A fixed gear or a single speed bike - that is the question.

At Loca Bikes we offer both, nevertheless, this blog is not about that, it is about what they both are.

I believe we shall start with a simple thing, that is defining the fixed gear and a free wheel.

So, to put it in a nutshell, we will try to explain the differences between both of them.


The fixed gear


The fixed gear bike can not be defined differently than a bicycle with a drivetrain with no free wheel mechanism. It means that the pedals can not remain stationary while the bike is in motion. A fixie (a commonly used name for a fixed gear bike) has one gear ratio, which means no derailleur.  A common track bike construction has become an alternative for the city cyclists giving them an opportunity to move around on a kind of a bike, which stands for simplicity of the bike itself as well as for the bike’s minimalistic design and  a homage to bike racing. Most fixed-gear bicycles feature only a front brake, and some have no brakes at all.


This is how a typical track cog looks like.


The rear cog is threaded to the rear hub of a fixed gear bike, which means that the front crankset is directly coupled to the rear wheel. And this is where the nub of the issue sits, and that is why one riding the fixie may say: my legs are my gears <3


Single speed’s free wheel    


Well, as you probably may deduce by now, it is a kind of drivetrain which does not directly couple the pedals with the rear wheel. That is to say, while the bike is in motion the pedals can remain stationary, which is on the contrary to the fixie. It does not have the derailleur either, therefore, it has one and universal gear ratio, which is the same as in the fixed gear.


Here it is - a typical free wheel used in a single speed bike.



Having the definitions covered, we may assume that these both types of bikes are quite alike: they both are kinds of city bikes, have no derailleur, and one gear ratio. Naturally, it must be said that riding any kind of fixie demands some training, because how you would imagine yourself on a bike without brakes for the very first time? I think it would not be fair, if I didn't say that the single speed bike is way easier to embrace - eventually, it has regular brakes, a free wheel, and your feet can remain stationary while riding the bike.


Let’s take a closer look on the advantages and disadvantages of them both. I could bullet them up, but I believe that wouldn't do. I think explaining why people go for these kinds of bikes takes a little bit more. So let’s give it a try to find some answers to this single question - why would anyone want to ride a bike with no brakes, no shifter or even sometimes no free wheel?


Personally? I am the huge fan of simplicity, so yes, I think some people go for it because of the lure of simplicity, like I do. At  Loca Bikes we love those minimalistic fixies, where the geometry is a beautifully shaped body and the painting design is the jewellery. Just take a look on this one, isn’t it a beauty?

Talking about the simplicity, we can say that maintenance of a fixie is very, very low. You have to keep the tires and drivetrain in good working order, and that’s it. For that reason precisely, bike messengers across the world use the fixed gear bicycles as their everyday tools. As funny as it gets, fixies are way less desirable for thieves - simply not every thief could make his getaway on it!


If I were to define people riding fixies in any way, I would basically divide them into those who are sport and cycling enthusiasts, and those for whom the fixie is a kind of fashion accessory, and no wonder here - some of them are really astonishing. However, a thick line must be drawn here, the majority are the people who are big cycling fans, and therefore I will focus on them.


As far as cycling enthusiasts are concerned, why do they like fixed gears? They choose to ride the fixed gear bike when thay race on velodromes, or actually, they have no choice here - they have to use it when racing on velodromes! Something can be said for how the fixie will force you to develop a smoother pedaling style since you simply cannot stop. Due to this theory, they are somewhat popular for 'off season' training even by serious road cyclists. Nothing has been said about the weight so far, and there is not really much to be said, since they are usually very light bikes, approximately 8 kg depending on the size of a frame, quality of components, etc.

As you can see there are a lot of advantages of a fixed gear. Those written above are just some of them. For me, the fixed gear stands for two things indeed, the first thing was already mentioned, i.e. the minimalistic design, and the second is this special kind of synergy with a bicycle. It is a kind of feeling that you and the bike are one, as if it was your body’s extension, and this I like. There is this direct feel of the road. Nevertheless, riding a fixie can be painful sometimes, especially when your skidding abilities are not high yet. And here we could proceed to some of drawbacks of riding a fixie.


To keep it all pragmatic, and since I am an enthusiast, I would not say there are a lot of disadvantages, however, some are undeniably problematic at the very begining of your adventure with a bike without brakes. It takes some time to learn how to pull over. There are two ways: resisting the pedal stroke or to skid, which means to stop the rear wheel completely introducing it into a slide. Objectively, skidding is not a very reasonable way to stop, because it eats your tire up. However, it looks damn cool, and in an emergency situation, this is all that can be done to stop rapidly.


To the challenges connected to braking on a fixie, we could add a fact, which may be seen by some as a disadvantage, that there is no derailleur. This means that you need to process your cycling effort more consciously, and when it comes to the fixed gear your legs can not rest, even while going down hills. So, to conclude, we can say that being a fixie rider is harder work. But isn’t it so that harder work should give better effects? ;)

 Written by: Kuba Czemarnik from Loca Bikes