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Old 12-16-08, 01:49 AM   #1
tatfiend 
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Why a Fixed Gear Bike?

Asking this question here rather than on the FG forum as I want a broader viewpoint in the answers.

What is the attraction of a fixed gear bike? It seems impractical in hilly terrain, including many cities where they seem to be quite common. How much of it is practicality and how much a current fashion? The FG practically disappeared as a bike type, except for track racing use, from the time of the development of the freewheel about 1898 until it's revival in popularity in the last 10 years or so. The histories indicate that it disappeared due to the freewheel equipped bike being more user friendly. So are the current riders all masochists or what?

To me a freewheel equipped bike, for single speed, or a geared hub, seems more practical for a person who wants a non derailleur geartrain. BTW I have a FG rear wheel for one track style frame and have tried it out in the past but now that I am 60+ I want to spare the knees. It therefore has a geared hub wheel installed for normal use.
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Old 12-16-08, 02:09 AM   #2
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How much of it is practicality and how much a current fashion?
I think practicality is not very high on the list of considerations when deciding to ride a FG. There are some practical reasons for single speeds in general (lack of shifters/derailleurs that can break or be stolen, lighter weight), but from a practicality standpoint, a single speed with freewheel is preferable to a FG.

I think part of the current appeal is fashion, but it also arises out of fun. I have a fixed gear bike and I simply enjoy riding it because I feel more "connected" with the bike. Although I don't ride it nearly as much as I ride my geared bikes, I still enjoy the feeling.

Also, there's a sort of a macho subculture among FG riders, especially brakeless riders. They know that riding is busy traffic is dangerous, and that is part of the appeal.

Mostly, though, I think it's because we all want to be like Kevin Bacon
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Old 12-16-08, 02:43 AM   #3
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So are the current riders all masochists or what?
That's probably it.
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Old 12-16-08, 08:32 AM   #4
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I haven't seen the appeal either. Something of a fad spread by a few afficionadoes, I think. though really, most of the reasons I hear for a fixie make me think, "Why not try a unicycle, then??"
We've spent decades perfecting gears so that we won't tear our knees to shreds on hills only to have a bunch of people suddenly decide to forgoe them for fashion. Ridiculous.
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Old 12-16-08, 10:20 AM   #5
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I'm not a fixie guy, I'm not fashionable, but I do have a hybrid Cannondale converted to singlespeed. It's a great backup bike. Multiple gearing is not always needed.
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Old 12-16-08, 10:29 AM   #6
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I am fashionable? My fendered \ rack commuter is a fg\ss that I flip back and forth on a whim. It is a fun change of pace from my geared bikes.
A unicycle sounds amusing as well.
Don't knock it until you have at least tried it once.
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Old 12-16-08, 10:57 AM   #7
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Sheldon Brown explained best....

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html

That web page pretty much single handedly convinced me to buy a fixed gear bike. Forget fashion, it's just plain fun!
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Old 12-16-08, 11:52 AM   #8
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To me a freewheel equipped bike, for single speed, or a geared hub, seems more practical for a person who wants a non derailleur geartrain.
Yup, and I'll bet that you eat your veggies too. VERY logical and sensible!

My worst nightmere is of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was. I feel an obligation to leave them a better legacy than that.
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Old 12-16-08, 11:57 AM   #9
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Actually there is no better legacy to leave than that.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:09 PM   #10
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The 'Zen' is the reason most folks enjoy riding fixed.

If you've ever ridden one you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, no one will be able to describe it to you.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:14 PM   #11
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For something to do, I built myself a fixed gear a couple months ago. I've ridden freewheel/geared bikes for over 30 years.

Some of the things I like about a fixed gear: It was very neat learning to ride a fixed gear. It gave me something new to learn. I feel like it is very efficient in city traffic. I can slow down or speed up by just pedaling and I don't have to take my hands of the bars all the time to shift or brake (I am running both brakes). My thighs were sore the first few times I rode a fixed gear, so obviously it works a different set of muscles than freewheel riding. Having only one gear is fun and reminds me of being a kid again on my banana seat schwinn knockoff.

I doubt I look very fashionable riding with my business clothes on a fender/rack equipped FG bike with both brakes still functioning.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:31 PM   #12
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Basically fad. You could equally well ask why anyone still rides bicycles since motorcycles were invented. Or why they don't ride boneshakers.

I'm skeptical of the zen thing. I've never felt anything special in the way of pedal power while riding a unicycle; that ought to be more zenful than a fixed gear bike. Considering that when the freewheel was invented, a whole generation enthusiastically abandoned fixed gear bikes, I would say they didn't feel much zen kicking them up the hills either. I predict that in 20 years, they'll be the next generations' old single-speed cruisers, and kids will be asking "Why did you ride that thing?"
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Old 12-16-08, 12:41 PM   #13
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I have a FG bike ('89 Trek 660 conversion). It's my commuter/rain training bike. Fenders, lights, blinkies, two brakes, two bottle cages. Not very fashionable, but one hell of a fun bike.



