Fixies are often loved or hated, depending on who you ask. On one hand, they have a loyal following and according to those followers if you ride anything else you are not a true cyclist. On the other hand, they are loathed by cyclists and considered archaic and masochistic by today’s standards. You may have marveled at the simplicity of a fixed-gear bicycle asking yourself if they are good for commuting.
Fixies are an excellent option for the highly skilled cyclist looking for an even deeper connection to the machine and the commute. However, if looking for a more comfortable, relaxed, and even safer ride then fixies are not the proper option.
Read on to find out more about fixed-gear bicycles and their many advantages and disadvantages. As we dive in and explore the world of fixies maybe you can find out if one would be a good option for your daily commute.
What is a Fixie?
A fixed-gear bicycle often called a fixie is a very old piece of technology. When the safety bicycle came about in the late 1800s a fixed gear was the only thing you could get.
What this means is that the gear on the rear wheel is fixed to the rear wheel. As the front chainring turns it turns the rear wheel and vice versa. With a fixie, there is no coasting or cruising. If the bike is moving forward then the pedals are spinning. As a result, you are always spinning the cranks with your legs.
The faster you move the faster you pedal with going downhill being especially challenging. Braking on a fixie is usually done by backpedaling and oftentimes fixed-gear bicycles will not even be equipped with brakes.
What are Fixies Best For?
This depends on who you ask. Fixie enthusiasts will often say a fixed-gear bicycle is superior to every other kind of bike. Fixie haters will tell you fixies are best for being thrown into the trash. There is often no middle ground with the cyclist community being deeply divided.
Enthusiasts will espouse the connection to the bike and the road as being more complete. This is because on a fixed-gear bicycle everything is entirely up to you.
You could almost think of it as the standard transmission of the bike world. You are in complete control and every crank of the pedals is down to how much effort you put in. You are the engine, the brakes, and the controller.
There is no resting on a fixie and many purest believe this leads to a more complete experience.
Haters will often say fixies are unsafe with many claiming that is how they almost died.
Fixies have a tendency to buck you off if you even think about stopping pedaling. They are also much harder to stop with some studies citing that it takes twice the distance as hand brakes.
If you ask a hater they will gladly tell you that a fixie is good for nothing.
Are Fixies Good For Long Distance?
This one can be answered with a NO! While some fixie fans will tell you the opposite they are not good long-distance machines, at least not for beginner riders.
Not to say that you can’t ride far on a fixie, but the truth is that there are much safer, comfortable, and efficient options than using a fixed gear for long distances.
Simple jaunts around town, a few miles here and there, fixed gears are awesome. For anything longer than that you are going to want at least a single speed.
The difference between a fixie and a single speed bike is that a single speed bike allows you to coast (you don’t need to pedal all the time when your wheel is moving).
It is nice to be able to coast and take a break here and there. Fixies just do not give you that option and for this reason, we think they are not the best option for long distances.
Are Fixies Safe?
For the experienced riders and those who are used to fixies then they are safe, but there is a learning curve to riding fixies in a safe manner. Some fixie riders can do incredible feats using the bicycle and stop on a dime.
Skids and quick turns are easy for those that have been riding fixies for some time. These riders will often argue that fixed gear is safer than any other type of bike. But as purists often do, they can be overconfident in their abilities.
On the other hand, fixies are not safe at all for the inexperienced.
If you have never ridden a fixed-gear bicycle before then get ready to relearn how to ride a bike.
If you are used to coasting good luck. As soon as you stop pedaling you are either going to be bucked off or skidding to a crash.
Fixies are not easy to ride for the uninitiated and can often be extremely unsafe. Some fixie haters argue that stopping a fixed-gear bicycle takes twice the distance of one with brakes. In a world of split-second decisions and erratic drivers, you need to be able to stop quickly and reliably.
Fixie Pros and Cons
- Simple machine. Fewer parts to fix or replace as the bike ages or takes a bruising during commutes
- Inexpensive: Fixed-gear bicycles are often less expensive than most other modern bikes as they have fewer moving parts and are composed of tried and true components.
- Reliable: Simplicity in parts means enhanced reliability in the long run.
- Just go: Nothing to think about, no shifting, no braking, just get up and go.
- Durable: Tough, long-lasting fixies are often composed of stronger materials that have been used for decades if not longer. For example, most fixie frames are composed of the tried and true cult favorite, steel.
- Fun to ride: Once you’re used to a fixie, there is a danger of forever converting into a fixie rider. The purest experience of connection between the rider, the road and the machine is addictive.
- Not for the novice: Fixies are hard to ride for the inexperienced cyclist. Learning to ride a fixie is akin to learning to ride a bike all over again.
- Always working: Like to take a break and enjoy the ride? You cannot coast on a fixie to enjoy the wind in your hair and sunshine on your face.
- No brakes: Many fixies don’t have brakes. You stop the bike by backpedaling which is not the best for your knees.
- No gears: Going up? Going down? Want to adjust your bike for the difficulty? On a fixie, there is no gearing so the terrain is your ultimate enemy.
- Uncomfortable: Fixies are generally designed for the track, not for the road. Don’t expect the creature comforts you find on other bikes.
As you can see there are many awesome qualities that fixed-gear bicycles have. There is also quite a list of qualities that some would deem to be negative.
Fixies like many other types of bikes have a unique set of features that define them. For some, these qualities, good or bad are a must-have. However, for most cyclists, the negatives of a fixed gear outweigh the positives.
Fixies are fun to ride! For those who have not tried it and you have a chance, give it a shot. They are especially fun when trying to live in our ancestor’s shoes. Comparing where we came from to what we have today is always pretty awesome.
That being said, fixies are not the ideal commuter rig. If you love riding a fixed-gear bicycle and nothing else will do it for you then by all means. Stick to your fix. But if you are like most people and looking for a comfortable, safer, and more efficient option then ditch the fix.
Fixed gear bicycles can be cool for many reasons. No matter which side of the fence you fall on it is always better to ride your bike than to drive a car.