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  1. #1
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    fixed vs freewheel

    For singlespeed bikes, what are the practical pros and cons of a fixed gear vs a freewheel for transportation?

    When I say practical I mean practical. I don't want to hear any bull**** about it being more fun and I don't want to hear anything about how fixed gears improve strength/cadence/etc. The reason it improves your strength/cadence is because it makes you work harder to achieve the same result. That is a practical disadvantage, not an advantage. An indoor cycle is good for training too, but it couldn't be worse for transportation purposes.

    The reason I'm asking is because it seems to me that (when all things are considered) fixed gears really aren't better than freewheels. However, this doesn't make sense in light of the fact that fixed gears are popular among bike messengers. Why would someone who spends all day cycling and whose livelihood depends on their ability to efficiently cycle pick the worse alternative, especially when switching to the other alternative is as simple using a freewheel instead of a lockring?

  2. #2
    dork.
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    they work better in bad weather and such.

  3. #3
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    Its subjective. Buy a flip-flop hub and give each a try and figure out what you love and hate about each.

  4. #4
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    practical:

    fixed:
    -its harder to give up spinning like a madman in a paceline, the fixed doesn't let you suddenly pause and when you stop at 140rpm its harder to quickly get it going again, so you may get gapped

    freewheel:
    -you can go faster down long steep hills with the same gearing that lets you get up the same hill
    -you can corner at higher speed given the same cornering skill and same bike geometry
    Last edited by noisebeam; 02-02-07 at 08:51 AM.

  5. #5
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    fixed cogs also have no moving parts.

  6. #6
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Personally, I can't stand the idea of using my brakes in the rain. The grit in the rainwater grinds your rims and pads and even using your brakes once in the rain leaves this ugly black gunk on your rims, which eventually works its way onto your fork and frame. Plus, it greatly accelerates brake and rim wear. WIth fixed you don't need to use your brake in the rain.

  7. #7
    not actually Nickatina andre nickatina's Avatar
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    I find fixies to be a lot less effort than freewheels, actually. When you're trying to present these kind of arguments, you really need to have had ridden a fixed gear, by the way. No amount of internet bickering is going to change real life hands on experience.

    Anyways with fixed gears it's a lot easier to go up hills than with single speeds because you have the momentum of the spinning wheel carrying your every pedal stroke, whereas with freewheels this is not the case. Another advantage is being more in tuned to your back wheel, which provides a good basis for "traction" / feel.

    If you consider "fun" a bull**** reason for riding fixed, though, I guess you live in a depressing world. I've been riding my geared bike and really disliking every minute of it since I took apart my road conversion to paint / wait for paint to dry and recoat. Than again the two bikes have a lot different geometry and the geared one is much heavier, so that could account for my disdain in riding it too: I don't like shallow, unresponsive geometry and heavy frames...

  8. #8
    right foot, left foot...
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    It's not a "practical" thing for me... It's a fun thing. Fixed is just so different than anything else It's just fun. anyway her's what I got.

    Practical:

    -one less moving part (small +)
    -Imeddiate engagement and ultra smooth circles. I love pedal feedback on fixies.

    FWIW, i have a flip flop hub. i dig 'em both.

    Apples and oranges my friend.

  9. #9
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    Most people who ride fixed will have a hard time separating the fun from the practical. For example I love being able to feel the texture of whatever is under the rear wheel. Is this useful? I guess you could cook up some justification that has to do with traction etc. Does it make cycling more fun? Hell Yes. Something about that level of integration with your environment is pleasing on an intuitive level.

    You're looking for someone to explain why riding a bike is rational on a parameter by parameter basis and for most people pleasure is an important parameter. At some really trivial level we do everything we do because it makes us feel good. Why are you so averse to people bringing this up?

    **Edited w. qualifier for andre nickatina**
    Last edited by mander; 02-01-07 at 08:06 PM.

  10. #10
    not actually Nickatina andre nickatina's Avatar
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    "We do everything we do because it make us feel good. "

    Not necessarily, most people aren't completely hedonistic like that... but yeah, fun and pleasure is definitely a large part of fixies.

  11. #11
    70mm4$!n! freeskihp's Avatar
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    if you are looking for efficiency/practicality look no further than internally geared hubs. it is a plain and simple fact that efficiency and fixed gear/SS do not go together
    "The only reasons anyone should ever ride in the rain is because a) youíve had your license to operate a motor vehicle suspended by the state. b) youíre in a bike race in which case youíre not allowed to use fenders anyway. c) youíre from Portland- in which case my main problem is with your neck beard- not your bicycle...If you need to train when itís pissing rain- buy a trainer or one of those cheap charter flights to Mallorca."

  12. #12
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    with a fixed gear you have traction control. yes, you can literally feel the traction your rear wheel has. this is very useful whenever you ride on anything but dry pavement. people get lots of grit in their freewheels, so they have to be lubed and stuff, and you need a special tool to get them off if you ever have to.
    http://img386.imageshack.us/img386/2...ressbareq7.gif

    if you are a mac n00b, copy this and paste it into your own signature

  13. #13
    dillyshotback
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    Have you ever looked down and seen little bearings flying out of your freewheel? If so, then you are lucky, because it's as bad as throwing a chain if you're not expecting it. When you get dirt and grim in there they degenerate very quickly and can skip and be very unpredictable at times. I've never ever, liked freewheels.

  14. #14
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    If you brake with your legs, then you save money on brake pads. Rim brakes don't work so well in snow or slush.

    I think in most cases its just cause you want to. I usually prefer the freewheel. When I ride fixed, its just for fun. Last time I road fixed, it was on the bike trail with my wife. I don't brake exclusively with my legs, but it was fun checking my speed without grabbing the brakes.

