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  1. #1
    Senior Member philski's Avatar
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    Fixie/SS or geared bike for best workout?

    Which bike - a fixed gear/single speed bike, or a road bike with multiple gears - is the best for a good workout?

    I'll explain my situation a little more and my thoughts and then I'd appreciate some feedback. Right now I have a single speed bike which I got cheap off of Craigslist. It works well but needs a few upgrades to get in good shape - the tires are worn out, the seatpost is too short, etc. I'm debating whether I should sink the money into this old bike or get a new bike, and my wife said I can go ahead and look at a new entry-level bike

    Anyways where I live is relatively flat, with a few gentle hills. I've been bike commuting to work for nearly a month on the single speed and it goes fine (9 miles round trip 5 days a week). I bike 20-40 miles on the weekends, 10-20 miles at a time. At the end of 10-20 miles I feel completely spent. Total of 65-85 miles a week.

    Now my goals are twofold:
    1. Commute to work
    2. Stay fit and lose a few pounds (6'0", 177lb and dropping) both by my commute and biking recreationally on the weekends

    Now I love the single speed bike for the sheer simplicity of it. But my concern is this: is it limiting me from going long distances, or do I just need to build up leg strength? It seems to me from reading that most fixed/ss bikers never really attempt long distances, and I'd like to be able to put on 40, 50 or more miles over a weekend. I know typically fixed/ss bikers are city dwellers but even reading about those who ride recreationally, they tend to be in shorter rides.

    Secondly, which bike will give me a better workout? I guess ultimately if you kept a geared bike in one gear, it's like a single speed... but is there some inherent advantage to the single speed, ie, forcing yourself to power up those hills instead of shifting down to a lower gear?

    Thanks for the input.

  2. #2
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    You already have SS. Keep it and upgrade when you find cheap parts.

  3. #3
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Wait.. your wife gave you the green light to get a new bike and you're asking us what you should do?

    Both bikes have their advantages/disadvantages. If you are planning on continuing to ride as much as you do now, you'll eventually want another bike. Go ahead and get it now while the gettin' is good, as long as you can afford it.

    You don't need hills to enjoy having gears. Wind speed alone is enough to make one want to gear up or down. If you like to race off stop lights (I do) gears are very handy. I usually click up two, three or even more gears, while accelerating from a stop, and easily leave the cars in the dust. Take your time, test ride a few and ask lots of questions. Happy shifting.

    As far as which gives the best work out, I would think it matters more how far and hard you ride, not how many gears you have.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  4. #4
    Senior Member philski's Avatar
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    OK, please don't let my situation skew anything ... I really just want to know, for fitness reasons which ins the better bike?

    I'm presuming the geared bike simply for the reasons that it's a superset on the single speed (IE: it's several single speed bikes in one) and thus you can manage a desired cadence better.

    I had a geared bike in high school / college but alas it was stolen in college. Trek 720. It was a nice bike but I only really commuted on it never tried to work out. Unfortunately given my present situation I'll have to stick with one bike so I'm trying to figure out whether to go with a fixie/ss (flip flop hub) or a geared bike.

    thanks,

    philski

  5. #5
    Because I thought I could ks1g's Avatar
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    At the risk of sounding trite, the better bike for fitness is the one you want to get out on and go for a ride, that drives you crazy every time you see it "just sitting there". Fit, weight, condition of bike all factor in. It sounds like your current bike is a compromise, although tires don't last forever and a seatpost is cheap (watch craigslist, or just the next sale and coupon at Nashbar or Performance). Your local bike shop may have one in the old parts bin you could pick up for a few dollars. How does the bike fit otherwise? Is the frame a good one, or do you feel you're lugging several extra pounds of cheap carbon steel around?

    A geared bike is going to offer you more flexibility for terrain, distances, maybe carrying a load. A fixie/ss has benefits for reliability (simpler drivetrain = less to break or fix), developing a wider cadence range, arguably pedal stroke and leg strength (you can most of the same benefits by just leaving the bike in one gear). A bike that fits you well is going to be a joy to ride and you'll look forward to using it.

