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Is fixed gear more efficient for pedaling?

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Is fixed gear more efficient for pedaling?

Old 11-25-21, 12:35 AM
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cubewheels
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Is fixed gear more efficient for pedaling?

I'm not talking about frictional losses or lighter weight but simply the action of pedaling.

I found that I'm faster on fixed gear. Just to make it fair, I put some bags on the fixed gear to equalize the weight of my gravel bike and indeed I'm faster and I also found it's easier to pedal on fixed gear.

It seems the moving pedals carry the momentum of you legs more efficiently than you can with freehub or singlespeed. The effect is quite pronounced in the flats at high cadence compared to climbs. Mind opener for me.
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Old 11-25-21, 12:57 AM
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Strava / GPS data?
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Old 11-25-21, 03:05 AM
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Interesting. What kind of data do you have to support this claim?

That said, fixed gear bikes are less than ideal for most all people in most all situations. Regardless it would be interesting to see some data comparisons, assuming they were properly controlled as to make them comparable.
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Old 11-25-21, 03:10 AM
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No. Fixed is exactly the same in efficiency as single-speed except when you let the pedals drag your feet around the pedaling circle, under which conditions fixed is less efficient. The amount of loss is minimal much of the time, but it trains you to keep constant forward pressure on the pedals, which in turn means that you might see slightly elevated speed. But apply the same constant forward pressure using a single-speed bike and you'll see the same speeds, of course.
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Old 11-25-21, 03:22 AM
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It isn`t more efficient but it is more fun and provides a better workout.
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Old 11-25-21, 03:34 AM
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Except when your pedaling form is actually causing the chain drive to disengage during the pedal stroke, there's no difference between fixed and freewheeling. And...
Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
The effect is quite pronounced in the flats at high cadence
...if you're routinely clanging your freehub in cruising form on the flats, something very strange is going on. And really, pedaling like that produces a bit of choppiness even on a fixed system, because there's usually a bit of play between the chain "driving" the rear cog and "being driven" by it.
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Old 11-25-21, 04:10 AM
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I like the concept of the pedals driving the rear wheel and the rear wheel driving the pedals. I think there is a sweet spot where both can come together and everything just feels effortless. In those specific situations over a certain terrain, I can believe there is more efficiency with a fixed gear.

Unfortunately outside of that narrow band of cadence, gearing, and terrain, I think those efficiencies are lost.

I would guess terrain is the biggest factor. There is no way climbing, and even more so, downhill is more efficient as a single gear ratio with no freewheeling is the most efficient. It would be impossible to maintain the optimal cadence in both those situations.

John
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Old 11-25-21, 04:36 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I like the concept of the pedals driving the rear wheel and the rear wheel driving the pedals. I think there is a sweet spot where both can come together and everything just feels effortless. In those specific situations over a certain terrain, I can believe there is more efficiency with a fixed gear. John
A great cycling buddy and I got into riding fixed at the same time. As it was so foreign to us we talked about the above quite a bit. Our takeaway was that riding fixed trains one to coast less when riding geared. Also, fg seemed to force one into using better pedal stroke form. There were times on mild, rolling terrain when the bike seemed to power its self. Riding clipless was effortless. Fg works leg muscles differently when descending from resistance or 'back' pedaling as well. For about 15 years a fixed is always in my herd. Usually gets the most work, too.

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Old 11-25-21, 07:33 AM
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Having cadence determined by the mechanical system rather than the rider is the key to neuromuscular efficiency, which is why nearly everyone rides fixed on the road.
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Old 11-25-21, 08:01 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by GhenghisKahn View Post
Our takeaway was that riding fixed trains one to coast less when riding geared. Also, fg seemed to force one into using better pedal stroke form. There were times on mild, rolling terrain when the bike seemed to power its self. Riding clipless was effortless. Fg works leg muscles differently when descending from resistance or 'back' pedaling as well.
FG also trains you to be comfortable over a broader cadence range. I won't claim that you get higher or even equal efficiency over that whole range, but you learn that you can keep pedaling at cadences where you would be tempted to get off and walk or coast instead of pedaling.
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Old 11-25-21, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I like the concept of the pedals driving the rear wheel and the rear wheel driving the pedals. I think there is a sweet spot where both can come together and everything just feels effortless. In those specific situations over a certain terrain, I can believe there is more efficiency with a fixed gear.
And here I thought that coasting felt pretty effortless.

