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Old 06-03-06, 12:14 PM   #1
Retro Grouch 
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First fixed gear ride.

I finished building my fixie yesterday and took it out for it's first ride today. I rode for about an hour on the KATY trail. It was a different experience. I was surprised at how many things I unconsciously do that can't be done on a fixed gear. A series of ruts perpendicular to the trail that I'd normally stand and coast over require a bit more confidence to pedal across.

Ultimately, of course, I came upon a blind road crossing with a squeeze gate and discovered a needed skill that I haven't acquired yet. Scuffed up my brand new Cinelli handlebar tape. Oh well!
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Old 06-03-06, 02:13 PM   #2
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welcome to the club!!! The first ride is always the toughest-- and the little pause you do after climbing a hill can almost knock you off your bike when it tells you YOU CANNOT COAST ON A FIXIE! I love ine-- have logged over 5000 mies on it in the last 2 1/2 years-- it has become my commuter of choice. Before you know it you will be taking it on long rides and doing hills you never imagined possible on that gearing-

What gearing do you have? I'm riding a 48 / 18, around 72 inches--

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Old 06-03-06, 03:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by buelito
What gearing do you have? I'm riding a 48 / 18, around 72 inches-
It's 39/16 about 66 inches. I used the 39 because - well - that's what I already had. I picked a 16 cog because I've ridden around in that gear without shifting and it felt OK. As i've already found out, it isn't quite the same thing, but that's part of the learning process. I can always get a different rear cog if I decide that I want one. A 15 will give me right at 70 inches.

Aside from junk box parts I've only got about $150.00 hard cash in the bike. That includes new Surley hubs and a new 105 front brake. I'll post a photo as soon as I can find somebody who can show me how to make my camera talk to my computer.

I'm planning to ride my road bike tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see which one gets ridden more by the end of summer.
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Old 06-03-06, 04:56 PM   #4
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What section of the Katy? I rode 25 on the Katy this morning.
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Old 06-03-06, 05:02 PM   #5
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Congratulations on your new ride! It won't take long to get the hang of standing to absorb the bumps while still pedaling. You will find that it is better to anticipate where you will stop and make it happen when the foot you will put down is at the top of the stroke... at least that is what works for me. 39x16 sounds like a reasonable gear to me. I use 42x17 on one bike and 46x19 on the other. Use whatever gives you the cadence you want. Sometimes you can find small chainwheels (39-46) for less money than a rear cog... just something to think about if you want a higher gear later on. Can't wait to see the photos.

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Old 06-03-06, 05:09 PM   #6
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You guys all have much better coordination than I do. I got an Avanti track bike as a wedding present in 1973, rode it a block or two, and decided this was not something I could handle safely. I gave it to another friend, who converted it to a 4-speed freewheel.
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Old 06-03-06, 05:40 PM   #7
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Welcome. I'm 49 now, and I took up fixed gear riding at age 40. It's quite addictive isn't it? One must wonder if the cyclists back in the 1890's had it right all along, as all bikes back then were fixed.

Of course, there is a learning curve. Some people pick up on it with a single ride, and some folks take a few weeks of nominal riding to get the hang of not coasting. It's well worth going through the learning curve though.
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Old 06-03-06, 07:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by KenSmith
What section of the Katy? I rode 25 on the Katy this morning.
I live just off of Jungs Station Road. This morning I rode westward from the Green's Bottom Road trailhead because I didn't want to mess with the hill and the road construction on Jungs Station Road.
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Old 06-03-06, 07:18 PM   #9
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LOML and I rode from downtown St. Charles to the Daniel Boone bridge and back. crossed the same ground as you.

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Old 06-03-06, 09:27 PM   #10
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Okay, I would love to ask a question here. I've been wondering about this for awhile, and I haven't dared ask it in the fixie forum. But here, among friends, I'm going to give it a try.

I don't get the fixie thing. I don't understand the appeal of riding a bike that, to me, seems to have two enormous drawbacks: you can't shift gears and you can't coast. Those two things seem to me to be so fundamental to cycling that without them, I can't imagine enjoying riding.

Please understand that I'm asking this question in a very respectful way! Obviously there is considerable appeal to fixies... so many people seem to like them. I'm just very curious to find out what it is that I'm missing.