    I was using an old 10 speed-fixed gear conversion as an all-weather commuter (4 mi each way with one moderate 2-min hill at the AM ride start) supplemented with an old Trek 14-speed. Both were caigslist finds. The fixie was way too heavy (cheap frame) and the Trek was probably too small and the old drive train required a lot of fiddling to keep working. Unlike my road bike, I didn't really look forward to riding either of these. A few months ago, I spotted a lightweight steel 'cross frame in my size on ebay, bought it and built it up, and sold the other 2 bikes (making wife happy by reducing the bike inventory by one). I now have 2 bikes I enjoy and look forward to riding, so much so I've lengthened my AM commute to get in an early workout. It takes wider tires, so I can better handle messy winter commutes. I'll see this winter if I miss the fixie, although the 'cross frame has semi-horizontal dropouts, so a SS or FG conversion for the winter would be pretty easy.

  6. #6
    One legged rider
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    Single speeds are wonderful for the simplicity. Fixed gears much the same. A geared bike gives you quite a bit of versatility, but the truth is unless you are training for something specific, like a certain type of riding (road, mtb, track, etc) they will all give you a great workout. I ride road mainly, and have some great road bikes, but find that I rarely ride them unless I am going on a "training" ride. If I am commuting (15 mi one way) or going to the store or whatever, I pretty much always ride my SS.

  7. #7
    Member GeologyJoe's Avatar
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    I live in a rural hilly area in central Maine and will ride a fixed gear bike (42x16) for a change of pace. A short ride on my fixie between 3 and 12 miles will make my leg muscles hurt for 2 days, whereas after a ride like the Trek Across Maine (3 days 180 miles) on my geared bike i am not sore at all.

    I have concluded that my fixie is great for a hard workout when time is limited. It gives me a good hard muscle workout and makes me huff and puff. Besides, longer rides would beat up my knees too much fighting the all the descents.

    Also the bike is so firggin' quite and simple riding down the road it adds a different take to the whole experience. You can focus on the terrain, your breathing, your pedal stroke and cadence, work on matching cadence to the hill slope/length and exertion effort to stay strong and steady through a whole climb....its awesome.

  8. #8
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    Get the geared bike for it's diversity and ease of use. You will probably be able to, and want to, ride much further on it then a fixed geared bike since it is easier to use. The longer you keep your heart rate up, the better the workout you will get.
    If you want to work on leg strength, do some 'olympic' style front and back squats. You are only going to be able to work on muscular endurance while riding a ss/fixed bike unless you just mash crazy hard on short intervals.

  9. #9
    Senior Member trigger's Avatar
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    If you can get an entry level geared bike do that, but why not keep the SS as well. As mentioned, a set of tires and seat post is really not going to set you back much if you shop around or are patient. There are great online deals to be had on tires, and a post you can pick up probably very cheaply if you enquire for one when buying the new bike.

    I live in an area with similar terrain ... mostly flat with some rolling hills. I have both a road bike and an SS, and while I can get a more targeted training session out of the road bike, I often take the SS on training rides up to 60miles.

    If you are feeling totally spent after 10 - 20 miles, I suspect you're simply still out of cycling shape. If you don't think that's it, what gearing do you have on the SS, perhaps it is too set up with too large a gear ratio at the moment?

  10. #10
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Yeah, let's hear it for 2 or more bikes! When one's dirty or has some issue, just grab the other one and go. 67-70 gear-inches is a good starting place for SS or FG. That's the teeth on the chainring divided by the teeth on the rear cog, times 27". That gearing should take you up a 10% grade and up to 24 mph or so on the flat - with practice.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Eticket's Avatar
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    I have to vote for the SS. I went from riding MTN to riding SS (after a 4 yr break due to a broken achellies tendon) I love the simplicty of my SS and the fact that I can't cheat myself and shift into a easier gear. I do have to admit that I want a geared bike only for the fact that I don't think I could survive most of the group rides in the area that tackle the BIG hills.

  12. #12
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    I have a fixed and use it as my commuter.It gives me an excellent workout but the legs don't adapt to the demands of the higher gears of my road bike.



    40-50 miles over the weekend on a fixed gear should not be a problem.If all you want is to is is commute to work and stay fit I would go with a fixed.

    The advantage of a fixed is that you cannot coast which gives you a great workout and you spend less time on maintenance which means more time riding.

    If your not into touring or racing go with the fixed gear.
    Last edited by paul6911; 10-16-09 at 02:43 PM.

