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  1. #1
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    fixed vs internally geared

    Ok guys, I'm thinking about going fixed, but I'm not sure. Please help me decide.

    I've always ridden singlespeed junker bikes. However, I'm going to buy a folder to use as commuter and town bike. Derailleurs are out of the question. So that leaves me to decide between internally geared hubs and fixed/freewheel hubs.

    I'm not considering going fixed because it's cool or because I want to explore the joy of cycling. I'm considering fixed because it may have practical advantages for me. (I'll be getting a frame with horizontal dropouts, btw)

    1. Since this is going to be a folding bike that will be carried around, weight is extremely important. How much weight can I really save by going fixed gear? The Harris Cyclery flipflop hubs are 330 grams, while the nexus 3 speed internal hub with coaster brake is 1120 grams. From what I can tell, most fixed hubs and internal 3 speeds weigh about the same. Either way I wouldn't need a separate rear brake. Is that all the weight I'm going to save? Less than a kilogram? Am I forgetting something?

    2. In general, internal hubs seem to cost about twice that of fixed hubs. Although low end internally geared hubs seem to cost about the same as high end fixed hubs, cheap internally geared hubs seem to to be double cheap fixed hubs and expensive internally geared hubs seem to be double expensive fixed hubs. Will that be the only money saved if I decide to go fixed?

    3. How big of a difference in gearing can be used on a fixed/fixed hub? I know people generally say you can have a 3 tooth difference, but what if I want more than that? Is the only hassle that I need to retension the chain when I flip? Wouldn't I have to retension the chain after taking the wheel off anyway (even if there were only a 3 tooth difference)?

    4. Can I add a quick release to make it easier to use a flipflop? How much weight would that add? Would it be easier/harder to adjust chain tension with a quick release?

    I guess that's it. Apart from lower weight, lower cost, and the more precise control of the rear wheel, are there any other advantages of going fixed gear over internally geared?

  2. #2
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    1. About 2 pounds vs. a comparable derailleur geared bike.

    2. You will save on shifters and cables as well. The cheapest fixed rear hub I know of is Dimension which can be had from Mikes Bikes special order catleogue for $39. You can find new fixed wheels for around $100. If you look real hard, you can find a wheelset for that price as well. I would think that folding a fixed gear bike would be easier than folding an internally geared bike due to the lack of cables.

    3. It depends on the gears you are using, your chainstay length, and how long your horzontal drops are. If I'm using 42-15 it puts the axel near the back end of the drops. That means I could probably use an 18t cog no problem. But now I have a 40t ring. I had to remove a link from the chain so now the 15t cog puts the axel near the middle of the dropouts. That means that a 17t cog is too large. And my frame has nice long drops.

    4. You can. But it's been said (with no proof I know of) that QR's are not as strong as old fashion axel nuts. And with fixed gear, if your cog pulls out of the dropout, the likelyhood of eating pavement is very great.
    A QR will reduce weight because you will not need to carry a 15mm wrench, which is no harder to use than quick releases if you actually carry one.

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    I don't know what you're planning on for pedals, but clips and straps probably weigh about half what the R brake would, so you're not saving that much. You also can't use folding pedals. Overall I wouldn't go fixed just to save a teeny bit of weight, you may well find yourself wishing for gears later. As for the flip-flop issues, you can usually get a 3-4 tooth differential but unless your normal ride is uphill one way and downhill the other I wouldn't futz with it, most people just find a gear they like and run it.
    "I don't buy new frames, it just encourages them."

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  4. #4
    shoot up or shut up. isotopesope's Avatar
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    1. it seems to me, a folding frame is going to heavy no matter what light parts are on it... so you're splitting hairs on the weight thing.

    3. 3 teeth seems like a huge varience for a flip/flop fixed hub to me, but if you want even more, you could run two chainrings... and possibly carry two chains... which all sounds like a huge hassle... so maybe just go with the internal hub.

    4. i personally have never had good experience running a quick release on single speeds, let alone tried to do so on a fixed hub. some people have had good experience.

