Singlespeed & Fixed Gear - building a fixed gear commuter
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12-07-03, 10:16 PM
I'm building a fair-weather fixed gear commuter on an old Woodrup track frame and forks. Let me be frank: I'm completely new to fixed gear. There's something about the minimalism of a fixed gear I find fascinating so I've decided to take the plunge. Anyhow, on to the questions:
1) Gearing: my 15 mile commute is fairly hilly with a couple 500/800 ft climbs
2) Pedals: clipless or toeclips? Any recommendations??
3) Brakes: none, front, rear, or both?
12-07-03, 11:05 PM
I'm not sure what would work best for you for gearing as I ride my fixed gear in Chicago where the only variation is a pothole in the road. If you already have a road bike with multiple speeds, try experimenting with keeping your road bike in a particular gear and see how well that gear works out. Once you find a gear that you like, calculate (http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/) its gear inch ratio and try to come close to that on your fixed gear bike.
For pedals, I would go with clipless. You would climb more efficiently and it is easier to skid and bunny hop with clipless.
For brakes, I would run with a front brake. You don't want to run brakeless on a hilly commute. I think that is asking for trouble. Having a rear brake is usually redundant on a fixed gear as you can always resist with your legs. If backpedaling is too stressful on your knees then it might be in your best interest to run a rear brake, but then again, why would you want to ride fixed when you have knee problems?
Let us know how your project turns out.
12-07-03, 11:11 PM
well, i'll have to say that i was just in your town for a week and i absolutely loved it. xcutterx and i built up a fixie for a friend living there and we set it up with 170 cranks, 47t chainring, and a 15t cog. he seems to get along great with this ratio, but there were a few hills that it was a little tough. mostly when we rode up to the rose gardens and zoo. there was one hill that was just nearly impassible. the primary riding we did was from 35th and hawethorne and into downtown. excluding the zoo, this ratio was perfect for him. i run 170 cranks, 48t chainring, and 16t cog on both of my fixies. my ratio is just a bit easier than his.
going down those zoo hills made me think i was glad i didn't bring my brakeless fixie. i'm sure there are ways to circumnavigate such hills. he also is new to fixies and is glad to have a brake. it's better to have one than to want one i guess.
i ride clipless, which has a learning curve of its own. he has cages on his bike. i think it just depends what you prefer. clipless is waaay more responsive than cages. one way or the other riders in general seem to think one is a death trap. if you go clipless i would really recommend mtb pedals and shoes. that way you can actually walk around with some grip. i couldn't imagine having to walk anywhere in road shoes.
1. get a fixed/fixed hub and get two cogs. i would recommend 48:16....
2. go with what makes you feel comfortable on the bike.
3. go with what makes you feel safe on the bike.
12-08-03, 09:07 AM
Thanks much for the info! I'm glad you liked Portland -- the ride to the zoo is a ******, but what a view! I commute from the opposite (west) side of town over the same hills. There are numerous routes over, so there's always opportunity to mix it up a little.
I've been riding clipless now for a few years and my knees have never felt better. On the commuter I run Speedplay Frog's and on the race bike I run with the X3's. My knees are relieved to learn I can continue the tradition.
I'll post some pictures when I get done, I'm going to start the wrenchwork as soon as I locate a bottom bracket, cranks, and headset. Nothing extravagant, probably Shimano 105/Ultegra stuff.
12-08-03, 09:20 AM
if you've already been riding clipless i say you should definitely run the fixie with them as well. the responsiveness is way more apparent on a fixie than a freewheel bike, in my little experience with clipless. slowing down especially.
shimano 105/600/ultegra sounds like a great route to take for components.
is that track frame or fork drilled for brakes? as panasoanic said, you may want to run a front brake. i think i would there. as for a rear, i've been told that is really only useful when riding in ice/snow conditions...
12-08-03, 10:11 AM
I live in the Boston area (lots of little hills, some of them steep). I'm new to fixies this year, and built one up using an old Raleigh road frame. I run 165mm cranks and a 46/17 setup, which gives me about 72 gear-inches. I have one front brake.
You have to keep in mind that you won't be coasting down the hills, so you need a good compromise between a low enough gear for the uphills and a high enough gear to keep you from spinning too fast on the downhills. I've found that the ideal fixed gear ratio is a little taller than the ideal single-speed gear ratio.
You'll also find that as you get stronger, you can ride with a higher gear.
I started out riding mostly on the flats, partially because I wasn't strong enough to tackle the big uphils, and partially because I was scared of the downhills. Ideally, I should work up to a slightly taller gear, maybe something around 75 gear-inches.
12-08-03, 10:28 AM
65 to 75 inches is generally recommended for road riding...FWIW I'm running 70 inches (44/17) and it feels about right....am also using Shimano 323 pedals, SPD on one side and platform on the other and they work very well. Recently found a great web page w/ links to many other FG pages at
What I found worked to find the gear inch that I wasnted to use, or what was comfortable for me was to ride my regular ride in one gear only, that I didn't have to change out of. Came up with 52x18, after a couple weeks of that I switched to 52x16. I built a couple more with a 53t engagement ring. I've played around with a lot of different gearings. Currently I am running 48x17 with Nokian 700x35 studded tires, it really feels like I'm riding through oatmeal.
For some other ideas try Sheldon Browns site.
There's a bunch of stuff there to read up on. Do a dogpile search on fixed gears for FG sights.
12-08-03, 09:47 PM
The front fork is drilled for brakes so it shouldn't be a problem. I haven't measure but I'm sure I'll have to run the extended arm (47-52cm) brakes. I run these on my trusty old commuter, a Bridgestone Altair.
My next dilemna: what kind of brake levers? I've been checking out a couple of options:
1) diatech tech99 - a single small handle mounted on the top of the bar
2) shimano/dia compe - aero brake levers
The problem with the aero levers is this: I'd need two, but I'm only running a front brake. Is it me or is running with one aero kinda weird?
12-09-03, 12:54 AM
i put a diatech on my friend's fixie i keep referring to. it's the pinarello in this thread: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=41149 i think it looks nothing but sharp. i think one aero level looks awkward, personally. i do like those ones that go on the underside of your drops as south fulcrum displayed in that thread. some folks like riding on the hoods, so running an aero and a dummy may be good idea in that instance. my friend rarely rides in the drops so the diatech is rather functional for him. i guess it depends on where you like your hands when riding. i just put mine in my trousers and use the e-brake... i mean... crap.
12-10-03, 05:37 AM
i have 42/17 and a front brake on my road conversion and it's fine for portland's hills... you have to spin quite fast on downhills/flats but you climb most hills fairly easily. the gear ratio is also a function of your bike's weight. my frame is pretty heavy, so you might do OK with 42x16 or 42x15.
i also have a 48x18 brakeless track which i ride more often nowadays, but i haven't ventured up the zoo hills with it yet; i imagine i'd have to do some walking.
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