Two points that will help fixed-gear afficionados understand why I'm so clueless. First, I have never ridden a fixed-gear bike in my life. Not once. So I have never had the chance to experience their benefits, nor has anyone ever explained those benefits to me. Second, the area where I ride is very hilly. Flat stretches of road more than a few hundred meters long are rare. 10% grades are common, and 15% grades are not hard to find. I ride a 50/34 compact with a 12/27 cassette, and almost every ride I do involves climbing in 34x27 and descending at 40+ mph somewhere along the way. So shifting gears and coasting on downhills seem to me to be utter necessities.

So please, if anyone out there who is a fixed-gear fan would be willing to take the time to tell me what it is you like about fixies, I would really appreciate it. Who knows, maybe I need another bike and I just don't know it!
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Old 06-03-06, 10:00 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Raketmensch
.....................
So please, if anyone out there who is a fixed-gear fan would be willing to take the time to tell me what it is you like about fixies, I would really appreciate it. Who knows, maybe I need another bike and I just don't know it!

I think you can find your answer in the writings of Sheldon Browne. Although he is a Swamp Yankee, there are hills in his area.... just generally not as steep as yours.
As with any new and different activity, it's best to approach with an open mind. As Bruce Lee would say, "when you come to the well for a drink, bring an empty cup".

Fixed Gear Article

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Old 06-04-06, 08:07 AM   #12
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I restored my Motobecane Le Champion as a fixed gear last winter. It's a lot of fun to ride, but takes a little getting used to. Not sure why I decided to go fixed with it. I figgure if I don't like it, I'll change it back to a roadie.
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Old 06-04-06, 09:10 AM   #13
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I just finished a conversion of my old Wicked Fat Chance mtb to fixed gear and I'm having the time of my life riding local wooded trails which are rife with roots and rocks. Fixing is perfect for the constantly changing speed and torque this type of riding requires. I have only a front brake, but seldom need it.
Don't miss 63xc.com and fixedgeargallery.com if you haven't already been there.

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Old 06-04-06, 09:21 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Raketmensch
Okay, I would love to ask a question here. I've been wondering about this for awhile, and I haven't dared ask it in the fixie forum. But here, among friends, I'm going to give it a try.

I don't get the fixie thing. I don't understand the appeal of riding a bike that, to me, seems to have two enormous drawbacks: you can't shift gears and you can't coast. Those two things seem to me to be so fundamental to cycling that without them, I can't imagine enjoying riding.

Please understand that I'm asking this question in a very respectful way! Obviously there is considerable appeal to fixies... so many people seem to like them. I'm just very curious to find out what it is that I'm missing.

Two points that will help fixed-gear afficionados understand why I'm so clueless. First, I have never ridden a fixed-gear bike in my life. Not once. So I have never had the chance to experience their benefits, nor has anyone ever explained those benefits to me. Second, the area where I ride is very hilly. Flat stretches of road more than a few hundred meters long are rare. 10% grades are common, and 15% grades are not hard to find. I ride a 50/34 compact with a 12/27 cassette, and almost every ride I do involves climbing in 34x27 and descending at 40+ mph somewhere along the way. So shifting gears and coasting on downhills seem to me to be utter necessities.

So please, if anyone out there who is a fixed-gear fan would be willing to take the time to tell me what it is you like about fixies, I would really appreciate it. Who knows, maybe I need another bike and I just don't know it!
Recently, I have added to by bike stable, but until April I had a Concorde lugged steel racer that I converted to fixed 49/17 or abourt 76", and now 21.5 lbs.
Secondly, a Miyata 1000 lugged steel tourer, now converted to fixed, 50/19 or 70", now 22.5 lbs with a Brooks team Pro (fairly heavy) and a Phil Wood double-fixed hub.

I became aware of the fixed-gear thing by the Sheldon Brown site, and did the two conversions shortly after in sequence. This was done at the same time as getting a better bike fit (longer stem, better saddle, some other adjustments.)

Before this, I had gotten into the habit of single gear riding on the geared bike. Depending on how hard I wanted the ride to be, I would select a gear and leave it there the duration of the ride-the idea being to get a good workout, depending on mood.

