What is a Fixed-Gear Bicycle, and Why Would You Want One?
*Bicycle, Bicycle,Bicycle....one of thee 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.
Track bicycle, any 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.
A fixed wheel bicycle, takes a bit of practice to become comfortable. Most cyclists, trying it for the first time, will automatically try to coast once the bike gets up to a certain speed. The bike will not allow this, and it is disconcerting. It takes a couple of weeks of regular riding to unlearn the impulse to coast, and become at ease on a fixed gear.
It is worth going through this learning experience, however, because once you do so, you will discover a new joy in cycling. When you ride a fixed gear, you feel a closer communion with your bike and with the road. There is a purity and simplicity to the fixed-gear bicycle that can be quite seductive. Somehow, once you get past the unfamiliarity, it is just more fun than riding a bike with gears and a freewheel! If you won't take my word for it, go fuck yourself!!!!
Riding a fixed gear on the road is excellent exercise. When you need to climb, you don't need to think about when to change gears, because you don't have that option. Instead, you know that you must just stand up and pedal, even though the gear is too high for maximum climbing efficiency. This makes you stronger.
If you have the option of gearing down and taking a hill at a slow pace, it is easy to yield to the temptation. When you ride a fixed gear, the need to push hard to get up the hills forces you to ride at a higher intensity than you otherwise might. Really steep hills may make you get off and walk, but the hills you are able to climb, you will climb substantially faster than you would on a geared bicycle.
When you descend, you can't coast, but the gear is too low. This forces you to pedal at a faster cadence than you would choose on a multi-speed bicycle. High-cadence pedaling improves the suppleness of you legs. High rpm's force you to learn to pedal in a smooth manner--if you don't, you will bounce up and down in the saddle.
Most cyclists coast far too much. Riding a fixed-gear bike will break this pernicious habit. Coasting breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up. Keeping your legs in motion keeps the muscles supple, and promotes good circulation.
Fixed for Feel
A track bike fixed gear gives you a very direct feel for traction conditions on slippery surfaces. This makes them particularly suitable for riding in rainy or icy conditions.
This same feel for traction will help you learn exactly how hard you can apply your front brake without quite lifting the rear off the ground. Most fixed-gear riders only use a front brake--a rear brake is quite unnecessary on a fixed-gear machine.
Because you are more solidly connected to the bike, you have better control of it in bumpy conditions or in difficult corners.
On any road bike, the rider must learn to un-weight the saddle to ride over bumps. Most cyclists coast to do this. A fixed-gear rider will learn to "post" over bumps without breaking stride.
Fixed for Efficiency
A fixed wheel fixed-gear bike is considerably lighter than a multi-speed bike of comparable quality, due to the absence of the rear brake, derailers, shift levers, and extra sprockets. A fixed-gear bike also has a substantially shorter chain.
A properly set-up fixed gear has a perfectly straight chainline. This, plus the absence of derailer pulleys, makes a real improvement in the drive-train efficiency, an improvement you can feel.
Many fixed cogany people think of fixed-gear bikes and track bikes as synonymous, but they aren't
Track bicycles are designed for use on velodromes (bicycle tracks). Some riders do ride them on the road, but they are less than ideal for road use.
Track bicycles are set apart from road bicycles by more than the fact that they have a fixed gear.
Track bicycles do not have brakes. Brakes are un-necessary on tracks, since everybody is moving in the same direction, and none of the other bikes you are riding with can stop any faster than you can. (Most tracks forbid the use of bikes that have brakes, as a safety measure!)
It is possible to fit a brake to some track bikes, but it is often quite difficult, due to the extremely tight frame clearances. Extremely short-reach brakes are needed. Track bike fork blades are usually round instead of oval, as those of a road bike are. This makes them stiffer and more rigid laterally, a good thing for hard out-of-the-saddle sprinting, which can apply considerable side loads. Unfortunately, they are less rigid front-to-back, so if you fit a brake, the fork may flex objectionably when the brake is applied.
The frame geometry of a track bike is also different from that of a road bike. Since tracks don't have bumps or potholes, they are built stiffer, with more upright frame angles. This is good for maneuverability, but causes them to ride harshly on real-world pavement.
In addition, track bikes have very tight tire clearance, since there is no reason to use any but the narrowest tires on the track. This can limit your choices for on-road use.
Track bikes don't have quick-release wheels, making it harder to fix a flat on the road.
Track bikes don't permit the mounting of fenders, limiting their usefulness in sloppy conditions.
Some riders do prefer to ride track bikes on the road, especially those who are or were into track racing, and have become used to the feel of a track bike. Track bike riding has attained cult status in New York City, in particular.
If you're interested in track racing, check out Mike Gladu's "The 'drome" site
Fixed-Gear Road Bicycles
Despite the coolness factor of true track bikes, a fixed-gear road bicycle is what I would recommend for the road cyclist in search of the benefits of fixed-gear riding.
This would typically be an older road bike, modified into a fixed-gear machine. Most older "ten-speeds" are good candidates for this sort of modification.
These bikes have the appropriate geometry for comfortable road riding, come with brakes, quick-release wheels, fender clearance, sometimes even water-bottle braze-ons.
You could buy a ready-made fixed-gear road bike, but I have a detailed article on Fixed Gear Conversions that will help you build your own.
*Most of this is written by Sheldon Brown. The rest is by OneLesCar
3 days ago