in

The (Complete) Beginners Guide to Fixed Gear Bikes [2021]

Everything you need to know to start riding.

Image of a man wearing jean shorts holding a white fixed gear bike.
Image of a man wearing jean shorts holding a white fixed gear bike.

Fixed gear bikes are some of the most fun bikes on the planet. They are lightweight, easy to maintain, and have a ton of benefits. And the fixed gear scene is supported by a large community of passionate cyclists. But if you’re new to fixed gear cycling, you probably have many questions.

If you’re unfamiliar with fixed gear bikes, you’ve come to the right place. This full, comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about fixed gear and single-speed bikes, Including how they operate, some background history, their benefits and drawbacks, how to buy one, and much much more.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know everything there is to know about fixed gear bikes. Let’s get to it.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 9, 2021, to include additional information regarding fixed gear bikes.

What is a fixed geared bike?

A fixed-gear bike is a bike with only one gear. 

Advertisement

Fixed-gear bikes are also called fixies and you will often hear the term used interchangeably.

A fixed-gear bike requires continuous pedaling. Unlike a typical bike, a fixed gear bike does not allow you to coast. Most bikes have a freewheel cog that allows the wheel to move independently of the pedals. With a fixed gear, you must pedal (even while riding downhill).

Fixed-gears typically include a front and rear brake. However, fixie purists stick to only a front brake. The fixed wheel may be regarded as a brake since you have the ability to lock the rear wheel while riding.

I should point out that riding a fixie without a front brake on the road is illegal in New York City and many other municipalities. This is why you will always see bike manufacturers ship a front brake along with a bike.

Fixed-gear bikes are the most basic configuration of bicycles out there. And they are often revered for their visual simplicity and minimalist design. However, there’s an infinite amount of customization options out there for fixed gear bikes. These are some of the most customized bikes in the world, so much so that there’s a huge subculture of manufacturers who make parts specifically for people who want to fully customize their fixies.

Many cyclists prefer the simplicity of a fixed-gear bike because they are easy to maintain due to there being fewer moving components that may get damaged and need to be replaced. 

They are also often less expensive and lighter than a conventional multi-geared bike, making them excellent commuting bikes.

But what is a fixie, really? There’s a wonderful quote that goes.

You can always add something to your bike, but you’ll get to a point where you can’t subtract anything else, and that’s a fixed gear.

Graeme Obree

I think this statement perfectly captures the essence of fixed gear and the beauty of its simplicity. 

The Advantages Of A Fixed Gear Bike

Fixed gear bikes provide noticeable features that freewheel bikes do not.

Pedal efficiency

Cycling on a fixed gear bike 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.

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.

Better cardio workout

There is no coasting on a fixed gear bike. You are always moving your legs along with the wheels. The lack of gears and the connection to the wheels require more work. This effort keeps your heart pounding and your cardiovascular system running at top speed. So, your legs work harder, and that work keeps you fit. This is one of the reasons why people love fixed gear bikes for exercise.

Lightweight

This is one of the most obvious benefits of a fixie. Due to the absence of a derailleur, levers, a cassette, and brake components, the bike drops a significant amount of weight.

Advertisement

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. It might seem like 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.

It’s not unusual to find fixed gear bikes weighing between 15 and 17 pounds, which not only makes the bike faster and more effective on the pedals but also helps while carrying it—making them very portable. 

Additionally, cities usually have multi-story buildings. Some buildings don’t have elevators. And even if they do, sometimes they don’t work. 

You can pick up a fixie easily with one hand. So you don’t have to break your back just to go out for a ride. If you live in an apartment building without an elevator, a fixed gear bike is definitely the way to go. 

Aesthetics

Fixed gear bikes are sexy, sleek and streamlined. The combination of their modern design and mechanical simplicity makes them visually appealing.

Fixed gear bikes have an identity of their own while also enabling the rider to further personalize the bike to their preference. Still, regardless of the color scheme and components, a fixie will always have that timeless minimalistic look.

Inexpensive

Fewer components typically lead to a less expensive bike. The lack of a multi-gear transmission significantly reduces the cost of a fixed gear. Put simply, road and mountain bikes have a ton of additional components that make them very expensive. Fixies do not.

Low maintenance

Fixed gear bikes eliminate many of the maintenance concerns associated with traditional bikes.

This relates to the reduced components. If you bike regularly, multi-gear drivetrains, disc brakes, and caliper brakes all need maintenance. You’ll eventually need to replace components as well. Additionally, multi-gear drivetrains place a greater strain on the chain, leading it to wear out prematurely.

Because they have fewer components, fixed-gear bikes are easier to maintain and are 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.

The dérailleurs on a road bike will suffer wear and tear easily 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.

