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Old 03-12-09, 07:52 AM   #1
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Single Speeds/Fixed Gears, Why??

I've noticed that no matter the type of bicycle, there seems to be a LOVE of many riders of Single Speed or Fixed Gear bicycles, even the MTB types on this forum seem to be single speed gaga?
Like most of us, I started riding as kids on single speeds, I progressed to a 2 speed, 3 speed, 5 speed, 10 Speed, 18 Speed now ride a 24 speed. I understand the fixed gear for a velodrome/track set up but WHY would someone want to ride this type of bicycle on the road?? LOL, maybe it's because I'm worn out and the body is suffering from "mileage" instead of age that I NEED all the gears I can get! I'm drolling over the 10 speed clusters on some of the upper level MTB's I can't dream of affording and I've even noticed that some of these have bailed on the "wonderful, marvolus, dreamy" triple chainring set for a "compact double", oh I can hear my arthritic knees howling already What is this maddness of reverting back to the days of childhood and singlespeeds that has taken over the world's bicyclist's??
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Old 03-12-09, 07:57 AM   #2
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Easy answer: light weight, low maintenance.

Also remember when average Joe's began riding choppers because it gave off the aura of a bad boy biker. Well bike messengers are also considered "bad boys" and a lot of them ride single bikes, so do the math.
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Old 03-12-09, 08:55 AM   #3
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Because
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Old 03-12-09, 09:08 AM   #4
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As Loyal Readers will no doubt recall, I've noted numerous times that fixed gear riding is not for everyone. Nor is the joy of fixed gear riding easy to express using words, hence the limitation of forums such as this.

My recommendation is that you simply try it. If you "get it" then you'll like it and no one will have to tell you why. If you don't "get it" no amount of reading other's words will help. Some say it's a Zen thing . . . I don't know Zen, so I can't verify that bit!

I can say that I do "get it" and I like it so much that I really do look forward to a fixed gear ride, i.e. with more positive anticipation, that most multi-geared rides.

Having said all that, I do use multi-geared bikes for double-centuries, rides in the mountains or extreme hills, etc. Every type of bike has it's place.

BluesDawg said it best . . .

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Old 03-12-09, 09:15 AM   #5
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I roll my eyes at the whole fixie thing. Most of the time people are riding fixies for all the wrong reasons. However, I am considering setting up an old steel frame I have as a fixie for training purposes. I have a great 40 km mostly flat route with minimum traffic and stops and it makes a great training ride. It's a perfect route for a fixie. I am told that riding a fixie really improves your pedalling and makes it much smoother. I could use that.
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Old 03-12-09, 09:23 AM   #6
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I am told that riding a fixed gear really improves your pedalling and makes it much smoother.
This is true, yes.

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Old 03-12-09, 09:33 AM   #7
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Its an option in the bicycling world, just like there are a wide variety of cars. FWIW, why would anyone need 24 gears on a bike? Or why would anyone want to buy a fully-loaded Cadillac SUV when a simple car like a Toyota Yaris would work just as well for basic motor transportation?

I got a 'fixie' cheap at a garage sale. Tried it for a while and it wasn't my 'thing', so flipped the rear wheel and made it a single speed. It works great on the flats where I live (some small hills for a little extra workout), and its turned into my regular ride. As mentioned above they are pretty basic bikes with simple construction, easier to maintain that a deuralliered bike (sp), and light weight. Not for everyone, but I'm satisfied with it.
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Old 03-12-09, 10:17 AM   #8
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I understand the simplicity factor. I have seen some very clean looking fixed gear road bikes. And I have even contemplated a SS somewhere down the road. But cliping in on a fixed gear sounds a little more complicated than I like. And clipping out sounds like a panic. I know people can do it and some seem to enjoy it but to me it looks like an accident waiting to happen. I would like to try and understand the advantage a fixed gear has to a SS. Because I do love down hills.
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Old 03-12-09, 10:27 AM   #9
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This whole movement needs to be investigated at the federal level.

I'm pretty sure that arthroscopic surgeons are secretly funding this - at the same time they are pricing condos in Hawaii and some nice, big boats.

They are just waiting patiently for the tidal wave of single speed riders whose knees have "suddenly" stopped working.
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Old 03-12-09, 11:16 AM   #10
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I think the fixed gear / single speed movement will soon need a bailout.
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Old 03-12-09, 11:37 AM   #11
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single speed fixie = great training and simple and sexy
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Old 03-12-09, 11:39 AM   #12
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I converted an old Gitane into a fixed, didn't like it, but love it as a single speed. I have five bikes, including a full carbon fiber dura ace Trek and my single speed is the second lightest bike I own, second only to the Trek. I've probably rode that ss more than all of my bikes combined last summer. The simplicity and ease make them a lot of fun. Try it and see.
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Old 03-12-09, 02:45 PM   #13
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... If you "get it" then you'll like it and no one will have to tell you why. If you don't "get it" no amount of reading other's words will help. ... Rick
For those who "get" anything, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation is possible.