  13. #13
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    i love riding my fixed. i ride it everywhere. work/errands/take it to the city/etc. for training/exercise, i've been trying to look up flatter routes around where i live so i don't have to hit too too many hills, but still have to work a bit (anywhere from 15-30mi). it's kind of tough to find fixed-friendly routes, but it's coming along.

    on the other hand, my geared bike sits in the basement, and basically never comes out. i only find the time to do a bigger ride (for my standards, 30+) maybe once a month. i hang my head in shame.

    but really, the truth is: my fixed gear is just too much fun to let it sit! it screams my name everytime i look at it. ks1g is right!

  14. #14
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    Geared.

    Single-speed bikes, while cool & fun, are limited. You can't go fast on downhills (unless you spin 250rpm), your sprint speed is limited, going up steep hills is can be tricky. Etc. Few people who rides bikes for sport ride fixed gears (on the roads, that is; forget track).

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by dizzy101 View Post
    Geared.

    Single-speed bikes, while cool & fun, are limited. You can't go fast on downhills (unless you spin 250rpm), your sprint speed is limited, going up steep hills is can be tricky. Etc. Few people who rides bikes for sport ride fixed gears (on the roads, that is; forget track).

    Incorrect. If you keep you cadence the same, hill or no hill, you will be traveling at the same speed. Hills just make it harder for you the keep the cadence up due to additional resistance. I ride both fixed gear and road bike. I like riding hills just as much in my fixed gear. Over the weekend, my friends and I all decided to ride a fixed gear and beat all the roadies in the 'advance group' up to the top on Palos Verdes in California. One of the steeper coastal areas in S. Cal. Cool thing about climbing hills on a single gear is the fact that you dont think about shifting, so all your concentration is on spinning. I climb better when Im fully focused.

    No questions, given the same terraine fixed gear will give you a better work out, assuming all other things being equal. For the simple reason, you dont get to coast with your pedals moving at all times. Steep downhills are usually a bigger challenge on fixed gear vs. going uphill. Im more concerned with spining out downhill than pushing my pedals uphill.

  16. #16
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    as a supplement to my post:

    there's an appropriate time and place for every bike. i have a really nice track bike i scoured parts for, and built up myself, and a really well-taken care of, but (in my opinion), ****ty old 80s vintage shogun with friction shifters that i bought at a shop for cheap.

    can you blame me for wanting to make longer and longer routes that i can ride fixed?

    in my current living situation, i can have only one bike easily accessible at a time to get out the door and on the road. the others are in the basement and are pain to get outside.

    can you guess what bike is in my living room?


    im sure that once my situations change (living, money, life in general), im going to build up a solid stable, and im sure i will have many bikes of all different kinds. maybe the story will change! maybe you can ride a different bike every day....you only need 7 bikes, am i right?


    but yeah. all things considered, id say fixed is a bigger workout in and of itself. but gears allow for easier miles, which is it's way of trying to make for more miles. im trying to stay fixed for as long as possible....

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by stateskool View Post
    Incorrect. If you keep you cadence the same, hill or no hill, you will be traveling at the same speed. Over the weekend, my friends and I all decided to ride a fixed gear and beat all the roadies in the 'advance group' up to the top on Palos Verdes in California.
    If you guys beat them beat them then they weren't that advanced. Do you race? Try arguing your point in the road racing forum, and watch the responses.

    It's just impossible for a fixed rider to keep up with a roadie on a geared bike who's worth his salt (assuming you're not on a flat so that the roadie will actually shift once in a while).

    With shifting, you can exactly dial in cadence and muscle load, so you can make sure you're pushing yourself close to the max.

    And shifting doesn't require that much attention, it's not as if your focus is solely on shifting.

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    Dizzy - I agree with most of your points. Only thing I disagreed with was the original question from OP. Which is the better workout? As I mentioned above, with all things being equal, riding fixed is a better workout for the simple fact, you cant slack/coast.

    I do not race. Just addicted to riding. I try to get around 150~200 miles in each week. To be fair, most of my friends ride the hills of PV on weekly basis so you can say we had home field advantage. We ride both fixed and road but we all believe fixed is a better work out. Im always impressed with people who can complete a century on a fixed.

  19. #19
    Senior Member captnfantastic's Avatar
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    I ride my fixie on solo mostly flat training rides up to 65 miles.

    I ride my geared bike on club rides, races, hilly rides, and anything over 65 miles.

