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Fixie vs Geared Road Bike

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Fixie vs Geared Road Bike

Old 06-30-20, 04:47 PM
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littleArnold
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Fixie vs Geared Road Bike

I was curious what the difference would be between a Fixie that was more a road bike vs a true road bike with all the gears. Unfortunately good road bikes are a little out of my range now. I read reviews with low cost budget road bikes and one of the biggest complaints was shifting and chain falling off. I was reading that Fixies can be great road bikes so...

I would like something faster than my Trek FX 2 hybrid preferable or just as fast.

I usually try to avoid shifting much at all when I ride. I will only shift when climbing hills or going up bridges that climb over water/ highways and when I do shift I only use the smaller gears. I usually always keep it on the 2nd big cog and rarely use the big 3rd cog or the small 1st cog. Sometimes I just forget about shifting and muscle the bike up the hill/ bridge on the gear I keep it in the whole 20 mile bike ride.

I do take advantage of the flywheel and coast a lot though when I ride. Even when I go faster and ride 14 miles in an hour on the hybrid, I still will coast a little to catch my breath a little. I heard you can't coast on Fixies ?

The only thing that got me looking at fixes rather than a road bike is the cost... from what I read online you can get a great Fixie road bike for a fraction of the cost of a great geared road bike. Also a co-worker I had in a past job I had said he would ride a Fixie road bike out in Phoenix area all day long for his job and transportation, he didn't own a car at all. His job was delivering Submarine sandwiches door to door through the city of Phoenix and he did it on a Fixie Road bike. I asked him if he could go very fast on it and he claimed he could.
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Old 06-30-20, 05:05 PM
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A fixed gear is a single speed bike that doesn't coast. Most have flip-flop hub that will let you put a fixed cog on one side and a freewheel on the other. Whether you go fixed or free, if you ride on the street, you'll need a brake. If you live somewhere flat, like Chicago, one gear might be all you need. I commuted for a bit on a fixed gear (Sacramento might be even flatter than Chicago) and it was perfect. I gave it to my son and he commuted to HS every day, rain or shine. Simple, reliable, bombproof.

You might want to post this in the FG forum.
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Old 06-30-20, 05:12 PM
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A nice fixed gear bike is not super cheap. The frame can be as much as a regular road bike frame, as can the wheels.

Fixed gear riders are a special breed. I don't mean roadies who ride fixed for training or fun, I mean people who ride fixed everywhere.It's not for everyone but would probably be fun to cruise around Chicago.
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Old 06-30-20, 05:17 PM
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I ride geared roadbikes but my errand bikes and town bikes are single speed (not fixed, I like freewheeling)

Single speed is not giving up speed vs a geared roadbike. The compromise is flexibility, so you don't always get to ride your favorite cadence. The benefit is the cost simplicity and lack of maintenance

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Old 06-30-20, 05:32 PM
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For me personally, a big loud yes to singlespeed, and a resounding no to fixed. One of the absolute best parts of riding a bicycle is coasting.

I recently built up the first singlespeed bike I've had since I was riding a 20" BMX in my teens. It's brilliant.
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Old 06-30-20, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Tacoenthusiast View Post
Single speed is not giving up speed vs a geared roadbike. ​​​​​​
They get spun out before a geared bike but that might only happen going downhill, depending on the riders.
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Old 06-30-20, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
For me personally, a big loud yes to singlespeed, and a resounding no to fixed. One of the absolute best parts of riding a bicycle is coasting.

I recently built up the first singlespeed bike I've had since I was riding a 20" BMX in my teens. It's brilliant.