Having the rear wheel drive your pedals, as you soft-pedal along, may feel effortless, but it's just robbing energy already acting within the system; clicking the pawls of the freehub requires much less energy than driving meaty legs around in a circle.
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Old 11-25-21, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
Having cadence determined by the mechanical system rather than the rider is the key to neuromuscular efficiency, which is why nearly everyone rides fixed on the road.
You forgot the /s
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Old 11-25-21, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
You forgot the /s
He didn't forget.
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Old 11-25-21, 11:06 AM
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The eye-opener for me when I started riding fix gears was that I had muscles that didn't relax completely when not on the power portion of the pedal stroke. Those muscles that make fast, super high RPM descents such a wild ride. Until I had that eye-opener my leg muscles were fighting those non-relaxed participants all the time. So, while non-optimum RPM is an efficiencies loss, the full time gain in physiological efficiency is real. (Anybody who doesn't believe me should try riding down a 45 mph descent in a 42-17 gear.)

(Riding rollers without resistance has the same effect.)
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Old 11-25-21, 12:40 PM
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Ok. As someone who started riding with fixies, I can say that the flywheel effect is *very* real. I used to do fairly long rides, fairly fast, on a variety of terrain. When I switched to a road bike, my legs were (no exaggeration) coming to a complete stop at the 6/12 o clock position at a chill pace. Even if I tried really hard to pedal through it, I would end up clanging against the freehub unless I was hammering. It took quite a while to adjust my pedal stroke to be more circular. I'd say it's pretty good now.

If I absolutely had to guess, I would say that holding some specific ~threshold wattage is easier (ie burns less energy) with a flywheel. But it's a bit of a moot point because fixed gears and road bikes are never allowed to compete against each other, so you have to optimize your pedal stroke for the discipline of your choice.

this debate would be a lot more relevant if someone came out with a road bike that had some sort of clutch that allowed it to turn into a fixed gear temporarily. Of course, you'd have to totally reinvent the drivetrain for that to work.

btw for those of you who haven't experienced the flywheel effect, try out your local gym's exercise bike. If it doesn't have a coasting mechanism, you'll be able to effortlessly hit high rpms.
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Old 11-25-21, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
The eye-opener for me when I started riding fix gears was that I had muscles that didn't relax completely when not on the power portion of the pedal stroke. Those muscles that make fast, super high RPM descents such a wild ride. Until I had that eye-opener my leg muscles were fighting those non-relaxed participants all the time. So, while non-optimum RPM is an efficiencies loss, the full time gain in physiological efficiency is real. (Anybody who doesn't believe me should try riding down a 45 mph descent in a 42-17 gear.)

(Riding rollers without resistance has the same effect.)
If you ever saw my thread on "fake pedaling" that is pedaling with zero resistance, that's how I initially figured out how to relax my muscles when doing it. I mostly did it to speed up removal of lactic acid from the muscles after a relatively intense interval.

When I tried my friend's fixed gear, I figured it out almost immediately (because of the fake pedaling training), except for the braking and stopping part in fixed gear which is almost alien to me. Fake pedaling means I always spin the pedals even downhill, zero resistance. The only time I stop spinning is during turns.

Going downhill indeed felt zero effort even if my legs are moving on its own. I like smashndash said about the "flywheel" effect. Conservation of energy in action I suppose. I read somewhere that the human muscles, tendons, and joins are so well lubricated, the friction losses are minimal.

The best benefit I think is help speed up removal of lactic acid, better recovery. The only thing scary about it is turning and we have very bumpy roads, long road sections with wavy melted asphalt that can throw you off your bike if you're not paying attention. It can catch the pedal of a fixed gear if you're not paying attention to the road.
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Old 11-25-21, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
Interesting. What kind of data do you have to support this claim?