When I came upon the Sheldon site, I was attracted by the idea of:
1-Getting a true chainline all the time
2-Getting a more efficient drive train
3-Getting a non-dished rear wheel with all directional spokes on both sides of the hub equally tensioned, and balanced strength.
4-Getting in touch with a cycling culture from the turn of the 19th Century.
5-Dropping bike weight.
6- Getting rid of the rear derailer, which on the longer cage tourer, was always getting fudgy due primarily to lack of cleaning-I admit.

The observations:
1-If you like to have a workout when you go for a ride, you will appreciate a fixed-gear. On the 76", I find I get a good 15-20 kph ascent on the uphills, and a nice cadence on the downs, in this moderately hilly area. If I take the Miyata with the 70", I get a higher cadence, and a less intense ascent, and a cadence in the 150 rpm area, which would be much higher than I would normally get into on a geared.

2-"Coasting is a pernicious habit"-Sheldon's quote. Coasting is not the same as resting in a restorative sense, it simply is a sloppy habit to get into, totally useless except when you want to have a good buz down a steep hill, or when you want to keep pedals level going over an obstacle. On the flat road, on a geared, I used to pedal/coast/pedal/coast etc. The energy required to reengage with the rotating back wheel is more than whatever is gained by coasting. Coasting initiates that horrible ratcheting noice from the freewheel-you will appreciate the relative silence of the fixie.

3-You will climb what you can climb faster. The one thing you may miss though is the reward on coasting down at the end of a hard climb.

4-You may think that your legs will turn to spaghetti after two hours or so of constant pedaling. This does not happen. Over identical distances with geared bikes, my legs have never been more tired on the fixed.

5-You feel more connected with the bike, and feel more efficiency as a result. You can modulate speed by not imputing power to the pedals (different than fighting the pedals, which is hard on knees.) The brakes sometimes never get used on rides I take, this is much better in snow riding-not relying on rim brakes to modulate speed.

6-Your rear end will be connected to the saddle alot more. If you ride in 85 rpm or so normally, the only time you will get to the zone where standing can happen over a long period of time, is when you are climbing, and then electing to stand. This comes as a relief, to shake down the tension in the butt area.

As I mentioned, I have since added to my bike collection. One is a vintage Colnago with indexed shifting, a Marinioni with friction shifting, and a Giordana SLX frame. I have mixed feeling about getting back into geared bikes. I think I may relearn bad habits, and then when I get back on the fixed will stop pedaling on occasion and become launched into the rhubarb.

The two occasions when I might prefer to use geared, would be:

1-Semi-race conditions when I can't afford to loose time to geared riders who can slip into a 100+" gear on long downhills. I would loose contact and might never get back. These situations are rare for me however, I am usually a solo rider;
2-You mention hills with a fairly serious grade. The only one like that around here takes me 2 hrs. to get to. On a geared bike I suffered riding up it in 50" and 56" on different occasions. I have ridden it fixed on the 76" and the 70" and had to work pretty hard to get to the top of the 30 minute hill. The best time on that hill before fixed was on a 42/24 and I may use this combo again on an organized ride over this hill again.

If you go for it-Use Caution, use at least one brake-I use 2. Do not clean moving chain on stand as you do with a geared bike-look at the picture on Sheldon's site about missing finger tips.-Barnaby
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Old 06-04-06, 09:24 AM   #15
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I think you can find your answer in the writings of Sheldon Browne.
Fixed Gear Article
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Great article, Dogbait... thanks! That's just what I needed.
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Old 06-04-06, 09:44 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Raketmensch
I don't understand the appeal of riding a bike that, to me, seems to have two enormous drawbacks: you can't shift gears and you can't coast.
Valid point! I've been riding fixed for a good while now and I'm still asking myself the same question. It's just a different way of cycling. Elemental, simple. A person could just as easily ask why do you ride a bicycle when you could have a motorcycle. Or a car. We don't ride bicycles for ease and comfort to begin with, and fixing is like that, only more so.

I think, for the neo-fixer, short, low speed trips, such as inner city commuting and coffee shop hopping on flat terrain are ideal. Constantly rolling hills do present a challenge of finding a gear with which you can climb then keep things together on the down side. You must abandon the mindset of getting to your destination in minimum time.

It's not for everyone. Find a cheap old bike, convert it and try it. But be prepared to struggle with the question, "why is this so much fun".

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Old 06-04-06, 10:09 AM   #17
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I few things I found out early:
Don't go all out up the short, steep hill, then try to coast over the top.

