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Why Singlespeed/Fixed?

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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)

Why Singlespeed/Fixed?

Old 03-05-22, 11:14 PM
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co.bo
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Why Singlespeed/Fixed?

To all of my devout singlespeed/fixed gear riders...

What are some of the reasons you prefer to ride singlespeed/fixed over a multi-geared bike?

I'll be posing the opposite question on the road biking forum.

If you ride both single/fixed and geared, feel free to weigh in on the pros and cons of both

Thanks in advance for the input
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Old 03-06-22, 11:48 AM
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I ride fixed, not single-speed, and multispeed bikes (derailleur and IGH). Fixed gear is a different kind of work out. It works different muscles, and works the same muscles differently. It trains you to pedal smoothly regardless of cadence and develop power regardless of cadence. You can't really slack off, since whenever the bike is moving, the pedals are moving. You can choose to pedal fast or slow, hard or soft, but you're always pedaling.
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Old 03-06-22, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
I ride fixed, not single-speed, and multispeed bikes (derailleur and IGH). Fixed gear is a different kind of work out. It works different muscles, and works the same muscles differently. It trains you to pedal smoothly regardless of cadence and develop power regardless of cadence. You can't really slack off, since whenever the bike is moving, the pedals are moving. You can choose to pedal fast or slow, hard or soft, but you're always pedaling.
+1 (Well I haven't had an IGH for 55 years; long before the term "IGH" was coined.)

I was told to set my second bike up fix gear when I started racing 45 years ago to smooth out and improve my pedaling. It did that very well, especially since I loved to ride hills and had to pedal down them. Learned early on that the smoother I could spin the pedals, the faster I could descend safely (and have fun doing so). Real positive incentive! I also discovered that fix gears make really good bikes for long hard rides on miserable, stormy days. I"d pick a destination town 50 miles upwind, ride there, find a lunch spot downtown, enjoy it and spin home on dead legs. (I was a bike shop employee/racer. Sundays and one weekday off. Weekday was long ride day, If it was raining ...)

A few of the benefits of fix gear - miles (or time) on a fix gear are worth 25-33% more of the same on a geared bike. Or, the same miles are 25-33% harder and more draining. (The benefits of fix gear don't translate directly into speed on gears but the regular fix gear rider will be impressively strong and resilient.) The fix gear offers far more conditioning to the upper body along both paths of push and pull from leg downstroke to hands. (Go out and dig some ditches - yes there will be a lot discomfort but you'll have a much better upper body base to start with. Be less likely to hurt yourself.)

And the zen. With a good fitting fix gear, you can completely lose yourself into "the ride". Nothing but your body, the bike and and the road. And the bike disappears. Doesn't hurt that it is so close to silent. (I rarely actually get there, I run the sturdy and square plated Izumi chains and likewise EAI 1/8" cogs where no attempt has been made to make them silent - or more prone to being thrown off.)

To show my love of fix gears (and climbing on them and the fact that I am in my 60s and not a young pup any more), here is the bike I dreamed up to be the ultimate road fix gear capable of riding the Oregon hills. Note the long dropout (that angles down in front like a vertical dropout. It can handle any cog from 24 to 12 teeth on one chain length and allow easy forward wheel changes, even with cogs so big the tire is almost hitting the seat tube. Makes flipping the wheel on the road child's play. (Also the big 18 oz chainwhip so I can screw on the tiny 12 tooth you can barely see hanging from the tool bag. And the Pedros Trixie hub wrench/lockring spanner under the too bag.)

This photo was taken on one of Cycle Oregon's most mountainous weeks. 2 mile hill hitting 14+%. Photographer was CO's Dean; one of the best and parked at the steepest point. I screwed up; thought the "big" hill was one hill later. It was too steep to stop, flip the wheel and restart in heavy bike traffic so I just muscled out the 17 tooth flat ground gear. You can see the 23 tooth on the left side of my wheel. My forearms were so sore when I arrived in camp that touching them with the bar of soap hurt.

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Old 03-06-22, 02:59 PM
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Besides just being fun, I got tired of replacing derailers every couple years on my winter commuter. Salted roads…
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Old 03-07-22, 07:27 AM
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I'll tell you why I do it, but I also encourage you to check out Sheldon Brown's website. Sheldon is no longer with us but his website lives on! Lots of helpful and inspirational stuff for the cyclist.
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html

I was reading Sheldon's site to learn about vintage bicycles (my main entry to this forum) when I discovered the section on fixed gears and single speeds I read what he had to say about it an needless to say, his enthusiasm got me. And so I decided to give it a go. Then something happened that was very fortunate. I was on Craigslist and searched for some nearby cities and I saw a bike that interested me. I drove the 2 hours to look at it, combining it with a business trip. I met a lady who had recently lost her husband, and was selling his bikes. He was a very active rider and raced too. She had sold all of his geared bikes but had this lone fixed gear left. Nobody was looking for one I guess.

