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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 08-24-05, 06:55 AM   #1
gendefect
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Newbie on a fixed Bianchi

I just bought a '05 Bianchi Pista from the LBS and had a front brake added. The people there convinced me that the front brake wasn't enough stopping power to use as the only brake if I rode freewheel, so I left the bike in it's original fixed gear setup. The problem is that it's been a while since I've ridden any bike at all and I've never ridden a fixed whatsoever. Obviously it takes some time getting used to, but I'm pretty pathetic at riding it at the moment. Plus, when I was riding it home, at the end of my ride, the chain snapped. Brand new bike! Could I have been riding the bike incorrectly enough to break the chain on it's first ride?

Ultimately, I'm wondering if the LBS was wrong and if it doesn't make sense to set the bike up as a freewheel for now, while I'm acclimating myself to the bike and riding again. I'm not planning on racing or anything, just riding from here to there, so I feel like the front brake would be fine for that. True? Or should I just stick it out and stay on the fixed, presuming I'll pick it up sooner or later. I do want to learn to ride fixed eventually, just not necessarily immediately. Thanks for the thoughts.
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Old 08-24-05, 07:06 AM   #2
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I'd say a busted chain first ride without any apparent visual clue as to why means you should be leery of the LBS, though of course accidents and failures happen. All things being in generally ok working order, you shouldn't break a chain.

You may find that once you're used to riding you'll find that a front brake is sufficient for the times you're riding the freewheel. If you're not used riding a bicycle, why not have two? Or get by with one. you can try <a href="http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html">this page</a> for some reasoning why.
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Old 08-24-05, 07:17 AM   #3
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while breaking a cable is very rare it would sure suck if you were going downhill with a freewheel. on a fixed you still have the drivetrain to slow you but on a freewheel set up you really should have a rear stopper too. as far as a broken chain i'm guessing the shop had your chain way too tight. give yourself a couple weeks to get used to riding fixed. it's quite addicting.
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Old 08-24-05, 07:56 AM   #4
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I personally would never ride a freewheel unless it had 2 hand brakes. If it's fixed I would use at least a front. I have gone brakeless for periods of time, it is fun but self preservation and going down long hills always puts the front brake back on. Only a front brake on a freewheel screams "over the bars" to me, but it's your life and Darwin is real.
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Old 08-24-05, 08:47 AM   #5
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Broken chain already! Yikes, that does sound like the shop put the rear wheel on too tight. Go with fixed and the front brake. You will get the hang of it and it will be a fun experience provided you don't seriously hurt yourself. Just find some flat terrain to practice on and you should do fine. Once your ride fixed you won't switch to the freewheel again.
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Old 08-24-05, 09:04 AM   #6
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The broken chain constitutes some sort of weird statistical anomaly.
It had to happen to someone.

As for riding fixed vs. freewheel, get some experience with riding fixed and you'll never go back to freewheeling.
I find fixed gear riding profoundly superior to freewheeling in every regard.
It now gives me the creeps to get on anything that coasts.
The loss of control and precision on a coaster makes me very uncomfortable now that I've learned to ride fixed.

A rear brake on any bike has no purpose other than as a backup or for use on very slippery surfaces.
One can lock-up his rear wheel on slippery surfaces and still stay upright with a free-rolling front wheel.
Conversely, lock-up that front wheel and you'll go down hard.
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Old 08-24-05, 09:23 AM   #7
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my advice:

a) switch over to fixed. you'll get used to it quickly. possibly get a new rear cog b/c the 16t is a little steep for someone who is just getting used to riding a bike again. I would recommend going to 17t or 18t. (t=teeth, p.s.)
b) keep the front brake on for at least a month, if not forever.
c) go back to your LBS and demand (in a polite way) that they give you a new chain of equal or greater value to the one that came on the bike. I don't know what comes on the '05 Pista, but I imagine its not the greatest chain in the world. Make sure it has a little slack in it this time (who knows if it was too tight before, but you should check now), but not too much slack.
d) Learn basic mechanical upkeep for your bike (i.e. take off the rear wheel and learn how to retension the chain -- you'll need a 15mm wrench; how to remove/install lockring and cog [you'll need a lockring tool and chainwhip -- well, you don't need the chainwhip, but you should get one anyway] ...those are the most important things)
e) get stronger, get faster.
f) check out your local velodrome.
g) say "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!" a lot when you're riding b/c it's so much fun.
h) if anyone ever talks smack about your Pista (if you stay on this board long enough, you'll find out about this...), give em' a little slap with the back of your hand. Not too hard. It's just for shock, and perhaps a little bit of a sting. Remove any rings or jewelry before doing so.

Enjoy.

J
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Old 08-24-05, 09:55 AM   #8
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i broke my chain once trying to pedal backwards while going 16mph in the rain
and one other time standing to accelerate from a light...
maybe you're just super strong??
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Old 08-24-05, 10:22 AM   #9
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If you are confident about the front brake (that it won't F up), I'd suggest freewheeling, especially if you ride in serious traffic. Early on, it's easy to crash a fixie or just be uncomfortable on it, especially if the bike is new to you and you are just getting into biking. Fixed riding is not for everyone anyway. Try it later and see how you like it.
The slight risk of the brake cable snapping at the wrong time on a new bike is smaller than the risk of hurting yourself fixed or just not riding the bike, 'cos you don't feel good on it.
I'm probably alone with that view here, though.

