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The Benefits of Riding a Fixed Gear Bicycle

Updated on April 4, 2020
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

The drivechain of a fixed gear bicycle
The drivechain of a fixed gear bicycle

Starting Out- What is a Fixed Gear Bicycle?

For the uninitiated bicycles have gears. A fixed gear bicycle (or Fixie as it is often shortened to) effectively has one single gear for the rider to push. Many of the earliest bicycles used were single speed before gears were introduced so there's an air of tradition riding a fixed-gear bicycle.

A fixed gear bicycle also doesn't make use of a freehub body which would usually allow a cyclist to coast along whilst riding. This constantly forces the cyclist to pedal.

One of the most visible examples of a fixed-gear bicycle is on the boards of a velodrome for the Olympic games.

Using a Fixed-Gear Bicycle on the Roads

Riding a fixed-gear bicycle takes a little time to get accustomed to. Most cyclists are accustomed to being able to stop pedalling for tighter corners or on downhills whereby a fixed wheel forces a rider to continue pedalling.

It's also recommended to check your local laws regarding riding on the open road. In the United Kingdom all bicycles must have a working brake by law.

In an Era of Power Meters and Electronic Shifting More Cyclists are Shifting to the Simplicity of Fixed Gear Riding

At the highest level and filtering through to recreational cyclists, technology is having a huge effect on the sport with more riders working on functional threshold power with specialist powermeters there are more riders moving in the opposite direction by using fixed wheel bicycles for training.

Here are a number of the benefits of fixed-gear cycling.

A Fixed Gear Bicycle Offers Simplicity and Reduced Running Costs

With fewer working parts a fixed gear bicycle can save it's rider money in the medium to long term
With fewer working parts a fixed gear bicycle can save it's rider money in the medium to long term

Reduced Running Costs

A fixed-gear bicycle has fewer working parts than a regular bicycle with gears. Chains can last up to twice as long at less than 1/2 the price comparing a Sram PC1 track chain and their base model 11-speed PC1130 chain.

A track sprocket is considerably less expensive than an equivalent 11-speed cassette

One consideration is to ensure you don't economize on a wheelset. A solid, well-made wheelset is vital in terms of reliability and longevity. Your local bike shop should be able to help out with something dependable.

It's all about Cadence

If you're on a group ride and the pace starts to pick up you can't shift up a gear so you either increase your cadence or risk getting dropped. Fixed-gear riding forces a rider to spend time at higher cadences than they might usually be comfortable with. Whilst some might argue that you can train this on a geared-bike on a fixie there's no getting away from the need to spend extended periods at high cadences.

A consideration is that a benefit of fixed-gear cycling is the level of control a rider has over their cadence when they return to a geared bicycle. In my personal opinion, it gives better control in race situations to simply increase cadence rather than becoming reliant on bigger gearing.

Enhanced Control on a Fixie

Regular fixed-wheel cycling helps to develop an intimate connection between rider and bicycle.e in a simple way to a motorist and classic car. There's an innate realization that the extra effort and control that modern advances have taken away.

Braking removes the speed you have carefully developed so the fixed-gear cyclist learns better how to control the bike to maintain momentum. Climbing is no longer an indication of just how strong the legs are, more an indication of whole-body strength and core stability.

Ride Hills and Add Muscle to Your Thighs

After a couple of Winters riding a fixed wheel bike in the hills with a relatively big gear (48x18) I've personally added significant additional muscle to my thighs whilst adding additional strength.

I've had to research routes to ensure momentum can be maintained. 10% climbs are tough and ad hoc routes can be a challenge when you realize that the lane you're on has turned onto 'Steep Hill' but once you've over these challenges you'll feel that you've really achieved something.

Time Efficient Endurance Training on a Fixed Gear Bicycle

When you can't freewheel you cannot stop pedaling. On a typical 3-hour training ride a cyclist will only spend 70-80% of their time pedaling. However, on a fixed-gear bicycle, the rider spends 100% of the time turning the pedals. A 3-hour ride on a fixie can be the equivalent to 4 hours on a geared bike. Fixed-gear cycling can really help to improve cycling endurance.

Being unable to stop pedaling on downhills means your legs can get up to incredible cadences giving a fantastic training effect compared to those around you freewheeling.


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