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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 07-14-03, 07:21 AM   #1
shishi
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Why go brakeless?

I have run across so many people who ride without hand brakes. I rarely use my own hand brake but it is good to have in case of very quick stops and steep hills.

Just wanted to know those of you who go brakeless why? and did you always ride fixie that way?

Thanks.
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Old 07-14-03, 08:20 AM   #2
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i ride brakeless because i'm lazy. i commute on the same bike that i race on the track. untaping the bars, removing the brake lever, retaping the bars, and removing the brake caliper is frankly something i have no interest in doing twice a week.
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Old 07-14-03, 12:19 PM   #3
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i ride brakeless because there weren't any brake holes on my main bike when i started riding it. then when i replaced the fork i decided to keep it that way for safety reasons. my main bike has a smaller front wheel, and i think front braking only would flip me. it also looks cleaner. on my "rain" bike, i could run brakes, but i just don't out of stubborn-ness and stupidity. there are some days when i wish i had a brake on there, but for the most part my gearing so esy enough that i don't have a problem stopping. i also think that a brake on a fixed gear makes me lazy about paying attention to traffic.
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Old 07-14-03, 12:27 PM   #4
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I have front brakes on my fixies, but I find that I rarely use them when riding on my own. I like to ride my fixie in packs so a front brake is necessary and I use it quite often. These guys would probably first curse me out and then keep a good distance away from me if they see me with no brakes.
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Old 07-14-03, 01:24 PM   #5
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I've got two with and one without.

The one without started out brakeless because I couldn't decide which handlebars I wanted to use. While I was switching between drops, moustache, and two different bullhorns, I didn't feel like unwrapping and re-wrapping the bar or with mounting the lever, so I didn't.

Once I settled on the bullhorns, I'd ridden it enough to realize that I'd never really used it much anyway, and didn't miss it. Besides, a nice bullhorn looks ever so much better without a brake lever (although I could see putting a nice little inline lever like the one that Soma or Paul makes, if I had to use a brake).
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Old 07-14-03, 01:28 PM   #6
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the other guys you ride with have road bikes, don't they? riding in a pack of fixies is lots of fun, since everyone's in the same boat, i've found that i watch the other person's legs and cranks a lot more for stopping or slowing cues. i stopped doing critical mass a long time ago because i can't ride my fixie in close proximity to folks who use their brakes often. also they go to slow and i end up getting frustrated with it. also the stupidity and the aggressive attitudes it brings out in motorists AND cyclists alike got to me.
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Old 07-14-03, 01:54 PM   #7
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I ride WITH a brake because I once broke a chain trying to stop for a sign...it was a 4 way stop so no damage was done but if it weren't......
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Old 07-14-03, 02:29 PM   #8
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I ride brakeless because it's a pain to set up brakes, especially cantilever, plus my fork is bent so my brakes would always rub on my rim if I rode them. And it also looks cleaner/cooler to ride brakeless...
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Old 07-14-03, 03:18 PM   #9
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I ride with brakes on both wheels. I do long distance rides, and using a fixie brakeless is simply not an option for long distance road riding (100 miles or more), particularly when I have baggage aboard. Long mtn descents in particular need brakes (perferrably 2) to keep the speed down to a reasonable cadence without overheating the front rim. Given the cadence defined speed limit, more braking is required on long fixed descents--thus more heat to the rims than on a coastie.