That said, fixed gear bikes are less than ideal for most all people in most all situations. Regardless it would be interesting to see some data comparisons, assuming they were properly controlled as to make them comparable.
I only did it for a day (I borrowed a friend's bike), I might have been feeling good that day...Data would have been pointless unless I rode with the bike in the same route over the course of one week, alternating between regular and fixed gear bike.

I might have been feeling a bit good but still can't deny the feeling, it felt like I'm receiving an extra push on my legs and things felt effortless.
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Old 11-25-21, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
I might have been feeling a bit good but still can't deny the feeling, it felt like I'm receiving an extra push on my legs and things felt effortless.
No one is going to deny that feeling - you were getting a push. You seem to be under the impression that it was magically appearing out of nowhere, though - it's not. The push on your legs was energy getting sapped from your forward momentum. If you want to call that "efficient," then we have different ideas of the term.
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Old 11-25-21, 03:05 PM
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As usual with the OP's threads, I suspect things are being lost/added in translation.

I think being more aware of your momentum can help you learn to be a more efficient rider. Before trying a fixed-gear, I didn't give much thought to the energy I threw away anytime I applied the brakes. Do that needlessly, and you make more work for yourself on a ride.
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Old 11-25-21, 04:54 PM
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Ummm ..... the energy it takes to slow the bike and reaccelerate it come from your legs with a fixed-gear .... and only the energy to reaccelerate comes from your legs on a bike with brakes .... or so it seems to me. How I am I losing energy from my legs if I am braking and not pedaling? While a fixie rider is fighting the motion of the pedals to slow down.

Even if you have a fixie with a brake or brakes .... unless you take your feet off the pedals you are working your legs.

Gears or no gears, the energy needed to accelerate a given bike a given amount is the same.

I am not seeing this magic efficiency.

If it is just "awareness," ..... then that is a personal thing. I am and always have been very aware that I have to work to speed up if I want to go faster after I slow down .... seeing as it is me doing the work to speed up .... how could I not notice?

In any case ... pedal on in whatever way suits you .
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Old 11-25-21, 08:33 PM
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Enjoy the ride.
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Old 11-25-21, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
I read somewhere that the human muscles, tendons, and joins are so well lubricated, the friction losses are minimal.
Not exactly. The internal work of pedaling is a strongly increasing function of cadence. By 110 rpm, it reaches 1.0 W/kg. It you dont do it, your legs will be extracting it from the kinetic energy of bike and rider.

Otto
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Old 11-25-21, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Not exactly. The internal work of pedaling is a strongly increasing function of cadence. By 110 rpm, it reaches 1.0 W/kg. It you dont do it, your legs will be extracting it from the kinetic energy of bike and rider.

Otto
Thus, the net efficiency advantage of a freewheel over fixed gear is the internal work that is not done while coasting (mainly downhill). But efficiency isnt everything!

Otto
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Old 11-26-21, 12:31 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
I am not seeing this magic efficiency.

If it is just "awareness," ..... then that is a personal thing. I am and always have been very aware that I have to work to speed up if I want to go faster after I slow down .... seeing as it is me doing the work to speed up .... how could I not notice?

In any case ... pedal on in whatever way suits you .
Not sure about efficiency myself. Could merely be less "perceived effort". I've heard them say it quite a few times in GCN how they say "perceived effort" can make significant difference even if you're not actually producing more watts nor reducing your O2 uptake.
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Old 11-26-21, 12:58 AM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Not exactly. The internal work of pedaling is a strongly increasing function of cadence. By 110 rpm, it reaches 1.0 W/kg. It you don’t do it, your legs will be extracting it from the kinetic energy of bike and rider.

Otto
I just tried it on a stationary bike with fixed gear, no resistance and even if I try to completely relax my legs like I'm not trying to pedal at all, it just kept on spinning faster and faster until I'm hitting around 140 rpm more or less and just kept on spinning effortlessly.

While it felt no effort at all, I did feel my body temperature and heart rate rising.

It's strange and also liberating feeling. I feel like I'm chasing the pedals instead of driving them like they're moving on their own. Can't do it on bike with free-wheeling cogs, made it very tempting to go fixed gear, if only conditions were safer.

Last edited by cubewheels; 11-26-21 at 01:03 AM.
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