... i guess I am still confused? I thought Fixie meant it was fixed one one speed or one single speed? There is a difference between single speed and fixie?
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Old 06-30-20, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
... i guess I am still confused? I thought Fixie meant it was fixed one one speed or one single speed? There is a difference between single speed and fixie?
See post 2

Single speed can coast
Fixed gear you have to pedal all the time, you can't just rest and roll
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Old 06-30-20, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
... i guess I am still confused? I thought Fixie meant it was fixed one one speed or one single speed? There is a difference between single speed and fixie?
A fixed gear cog is "fixed" to the hub, as in locked to it. So no freewheeling and no coasting, ever. Any time the bike is rolling you are pedaling. It's a great feeling! Single speed has a freewheel and you can coast at any time.
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Old 06-30-20, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
A fixed gear cog is "fixed" to the hub, as in locked to it. So no freewheeling and no coasting, ever. Any time the bike is rolling you are pedaling. It's a great feeling! Single speed has a freewheel and you can coast at any time.
It's hard to describe (and no, I will not use the word "zen") but you really feel one with the bike. Want to go faster? Pedal faster. Want to go slower? Pedal slower. I recommended you have a brake even if you go fixed, but on a flat road, you may never need to use it.
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Old 06-30-20, 06:02 PM
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I ride both fixed and geared on the same routes and am always amazed that my times are the same, even with some hills. But it's important that you set up the bike with the proper gear ratio for your personal preference and ability. This is not difficult to do, and with a flip flop hub you can have two choices!
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Old 06-30-20, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
... i guess I am still confused? I thought Fixie meant it was fixed one one speed or one single speed? There is a difference between single speed and fixie?
Out here they sell single speed bikes with narrow flat handle bars and they call them "fixies" even though they freewheel. They have brakes on both wheels. On the velodrome they race fixed gear bikes with no brakes, they use force against the pedals to slow down. Some people ride these track bikes on the road, usually adding a front brake.
A friend of mine rides a fixed gear bike thousands of miles, he's done the Paris Brest Paris twice on it.
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Old 06-30-20, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
... i guess I am still confused? I thought Fixie meant it was fixed one one speed or one single speed? There is a difference between single speed and fixie?
"Single speed" refers to how many gear ratios a bicycle has, while "fixed gear" refers to how the gear is attached to the hub. "Single speed" means that a bicycle has only one gear. "Fixed gear" means that the gear is fixed to the hub without a freewheel, so if the rear wheel is turning, the cranks are also turning.
Many single speed bicycles use a freewheel to allow coasting, and are therefore not fixed. And it's actually possible for a fixed-gear bicycle to be multi-speed, able to shift between multiple gear ratios using something like a Sturmey-Archer S3X hub, although this is very uncommon; nearly all fixed-gear bikes are also single-speed.

Many single-speed bikes come with flip-flop hubs that can mount a fixed cog on one side and a freewheeling cog on the other, so your bike purchase isn't committing you to one particular scheme.

Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
The only thing that got me looking at fixes rather than a road bike is the cost... from what I read online you can get a great Fixie road bike for a fraction of the cost of a great geared road bike.
Sort of. Since single-speed road bikes do not require shifters, derailleurs, or multiple sprockets front and/or rear, they can often manage better build quality at a given price point than derailleur-equipped road bikes do. I wouldn't say it's an enormous gain, though.

I was reading that Fixies can be great road bikes

It really depends on the use case. While pedaling at a given speed and cadence, a single-speed isn't giving anything up to a multi-speed bike. But if your riding involves highly variable conditions or gradients, or especially in a spirited group ride which demands highly variable efforts from a rider, they can be at a significant disadvantage.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post

The only thing that got me looking at fixes rather than a road bike is the cost... from what I read online you can get a great Fixie road bike for a fraction of the cost of a great geared road bike.
I was actually going to suggest this (sort of) option on your previous thread.

Most so-called 'fixies' are going to come with a rear wheel that enables you to set up for riding fixed (you must always pedal, no coasting) or a freewheel (which will ride like a normal bike, with coasting, just one gear.) Fixed gear is super fun on flatter terrain, whereas single speed is a bit easier especially if you have rolling or hilly terrain.

It should be possible to get a fairly decent used single speed bike in your price range. They often do not come with drop bars, but it's really easy to install new bars and brake levers. Even if the bike isn't the latest and greatest, it will be lighter than any low-budget road bike, since it does not have the heavier derailleurs, cogs, and so on, and will let you ride in a more aggressive position. If you want a new bike, check Bikes Direct.