Dave
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Old 07-14-03, 04:01 PM   #10
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Brakeless.. I've had it for a week and haven't had time to put it on.. and I'm beginning to like it with out
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Old 07-14-03, 04:44 PM   #11
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i run a front brake, but i'm building another fixie from a track frame with no brake holes, so i won't run brakes on that one.

brakes are not necessary if you watch your speed and look farther ahead in traffic. you can always hop skid in case of emergency (which i can do now, i'm proud to say) or lock the rear wheel with your foot if your chain snaps. however, the chances of your chain snapping are close to Nil. if you know how to install and maintain a chain, the chances of it snapping are equal to those of your brake cable snapping.

the biggest obstacle toward riding brakeless, imho, is developing enough leg power to slow yourself and stop when going downhill.
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Old 07-14-03, 05:31 PM   #12
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my chain fell off once. it was because i forgot to put that little clippy thing on the master link. i had just gone through a major intersection when my chain started making all these heinous noises, so i was slowing down anyway, but once it snapped i just put my foot down and started swearing a blue streak down the street on my walk home. i used to forget about that thing a lot. that night i resolved to never use a master link again on that bike. and i haven't since. the bike made it really far without that clippy thing, incidentally.

the thing about chains breaking, is that yes, it's not very likely that you'll break a chain, but if you happen to, it'll usually give you some warning before it snaps. because it'll stretch before it breaks, and will make heinous noises.
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Old 07-14-03, 05:45 PM   #13
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the one day i ever rode brakeless (just cuz i was on my way to the shop to buy a new cable and pads) i got a ticket for it... plus i started riding fixed on a wheel without a lock ring and i spun it off all the time... i love me some brakes...
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Old 07-14-03, 06:50 PM   #14
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so it sounds like brakes are pretty much a safeguard for improper bike maintenance
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Old 07-14-03, 07:26 PM   #15
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Have seen a track rider in full sprint break a chain in the banked section of a 250m track. He was carried off on a stretcher. I've broken a chain on my fix; fortunately I was going up a hill and only suffered some abrasions. It happens.
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Old 07-15-03, 05:03 AM   #16
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Don't agree with shrimpx: even with good maintenance, things fail & it's useful/safe to have a back-up. Chance may be low but consequence is high on these failures so extra back-up is worthwhile.

However, 2 reasons for me:

1. long / steep hills: having to ride 1km at 180rpm (as I had the other day) is not an option. At that cadence I just couldn't brake with my legs smoothly enough.

2. The law. UK law (which is similar pretty much anywhere) says that a bike on the road should have 2 indepedant means of braking: a fixed cog is good for one, brake is the second.

In fact, I've 2 brakes on my as I fitted a flip-flop & I prefer the balanced look it gives: sometimes the rear is useful even with the fixed for braking down those hills.
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Old 07-15-03, 12:15 PM   #17
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local law says that you need a means to cause your rear tire to skid. a fixed gear without brakes thus qualifies.

the thing with riding brakeless is that it's a totally different type of riding. you can't expect to take your brakes off and behave the same way on the road as you would if you had brakes. so yes, it involves riding slower in certain situations, slowing down much sooner than you would if you had brakes, descending hills at an rpm which allows you to hop skid in case of emergency, etc.

furthermore, to be a proficient brakeless rider, you have to have skills that you wouldn't have otherwise. you have to know how to slow down by carving, how to lock your rear wheel or slow down the front wheel if your chain snaps, how to turn the bike sideways in case of emergency, etc. until you learn some of these things, you ride slower and choose your routes.

so ask yourself why you ride fixed... i mean, gears are much better because you can climb hills easier. and coasting is better because you can go fast on the downhills. riding fixed is much more dangerous. if you snap your chain and your wheel gets locked at high speed, you're screwed. if you enter a turn at high speed and your pedal smacks into the ground, you're toast. if your pants or shoelaces get caught in your chain, you're on the ground. yet people still ride fixed gear daily. are they crazy?

i think brakeless is the same way. it's riskier, but it has its upsides. it offers a much more pure ride, you feel much more connected to the bike and road, you remove even more parts that need maintenance/adjustments/replacement off the bike (something that makes fixed gear riding so attractive to begin with) and it makes you much more aware of your surroundings.
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Old 07-16-03, 07:02 AM   #18
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Now that's a philosophy I can appreciate. Not sure I'd want to take the risks, personally but the argument is sound in itself.

Interesting point on the local law there, particularly as we all know that front brakes offer most efficient stopping.
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