To turn the crank back to the starting position after stopping: lock the front brake, push forward on the handlebar to lift the rear wheel off the ground, and spin the crank as needed.

I can turn much lower rpms up a hill than with my road bike, since the cranks keep moving past the dead spots.

You can use a bike computer's mph to convert into rpm. I made a small list of speeds and the corresponding rpm for it. Just lookup one rpm/speed combination from Sheldon, and the rpms vary the same percentage as the mph.
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Old 06-04-06, 11:25 AM   #18
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Congrats on the fixed gear! They are addictive, and then some in my mild opinion. Much better workout for the same distance covered, will teach you cadence and pedal stroke faster than anything that free-wheels. Will make your legs much stronger and give you habits that will only improve your road bike skills. After riding 'fixed' for awhile free wheeling and coasting will seem foreign to you and it appears as an almost 'out of control' feeling. But they have their place even off the track. I commute on mine and love track standing at stops. You can ride along someone walking and talk at 1 mph or so...you have so much more control. I haven't used my suicide brake in months. The upkeep on them takes about 10 minutes a couple times a year. They are so simple, so elegant, and almosts timeless in their beauty. I'm just starting to build up two more on frames I got the last couple weeks at yard sales. Ride the he!! out of it and enjoy. You'll be a a better cyclist for it...
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Old 06-04-06, 11:28 AM   #19
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Retro Grouch & KenSmith -
Maybe we could hook-up some weekend for a few miles on the Katy.
How many other 50+s are close to St. Charles, MO?
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Old 06-04-06, 11:35 AM   #20
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Retro Grouch & KenSmith -
Maybe we could hook-up some weekend for a few miles on the Katy.
How many other 50+s are close to St. Charles, MO?
I'd be for it but I don't ride very fast - 12 to 15 mph range.
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Old 06-04-06, 11:39 AM   #21
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I'd be for it but I don't ride very fast - 12 to 15 mph range.
Sounds like a good pace to me.
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Old 06-04-06, 04:55 PM   #22
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12-15 is my pace also... sometimes closer to the 12
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Old 06-04-06, 06:30 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dogbait
I think you can find your answer in the writings of Sheldon Browne. Although he is a Swamp Yankee, there are hills in his area....

Ahem,,,(Clears throat) My fixie was built up at Harris Cyclery, under Mr. Brown's supervision. Eat your hearts out! So, what the heck is a "swamp yankee"?? Sounds like something out of an old Burt Reynolds movie.

Raketmensch, I used to think the way you do. I couldn't understand the attraction. A friend let me try his old (late 50's vintage) track bike. It took some getting used to. I did what most people do: I did about 30 pedal revolutions, then tried had the urge to coast. Yikes! Can't do that! Then I started to get the hang of it, and fell in love with the way the bike felt and responded. What I didn't care for was the geometry of the track bike, so I decided to have one built. The Gunnar street dog fit the bill, as it has creature comforts such as two bottle mounts, tapped eyelets for a rack, should I want one, and clearance for wide tires and fenders. The geometry is very nice and relaxed.

I run a 42x15, which gives me a 75 inch gear. This gets me up the hills I normally encounter. A more hilly ride, or riding through urban congestion, would call for a something lower.

Your legs get sore in areas that didn't get sore before, but this passes quickly. Your handling ability gets better, and you start to feel very energetic on the bike. You get stronger. Basically, everything else you've read already is true. And yeah, you wonder if you ever needed all those gears in the first place.

Something else: Like most working adults, I don't get to ride as often as I would like. A fixed gear helps here as well, as you get a better workout in a shorter amount of time.

When you have some time, head over to the Fixed Gear Gallery. All types of fixed gear bikes, submitted from all over the world. www.fixedgeargallery.com

Some take days off to go fishing. Some take days off to play golf or tennis. I take days off to go ride my fixie. How messed up is that?
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Old 06-05-06, 01:34 AM   #24
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................ So, what the heck is a "swamp yankee"??.............
A "White Birch Yankee" is from the hill country.... Green Mountains, White Mountains, the Berkshires. A "Swamp Yankee" lives in the river valleys and lowland areas like around Springfield, Worcester... east and south of there; all of Rhode Island and most of Connecticut.

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