  5. #5
    Paste Taster Retem's Avatar
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    1 you already answered this one
    2 you could just go with the 90 dollar formulas with sealed cart bearings they are nice and sturdy
    3 whatever difference you want 3-teeth is the max without adding and subrtracting chain when you flip
    4 yes you can but not with a formula or most other track hubs I would just pack a15mm with me it is hand anyway and just as fast as a skewer

    as far as gearing goes I like 42/16~15~14 this makes a realy nice cruising gear with a little bit of spin and then a little more agressive attack gear at 14

    good luck and enjoy
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  6. #6
    shoot up or shut up. isotopesope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retem
    as far as gearing goes I like 42/16~15~14 this makes a realy nice cruising gear with a little bit of spin and then a little more agressive attack gear at 14
    keep in mind those ratios are using a 700c wheel. folding bikes typically use smaller wheels... like 20". so a 42:14 on a 700c wheel will be about 81 inches, while on a 20" wheel that same ratio is a 60 inch gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    I guess that's it. Apart from lower weight, lower cost, and the more precise control of the rear wheel, are there any other advantages of going fixed gear over internally geared?
    You said you werem't interested in the joy of cycling or whatever, but that definitely comes to mind here. Fixed is a lot of fun. From a pure efficiency point of view an internal geared hub may be a more practical choice but a lot of people commute for fun as well as to get from a to b and back every day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
    1. About 2 pounds vs. a comparable derailleur geared bike.
    But aren't derailleurs supposed to be lighter than internal hubs? With the components I speced above I'm only saving 2 pounds over an internal hub.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
    2. You will save on shifters and cables as well. The cheapest fixed rear hub I know of is Dimension which can be had from Mikes Bikes special order catleogue for $39. You can find new fixed wheels for around $100. If you look real hard, you can find a wheelset for that price as well. I would think that folding a fixed gear bike would be easier than folding an internally geared bike due to the lack of cables.
    Sheldon Brown's Harris Cyclery fixed hubs are only $35. BTW, remember that we are talking about a folder here. I doubt I will find a 16" fixed wheelset for $100.

    Quote Originally Posted by Landgolier
    I don't know what you're planning on for pedals, but clips and straps probably weigh about half what the R brake would, so you're not saving that much. You also can't use folding pedals. Overall I wouldn't go fixed just to save a teeny bit of weight, you may well find yourself wishing for gears later. As for the flip-flop issues, you can usually get a 3-4 tooth differential but unless your normal ride is uphill one way and downhill the other I wouldn't futz with it, most people just find a gear they like and run it.
    That's a good point about the clips. How much weight is "not much" though? 5 pounds feels a lot heavier when you're carrying it than when you're riding it.

    Also, I don't want the flipflop for uphill-downhill. I want the flipflop for hauling groceries. However a 3-4 tooth differential doesn't seem like it would make much of a difference, especially since I was planning to eventually get an internally hubbed wheel to swap with the fixed wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Retem
    1 you already answered this one
    2 you could just go with the 90 dollar formulas with sealed cart bearings they are nice and sturdy
    3 whatever difference you want 3-teeth is the max without adding and subrtracting chain when you flip
    $90!? I can get a 3 speed hub for less than $70.

  9. #9
    The King of Town manboy's Avatar
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    OK, here's something to consider. If you run a somewhat dished wheel with differently sized cogs on each side and run 2 chainrings, then you should be able to get more than a 3-tooth difference. The dishing would allow the chainline to match up despite the offset of the chainrings. However, you wouldn't save quite as much weight with an extra chainring. Also, I'd probably get too lazy to flip the wheel.

    If you're not trying to be a speed demon, I think the difference in gearing between commuting and hauling groceries won't be as much as you might think.

    Still, internally geared hubs, while very quirky, are the hotness. Everyone should have at least one. I personally am in love with my Centaur's Sturmey-Archer AW.

  10. #10
    Paste Taster Retem's Avatar
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    right right I forgot I like ss couplings and full size bike but eh?
    I am dyslexic so bear with my posts.... [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
    A QR will reduce weight because you will not need to carry a 15mm wrench, which is no harder to use than quick releases if you actually carry one.
    I don't plan on carrying any wrenches nor any spares. If I get a flat then I'll either walk or call a cab.

    Quote Originally Posted by Landgolier
    I don't know what you're planning on for pedals, but clips and straps probably weigh about half what the R brake would, so you're not saving that much. You also can't use folding pedals.
    I looked into this and it seems that detachable pedals weigh significantly less than folding pedals. Also, I think Power Grips will probably be lighter than a rear brake + lever (and quicker to "strap" into than straps).

    Quote Originally Posted by manboy
    OK, here's something to consider. If you run a somewhat dished wheel with differently sized cogs on each side and run 2 chainrings, then you should be able to get more than a 3-tooth difference. The dishing would allow the chainline to match up despite the offset of the chainrings. However, you wouldn't save quite as much weight with an extra chainring. Also, I'd probably get too lazy to flip the wheel.
    For the extra weight and extra hassle of two chainrings I might as well just use a derailleur.

