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Hand brakes for a fixie?

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Hand brakes for a fixie?

Old 01-20-21, 09:57 PM
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Ursula
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Hand brakes for a fixie?

As a long-time free wheel rider, I am interested in buying a fixed gear bike to try something new. I ride mostly on country roads for about 25 to 50 miles per ride. Do I need hand brakes to be safe, or can I safely dispense with them to get the most basic bike and the full fixie vibe?
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Old 01-20-21, 10:01 PM
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If you ride on roads, you should have brakes (at least on the front). 99% of the time, you won’t need it and you can slow yourself with the pedals for the full fixie vibe. For the other 1%....
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Old 01-20-21, 10:06 PM
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If the bike is missing parts and needs a fixie you should do that before riding.

Look on Track where everyone is doing the same thing with the same goal and mindset brakes are a bad thing but on the road where you cannot predict anything but yourself having a reliable way to stop is helpful. Skidding and running through tires is not stopping but destroying parts to look cool and slow down. It looks cool and if done well can slow you down nicely but if you wouldn't skid your tidy-whiteys don't skid your bike.

I enjoy having brakes on my bike and if I so choose I can not use them but they are there when I need them and boy howdy running on the road they are pretty useful.
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Old 01-21-21, 12:54 AM
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In most jurisdictions, at least one brake is a legal requirement.

Brakes give more stopping power than just applying back pressure to the pedals, and more control than doing a "fixie skid".

In normal riding on dry grippy surfaces, the front brake does nearly all of the work.

Better to have a brake you seldom use than to not have one when someone steps of the kerb in front of you, or a car pulls out on you, or you go round a corner and find a pot hole or spilled grain on the road, or you are overambitious about how steep a hill you can ride down.

Riding without brakes on the public road is irresponsible.

I often ride for an hour or two without touching my brakes. It's part of the fun and challenge of riding a fixed gear bike. However, there have been plenty of times when something has surprised me, or I have made a simple misjudgement, and the brake has saved the day.
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Old 01-21-21, 05:24 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Look on Track where everyone is doing the same thing with the same goal and mindset brakes are a bad thing.
Not a "mindset"; the use of brakes is prohibited in track racing.
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Old 01-21-21, 06:18 AM
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There are several reasons why brakes might be dangerous on the track. One rider dabs the brakes, someone goes down, bikes pile up at high speed, someone gets impaled on a brake lever

On the road, there are many reasons why the absence of brakes is dangerous.
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Old 01-21-21, 08:59 AM
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If riding in traffic, brakes are well advised.
Is there a velodrome nearby? If so, that might be the place to get started riding fixed/track. S’how I did it, anyways.
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Old 01-21-21, 11:03 AM
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Things happen. Have a front brake.
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Old 01-21-21, 01:21 PM
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The U.S.A. never really dealt properly with bikes as transportation, and thus we get stupid stuff like "must be able to skid on level pavement" as a benchmark. The U.K. began mandating a separate brake for each wheel in the '30s - though a fixed-cog WITH A LOCKRING is counted as a brake on the rear wheel - but you still need a front brake at a minimum.
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Old 01-21-21, 01:44 PM
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I've been riding fix gears for almost 45 years. My observation - you have a choice, You can go brakeless and ride them until you get tired of it or bad things happen or you can use brakes and perhaps come to loving riding fix gears and doing for year, decades. (I have yet to meet anyone who started when I did and rides without brakes.)

Country roads. Hills? Hills are a lot more fun (and often far faster in a repeatable sort of way) with brakes. Brake hoods also give you great hand positions for climbing - more important than on geared bikes where you can simply gear down and reduce the torquing you have to do to the handlebars.
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Old 01-21-21, 02:02 PM
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Stopping distance, front brake vs skidding. Very simple freshman year engineering/physics. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, you can prove that the stopping distance with a good front brake only is half the best possible skidding the rear. 20 minutes and basic assumptions about rider center of gravity and bike proportions. I've done it several times. Don't keep the calcs (or the assumptions) and get very close to that 2:1 every time. My experience on real roads suggests that the difference is more. Partly because I assume for my calcs the same coefficient of tire friction front and rear. If the rear is skidding, that C of F goes to hell. We used to have contests to see how far we could skid. And, funny in a sick way - the mechanic.bike shop owner who was Portland's fix gear guru told me he stopped carrying a super gripping rear tire I liked as a winter tire for commuting because (get this!) they gripped so well the fixie crowd were hurting themselves trying to initiate skids.

Another point - if you ever draft someone with brakes and they slow while your cranks are vertical, you will be into their rear wheel before you can slow. (50 mile rides - sometimes a few miles in company and a little draft respite is very welcome.)
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Old 01-21-21, 02:57 PM
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Start with a brake and go from there.
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Old 01-21-21, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Stopping distance, front brake vs skidding. Very simple freshman year engineering/physics...
Or, to put it simply, if skidding was better than braking, vehicle manufacturers would not have invented ABS. Instead, they would have developed a system where if you applied more than a certain amount of pressure on the brake pedal of your car, an extra powerful servo would automatically lock the wheels.

