  Bad idea because I wanted to get off my bike to wait for the light to turn but soon realized if my feet were off the pedals it would be hard for me to get off, and it would have been impormssible at that point to find the spinning pedals with my feet.  So I kind of butt hopped off the seat and luckily it worked and I landed on my feet.

Will I keep it in fixed gear mode? I think so.  There are a couple negatives besides the slow start you can tell I had in the above paragraph.  For one it was 40 F outside and my shirt was sweaty when I got in to work.  This has never happened to me and I have ridden to work in the 60's before.  Usually when I am tired I coast and since I couldn't coast today I pefmdaled the whole way which probably led to me getting more sweaty.  Also getting kn and off the bike has to be done while basically pedaling so I feel this puts more stress on the bike frame, especially when starting off.  in singke speed mode I stand stationary on the pedals and push off the ground on my feet, then sit down before starting to pedal.  This keeps a minimal stress on the frame instead of launching off pedaling without sitting first.  So the frame may warp earlier.

There are also some positives.  Since I was sweatier I will conclude that fixed gear mode is a better workout.  I don't time my rigmde so I can't say if it was much faster or slower than usual, but I feel that it is more efficient in fixed gear mode.  Not having clip on bike shoes, it seems to mimic that effect by keeping the pedals moving on the upstroke and downstroke.  Also it feels like a mini flywheel attached to the wheel and since the pedals are basically fixed to the rear wheel, less energy is lost when you stop or slow pedaling with a single speed. But mabye it is more mechanically efficient but possibly less biologically efficient since you can't coast without moving your legs.  But that is good for low intensity workout.

Your brakes will last longer in fixed mode.  You can learn to slow the bike down without brakes for routine anticipated stops like stoplights.  However your gear and chain might last shorter because more stress is bieng applied to the chain.  But since brakes are disposable and are designed to wear out, its nice to not have to replace them as often.  Also you could save weight and remove them, however may want to keep at least your front brake.  and with no rear brake, it will be significantly easier to change a rear wheel flat.

Also in single speed the sprocjet thing that allows the wheel to turn independentlynof the bike will eventially wear out.  Fixed style does not have this issue and less moving parts.

So in general if you wabt to keep your bike as a heirloom and never stress the frame or gears or chain and also want the safest ride possible then may want to go single speed.  if you want less moving parts, have more direct control to the road, and have easier maintainence and more excercise, go with fixed gear.

And fixed gear is a little more exciting and fun.  I think I will stick with it.  Oh and I am getting Marathon plus tires so I will avoid flats turning this thing into the most efficient, cheapest, and most reliable transportation imaginable :).

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