I've been riding fixed and/or freewheel single speed bikes on the road for a good number of years - at first because I couldn't afford a nice road bike, now because it's a nice change. Doing hills on a single speed will make you strong, and downhills can still be reasonably fast if you work on cadence and aerodynamics.
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Old 07-01-20, 12:37 AM
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In mid eighties, when I used to visit NY Manhattan, there was a fashion to ride fixies with no brakes. Pretty well all town messengers, delivery boys rode them. In those days, it was total anarchy on bikes in Manhattan. You rode without any regard for red light or sidewalks, just watched your a$$. Red just meant you needed to be extra watchful on the lookout.

I got one too and on my next few visits, joined in the anarchy. I was then in my early twenties. That was great, until some years later, city cracked down on that lawlessness.

Mind you, I kept the front brake and would have been considered a sisi, but I didn't really need it and if you are good, you don't need it. Just need to ride like you would play a chess game - plan and look ahead all the time and be in total awareness, no daydreaming when you are moving, in the city traffic that is. Riding fixie outside a town is probably not much fun and I'd say it limits you unduly, never done that myself.
You get told, that's stupid having no brakes and yes, it is. But to get proper adrenaline flowing, go without. It can be compared to free rock climbing without a rope. Only don't get cocky, it pays to keep humble while doing those crazy things or you will get in trouble.

For those not familiar with fixies, you never need to put your foot down on ground, even standing still (like they do it on a velodrome). When you get good and you come to a stop, you just stop and stay still sitting on the bike without balancing by moving front wheel (as you need to when you are new to it), just sit and even can look around.

Aah memories, get me twitching to get fixie again

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Old 07-01-20, 08:55 AM
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Other things to think about in regards to fixed vs. single speed: On a fixed gear bike, if you stop pedaling, the bike stops - if you try doing this when moving quickly, the bicycle will buck and can flip over. Also, on a fixie, if you pedal backward, the bicycle goes backward.

On a regular single speed with a freewheel, you can coast or pedal backward freely.

Regardless, you will want a front brake if riding on normal roads. It can be a bit treacherous riding a fixed bike without brakes on the road, especially if you do not have a lock ring on.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:37 AM
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You have to be careful with a front brake on a true track bike. That short wheelbase will toss you over the bars in an instant if you hard brake and my bike does not even have a rear brake boss. My wife lost the pedals on her track bike on a really steep hill no brakes. I uncliped one pedal in a sprint and that is also exciting, the other foot keeps going. Oh, and the toe overlap I have trapped my foot on the wrong side of the front wheel but all said I just love fixed.
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Old 07-01-20, 11:04 AM
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I am a huge fan of fix gear road bikes. Been riding them 45 years and over half my lifetime mileage. I raced in the '70s. My club's vets told me I had to take my second bike (Peugeot UO-8 at the time) and set it up fix gear to learn good, smooth pedaling. I did and, yes, the bike taught me to pedal far smoother. Came to love it but kept it as a rain/winter/commuter bike, only occasionally doing long rides on it. That bike is still in my stable. Everything has been replaced at least 4 times, including the frame. Current frame is an '83 Trek 4something.

15 years ago, I decided to build up a light, fast road fix gear. Landed for cheap a sport Peugeot frame. Set it up as roughly a 1970s road race bike except for the fix gear and I didn't go sew-ups. Fun, fun, fun! I knew that bike wasn't a keeper. It was hit hard by a SUV (I'm guessing) before I picked it up so I never did hills on it (so it wouldn't break on me coming down). So I took the next step. Had an ultimate road fix gear frame made. Went to TiCycles who had already made one frame for me and ordered the frame below with a dropout (not track end) of my design that would allow me to use any 1/8" cog made (that I have ever heard of anyway) without messing with chain length. Flip-flop wheel, fixed on both sides. Two good brakes. A fix gear designed to be ridden in the mountains by a 60 year old.


The ultimate road fix gear in action

This photo was taken at Cycle Oregon in 2014 at the steepest part of a 2 mile climb hitting 14%. I ran a 42 in front and 17 and 23 in back, but ... I got caught by surprise on this one thinking it was one hill later. By the time I knew this was the big one, I didn't want to stop, flip the wheel and do a very hard start so I muscled it out. (You can see the 23 tooth over on the left! You can also see by my forearm just how hard this was. Touching it with soap later hurt!)