    Quote Originally Posted by manboy
    If you're not trying to be a speed demon, I think the difference in gearing between commuting and hauling groceries won't be as much as you might think.
    I'm talking about urban commuting. Not 20+ mile odysseys.

    Quote Originally Posted by manboy
    Still, internally geared hubs, while very quirky, are the hotness. Everyone should have at least one. I personally am in love with my Centaur's Sturmey-Archer AW.
    Yeah, but they are improving so quickly lately that I'd rather wait for the dust to settle before buying one (did you hear about the new Fallbrook NuVinci continuously variable internal hub?). Besides, fixed gives me more control over the bike for maneuvering in an urban landscape.
    Last edited by makeinu; 01-31-07 at 11:17 PM.

  12. #12
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    You're really seriously splitting hairs here, you could build this thing up as a 10 speed triple, a 3 speed internal, or a fixed gear, and the total weight variation would be about 3 lbs. If you have to carry it far enough to justify worrying about 3 lbs, I would put my money into a better carrying bag rather than futzing with the gearing configuration.

    However, if you are going to split hairs and saw your toothbrush short and all of that in the name of weight, don't forget a couple of things. First, fixed hubs weigh whatever the manufacturer says, plus the weight of the cog and lockring. x2 for a flip flop. 3 speeds are probably weighed with the stock cog, though for a wheel that small you will probably want to go to a 14t, which is as small as they make them. Even then you will need a pretty big chainring to get any kind of range. Not that fixed solves this, since you can only go to 12t or 13t, but it's something to think about. Second, brakes weigh almost nothing. A light lever like a BMX or cross lever, a few feet of cable and housing, and something light like a single pivot caliper is a seriously small amount of metal. Third, skidding and skipping on a 16" bike might not be the best idea for a lot of reasons, and depending on the riding position of the bike it may also be pretty difficult. You also mentioned hauling groceries, if you have any kind of rear pannier I would forget about going fixed to get rid of the rear brake, other than just resisting the pedal you have to unweight the wheel to use the fixed gear wheel as the brake, which is very, very hard with a loaded down bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Landgolier
    You're really seriously splitting hairs here, you could build this thing up as a 10 speed triple, a 3 speed internal, or a fixed gear, and the total weight variation would be about 3 lbs. If you have to carry it far enough to justify worrying about 3 lbs, I would put my money into a better carrying bag rather than futzing with the gearing configuration.
    Yeah, 3 pounds definitely isn't worth it. If it were more like 5 pounds then I'd definitely go for it. A bag, however, is definitely out of the question. This bike is being built for quick agility. Three seconds to fold/unfold in order to zip around for under a mile through urban traffic. I probably don't need any gears, but if it's only going to cost me $50 and 2 pounds then why not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Landgolier
    Third, skidding and skipping on a 16" bike might not be the best idea for a lot of reasons, and depending on the riding position of the bike it may also be pretty difficult. You also mentioned hauling groceries, if you have any kind of rear pannier I would forget about going fixed to get rid of the rear brake, other than just resisting the pedal you have to unweight the wheel to use the fixed gear wheel as the brake, which is very, very hard with a loaded down bike.
    I'm not going to skid and skip. Just resist to slow down the rear wheel enough so I don't go over the handlebars when I use the front brake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    I'm not going to skid and skip. Just resist to slow down the rear wheel enough so I don't go over the handlebars when I use the front brake.
    It doesn't really work like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dutret
    It doesn't really work like that.
    Why not? If you're using the front break properly then you don't have to skid when using a rear break on a coastie? Why would it be any different on a fixie?

  16. #16
    jack of one or two trades Aeroplane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Why not? If you're using the front break properly then you don't have to skid when using a rear break on a coastie? Why would it be any different on a fixie?
    You don't have to do anything if you are using the front brake. Just keep your weight back. Skidding isn't necessary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Why not? If you're using the front break properly then you don't have to skid when using a rear break on a coastie? Why would it be any different on a fixie?

    well, it is only abrupt stops that have any real risk of causing an unexperienced rider to go over the bars. While it is possible to make such a stop with both brakes on without skidding either wheel if you are stopping at an optimal fashion your back wheel will either be unbraked or skidding.

