Cycling can be hard work, so why the heck would you swap one bike for a bike which, in theory, makes cycling even harder work?
This was the thinking that kept me on my racing bike for three years before finally switching to a fixie…
…and tell you what I’m glad I eventually made the switch, here’s why:
1. Fixies make you into a stronger, fitter cyclist
Cycling is about more than just saving money on fuel, road tax, and car insurance, it’s also about getting fit.
Riding a fixed-gear bike will make you fitter, here’s why:
- You can’t coast – your legs have to be constantly moving, which means your heart will have to work harder thereby making you fitter.
- You can’t drop gears – when you hit a steep hill you’ve simply gone to put the power down and get up it, there is no escape by dropping gears to reduce the intensity.
- Improves your cadence – if you want to make the most of those downhill segments you’re going to have to move your feet fast, learning to do this will help you learn the skills and spin speed required for fast sprints.
2. Riding fixed leads to better reading of the road
Once I got used to the novelty of braking with my pedals and not being able to freewheel then I slowly began to fall in love with fixed gear cycling.
With a fixed-wheel bike (AKA single speed bike) man and machine are one, you can’t stop pedaling and coast along letting the bike do the work while you have a breather. If the bike’s working you’re working, put in 1% more effort and you go 1% faster if your legs stop the bike stops.
You are one.
This leads to a much greater understanding of both your bike and how it handles and your body and what it is capable of.
Many will say fixies are far more dangerous than conventional bikes however I believe that, once you have got the hang of riding one (they can be dangerous if you’re completely new to them) they are actually safer.
The reason for this is on a standard bike it is easy to over-rely on your brakes whereas on a fixie you learn to better manage your speed and cadence so that you aren’t having to constantly brake hard with the pedals as you soon learn that this isn’t very comfortable on the knees!
Speaking from personal experience I’ve had two crashes on a road bike.
One happened when I was going down a steep hill and I wasn’t aware quite how worn down by brake pads had become, I quickly realized that I was going to fly into the road at the bottom if I didn’t do something so I bailed and skidded along the floor. Had I been riding fixed this wouldn’t have happened as I wouldn’t be relying on my brakes to manage my speed.
The second crash happened when I failed to tuck the end of my trousers into my socks and got them caught in the gears causing me to skid at speed and hit the floor with a spectacular thud – fewer gears would have helped minimize the chances of this happening (as would tucking my trousers into my socks!).
Full disclosure – I have also crashed on my fixie when an over-eager car nudged me as I was crossing a junction, I was fine and thankfully so was the bike!
3. Low Maintenance
I spent 3 years riding a racing bike to work and, for the most part, I loved it.
What I didn’t love was the amount of maintenance required, the gearset needed regular cleaning, oiling and occasionally stripping down altogether to keep it functional particularly through the winter months.
After one gruelingly cold winter when lots of road salt and water took a serious toll on my poor racer rendering the gears into an unwieldy mass of rust I decided I’d give a fixie a try..
..and I’m glad I did!
From a maintenance perspective, it was infinitely easier to keep on top than a racing bike.
90% of the maintenance issues I had to deal with on my racer related to the gears, gears sticking, not changing smoothly, the chain bouncing off if I dropped gears too quickly and gear rust.
I installed brakes on my fixie (my apologies to any fixie purists watching) and swapped the tires for solid rubber tires. This meant that the tires required no maintenance, all I had to do was clean and oil the (solitary!) gear, and occasionally change my brake pads.
So if bike maintenance is a personal bugbear of your then you can’t go wrong with a fixie as there are far fewer parts to break!
Another benefit of not having any gears to mess about with is that it makes for a smoother quieter ride.
This may not mean much to those of you who travel on noisy roads however if, like me, you sometimes stick your bike on an indoor bike trainer (visit Soundproofpanda.com to see some recommended quiet ones) in front of the TV to burn off some excess energy then it does make a big difference when compared with clunky road bikes with far more parts to create noise…just ask my downstairs neighbours!
4. They’re Cheaper!
Oh and finally I can’t forget pricing, you can get a much nicer single speed bike on a budget than you can road bike for the same money simply because road bikes have so many more parts to them that they end up being vastly more expensive. With a fixie you spend a lot less and, in my experience, have a whole lot more fun!