Fixed Gear / Track Bikes

Riding a Bike without brakes may seem like a daring move, but for single speed enthusiasts everywhere,  fixed gear bikes seem to be the talk – and ride of the town.  And why wouldn’t they be? Whether you are a hobby rider, a messenger or commuting, cyclists all over are trading in their gears for something a little more sleek.  This stream lined bike demands respect for its simple class and elegant simplicity.  It may look a lot like other bikes, but it just may be one of the most basic machines you can build with two wheels, standing out as both stylish and efficient in its class.  While other bikes have their place, they are complex and riddled with add ons and unnecessary weight.  Fixed gear owners all over pride themselves on the lightweight nature of this urban beauty. Their goal is simple.  Ride. To put it in its most basic terms, fixed gears are about making and keeping biking riding both fun and easy to enjoy; two things you may not have connected your bike with since you were a child. Really, when was the last time you jumped on your bicycle to simply ride around the block and as the wind blew in your face for the mere enjoyment of cruising? If you can’t remember,  then it has been too long and you are in the right place to be lured in for a renewed adventure!

At this point, it may behoove us to look back and remind, or – educate ourselves, if you will to the deepest origin of the fixed gear bicycle.  Where did this unique design come from? Lets go as far back as the classic penny farthing.  This classic antique was one of the first single speed known to the public – due to the fact that the pedal cranks were directly connected to the hub of the front wheel. It was a perfect prelude to the fixed gear and beginner set up for the birth of a new evolution for the single speed generation. Before the uprise of the derailleur, the part which makes it possible for a bicycle to use gears, the single speed bike was the only bike to use for racing.  The entrance of the derailleur was big news for the bike racers of that day.  Historical and momentous events to follow include the Madison Square Garden racing track in 1876, which attracted much attention for bike racers, quickly turning them in to highly paid stars. One of the most well known moment in track race history was the  one hour record in which the world riders would pit themselves against the hands of time in an attempt to ride as far as they possibly could in an hour. Graeme Obree, one of the racers,  successfully completed a record making race on a homemade fixie, partly made from old washing machine parts.  The accomplishment was so impressive that he was soon made the subject of the movie “The Flying Scotsman”.

Let’s branch off and talk for minute about the build.  A fixed-gear/fixed-wheel bike – also known as a fixie can be defined as a bicycle with no free-wheel meaning it cannot coast, as the pedals are always in motion when the bicycle is moving.  Whichever direction your feet go, your pedals will follow in perfect sync.  The cog, in this set up, is either threaded or bolted directly to a fixed rear hub. When the rear wheel turns, the pedals turn in the coinciding direction, allowing the rider to be able to stop without using a brake. This is achieved by back pedaling-  resisting the rotation of the cranks, and also opening the door to other skills for the rider such as being able to ride in reverse or practice the coveted ability to pedal backwards with pristine control,  achieving the impressive track stance.  While this continuous action keeps you involved without he bike and the road, the approach can be a little intimidating to the single speed novice.  You definitely won’t see these riders coasting.  No, these bikes are obedient and only take the demands you give them.  They roll with you.  Now, this may find the avid rider faced with the challenge that a downhill ride would bring.   You’ll certainly need to spend some time practicing that track stance mentioned a moment ago- one of the most important skills in the fixie world.

Continual pedaling adds a new dimension to your familiar terrain, and using a lightweight bicycle that’s designed for the task will empower  you towards a rediscovery of cycling.  This leads me to mention that another notable quality of a fixed gear bicycle is its low weight. These machines are stripped down to only the bare necessities.  Without all of the added parts required for a geared road or commuter set up, a fixed gear bicycle weighs a significant amount less than its geared equals. Additionally,  fixed gear components are more mechanically efficient than any other bicycle, with the most direct power  transfer of force from the rider to the wheels. These benefits combined leave the rider with a more efficient and gratifying experience of speed, grace and agility.

More than ever, established bicycle manufacturers are producing these high demand, dedicated fixed-gear road bike in greater numbers.  They are characterized as having a relaxed road geometry and are generally low in price. Fixie bikes are probably most commonly known for their individuality and variety. You’ll begin to see more and more fixes in the city with dropped handlebars, but  also machines with flat handlebars, bikes with brakes and bikes without brakes. Try the experience of fixed gear riding for yourself – it’s really an entirely different style of riding and transportation that allows you to feel entirely connected to your bike. Whether you decide a track bike or a single speed machine, you too can get the feel of cycling on one of the oldest and most established types of bicycle in a form of cycling that is as exhilarating today as it ever was. Get out, smile and ride!