    On a fixie this is even more apparent since you cannot apply smooth force to the pedals like you can the rim. Further there is a negative correlation between how far back your weight is and how smoothly you can apply backpressure.
    Backpressure or backpressure + front brake is therefore good for steady and planned stops but these(hopefully) aren't going to send anyone over the bars no matter how poor of a rider. When a quick stop is needed the front brake or front brake + skid should be used on a fixie though.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mattface's Avatar
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    How far are you going to carry this thing?! It's a bike. you ride it where you are going then, carry it up a few flights of steps maybe. My bag probably weighs more than my bike, but my bag has a strap, and my bike has wheels. Wheels weigh more than a strap, but bikes are built to be ridden not carried.

    It'll take you 15 minutes to walk a mile. That same mile will take you 5 minutes on a bike in urban traffic. So are you planning to ride that bike for 5 minutes, then get off it and carry it for 10 minutes? If you're carrying it more than you're riding it, you probably need to rethink this whole idea, but if you are carrying it for 5 minutes or less at a time I seriously doubt 5 pounds will break you. Build it to be ridden first, then worry about the times you'll have to carry it.

  19. #19
    spinspinspinspin fatbat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    3. How big of a difference in gearing can be used on a fixed/fixed hub? I know people generally say you can have a 3 tooth difference, but what if I want more than that? Is the only hassle that I need to retension the chain when I flip? Wouldn't I have to retension the chain after taking the wheel off anyway (even if there were only a 3 tooth difference)?

    4. Can I add a quick release to make it easier to use a flipflop? How much weight would that add? Would it be easier/harder to adjust chain tension with a quick release?
    Gearing changes depend on the dropout length, chain, and your chosen gear. Generally a 3-4 tooth difference is doable. With the small wheels on folders, you should be able to go from ~14 teeth to ~17-18 teeth on the back, which should give you a nice high and low gear.

    Regarding using a quick release and flipflop hub:
    A quick release is a bit less secure. However, if you run a chain tensioner, that's not a problem, and also means you don't have to adjust the chain tension when removing the wheel. You can carry two chain tensioners, one set to match each side of the flip flop, and make flipping the wheel much easier.

    General advantages of fixed vs other drivetrains for a folder- No cables running to the back of the bike. This is always a weak point, as you've got cables running where you want to fold the bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattface
    How far are you going to carry this thing?! It's a bike. you ride it where you are going then, carry it up a few flights of steps maybe. My bag probably weighs more than my bike, but my bag has a strap, and my bike has wheels. Wheels weigh more than a strap, but bikes are built to be ridden not carried.

    It'll take you 15 minutes to walk a mile. That same mile will take you 5 minutes on a bike in urban traffic. So are you planning to ride that bike for 5 minutes, then get off it and carry it for 10 minutes? If you're carrying it more than you're riding it, you probably need to rethink this whole idea, but if you are carrying it for 5 minutes or less at a time I seriously doubt 5 pounds will break you. Build it to be ridden first, then worry about the times you'll have to carry it.
    It's not how far I'm going to be carrying it, but for how long. For a day of shopping I might ride it for 10-20 minutes and lug it around stores and such for 4-5 hours. Or I might ride for 10-20 minutes before clutching the bike for an hour on crowded public transport. You seem to be neglecting the fact that it takes 5 minutes to enter/exit most buildings; So I'd have to be riding 10 mile stints in order to be riding more than carrying. My life would have to pretty much center around bike riding in order for me to be riding more than carrying.

    Most folders on the market seem to do a fine job of sacrificing carryability for rideability. So if I were going to build a bike to be ridden first and leave carrying as an afterthought then I wouldn't be building a bike at all. I understand that this forum is filled with cyclists, but for most noncyclists bringing a bike almost anywhere is a major hassle, even a folder.

    In any case, I'm not rethinking anything. I've looked at whats available on the market and I've decided that most bikes ride better than I need them too, but carry worse than I need them to. Five pounds is a lot. I don't even carry my laptop with me all day long, and that weighs less than 5 pounds. You're right, it's not going to break me. Wearing shoes one size too small isn't going to break me either, but I'd rather have something that fits my needs.

    Besides, I probably wouldn't be using more than one gear most of the time anyway. So if the gearing is right, a lighter bike with a more efficient drive train might ride better too. Unfortunately, I can't make an informed decision without considering all the appropriate factors separately. How am I supposed to do that when you're muddying the discussion by mixing together factors which I'm trying to analyze separately so I can compare them against each other?

    Quote Originally Posted by fatbat
    Gearing changes depend on the dropout length, chain, and your chosen gear. Generally a 3-4 tooth difference is doable. With the small wheels on folders, you should be able to go from ~14 teeth to ~17-18 teeth on the back, which should give you a nice high and low gear.

