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Three Good, Affordable Fixed Gear Bicycles: $300 and Under
Finding a Good, Cheap Fixie Bike: 2016 Reviews
A few years ago many people saw fixed gear bikes as a temporary fad. Yet they are still going strong to this day, for a few reasons. They're light, fun, mechanically simple and easy to operate. There's a tactile quality to the ride that a derailleur bike can't seem to replicate. If you're looking for a cheap fixed gear bike for under $300, chances are you've been frustrated by the many choices and lack of real information. Hopefully this article will help.
Fixed gear bikes are challenging at first, but offer a rewarding ride experience. They're also a great way to get used to the fixed style ride if you're working towards track and velodrome racing. Because they're simple to build, many manufacturers (both good and bad) have jumped on the bandwagon. Sifting through all those options is a real headache.
This article is written from the perspective of a long time fixed gear rider and former bike mechanic, and it's intended to help you track down a few amazing, inexpensive fixie bikes that are worth investing in. We'll take a close look at my three top choices in the $300 and underprice range, and offer hints and suggestions that will hopefully help you.
If you've got a fixed gear bike question, please feel free to leave it at the bottom in the comments section, I'll try to respond in a timely fashion.
What's a Fixed Gear Bicycle Anyway?
If you're reading this, you're probably already familiar, but in case you're not I want to give a brief description of the style so we're on the same page.
A fixed gear bike is a single speed bike with a fixed rear cog and a straight chainline. The fixed rear cog is physically attached to the rear wheel, meaning that you can't pedal backwards or coast; your legs are always moving.
Most of the other features are the same. A fixed gear requires horizontal dropouts (where the rear wheel fits into the bike) in order to make sure the chain is nice and taut. A lot of people ride fixed gear bikes without brakes (by skid stopping), but I do not recommend this type of riding.
The very first bicycles ever invented were fixed gears, as the freewheel hadn't been invented yet. The popular penny farthing, for example, featured a fixed drivetrain, attached directly to the front wheel.
Because they are mechanically straightforward, fixed gear bikes are cheap, light and finding a good one for under $300 isn't impossible.
Critical Cycles: A Good, Inexpensive Fixie Bike for Under $300
Critical Cycles is a newer brand name that's only been shipping bikes for a few years. That can lead to some trepidation by potential buyers, but I'd encourage you to really consider this brand. They are about as inexpensive as a fixed gear bike can get, and despite the low price they maintain a good standard of quality.
This is a great 'starter fixie' for a few reasons. First off, the riding style is very comfortable and upright, and it's a great choice for urban riding. The riser bars look great with their BMX styling, but they also give you a great riding stance and good control.
The steel frame is no-nonsense and wonderfully 'stealth' with very little badging. It's a cheap fixie bike that's a snap to upgrade.
The bike comes equipped with a ProMax rear brake, and the front fork has been drilled so you can add a front one too if you prefer.
It comes with a flip flop rear wheel with a fixed and freewheel sprocket. That means you can flip it around and coast if you're tired of the fixed gearing. That's a nice bonus, not always included. It actually has a sealed bottom bracket, which is a nice feature on such a low priced bike.
Frankly, most of the parts and components are made in China, but that's not a bad thing, and pretty much essential at this price tag. It's well made and easy enough to upgrade parts at your own pace. Available in a bunch of different color combinations and frame sizes, and just as beautiful in person. Definitely a good fixie for under $300, worth checking out.
Vilano Rampage: An Aggressive Fixed Gear Bike, Below $300
I really love the aggressive look and stance of certain fixie bikes, and even inexpensive models can offer this. The Vilano Rampage has the look and finish quality of a bike several hundred dollars more expensive, and it's worthy of your time to check out.
The first thing you'll notice about the bike is the frame. It's totally stealth with no real badging, and the paint is remarkably good for such a low price tag. It's high tensile steel, which is to be expected, with track fork ends and a chain tension adjustor.
The wheels also really stand out. They are super deep V (45mm), and they're double walled and quite strong (though a little on the heavy side). Standard low riser bars give this bike an aggressive yet controlled riding feel, and the huge platform pedals make you feel nice and planted.
The bike comes with front and rear alloy brakes that stop you very nicely, and the tires are slightly larger than usual, perfect for urban rides.
This bike comes with a flip flop rear hub with both fixed and free cogs, and it's paired to a 46 tooth front chainring, which is a good middle ground gearing ratio for hills or flats.
It's certainly fun and rideable right out of the box, though you may want to upgrade some components over the course of time. One of my favorites and for well under $300 it's a great fixie bike to choose.
*If you prefer a bullhorn bar, the Vilano Edge is a similar bike to check out.
Takara Sugiyama: A Simple, Fixed Gear Bike, Great Handling
If you're hunting for a good, cheap fixed gear bike with great handling and a bit of flair in its color scheme, you may want to consider the Sugiyama. It is about as bare bones as a bike gets, but there's a certain flair in the design and it's a really fun one to ride. The geometry is perfect for bombing around town.
The frame is a hand welded steel frame with lots of stickers on it. Fortunately, the stickers are easy to remove. Once the stickers are gone you'll be surprised how great the bike looks. The front fork is oversized and chunky, giving this bike an almost BMX look. The rims are not deep V but they are strong and sleek. The tires are blue and white, giving the bike a unique asymmetrical look; if you don't dig the tires they're easy to change.
The rear hub is a flip flop model with both fixed and free sides, again very rare at this price point. Also, surprisingly, the bike comes equipped with front and rear side pull brakes: not the best quality, but they get the job done.
The price fluctuates and has dropped below $200 on a few occasions. It's an inexpensive fixed gear bike that I really enjoy, and many other people have had a great experience with it too. Worth a look.
Putting It Together:
Because a cheap fixed gear bike for under $300 comes in a box with 'instructions', you might be tempted to try putting it together yourself. That's fine, but I recommend you throw those instructions out and follow a step-by-step guide from a reputable site such as what Sheldon Brown offers.
Another good option is getting a bike shop to put it together for you. They'll charge around $30 or so, but it's probably worth it to know everything is tight, aligned and properly greased.
Other Things You Should Consider:
When I first rode a fixed gear bicycle, I nearly crashed. The riding style is totally alien if you're accustomed to a bike with a freewheel. For that reason, I'd strongly recommend you take the bike to a park or somewhere with plenty of open space to give it a whirl. Once you're used to the sensation of your feet always being on the move, you can try it out on the road.
I'm also opposed to the concept of riding brakeless. Skid stopping is an unreliable way to stop at best, and you're beholden to a lot of conditions outside of your control. For example, a skid stop will do nothing if you're on a gravel surface. Actual brakes scrub off speed without causing the wheels to lock up, making for a much safer stop. Not to mention that skidding is terrible for your knees.
If you're unsure of the whole riding a fixed gear thing, why not consider a single speed bike? There are cheap options on the market, and you still get the aesthetic benefits of the style without having to worry about accidents. I've listed the Retrospec Siddhartha below, it's a great, cheap single speed bike option with a classic look.
And don't forget your helmet! Safe riding!