I tried fixed very briefly in 1973 when my wife's brother gave me a Swedish Avanti track bike (complete with 1" block chain) as a wedding present, and I quickly decided it definitely was not my thing.

I can understand the attraction of fixed gear because it does something unique, and many would argue that I could use some spin smoothness training, but I really do not "get" single speed freewheel at all, because it does nothing I cannot already do with any of my bikes.
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Old 03-12-09, 02:49 PM   #14
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I roll my eyes at the whole fixie thing. Most of the time people are riding fixies for all the wrong reasons. .
Thank goodness there are those of you who know better.
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Old 03-12-09, 02:57 PM   #15
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I converted an old Gitane into a fixed, didn't like it, but love it as a single speed. I have five bikes, including a full carbon fiber dura ace Trek and my single speed is the second lightest bike I own, second only to the Trek. I've probably rode that ss more than all of my bikes combined last summer. The simplicity and ease make them a lot of fun. Try it and see.
That I understand. I have my favorite gear on my road bike that I use most anyway. Not that I don't use the others but I would say most of the time I only use 4 gears. Unless we are talking a long hill and then I use them all. Half on the way up and half on the way down. So for a jump on and take down town to the hardware store bike a SS makes sense. For now the MTB does that task. I wouldn't leave the road bike where I couldn't see it long enough to go into a store. The ReviveLX is for Starbucks and Pie on a weekend morning. well sometimes I have to skip the pie if I haven't put in the miles for the week.
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Old 03-12-09, 03:04 PM   #16
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I own 4 road bikes, 2 fixed gear bikes, a tandem, a hardtail mountain bike, a single speed mountain bike and an old mountain bike with skinny slicks and drop bars set up for commuting. Each one is different, and gives a different experience even when riding the same routes.

Look at how many different types of mountain bikes there are now. I remember when they were all about the same.

You don't play golf with just one club, do you? You play better with a full bag.
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Old 03-12-09, 03:10 PM   #17
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I own 4 road bikes, 2 fixed gear bikes, a tandem, a hardtail mountain bike, a single speed mountain bike and an old mountain bike with skinny slicks and drop bars set up for commuting. Each one is different, and gives a different experience even when riding the same routes.

Look at how many different types of mountain bikes there are now. I remember when they were all about the same.

You don't play golf with just one club, do you? You play better with a full bag.
Very good point. But we don't play with Niblets and Mashies any more.
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Old 03-12-09, 04:39 PM   #18
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'tis better to succeed by the power of your legs than to resort to the artiface of a derailleur

That's an old quote but I've lost who said it.

Fixed gear riding is different to single speed and you would do well not to confuse them - it's a bit like comparing a recumbent with an upright. The difference of course, is that with fixed, your legs move with the rear wheel whether you like it or not. However, that single difference opens an entirely new world in cycling and brings out a new volume of skills to learn.

You have far more control over your speed when riding fixed because your legs come into play in both directions and in many parts of the pedalling circle with positive pressure, negative pressure and neutral pressure. You can actually control your rate of acceleration (down hill) and deceleration (anywhere) by the resistance of your legs (not back pressure, resistance). You have far more control on loose or slippery surfaces - freewheel bikes are scary on gravel after riding fixed. It's easier to just loaf along on a fixed gear bike than a geared bike. Hills are more of a challenge when riding fixed but the power flows to the pedals in a manner that allows you to ride hills on a gear you couldn't pull with a freewheel.

In another thread, I compared a fixed ride with a geared ride over a circuit that involved a decent dose of ups and downs. No-one seems to have spotted it, but partway into that ride, I hit a down hill stretch at 52km/hr which equates to a cadence of 154 You HAVE to be able to ride that smoothly to do it, you can't just sit there and let your legs be dragged around (not if you want to survive the experiene) and I challenge any of you to hit a similar cadence on your geared bike - it can be done because it's just pedalling technique, but can you? You just don't get those experiences with a freewheel - hell, I rarely go above a cadence of 110 on my geared bike yet any ride on my fixed sees me topping 120 and far from being scary, it's a great feeling, like being part of a turbine, just as riding really fast is a buzz. Mind you, it's not often you have your HRM beeping frantically when riding DOWN a hill

There's the simplicity of the beast. The clean lines. You don't realise how much pfaffing about there is with gears until you compare them with a bike that doesn't have them.

And yes, fit brakes, they open up even more skills to learn and master, the people who take them off just don't understand that they are lessening the experience.

As for the whole hipster business, that's like saying that everyone who rides a bike with gears is trying to be Lance Armstrong complete with the attitude ... and it's kinda sad that the industry in this country has swallowed both lines.

And yes, I'm perverse enough to enjoy the 'huh?' reaction of non-fixed riders

Richard
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Old 03-12-09, 05:00 PM   #19
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I just finished converting my first nice bike (got it used in about 1975) to a fixed gear.
I love cycling, and for me, a roadie at heart, this is just another way to ride. It makes me pay attention, it's interesting. Going downhill is an adventure.
I got a flip flop hub with it, but only used it once. In for a penny.... and all.