Between her compelling story and the bike itself, I couldn't resist. It is a 1989 Miyata 312 and it still is in fantastic shape. He loved and cared for his herd. The bike hasn't been changed much at all save for polishing up the aluminum bits and replacing the crank, not out of necessity but pure desire. I even left the bar tape, which I had planned to change, because my daughters thought it looked really neat and fit the overall look of the bike. It sounds weird, but even though I never knew him I think of him sometimes when I'm riding. His wife said he used it mainly for "out of season" traning. I've heard that some racers ride fixed to help develop their legs and their cadence.

At first, it can be scary, especially the downhills. So just avoid them! Learn on some flat ground, like an empty parking lot or a lightly-trafficked path in a local park. Get comfortable before doing anything you aren't ready for. And make sure to use some sort of foot retention! Although it is scary at first, because you fear falling while attached, it really does help. I wouldn't ride without it..

The experience has to be felt to be understood. Do you feel "closer" to the bike? Yes, definitely. As stated above, if you are moving, the cranks are moving, you have no choice. Unless you are skidding I guess, but I don't skid, so if I'm moving, the cranks are turning. I have front and rear brakes and between that and the ability to use back pressure, I have no fear of being able to "panic stop" if I have to.

It is a blast when you first get comfortable. You will smile like it is the greatest thing ever. After awhile it settles down but it is still super fun. Personally, I try to not use my brakes at all when I ride. I make a game of sorts out of it. I'm able to not use them 99% of the time if I stay close to home.

There's also the maintenance issue, which is less on a fixed gear bike, so that appeals to some. It is a quiet ride when everything is working right. In fact, so much so you'll startle people so make sure to announce yourself if you encounter pedestrians. It is very stealthy.

I'll ride fixed until I can't. Hopefully that won't be for a long time. Oh, I also have several geared bikes and love those too. They have their place. And since the first one I have 3 others including an All City Big Block, my recommendation if you have the money for one.

Good luck!
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Old 03-07-22, 11:49 AM
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Why not? Bikes are fun, all of them for different reasons. If someone only does one kind of bike they are really missing out on some fun. Not sure the need to post in another sub-forum but for the opposite question, though.
Get out and ride and have fun on any bike fixed gears and single speeds are awesome and so are various geared bikes sometimes for the same reasons sometimes for different reasons.
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Old 03-07-22, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by frankenmike View Post
Besides just being fun, I got tired of replacing derailers every couple years on my winter commuter. Salted roads…
And - when you lay the bike down on that ice, you know the drive train still works and will get you home just fine! Edit: Plus salted and frozen chain links? Just slide the wheel forward to get the slack back! Third link and the chain got oiled. I didn't own a car, there was no outside running water in winter and I wasn't welcome to do filthy bike cleaning indoors. That bike was my car. Ran lots of grease in the bearings. Chains led harsh lives. The derailleur bikes hibernated.

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Old 03-07-22, 01:34 PM
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Actually kind of a good question. Most people I meet don't seem to fathom why anyone outside of a veledrome situation would want to ride a bike with no freewheel and only one gear (well 2 if you stand up part of the time). And among those that choose to do so there is such division over what kind of geometry, frame material & gearing make sense & are enjoyable or appropriate to ride in such a manner.

I can only speak for myself and my experience with fixed gears which is so far limited to a few repurposed track bikes on mostly city streets. but even from that narrow category the experience can be radically different depending on a simple thing like a handlebar change. Certainly one of the things that keeps me motivated and interested in riding fixed is how easy and quick it is to switch bars and consequently work muscles from different angles.

I have ridden & enjoyed geared bicycles since early childhood but my first fixed gear bike was an Impulse buy. -KHS Aero track - I first saw her hanging in the shop, around 2005 or 6 (I think this model was from the 90s though) - tig welded, industrial silver metallic grey chromoly with what looked to me like an impossiblly tight wheel base, facilitated by an s bend in the seat tube. It looked pretty crazy to me at first with super deep drop track handlebars and a fixed gear (with which I had no experience) the pedals had clip n strap foot retention... no brakes

it was all new to me but I was strangely attracted. I didn't know anyone that rode any kind of fixed gear bike back then but the exhilaration associated with the danger of the unknown - the fun of trying something new, that I wasn't sure I could do, something that might get me hurt or even killed made me really want to try it somehow, so for $700, which was super cheap for a complete bike even then I took a chance.