I also was intrigued by Sheldon's FG for the road article. And I've found that everything he says is true. Control on wet pavement is improved. It's a simple and very reliable commuter due to the lack of shifters and derailleurs. It was a fun and relatively cheap project. It appeals to my inner historian because it is essentially 1890s technology (Major Taylor could hop on this bike and ride it and the Wright Brothers could fix it). My gearing is fairly low (70 gear inches), which forces me to spin quickly to stay above 20 mph. And since you're nearly always in the wrong gear, it forces you to make do -- you attack the hills rather than sit and spin. And that's made me a stronger rider.

And did I mention that it's fun?
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Old 12-16-08, 02:27 PM   #14
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Actually there is no better legacy to leave than that.
Yeah ???, aren't you the guy from Letterman ??? I thought YOU were dead....
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Old 12-16-08, 02:54 PM   #15
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The only practicality to a FG is simplicity. For me, it's about the feel of the bike. It's hard to describe, but it's hard to step of the FG and on to a Freewheel bike and not feel weirded out. That's not to say they're the best things ever. I'd never mtb with a fixed hub. I wouldn't want to do some of the mountain road rides I do with a FG, but there are just times when it's a great bike.
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Old 12-16-08, 03:21 PM   #16
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Try it...you'll like it. Or you won't. It's just a bike.

Fixed Gear bikes are just...fun. It's that simple for me. No fashion. No Zen. Just a nice change from my geared bike.
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Old 12-16-08, 04:14 PM   #17
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Sheldon Brown explained best....

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html
So let it be written
So let it be done
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Old 12-16-08, 04:41 PM   #18
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Since building a fixed gear for myself, and riding it only on the road, no city shenagigans for me, I have become a much smoother, stronger rider. Its easyer to click in on my geared racing bikes now. My mountain biking is better because now keeping cadence up a slope comes more naturaly.
I don't know about the Zen thing either, unless Zen is beyond me. Not sure about it just being a blast to ride. Its a tool for making me a better all around rider.
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Old 12-16-08, 04:42 PM   #19
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For me, the biggest practical use is fitness. A 15 miler on my fg feels like twice the workout of a 15 miler on my road bike.
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Old 12-16-08, 04:48 PM   #20
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Actually there is no better legacy to leave than that.
Another vegan - not that there's anything wrong with that.
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Old 12-16-08, 04:59 PM   #21
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I'm skeptical of the zen thing. I've never felt anything special in the way of pedal power while riding a unicycle; that ought to be more zenful than a fixed gear bike.
I've ridden both. A unicycle is nothing like a FG bike. A unicycle is slow and the movements your body makes to balance and move are a lot more jerky than a FG bike. There is absolutely nothing "zen" about a unicycle. A FG bike is much different and a lot of fun. You should give it a try if you have a chance.
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Old 12-16-08, 07:51 PM   #22
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I ride fixed gear bikes for the same reason that I love driving stick shift and riding a motorcycle. It's ALOT of fun. I have much more control, its like third gear(in a car) all the time, more feedback from the bike and the constant pedaling is a great workout. My legs are carved from wood these days and I can eat like a pig and still lose weight.

The bikes are very pretty too. No clutter, what with the derailleurs and shifters and all. Not to say I don't have geared bikes, but my fixed gears are my favourites.

Also, I was getting bored with bikes. Almost giving up on them. When I started riding fixed a few years ago, I fell in love with cycling all over again. It also helps you become a much stronger rider with a much smoother pedal stroke. It helped me smoke my riding buddies on climbs in the woods on MTN bikes.

Anyhow, that preceding convoluted mess is why a fixed gear bike is a must for me.
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Old 12-16-08, 08:42 PM   #23
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I'm too old and my knees are too wonky for such things; "give me gears, lots of gears, and some hills to ride upon....."

Ahem...Anyway, "fixies" used to be a standard training item. It was the usual practice for road racers to spend the early part of the Spring training season on fixed-gear bikes, to build up leg speed and improve circulation before going to harder training.
At least, that was the case in some of the older books I read; I have no idea how pro road racers train now.
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Old 12-16-08, 08:54 PM   #24
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I'm too old and my knees are too wonky for such things; "give me gears, lots of gears, and some hills to ride upon....."

Ahem...Anyway, "fixies" used to be a standard training item. It was the usual practice for road racers to spend the early part of the Spring training season on fixed-gear bikes, to build up leg speed and improve circulation before going to harder training.
At least, that was the case in some of the older books I read; I have no idea how pro road racers train now.
I have a friend that raced in the late 80's and early 90's and that's how he trained.
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Old 12-16-08, 08:54 PM   #25
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Yeah, I'd have to add that riding fixed has made me a much stronger, better rider.

I tend to coast less and keep a steady cadence on freewheeled bikes since going fixed.
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