10 Reasons Fixies Beat Road Bikes for City Commuting

Man sitting by river with fixie.

I love my fixie, but I often find myself struggling to keep up with the roadies. It seems no matter how hard I paddle, the roadies right past me. Fixies don’t have gears, after all. Sometimes it seems like road bikes are the ideal bikes for commuting. 

If only it were this easy to beat the roadies.

Not so fast! (Pun intended). Because when it comes to city riding, you just can’t beat a fixie. Don’t believe me? Here are ten reasons why fixies beat road bikes for city commuting.

What Is the Difference Between a Fixie and a Road Bike

First, let’s be clear about the terminology. 

Fixed and Single Speed Bikes

All fixed gear bikes (fixie) are single-speed bikes, but not all single-speed bikes are fixed gear bikes. A single-speed bike is, as the name suggests, a bike that has a single gear: the main chainring and a single rear sprocket. Single-speed bikes are available in fixed-gear or freewheel versions.

A fixed-gear bike is still a single speed but cannot freewheel. What does this mean in practical terms? Whenever the rear wheel turns–the pedals also turn, either in a forward or backward direction. So, you can’t freewheel, or coast, on a fixed-gear bike. 

Road bikes

Road bikes are multi-geared bicycles designed for very long distances. They often emphasize speed. The road bike gets its name from the terrain it is designed for. Road bikes have many components, gears and can be extremely expensive.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, what are some reasons why a fixed gear bike might be better at city riding than Fixed gear bikes?

1. Fixed Gear Bikes Are Lighter

A fixed-gear bike typically weighs less than its geared counterpart. The difference in weight is accounted for by the lack of gear levers, a lighter chainring and rear sprocket setup, and the lack of dérailleurs. Okay, it’s only a couple of pounds lighter, but less weight makes all the difference if you’re tired or, in the case of bike messengers and couriers, spending all day on your bike.

Lugging a bike down the stairs. One reason why fixies beat road bikes for city commuting
Lugging a bike down the stairs.

Additionally, cities usually have multi-story buildings. And not all of those buildings will have elevators. And even if they do, sometimes they don’t work. So, having a lighter bike is very important for city use.

2. Not as Likely to Get Stolen

Most people have heard the story about the thief who failed to make his getaway in the car he was stealing, simply because he couldn’t drive a stick-shift. Riding a fixed-gear bike is somewhat similar. It takes some time to get used to it. Most people can’t just hop on and go. Go head, as one of your non-fixie friends to hop on and steal your bike. You’ll immediately see why most bike thieves steer clear of fixies.

Another reason why they are a little less likely to get stolen when compared to a road bike is that, well, they’re less expensive. A road bike screams, “steal me!” But fixed gear bikes have fewer parts, making them often less expensive. The resale value just isn’t there for a thief to risk their freedom for.

An impressive bike thief.

Now, of course, it completely depends on the make and model. Dosnoventa bikes are well over $2,000–But that’s not the type of bike you’ll find locked up overnight, now, is it?

If you are concerned about your bike getting stolen. Check out this article from Economical as they list out eight tips on how not to get your bike stolen.

3. Fixie Bikes Are Less Expensive

In general, fixed-gear bikes are less expensive than geared bikes. Why? Simple, there are fewer components involved. Also, they are often constructed using less expensive materials, such as high-tensile steel instead of lightweight carbon fiber. 

You might be spending way too much on a roadbike.
You might be spending way too much on a road bike.

4. Easy to Repair and Work On

Because they have fewer components, fixed-gear bikes are easier and less expensive when it comes to repairs. You only need to worry about lubricating the chain-drive and ensuring other fixtures are tightened and secure. Parts requiring replacement are limited to brake pads due to normal wear and tear. Regular servicing, wheel removal, and cleaning, etc., is much simpler because a fixie doesn’t have the complex gear dérailleurs you need to deal with on a geared bike.

5. Fewer Moving Parts

The dérailleurs on a road bike will suffer wear and tear from regular use. They are moving parts, after all, and replacement or repairs can end up being expensive. A fixed-gear bike doesn’t have any such problem. You’d need to seriously abuse it to break the rear drive sprocket or the front chainring.

Costly and complex road bike repair.
Costly and complex road bike repair.

Of course, the chain itself could break, or one of the wheel spokes, but these are relatively simple to repair and not very expensive.

6. Fixies Are More Efficient

Yes, cycling on a fixie provides greater efficiency in terms of the energy transfer from the pedal to the rear wheel. This is due to the length of the chain being shorter and straighter and the fact that there are no gear pulleys at the rear.

Again, it might be a small factor for some cyclists, but those who spend enough hours on their bike daily or do long-distance commuting will feel the difference after a while.

7. Fixies Are Simpler

When you mount up on a fixed-gear bike, you never need to think about choosing which gear to use or which gear you stopped in. You just ride. Riding is simpler, more basic because you never have to think about gear selection.

Also, it’s easier to ride when you never have to shift gears; you simply focus on pedaling, braking, and being aware of surrounding traffic. The keyword being traffic. Of which there is no shortage. The city demands your attention and focus at all times. A simpler bike allows you to focus more on the road and less on the bells and whistles of the bike.

The remarkable simplicity of a fixed gear bike.

8. Fixies Provide Better Cardio Workout

Okay, not everybody rides their bike to get or stay fit. But a fixed-gear bike makes your legs work more. Cadence, or the number of revolutions you do with your legs per minute, is an important factor. A higher cadence is better for physical conditioning than a lower cadence.

Why is this so? First, your knees are subject to less torque, which is a good thing. Second, the muscles in your legs don’t need to work as hard, and finally, your heart and lungs don’t work as hard when you maintain the perfect drive ratio; you exert less effort to move the bike.

9. Stronger Connection Between You and the Road

Most riders will tell you that a fixie is more engaging and overall fun to ride. The connection between rider and bike is more direct due to the lack of complex gearing mechanisms and, in some cases, brakes. It’s just the bike and you, as one. Try riding a fixed-gear bike once, and you’ll immediately notice the difference.

If you want to see this connection argument in action, check out this video from Global Cycling Network that compares fixed gear vs. geared bikes for city commuting.

Global Cycling Network: Fixie vs. Geared.

10. Fixies Just Look so Damn Cool

The overall simple design of fixed-gear bikes gives them a special appeal. They’re more streamlined than their geared counterparts, something which has appealed greatly to trendy hipsters in recent years. The combination of a streamlined design with its overall mechanical simplicity makes fixies extremely attractive to many cyclists, young and old.

Fixies look awesome, even when animated.

Conclusion: Fixie vs. Road Bikes for Commuting

So, I hope these ten reasons why fixie is better than road bikes for city commuting convinced you to ditch the road bike and hop on a fixed or single-speed bike.

If you are in the market for a new fixed-gear or single-speed bike, take a look at our shop here. Let us know what you thought of this post in the comments below. And as always, stay fixed.

Written by Yerain Abreu

Yerain is the owner and operator of this fine website. As a native New Yorker, Yerain is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He was there in 2008 when it was hot, and he's still riding fixed–day in, day out. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including, cycling, video production, and photography.

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