I have never done a "fixie skid" on the road, and I have not done a rear brake skid on the road since I started paying for my own tyres. However, on a recent off road ride that was muddier than expected, I did a fantastically long rear wheel skid down a long rutted track and I cannot deny that it was fun!
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Old 01-21-21, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Not a "mindset"; the use of brakes is prohibited in track racing.
Correct but I was more talking in relation to the road usage and less on the rules of the actual sport of track racing which yes brakes are banned.
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Old 01-21-21, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
If you ride on roads, you should have brakes (at least on the front). 99% of the time, you won’t need it and you can slow yourself with the pedals for the full fixie vibe. For the other 1%....
Thanks very much for your thoughtful advice!
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Old 02-03-21, 04:36 AM
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Originally Posted by seau grateau View Post
Start with a brake and go from there.
case closed!!!!
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Old 02-03-21, 09:53 AM
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I've just been out for a very ride on my fixed today. Just a shade under 26 miles, with just over 1,000 ft of climbing, mainly on country lanes, but with a couple of short sections of unmade track. It was a more or less circular route, so all those feet gained also had to be lost.

I did the whole ride without touching my brakes, relying on back pressure on the pedals to control the speed on the descents. I did this because it was a leisure ride, and this is part of the game I play.

However, the bike has 2 rim brakes and it was reassuring to know they were there on the steeper and faster sections. At one point, it was touch and go: I swear I smelled smoke from my knees.

Brakes do no harm, and you don't have to use them, but you don't want to be without them. For the same reason, I wear a buoyancy aid when sailing.
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Old 02-03-21, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
.bike shop owner who was Portland's fix gear guru told me he stopped carrying a super gripping rear tire I liked as a winter tire for commuting because (get this!) they gripped so well the fixie crowd were hurting themselves trying to initiate skids.
What tires were these?
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Old 02-03-21, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by hsuBM View Post
What tires were these?
Vittorias? That was probably 14 years ago.
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Old 02-04-21, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
If the bike is missing parts and needs a fixie you should do that before riding.

Look on Track where everyone is doing the same thing with the same goal and mindset brakes are a bad thing but on the road where you cannot predict anything but yourself having a reliable way to stop is helpful. Skidding and running through tires is not stopping but destroying parts to look cool and slow down. It looks cool and if done well can slow you down nicely but if you wouldn't skid your tidy-whiteys don't skid your bike.

I enjoy having brakes on my bike and if I so choose I can not use them but they are there when I need them and boy howdy running on the road they are pretty useful.

Pretty much the same thing I was going to suggest. Besides the legal requirements that might be in play in your area, it is just smart to have brakes, at least a front one. I'm probably not the only one here that goes for a ride on my fixed gear bike and tries to NOT have to use my brakes. When I get home and haven't used them except to dismount, I smile. Weird, I know, but that's just me. I don't even technically need them to dismount, but I figure I should squeeze them at least once so they don't feel neglected.

I also agree wholeheartedly with what was said about damaging components. Others disagree and that's fine too. Oh, and if you are on country roads, if they are like they are where I'm at, make sure the frame you use can handle large enough tires so the ride is comfortable.

Good luck!
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Old 02-11-21, 11:25 AM
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My $0.02:

Started transition from freehub-SS to fixed-gear with both brakes, eventually dropped the back, found myself not using the front brake at all after a few years and then didn't reinstall it when I swapped out handlebars.

Now have two brakeless FG bikes and don't know if I'll ever again invest in a clicky-bike with too many parts I can't stop with only my legs - took me a long time to work up the courage to skid but once you get it oooo boy that is an intoxicatingly alluring solution to deceleration.

If you're not used to FG then starting off sans-brakes entirely will be a harrowing and likely dangerous experience, would not recommend.
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Old 02-12-21, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by TugaDude View Post
When I get home and haven't used them except to dismount, I smile.
Hah, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who likes having a brake for this reason. Getting on and off the bike is soooo much more convenient when you've got a brake to stop the thing from moving around underneath you. Especially if you ride with road-style clipless pedals that are already hard enough to walk on
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Old 02-12-21, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by abshipp View Post
Hah, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who likes having a brake for this reason. Getting on and off the bike is soooo much more convenient when you've got a brake to stop the thing from moving around underneath you. Especially if you ride with road-style clipless pedals that are already hard enough to walk on
I have straps on my favorite fixed gear and what I do is loosen one foot almost all the way and then time it so that when I apply the brake I yank that foot out and place it on the ground. Once you get in the habit it is easy. I could do it without the brake, but why?
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Old 02-12-21, 09:42 PM
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I would vote for brakes. At least front brakes, preferably front and rear brakes.

About a decade ago, when fixed-gear riding exploded among Gen Y/Z riders where I lived (Southern California), it seemed like it was cool not to have brakes. Back then, the local fixed-gear psychology was "urban outlaw". You rode fixed, you broke the law - or your made your own law. You were a heroic renegade, no one controlled you. You outsmarted the traffic and rebelled against the norm, as an expression of your personality and your non-conformity. You were awesome.

This mentality did not appeal to me, so I did not ride fixed.

It was basically communicated to me by my friends: when you ride fixed, you break the law. It comes with the bike, dude. It's exciting, do it.

Times have changed and I bet my friends now have brakes on their bikes and obey traffic laws. Plus other laws.
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Old 02-13-21, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by RandomlyWest View Post
I Back then, the local fixed-gear psychology was "urban outlaw". You rode fixed, you broke the law - or your made your own law. You were a heroic renegade, no one controlled you.
All those people refusing to conform to the norm in exactly the same way.
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