And wow it was fantastic! & much more manageable than I'd imagined. I didn't die (although it would have been a lot more sensible to have at least spent the first year learning with a brake) I just pumped the tires to rock hard levels as was de rigueur in those days & learned to ride a whole new way, it felt like the bike was no longer something on which I rode but something connected - an extension of my own body. Sounds bizarre and esoteric until you have experienced it for yourself but at least for me it was great fun. There were new coordination games to play and different cycling strategies required but that was exciting... I found skip stopping to be reliable - easier and more effective than skid stopping most of the time - there were several new skills to practice.

Such an entirely different workout too, as mentioned in previous posts - more upper body muscle recruitment than other forms of cycling I'd done. Going uphill became more anaerobic - downhill effort translated into full flight...--I was hooked. I rode that bike hard until the frame broke Then I spent a little more than twice as much on my next fixed gear - a used Bianchi Pista Concept which was a considerable upgrade and a much more refined experience especially when I went up in tire size to 25c and took some of the air out of my tires...
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Old 03-07-22, 04:19 PM
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I ride singlespeeds for too many reasons to list, so I'll just say it's because I value simplicity and reliability, and I think they're more fun.

For mountain biking in actual mountains and long-distance or loaded gravel biking, gears make more sense. But those are the only times I prefer them.
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Old 03-08-22, 01:59 PM
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My FG commuter is fixed because I have two road bikes... so why not? It's fun, it's a different set of skills, it's robust. People I meet who've never ridden fixed like to try it out. I like thinking if a thief ever tried to ride away on it he'd fall over when he tried to coast and then I could wallop him. I kind of like that it's NOTHING like a track bike except for the cog and lockring.
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Old 03-08-22, 07:58 PM
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Personally, my reasons for always keeping a singlespeed in my quiver are: I love the zen-like simplicity of riding one. I think they look super cool. A good steel singlespeed is bombproof. It's an entirely different workout from my geared bike - I live in a really steep place, and I ride my geared and ss bikes pretty much interchangeably, and really enjoy the different workout and experience (even if it involves some walking).

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Old 03-09-22, 10:18 PM
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Thanks to everyone who chipped in to answer. I didn't realize there would be such a pronounced distinction between single speed (freewheel) riders and fixed riders.
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Old 03-10-22, 04:01 PM
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To 79pmooney: that great photo you posted has been my screen saver for a year, inspirational!

I tried my first single speed a couple of years ago, bought my first one a few days after trying one and now have two, a Cinelli Vigorelli track (397,27), and a Cannondale Capo Track, both with a large array of White freewheels and a choice of various cranks and rings, some 144 and some 130 BCD stuff. I barely touch my geared bikes anymore. I took my Trek Domane up to the Blue Ridge Parkway last year along with my Capo which I figured I would at least give it a try on some of the less inclined hills. After messing around with the gearing the day before I only took my Domane out once the whole week I was there , rode daily and did all the climbs on the southern end that are important to me, Watterrock,Highest area, Craggy Gardens, and Blowing Rock to the Linn Cove Viaduct. Some twice in one day. I am no physical marvel, but I find climbing on a single speed has it's own special rewards.




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Old 03-10-22, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by co.bo View Post
Thanks to everyone who chipped in to answer. I didn't realize there would be such a pronounced distinction between single speed (freewheel) riders and fixed riders.
Maybe on here, but I'd say that BMXers, track racers, messengers, SSCXers, tracklocrossers, and SSMTBers have more commonalities than differences. Many of us have experience in several of those disciplines, and we all share a willingness to suffer a bit for the pure, unfettered joy of riding these perfect, simple machines.
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Old 03-11-22, 10:23 PM
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I enjoy my Salsa Stormchaser single speed (not fixed gear) for the simplicity. It's my winter beater as well as rain bike so I don't have to worry about maintaining as many moving parts.

I also adore the climbing, while more than 10-11% grades become a struggle that I cannot sustain for long, on more moderate uphills nothing can outclimb a singlespeed due to the efficiency. I appreciate how with power the bike just lurches forward with authority, it's so responsive. You see that the chain is as short as possible and the number of teeth on all the gears are minimized, it's all about efficiency and lightness.