    Regarding using a quick release and flipflop hub:
    A quick release is a bit less secure. However, if you run a chain tensioner, that's not a problem, and also means you don't have to adjust the chain tension when removing the wheel. You can carry two chain tensioners, one set to match each side of the flip flop, and make flipping the wheel much easier.

    General advantages of fixed vs other drivetrains for a folder- No cables running to the back of the bike. This is always a weak point, as you've got cables running where you want to fold the bike.
    Thanks. Although, gearing down to 17 teeth from 14 isn't much of a low gear, considering the fact that I'd have to manually flip the wheel. A standard 3 speed hub has a low gear about 10% lower (percentage of low 70s compared to low 80s) and even that isn't very useful.

    Let me ask you this, if I really needed the low gear to haul groceries once a week could I simply keep a different length chain in my closet and simply throw it on with a 20 tooth cog once a week? I mean, once you take the rear wheel off, the chain is just sitting on top of the chainring anyway, right?

    I don't think I would be using a chain tensioner. The whole point of going fixed is to keep things simpler, lighter and cheaper; so I guess I'll just forget about the quick release. Besides, when I ultimately get a second wheel with a fancy internal hub it won't have a quick release anyway.

    About the cables, you're definitely right about them getting in the way on a folder. That's a big plus.
    Last edited by makeinu; 02-01-07 at 04:30 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member mattface's Avatar
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    If you want the lightest possible bike make it a singlespeed.

    Even so it will weigh 20-25 pounds, and no matter how well it folds it will be unwieldy to carry around in stores. Leave it outside. That's what locks are for. I feel strongly that no matter how easy this thing is to fold, it will be a bigger pain than it is worth to use it the way you are talking about. I'd rather walk than try to carry a bike into stores while shopping. Without a carry bag chances are you'll get kicked out of many places anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattface
    If you want the lightest possible bike make it a singlespeed.

    Even so it will weigh 20-25 pounds, and no matter how well it folds it will be unwieldy to carry around in stores. Leave it outside. That's what locks are for. I feel strongly that no matter how easy this thing is to fold, it will be a bigger pain than it is worth to use it the way you are talking about. I'd rather walk than try to carry a bike into stores while shopping. Without a carry bag chances are you'll get kicked out of many places anyway.
    I don't know, 20 pounds of bike + 10 pounds of merchandise doesn't sound so bad if the bike can roll and support a carrier while folded (so it can be used like a shopping cart) and if the fold is tall and slender (so it doesn't take up much floorspace and can be pushed without bending down).

    I mean, 30 pounds total is very heavy, but it's bearable, especially if I'm riding and not carrying. However, 35 pounds total seems like it would be hard for me to carry up stairs.

    Locks don't actually work.

    In any case, if I can't get the weight down to something managable then I'll just have to end up going with something that isn't a real bike. There are plenty of folding minibikes weighing much less than 20 pounds. Although I certainly couldn't use one of those to haul groceries.
    Last edited by makeinu; 02-01-07 at 07:16 PM.

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    we are 138 Philatio's Avatar
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    do it, look how sweet it could be (not mine) http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/Mike/fixed_airnimal.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    I don't know, 20 pounds of bike + 10 pounds of merchandise doesn't sound so bad if the bike can roll and support a carrier while folded (so it can be used like a shopping cart) and if the fold is tall and slender (so it doesn't take up much floorspace and can be pushed without bending down).

    Locks don't actually work.

    Does such a bike exist? Have you created a reasonable design for one? Have you found someone to help you build a eries of prototypes(it will take a bunch to get it right)? What if you still aren't allowed inside the store with it?

    Locks do work, not perfectly but pretty damn well. Nothing is 100% safe from theft even your folding montrosity could be ripped from your hands or taken at gunpoint.

    This idea keeps sounding more preposterous the more you post about it. Choose one of the many premade commuter bikes, buy a decent lock and save the rest of the thousands this folder would cost you to repklace it when it breaks or is stolen years from now.

  25. #25
    LF for the accentdeprived
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    If you're not going to take the bike onto trains, put it in your car's boot etc. than a beater and a good lock is 100x better than a folder IMO.
    You certainly don't want to walk around with a folder under your arm wherever you go.

    As to the original question, if the city is flat, I'd go fixed without a rear brake. Not much function lost and it's indestructible, efficient and light. Have you ridden fixed already? You might not like it but even if that's tha case, no biggie. Slap on a freewheel and a rear brake and go ss.
    Quote Originally Posted by dutret
    Do you deny that you are clueless or do you just think that "moron" didn't need to be tacked on there?
    Bike on flickr and on FGG

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