    I love my fixie but i dont NEED it. Geared bike would be a better choice to have if you can only have one.

    Thats just me. Look for a used road bike and if you find a deal you can have a roadie and sink some money into your fixie and have both.
    DROP THE HAMMER!

  20. #20
    Newbie sueneache's Avatar
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    Fixie/SS or geared bike for best workout

    im about to by some new mitts for my coach bekuz hes complaining that his hands swell after giving us padwork and that we hit too hard. what are the best pads to get for him so he wont feel the shots.

  21. #21
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sueneache View Post
    im about to by some new mitts for my coach bekuz hes complaining that his hands swell after giving us padwork and that we hit too hard. what are the best pads to get for him so he wont feel the shots.
    You seem to be confused.

  22. #22
    Sucker for a SS
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    I came to sydney on a studying trip and brought all my groupset with me so that i could buy second hand frame and wheels. Dont know if anyone is aware of the price of cycling equipment in australia - but it can be quite offensive sometimes.

    Anyway - whilst down at a bike shop i was enquiring about frames and that owner mentioned it would be very difficult. He did then mention a SS/Fixe that belonged to him that he no longer needed or wanted. I was skeptical at first as my main intentions were to race some road circuits during my stay. It was $550 AUS for the whole bike - i prtty much couldn't refuse.

    5 months later - ive won various C and B grades and also won a 50km handicapped with some of the best riders around in the race and this was all on my 77inch SS .

    With riding fixed gear - you have to remember that every mile you have travelled, you have pedalled every inch of it which gives you a greater workload in shorter distance - if you consider how much you may coast given the opportunity. So yes long rides do become more challenging, however ive done 130km in a day here and yes i was very tired, but i still managed to do it - an they werent particulalrly flat miles either. You just need to build up the distance slowly and allow adaptation to occur.

    If you are planning on racing competitively - in my experience of riding a SS - yes i had great fun with it and it caused quite the upset at the races i attended and did well in, but i did feel limited at times, for example: Long 3k flat section with a tail wind, people cruising past me at 60k's an hr, an my gear is spinning out at just over 50k/hr - leaving me with some uncomfortable legs :S.

  23. #23
    Senior Member droobieinop's Avatar
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    My 2 cents

    I'm a former clyde. And where as I'd likely buy a new one now, I found much enjoyment in building my own fixie.

    I found some 165 cranks with a 110 bcd and stockpiled some chainrings, cogs, and chains so as to play with the gearing. Not only did I use it to commute, but also to train by taking the long way home. As I built my cadence and strength I was able to go further and faster (up to 60 miles). And I have been know to take it out on group rides.

    Where I live in fla is generally flat, but I feel like I do hit the hills a little better on my fixie. It is geared to my favorite/default gear on my road bike (about 80 gear inches), so I'm able to maintain 23 with a group at 100 rpm. Afew weeks ago we did the horse farm 100 in gainesville and there were atleast 2 fixies on the 100 mile course and they came in not far behind me, I did ride my geared bike for this.

    I attribute most of my quick progress and 40 lbs of weight loss to my fixie. Its has been great for increasing my stamina, strength, and cadence. Ride your geared bike to find your favorite gear, what gear combination can you ride in nearly all the time? Find that and then figure out a smaller gear for your fixie and start there. As you become comfortable with that gear get ready to put on a slightly bigger gear and enjoy.
    "change is the only constant"

  24. #24
    Just ride. roadbuzz's Avatar
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    This article describes the "cons" of fixie training:

    Off-season Myth Busters

  25. #25
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadbuzz View Post
    This article describes the "cons" of fixie training:

    Off-season Myth Busters
    IME, Horowitz is absolutely correct in all three of his suggestions. It's amazing how much nonsense is preserved by unquestioned convention. His motor pacing suggestion can be made even simpler: pedal at the HR he recommends (I use 90%-92% of LT + 5) and at a cadence of about 10 over your normal cadence on the flat. Hold that cadence and HR on flat, uphill, and downhill, which means you have to limit the angle of climbs and descents. I do this for 2ea. 20 minute intervals, with only 5 minutes Z2 between them.

    What he says about fixies is not true about SS bikes because they freewheel, however I've put on a series of group SS winter rides which proved that SS riding improves your fitness for SS riding, but does not improve your fitness for geared bike riding.

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