Fixed For Fun!

Fixed Gear Bike

          Fixed gears and track bikes, as well as home made conversions have never been as poplar as they are today, and heres why. Today’s green commuter culture necessitates a bicycle for that is not only fun to ride, but also conveys a personal statement concerning taste, individuality, and lifestyle. For these kinds of riders, a fixed gear bike is the perfect investment. The simplicity of the mechanics make maintenance easy and give way too a sleek look that lends itself perfectly to personalization. You will quickly fall in love with your bikes looks, and the few days you spend learning to ride fixed will provide you with a new twist on something you thought you’d mastered in your childhood. Once comfortable on a fixed gear, you will find yourself more at home on it that any on other type of cycle, and your body will thank you for the unique and healthy workout that only these types of bikes can provide.


          A fixed gear, track bike, or fixie, is defined as a one that has no freewheel, meaning it does not coast — the pedals are constantly moving either forward or backward relating to the direction bicycle’s wheels are spinning. The drive train is the utmost in simplicity with a larger gear attached to the pedals, and a smaller rear cog bolted to a fixed- specific rear hub, with these gears connected via a chain. This allows the rider to stop the bike by applying pressure to slow down or even lock up the rear wheels movement, resulting in anything from a gentle decrease in speed to a full skid. For this reason, brakes are optional on this genre of cycle, with many experienced riders opting for the clean look of a brakeless bike with no cables. Fixed gears and single speeds are very similar, and can sometimes be mistaken for one another. If you love the look of a clean fixie but want to be able to coast and brake, check out my article on single speed bikes.

Fixed Characteristics & Conversions

        The main difference between a fixed frame and a normal or conversion frame lies in the rear dropouts, which are the area of the frame that the axel of the back wheel slides into. On fixed gear frames they are horizontal, as opposed to vertical or diagonal as they are on road bikes, letting one easily adjust the tension of the bike’s chain. The geometry is also different, it is generally tighter and more performance oriented, as fixed gears have a history of racing. There are of course many options, and a more relaxed geometry can be easily had if it is wanted. It is also possible to convert a road bike into a fixed gear. You will need to strip off all the excess gearing and replace the rear cassette with a single cog. This is most easily done by having your local shop re-lace your rear rim to a fixed specific hub. As long as your rear dropouts offer space for adjustment, your frame will work fine fixed. Your shop will be able to determine of this is suitable for your individual bike.


History and Benefits of Fixed Riding

NKS Kinfolk

            The competitive history of fixed gear bikes, which historically have been used in velodrome racing, and kierin racing, the Japanese alternative, still shines through and influences the wonderful subculture of fixed riding. Many of the most beautiful frames are hand built by NJS certified craftsmen in Japan, who have historically created bike parts which border on art.  American metalworkers such as Vanilla Bicycles and Geekhouse have followed in that tradition, and produce beautiful bikes as well. However, one does not need to spend thousands of dollars for a custom bike in order to get in on this unique and fun hobby.  Many ready to ride bikes are available  at low costs, and provide great value and build quality.


           At this point, one would probably wonder why anyone would want such a stripped down and spartan bike when the modern road cycles and make 50k road trips nearly childs play. The answer is feeling. Of all the machines I use during the day, I am most intimately connected to my fixed gear. This bike is not for cross country trips, it is for the five to ten miles I need to ride in order to get to town, do my errands, and get home. It does this reliably, perfectly, every time. I don’t need to adjust gears, mess with finicky wires, or deal with the intense tight-wearing culture of the road bikers whom I often find myself passing.


         The fixed gear, since ones feet directly connected to the drive chain, promotes control and unbelievable efficiency.  I find myself getting to my destination without stopping once, weaving through situations that I’d normally be mashing my brakes to avoid, and doing it in an almost Zen like state, connected to my bike and feeling everything on the road as my legs move in forced unison with the machine. Instead of pedaling hard, getting winded, and taking coast breaks as you normally do on a freewheeling bike, you pedal constantly. This leads to a more reserved riding style of constant medium effort, meaning that you can ride farther and get there without feeling exhausted. The knees also benefit and become suppler with regular rides. The knee pain I’ve gotten from years of skateboarding goes away for days after a good ride.


         With the many choices available, a fixed gear can be had at any budget, with suitability for any rider. The relationship you develop with your ride will bring you joy and health for years to come. Do not let the fixie connotation with hipsters and coffee shops make you pass up the opportunity to truly fall in love with cycling all over again.