You can also see the big chainwhip I carried. (Aluminum so it weighs only 18 oz despite being a full shop quality tool.) I had unscrewed the 23 earlier and screwed on a 12 for the glorious descent to lunch, then screwed the 23 back on to leave lunch and (much more important, use it on this hill. Oops!)

This bike is basically the very best of the race bikes of the late '80s, except being what we would have raced had gears never come along and all racing was on fix gears (like 100+ years ago - except I haven't put sew-ups on yet. Pure road bike in every sense. Just as much so as the bike I raced 45 years ago. Pure joy to ride. I've put 130 mile days on it. 500 mile weeks with 30,000' of climbing. Absolutely the most fun bike I have ever ridden, but ... she is my mistress. And that is "mistress" as in the feminine of the work "master". She (Jessica; her name since conception and now painted on her fork) is demanding. Rides are 25-33% harder than the same ride on gears. She runs the show, I get to choose the route and the gear, She chooses the details like RPM and how hard. She is also pure race bike. Very quick steering, (My choice - not related to being a fix gear.) If I am gentle and firm, she rides beautifully. If I am not, I am in for a wild ride.

littleArnold - this bike was expensive. Not suggesting you run out and order one. But it was inspired by that sport Peugeot frame I picked up "as is" for $20. Got it on the road for $105 plus parts on hand. That cheap bike was the most fun bike I'd had since the bike I raced decades ago. Had the custom built because 1) I needed to replace that bike BEFORE it broke, 2) I was employed at a good job. I could afford a bike that cost like a used car and 3) I was 59 years old and had been riding fix gears 35 years. Hadn't I earned the right to a fix gear I could climb the hills I love on my knees that had 33 years of chronic issues?

I hope this gives you a little inspiration. Road fix gears are fun! And they can be pure road, not a cobbled together track bike or track-like bike. For one, life is far better with road dropouts, not track ends. Much easier wheel removal and flips. Removing wheels with fenders on is easy. And moving the wheel in the dropout doesn't change the brake location on the rim much. The above dropout is completely custom. It is as long as a long track end and angled roughly halfway between horizontal (which keeps the bottom bracket height and pedal clearance the same as you move the wheel) and a road dropout (which keeps the brake pad centered on the rim). This minimizes the BB height changes while allowing the pads to stay on the (deep) sidewall of the Velocity Aero rim. You will also see that it turns down at the front so the wheel pulls out like a vertical dropout. I can run the tire right up to the chainstay with the big cog and still pull the wheel out easily. Works beautifully. I can run 24 to 12 teeth in that dropout, no chain changes (though I may have to fine tune with a half link depending on chainring choice) and never need to adjust the brake pads. (I hadn't yet discovered a 24 tooth cog for sale yet when the photo was taken. Search the English mail-order sites. They take road fix gears much more seriously than we do.)

Ben - road fix gear for life
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Old 07-01-20, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Other things to think about in regards to fixed vs. single speed: On a fixed gear bike, if you stop pedaling, the bike stops - if you try doing this when moving quickly, the bicycle will buck and can flip over. Also, on a fixie, if you pedal backward, the bicycle goes backward.

On a regular single speed with a freewheel, you can coast or pedal backward freely.

Regardless, you will want a front brake if riding on normal roads. It can be a bit treacherous riding a fixed bike without brakes on the road, especially if you do not have a lock ring on.
My first fix gear ride, I coasted to let three oncoming cars pass before I took a left turn. Locked my knee. Forward speed turned instantly into a vertical bunny hop. I remember being fully aware that my front wheel was more than a foot off the road, lower than the rear and I was still going up. Collapsed on the road with almost no forward speed and almost no road rash but my left leg felt like pulled pork only I was the pig and still alive.

Note to OP - if you haven't ridden fix gears yet, seriously consider putting a piece of tape on your seatpost exactly 1/2" above the frame. Now drop the post to the tape. You WILL try to coast in your early rides. That's not maybe. If you come close to locking your knee; well, fix gear pedals don't stop. Trying to stop them is like putting your hand in the gears of a large machine. May not work out all that well. On those lines - keep shoelaces short and tied! Trousers out of the chainring for sure! (Fingers way from the chainring spinning the cranks on the bike stand.)

