Why ride a fixie?
There are as many answers as there are fixie riders.
From the fearless brakeless riders who get a more intimate connection with the road to the casual fixed gear commuter who prefers the convenience of less maintenance, there’s a reason to ride fixed for everyone.
Regardless why you want to switch to fixed, there are some common advantages – and disadvantages – to one of the coolest types of bikes around.
Let’s start with a brief run-down of what a fixie is before moving on to some reasons why people ride fixies and how to get started with this riding style.
Finally, we’ll look at the appeals of more niche fixed gear communities.
What Is A Fixie, Anyway?
A fixie, or fixed gear bike if slang isn’t your thing, can be any type of bike which uses a gear which is fixed to the rear hub.
Unlike any other bike, the rear gear on a fixie is fixed firmly to the rear wheel. If the pedals turn, the wheel turns. No coasting, ever.
Most bikes have “cassettes” which allow the rider to coast when they’re not pedalling.
Cassettes are the gears attached to the back wheel. These gears engage the wheel when you pedal but let the wheel roll freely when you don’t. Hence the term “freewheel.”
That’s the mechanism that lets you coast.
You can also switch the chain between the sprockets on your cassette with a derailleur. That’s how you change gears to make it easier or harder to pedal.
So why would you ever choose to give up coasting and deny yourself that break from pedalling? Why choose to work with only a single gear?
Utility & Maintenance
When it comes to convenience it doesn’t get any better than the fixie. You can often ride for years without taking it to the shop for maintenance.
Fixies are dead simple. Fewer parts means fewer things that can go wrong. Mechanical systems inevitably fail, so the fewer systems means a far lower chance of needing to replace parts.
Fixed gears can handle any riding styles. Many casual riders love fixies for this reason.
You can tool around town, commute to work, and even go on longer rides or small tours. The fixie won’t perform as well as a bike purpose-built for each individual setting, but you can count on a fixie for an enjoyable ride.
The simplicity of a fixie means more than low maintenance. It also means a lower weight.
Fewer metal components means fewer pounds to push up a hill. These bike parts might not weigh much individually, but the weight adds up pretty quickly.
A bike with disk brakes & derailleurs can feel downright heavy next to a feather-light fixie with just the basics.
The Simplicity of The Fixie
Some people don’t want to build their endurance. They don’t want to mess with gears and shifters. Some people just want a hassle-free ride. Get on, go.
Fixies let you do that.
Try not to roll your eyes, but many fixie riders find a deeper connection with their bikes and the road when they ride fixed.
The direct connection with the road and control over the speed really engages fixie riders. It really requires all 5 senses. For many riders, that exhilaration is a welcome addition to the already joyous act of cycling.
The fixie makes you feel free. It’s that intense concentration, that complete focus on the moment that makes you feel like the fastest thing in the city.
The fixie forces you leave your comfort zone while you’re zipping past cars and people stuck in traffic.
Whatever you say about the fixie, there’s no denying that it’s a cycling experience all of its own. It’s perhaps akin to the feeling of the open road on a motorcycle, but a hell of a lot more fun.
Fixies Look Sexy
There’s no denying it. The simplicity of a clean track bike looks amazing. No cables, no frills, just 100% bike.
Like any hobby, there’s a subset of fixie gear heads that love building and admiring bikes as much as they like riding. If that’s up your alley, check out the fixed gear gallery.
So What’s The Downside Of The Fixie?
Depending how you look at it, the fixie may come with some cons.
We’ve already covered the whole no coasting and no gears thing. Some find this acceptable, even enjoyable, while others can’t deal without the derailleur.
A common counter point you’ll hear is that fixie’s aren’t good for your knees. That may be true if you ride brakeless and only skid to stop, but for the majority of casual fixie riders you don’t have much to worry about if the bike has been fitted properly and it suits your riding style.
Is It Possible To Have Fixie and Geared Bike On The Same Frame?
Yes, it is possible to have both a fixed gear and coast-able casette on the same bike.
All you need is a flip-flop hub on your rear wheel. That’s a hub that has threading on both sides so you can have a fixed gear on one side and single-speed sprocket on the other. When you want to switch, just take the wheel out and flip it over.
Now all that’s left to do is try the fixie. Consider trying before you buy, since the fixie set-up is not for everyone.
Looking for your first fixed gear bike? Check out our list of 5 cheap fixies you can buy online.
Getting on for the first time will feel strange when you’re not able to coast. After a few minutes, you may change your tune and get to liking the control, connection, and convenience a fixie can provide.
So get out there and ride! You’ll never know if the fixie is for you if you never try.