Singlespeed is also a great neighborhood, urban and bike path solution. When riding along with slower riders, the fam, or in an unpredictable environment its nice having a bike that you just pedal away and don't worry about having to make a sudden stop in traffic finding yourself flatfooted. You have a ceiling speed past which you cannot go so you're not tempted to speed off as much (though to a certain extent you can). Also very nice to have a bike that takes less of your attention as you focus on your family, the kids, your friends, the conversation and your surroundings. Above all the single speed allows a gear that is just short enough to provide strong acceleration but tall enough to sustain speed for blasting across intersections quickly, both the crossings bike paths have with roads, as well as intersections in the city.
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Old 03-12-22, 08:35 AM
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I'm going to bring a dissenting opinion here - I haven't been as into riding my Wabi (fix/fix hub) on the road for the last few years. I've been a road and MTB racer for about 15 years and track for nearly 10.

It's just too difficult lol. I don't want to have to muscle it up hills if I don't want to, starting/stopping is hard in a big gear, and obviously going downhill sucks (on a FG). I like to be in control of my machine and power it at my will instead of being bossed around.

I do appreciate the beauty, simplicity, aesthetic and culture of FG riding on the road though. So I'm not a hater, it just hasn't been my vibe for a while.
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Old 03-12-22, 09:55 AM
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I still love riding FG, with all it entails. It’s just my knees are starting to complain…
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Old 03-12-22, 02:04 PM
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When you pour your heart and soul into riding fixed, using your whole body to get everything you can for that pedal stroke, you will then and only then understand what’s it’s like.
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Old 03-12-22, 02:16 PM
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Good thread with great explanations. I've enjoyed reading the replies.

In my area I see a lot of 70s and 80s bike boom bikes advertised as single speed or "fixies". Most of these are butcher jobs that I feel were done simply because someone didn't know how to fix or maintain derailleurs or they think single speed and fixed gear are "a thing" but they aren't sure what that thing is. I wish those sellers could read this thread.
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Old 03-12-22, 02:25 PM
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Fixed gear PROPER. No janky bs here
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Old 03-12-22, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Attilio View Post
I enjoy my Salsa Stormchaser single speed (not fixed gear) for the simplicity. It's my winter beater as well as rain bike so I don't have to worry about maintaining as many moving parts.
Dude! As much as I dislike aluminum, the Stormchaser's weight and tire clearance has landed it on my short list of lust-after bikes! Because I already have two SS gravel/CX bikes, there's no way I can justify it, but I've been sorely tempted to sell one of them to get that Salsa. The sample I test rode last summer was an absolute rocket.
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Old 03-12-22, 04:11 PM
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obviously going downhill sucks (on a FG).[/QUOTE]

T.monk
Lots of respect to you and not dismissing your perspective or opinion at all - far from it - thanks for sharing your obviously experienced take but I've never really gotten it when people feel this way - I love bombing down hills at as fast a pace as my legs can spin - 75, 81 or 86 gear inches all feel fantastic to me - I feel like I have a lot of control and stability descending in the drops of a deep drop track bar, I feel well planted, but at the same time quite manuverable(track geo?). The term 'hipster sled' has been thrown around... I'm 52 so too old to be hipster material but I like the term as it is in line with my subjective experience.

Can be a workout to get up a big hill but I love flying down it.

maybe i wouldn't feel this way if I lived near mountains

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Old 03-12-22, 04:56 PM
  #23  
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I realized on my normal ride, I was riding in one gear for most of the time. I was climbing the short hills and coasting down the other side. There is no flat road on this ride. So, I built a single speed with the gearing that would let me get up the hills at a knee friendly cadence.
I too like the simplicity. Riding the single speed has really helped my spinning skill, too.

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Old 03-12-22, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Dude! As much as I dislike aluminum, the Stormchaser's weight and tire clearance has landed it on my short list of lust-after bikes! Because I already have two SS gravel/CX bikes, there's no way I can justify it, but I've been sorely tempted to sell one of them to get that Salsa. The sample I test rode last summer was an absolute rocket.
Out of a large field of road and track pro-level contenders I've raced and ridden since 1964, my 2005 Specialized Langster track bike (aluminum frame and fork, racy but not quite track geometry) is probably my all-time favorite. If the Stormchaser is similar, you owe it to yourself to do what it takes to acquire it.
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Old 03-12-22, 05:16 PM
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TugaDude
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Originally Posted by Blues View Post
I realized on my normal ride, I was riding in one gear for most of the time. I was climbing the short hills and coasting down the other side. There is no flat road on this ride. So, I built a single speed with the gearing that would let me get up the hills at a knee friendly cadence.
I too like the simplicity. Riding the single speed has really helped my spinning skill, too.

Anything that makes you want to get out and ride is a good thing.
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