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    I know this, when Im slinging packages, if I dont like the bike im on, im not gonna have a good day no matter what. That is a big part of it. I started with a SS mtb, then a SS roadie, and now Im on my 3rd fixed which I built just for work, and still ride the SS roadie occasionally. Most of the time, its the fixed, its fun, cheap, low maintenance and tough, it takes lots of abuse.

    ever been to an alleycat or race with a decent sized field? at every one there will usually be maybe a handful of guys that are good, and I mean really really good at riding a bike, they are like surgeons with a fixed gear, they arent hard to spot, that is part of what its about

    no other bike will allow you to show your style, strength, finesse, and skill and be as much fun to ride as a simple fixed gear, riding one well is an art in itself, and riding one all day makes for lots of practice, it becomes second nature, you trackstand, skid, stop, turn, like its part of you, its about riding, nothing more

    its part of the job, its another skill being good at riding, pride in one's trade or craft

    after riding a fixed for like a year, freewheel bikes feel like they are broken and somethings wrong

  16. #16
    we are 138 Philatio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedex
    after riding a fixed for like a year, freewheel bikes feel like they are broken and somethings wrong
    I got it after 4 days. It went away, but I was on a new freewheel and actually went home, took it off the bike, and was trying to figure out what was wrong with it
    Last edited by Philatio; 02-01-07 at 08:45 PM.

  17. #17
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trackstar10
    with a fixed gear you have traction control. yes, you can literally feel the traction your rear wheel has. this is very useful whenever you ride on anything but dry pavement. people get lots of grit in their freewheels, so they have to be lubed and stuff, and you need a special tool to get them off if you ever have to.
    Is that a problem with SS freewheels? Cause my old geared bike had over 12000 miles on the rear hub without touching it and it still worked fine till the day I stripped the frame. 12000 miles through nyc streets, rain, 2 hurricanes, salt and sand from the snow, and it worked fine. Just how poorly designed are SS freewheels?

  18. #18
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    Good topic here. My experience so far. I have been riding fixed/ss since about last april or may. I came from ss mountain biking of about 2 years. I think the benifit of fix and ss is the climbing power you have. I blow by so many people on road bikes i lost count long ago. Now, comparing the exact routes running a freewheel vs. fixed. I was always a few minutes faster on the freewheel. I would say it is because you can fly down steep hills faster,that's all. So, after all is said i prefer fixed. Just to dial in my bike handling skills as poster above stated. I think the disadvatages of each are. fixed=slow downhills.freewheel = seems sloppy wheel and a noisy racket going on down there. However, if i ride in the "mountains" around 3,000ft of elevation change. A freewheel is a must, i don't have a geared bike.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Is that a problem with SS freewheels? Cause my old geared bike had over 12000 miles on the rear hub without touching it and it still worked fine till the day I stripped the frame. 12000 miles through nyc streets, rain, 2 hurricanes, salt and sand from the snow, and it worked fine. Just how poorly designed are SS freewheels?
    Shimano freewheels are the worse. Really, it shredded into shavings inside after just a few rides. Looks like the white industries make a nice one. 80 bucks. I have an acs that sits in the parts bin for now,it just clunks a little bit.

  20. #20
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    first time I went back to freewheel I stood up and got up to speed, went maybe 100 yards, then went to skip skid and found myself slamming the cranks to vertical, then grabbing brake in panic, felt stupid after that, but you just get so used to it than when its gone it is a really strange feeling--just being able to spin the cranks backwards and not slow down is a trip

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Is that a problem with SS freewheels? Cause my old geared bike had over 12000 miles on the rear hub without touching it and it still worked fine till the day I stripped the frame. 12000 miles through nyc streets, rain, 2 hurricanes, salt and sand from the snow, and it worked fine. Just how poorly designed are SS freewheels?

    they usually have enough of a gap that when you oil them, you can lay the bike on its side, spin the wheel and drip oil into it, they get all sorts of water and junk in them

    freehubs have better seals

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by E !
    Shimano freewheels are the worse. Really, it shredded into shavings inside after just a few rides. Looks like the white industries make a nice one. 80 bucks. I have an acs that sits in the parts bin for now,it just clunks a little bit.
    ive noticed the shimano's are quieter and smoother than the ACS, but the ACS last longer

    but the ACS one's also have this weird habit of making kind of clunking noise in certain positions when your pedaling, like the cog is rocking back and forth side to side on its bearings

  23. #23
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    I'm a little confused, the freewheel shreaded itself after a "few rides"?? Did I get some kind of magic wheel that survived 12000 miles through potholes, grit, sand, rain, and mud without any service?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    I'm a little confused, the freewheel shreaded itself after a "few rides"?? Did I get some kind of magic wheel that survived 12000 miles through potholes, grit, sand, rain, and mud without any service?
    No magic wheel. Did you have a freehub on the geared bike? Or was it like a 7-8speed freewheel? I am referencing to ss freewheels. They are commonly used for bmx bikes.
    p.s. on the "magic" wheel. I think i just got a bummer freewheel.

  25. #25
    or tarckeemoon, depending marqueemoon's Avatar
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    Coasting is underrated around here for sure. The traction and low maint arguments for the practicality of fixed are largely bull****. There are too many other factors involved - bike setup and rider skill for starters.

    As for cheaper, it depends on your priorities. Good freewheels ain't cheap, but good road and mountain wheels can be, especially in a few years when everyone has to have Dura Ace and XTR 12 speed. A cassette singlespeed kit and a tensioner and you're set. 120mm spaced "track" bikes and frames are wayyyyy overvalued right now anyway.

    Oh, and I'm especially bored of the "zen" arguement. When I'm tired and cranky and freezing and riding home from work in the dark in a downpour over ****ty streets I'm really not in the mood to be "one with the road".

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