I am too old to be hip, but I'm faking it. I don't have any extra stuff on the bike. It's "pure"
But I still feel the need to know how far I've gone, so (don't tell the cool folks) I stash my Garmin in my jersey pocket so I can read my stats after a ride.

Here's my bike. I still need (not want, but need) a red chain.

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Old 03-12-09, 05:17 PM   #20
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I won't comment on the whole "fixie" phenomenon other than to note that a certain percentage of riders have always enjoyed fixed gear riding and will no doubt continue to enjoy it after the hipster kids have moved on to the next fad.

Beyond that I just want to address the comment about "riding a fixie really improves your pedalling and makes it much smoother." This is sort of true, but generally not for the folks who are riding around in the 49x16 or what have you. Many generations have depended upon the fixed gear during the off season to improve their pedaling, but this has traditionally been done in extremely small gears -- like 42x22 or so. There is no magic in the fixed gear: pedaling smoothly at high cadence is only encouraged by practicing smooth pedaling at high cadence -- a not always enjoyable exercise which is enforced by a small fixed gear. Riding a large fixed gear does not perform this except down hills. In other situations, the fixed gear actually encourages lousy pedaling, as the pedals carry the riders legs through the dead spots in each pedal stroke. Many a rider has discovered, after a winter of riding the 49x16, that his pedal stroke has gotten quite a bit worse!

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Old 03-12-09, 05:18 PM   #21
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fixies are like computers.........just a passing fad.
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Old 03-12-09, 05:21 PM   #22
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Pshaw, I had a fixie back when I was 12. You see, I had one of those bikes that you shifted from the grip and had three gears. Well, it wasn't working as well as I wanted so I took it apart, and when I put it back together, I lost a few pieces.

And it transformed my bike into a fixie! I wish I known though, I thought it was just broke...
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Old 03-12-09, 05:29 PM   #23
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I won't comment on the whole "fixie" phenomenon other than to note that a certain percentage of riders have always enjoyed fixed gear riding and will no doubt continue to enjoy it after the hipster kids have moved on to the next fad.

Beyond that I just want to address the comment about "riding a fixie really improves your pedalling and makes it much smoother." This is sort of true, but generally not for the folks who are riding around in the 49x16 or what have you. Many generations have depended upon the fixed gear during the off season to improve their pedalling, but this has traditionally been done in extremely small gears -- like 42x19 or so. There is no magic in the fixed gear: pedalling smoothly at high cadence is only encouraged by practicing smooth pedalling at high cadence -- a not always enjoyable exercise which is enforced by a small fixed gear. Riding a large fixed gear does not perform this except down hills. In other situations, the fixed gear actually encourages lousy pedalling, as the pedals carry the riders legs through the dead spots in each pedal stroke. Many a rider has discovered, after a winter of riding the 49x16, that his pedal stroke has gotten quite a bit worse!

So while I have nothing against the fellow that switches to a large or medium fixed gear for entertainment purposes, it is a mistake to expect it to improve your pedal stroke.

HTH!
You find this a lot in the single speed forum where people say that riding fixed ruins your pedal stroke ... then you find out they're running 80 gear inches or the like - they have no choice but to mash so it's no wonder their action is ruined.

I like 70 gear inches (42x16 on my bike) because a cadence of 90 equates to 30km/hr which isn't a bad speed on urban roads and it allows you stop and start easily. The downside is that you find yourself working at a cadence up near 100 when the road is flat and open and when it tilts downwards ...

Unless you have a good pedal action, you bounce on the seat at higher revs and it's darned hard to get that right when your legs are forced into motion - it's probably harder to ride smoothly on a fixed gear bike than with a freewheel because you can't hide with a fixed gear whereas with a freewheel, you can cheat, even if you don't notice it. This is something I've worked out riding the two back to back ... after a year of lazy commuting on a geared bike that resulted in a ruined pedal action, something I'm clawing back now.

You only improve your skills if you work at them and do them properly - the equiptment can not do it for you ... despite what the marketing men would have you believe.

Richard
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Old 03-12-09, 06:02 PM   #24
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Like whatever dude.
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Old 03-12-09, 09:47 PM   #25
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You find this a lot in the single speed forum where people say that riding fixed ruins your pedal stroke ... then you find out they're running 80 gear inches or the like - they have no choice but to mash so it's no wonder their action is ruined.

I like 70 gear inches ...

Richard
True -- mashing the big gears is hard on the knees and hard on one's pedal form. The traditional 2nd gear on a 3-speed or single gear on a coaster brake one-speed is about 66 gear-inches, so your 70-inch figure makes sense on a lightweight bike. For the various local hills I regularly ride, I also need something around 50 inches, which is the traditional first gear on a wide-range 3-speed.
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