(((I don't understand why you bought a track-framed bike, that won't easily take a rear brake in the first place if you weren't sure you wanted to go fixed???)))
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Old 08-24-05, 12:36 PM   #10
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ride it fixed for a month you'll never go back.
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Old 08-24-05, 12:41 PM   #11
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I rode a BMX cruiser bike for a long time, with just a rear-brake, and that thing was useless. It stopped me enough for me not to kill myself, but since the rim was very bent, it wasn't the best brake.

I think you'd be fine freewheeling with a front brake only, but I think you should give fixed a try. I haven't been riding fixed very long, and I thought, as did my friends, that I would kill myself on it.

It wasn't hard to get used to, and now I love it. This might actually be a good time for you to go fixed, since you haven't been on a bike for a while. You won't have to "re-learn" the fixed thing, you'll just "learn" it once, kinda thing. You know?

Anyway, I just rode my mountain bike for the first time in a couple months, after exclusively riding my fixed, and my mountain bike felt broken. It was the weirdest feeling to be able to coast. I kept cathing myself thinking "holy crap! it's broken!" and then realizing I was on a different bike.

I think you'll be fine freewheeling with the front brake, but try it fixed.
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Old 08-24-05, 12:56 PM   #12
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C'mon fixed nazis! Everyone keeps saying it's easy to get used to fixed - which is close to true, but not quite - and then says freewheeling is sooooo difficult and dangerous to do. It's ridiculous. Of course a freewheel is funny at first if you have been fixed for months, but you'll just have to get re-used to it and then it's fine.

And the "try fixed and you'll never go back" BS is even worse. There are all kinds of people, and not all like fixed riding. It has its drawbacks.

*says a guy who not ridden his MTB since his fixie/ss, currently brakeless, got built up*


Edit: here's a recent thread about front-brake-only freewheeling. The fact of the matter is, its a perfectly good setup, and a good front brake can stop a bike as fast as any brake combo can. The problem is, of course, if the brake cable snaps, you're screwed. But new cables on looked-after brakes don't snap.

single speed freewheels with only a front brake?!?

Last edited by LóFarkas; 08-24-05 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 08-24-05, 01:04 PM   #13
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I'm not a fixed nazi! I was just saying it's not hard to get used to, and for me, it was fun, albeit a bit exhilerating and scary to start riding fixed. Just do it!

It really isn't hard to get used to. Even Tony at IRO, says, "Give it a week."

But, you'll be fine with a front brake.
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Old 08-24-05, 01:13 PM   #14
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Yeah, I didn't mean to pick on you... Sorry. Some guys wrote more radical things in the past that I reacted to now.

Simple facts: gendefect has ridden the bike fixed a bit, and isn't liking it much. He is worried that the front brake hasn't "enough stopping power", which it obviously has. I say, flip that hub over.
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Old 08-24-05, 01:18 PM   #15
gendefect
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Thanks for all the info and advice. It sounds like the majority says I should stay fixed, and I would really like to learn, so I think I'll give it a shot. If it ends up not being for me, enough people said riding freewheel was okay and that the front brake would be safe, that I can feel pretty confident doing that and not feel like a total track bike reject. But I'll give the fixed thing a shot. Now, if I can just find a good place in NYC to practice without running into people or cars...
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Old 08-24-05, 01:36 PM   #16
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If I'm not mistaken, your bike came with a KMC chain with a masterlink. Check your broken chain to see if the master link is still attached. I would bet that the side-plate wasn't snapped on tight, and the master link worked its way out while you were riding.
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Old 08-24-05, 02:46 PM   #17
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how would I indentify the masterlink? It did look like a part had come off (and i thought i heard something like a screw hitting the ground when it actually broke) at the point where the chain broke.
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Old 08-24-05, 03:09 PM   #18
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I don't know how hard and fast you took your first ride on it however many very good mechanics warn against pushing your brand new drivetrain very hard until after it's had 20k+

Same as a new engine, first 1-2 hundred miles keep the rpms down
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Old 08-24-05, 06:13 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKRG
I personally would never ride a freewheel unless it had 2 hand brakes...but it's your life and Darwin is real.
I can stop in EXACTLY the same distance using the front brake only as I can with two. In an emergency stop (on dry pavement) the front brake is the only brake that does anything. If you're riding dirt or commuting in the rain, two brakes make sense; otherwise a single front provides equivalent stopping power.

Yes, the rear brake provides redundancy should the front fail, but if you don't check the (single, front) brake before riding, then yes, Darwin is real...
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Old 08-25-05, 07:33 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gendefect
how would I indentify the masterlink? It did look like a part had come off (and i thought i heard something like a screw hitting the ground when it actually broke) at the point where the chain broke.
The masterlink is composed of a steel side plate with two steel pins fixed at each end. The ends of the pins have grooves in them. The pins slide through the holes on each end of the open chain, to connect it together. A thin U-shaped metal snap-plate slides over the ends of the pins, engaging the grooves, and thus locking the masterlink in place. You need to snap the plate into place with the tip of a screwdriver or a needlenose pliers. If the plate doesn't snap into place, it could conceivably fall off. In that event, there would be nothing to prevent the link from working its way out of the chain. Some KMC chains have a "missing link", which is actually tightened with chain tension. Assuming that all '05 Pistas were spec'd with the same chain, yours should not have the "missing link", but rather the masterlink.

If you inspect the broken chain by examining the side plates along each side of the chain, and you don't see the U-shaped snap-plate, then odds are the masterlink came loose. Or, if you inspect the two ends of the chain, and all you see are nice round holes where the pins should be, without any evidence of ruptured side plates, or sheared pins, then again, it was probably the masterlink that fell out.
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