When you have done enough "tried to coast and got kicked in the ass!" to retrain your reflexes,you can return you r seat back to normal.

Ben

Last edited by 79pmooney; 07-01-20 at 11:43 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-01-20, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by popeye View Post
... My wife lost the pedals on her track bike on a really steep hill no brakes. I uncliped one pedal in a sprint and that is also exciting, the other foot keeps going. Oh, and the toe overlap I have trapped my foot on the wrong side of the front wheel but all said I just love fixed.
That's why the experts, like the one above here, ride the toe clips. That would cover you in all those three cases.

@79pmooney nice pic, nice everything. I share your age bracket and its inspirational, both technical info and the, how to put it, enthusiasm, even if my riding can't compare. Fixies are about fun, control of the bike and the challenge of it, not about getting the fastest way from A to B.

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Old 07-01-20, 11:42 AM
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Nice write up and bike 79pmooney Thanks!
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Old 07-01-20, 12:01 PM
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Ive got a fixed gear bike, Paramount track bike with a front brake added.

i ride it mostly off season for a change of pace, but I have done some long rides on it, including a century.

personally, for a ride of decent length Id just about rather ride your hybrid with a good set of road tires, and perhaps some bar ends, than a fixed gear.

IMHO, theres a reason that freewheels(now hubs) were quickly and almost universally adopted, at least until a small hipster faction came along.
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Old 07-01-20, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by vane171 View Post
That's why the experts, like the one above here, ride the toe clips. That would cover you in all those three cases.
+1 I ride toeclips because my ongoing nightmare is unclipping one foot going downhill at 200+ RPM. (Run the numbers and you will see that 42 x 17 at 100 RPM on a 700c wheel gives yo u20 MPH. So that same gear at 40 is 200 RPM. In my crazy post-head injury years I used to bomb down Juaquim Miller Road into Oakland, CA. No one ever passed me despite the road being 4 lane two way and nice wide, well paved California. I've been clocked a few times by cars on the gentle hills into Portland in my 60s as going 35. I still go a lot faster on the bigger hills. (Seriously big hills I now cheat and screw on a 12, 13 or 14 tooth cog because I'm old enough to no longer need the seat battering and I can - if I left the house with cog and wrench.)

One thing I know abut myself is that when I am spinning 200+, I cannot feel whether my feet are pointed straight on the pedals or twisted. Clipless - twisted = unclip and there is zero chance of clipping back in until I have slowed a lot! Toeclips and cleats - same issue - except if I uncleat, my foot is still in the strap. I do have the issue of my heart being in my mouth but I can dip the brakes a touch, slide my foot and cleat back into place and go on. No harm done. (Go to the velodrome and you will see that quite a few riders use straps with clipless pedals. If they uncleat, they aren't winning that race, but they did not crash and perhaps lose part of a season.)
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Old 07-01-20, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I hope this gives you a little inspiration. Road fix gears are fun!
You're making me want to put drops back on my fixed gear! It's a little MUP cruiser right now with porteur bars and road quill pedals sans clips and straps, but you did remind me how much fun it can be to climb* on a fixed gear.

You WILL try to coast in your early rides.
And then again if you haven't ridden it in a while....and then again after riding a freewheeling bike a lot...and then you'll scare yourself by coasting on your freewheeling bike after riding the fixed gear a lot....and then.....



*see location, I hesitate to call any of the little bumps around here a climb
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Old 07-01-20, 12:47 PM
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While the OP chose to make this thread about gears vs. fixed, that really isn't their issue. The real issue is cost. That can be addressed by buying used. I never owned a new bike until I was in my late 50s. A used geared bike is the way to go. The only real issue there is sizing, but that question also would need to be answered for a new bike purchase. I have a very experienced riding buddy who was talked into trying fixed. That worked OK until one day he got in a traffic situation, sort of as described above, which had him flying through the air, into a ditch, and left with an injury which kept him off bikes for several weeks. He'll warn anyone who'll listen. If one grew up riding fixed, fine. Otherwise . . .
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