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

Easy to store

Fixed gear bikes are easier to store in tight spaces than geared bikes. This is because it’s easy to remove the front and back wheels and even the handlebars. This gives you great flexibility when storing your bike for a long time. You can store your bike in the closet or even under your bed. This is much more difficult to do with a geared bike. And due to their lightweight, you can even hang a fixed gear on your wall.

Got a tiny apartment? Check out our post, where we offer five creative ways you can store your fixie in your apartment. And If you’re looking for a way to mount your bike to the wall, consider the options below.

Allow you to focus more on the road

It’s easier to ride when you never have to shift gears; you simply focus on pedaling, braking, and being aware of surrounding traffic—keyword being, traffic. Of which there is no shortage. The city streets demand your attention at all times. There’s a lot of traffic laws you have to follow, and cars zooming by. A simpler bike allows you to focus more on the road and less on the bells and whistles of the bike. 

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; Making riding simpler and more fun.

It offers a fun and unique riding experience

Most riders will tell you that a fixie is more engaging and 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. 

Due to the constant rotation of your pedals, you are always engaged with the bike and can gradually acquire a greater feel for the road.

Try riding a fixed-gear bike once, and you’ll immediately notice the different feel of the road.

Disadvantages of a fixed gear bike

While a fixed gear has several advantages, there are some clear disadvantages that may turn some riders off from riding fixed altogether.

It takes some getting used to

Fixed gear bicycles are not something that can be hopped on and mastered in a matter of minutes. The radically different feel and approach demand some substantial adjustment, much more so if you are used to freewheeling machines, as the majority of riders are. The constant pedaling action will feel very strange at first. 

Braking is harder

As if adjusting to the continual pedaling action wasn’t enough, barking on a fixed gear takes some getting used to. Riders have to entirely relearn how to stop and slow down is an even larger deterrent.

May be Illegal

In certain regions, driving without brakes is also prohibited, and regardless of your skill level, it may be quite hazardous in specific cases.

No gear shifts for going uphill

While a well-ratioed fixed-gear drivetrain has a number of benefits, the lack of speeds might be a disadvantage in some riding situations, regardless of how fit you are. This can be particularly noticeable when going uphill and downhill. 

Not great for hilly terrain

If you need a bike that can conquer hills or rough off-road terrain, a fixie may not be the bike you’re looking for. Fixed gear bikes are best on flat ground. The single gear makes it very difficult to pedal up steep hills. It can be done; But prepare for a workout of epic proportions.

May hurt your knees over time.

Fixed gear cycling requires constant pedaling, which may accelerate joint wear. However, all physical activity contributes to joint wear, and riding a fixed gear bike casually with proper technique should not do too much harm to your knees in the long run. Skidstopping, however, can do long-term harm. To prevent long-term issues, use a front brake with your fixie.

Approach your ride on a fixed gear bike as you would with any sport that works your leg muscles and requires a proper form.

How does a fixed gear bike work?

As the name indicates, a fixed gear employs a drive train that is “fixed” and can not be shifted to another gear. As a consequence, the rider is limited to a single speed and is unable to coast. So, as the back wheel rotates, the pedals also rotate. This is performed by directly connecting the rear wheel with the drivetrain chain, and by extension, the pedals. The chain is engaged when the hub rotates, which contacts the front crank wheel, which spins the pedals.

This might sound like a drawback, but it is one of the most alluring parts of a fixie for a number of reasons. For one thing, it keeps your body engaged, which is great for exercise, 

The bike will ride and feel much different from the freewheel version, bringing you in sync with the road. This makes your pedal strokes much more effective. 

Additionally, the fixed-gear drivetrain provides an alternative stopping technique for people who do not like to utilize hand brakes. 

These are just a few of the benefits of riding a fixed-gear bike. 

Check out our article on all the benefits of a fixed gear bike to learn more.

Why don’t fixed gear bikes have brakes

Fixed gear bikes are known for being devoid of any form of braking system. 

These bikes are derived from track bikes, which are USed for racing inside a velodrome. For safety, bikes are not allowed to have brakes because, if one bike makes a sudden stop or squeezes the brakes, it could cause a catastrophe. Not to mention track bikes are all about speed, and having a hand brake, when backpedaling can easily slow down the bike, is pointless and efficient.

Additionally, the main concept behind a brakeless bike is a combination of aesthetic and practical considerations. Because fixed gear bikes have a minimalist aesthetic, eliminating the brake component and the ugly cable results in a tidy, clean appearance.

Many within the fixed gear subculture believe that fixed gear bikes equipped with a handbrake are not true fixies.

When the brake is removed, the bike is reduced to a frame, tires, a powertrain, pedals, a seat, and a handlebar. There are no loose moving components, just the fundamentals. This makes a major difference in how the bike rides and feels.

At first glance, the concept of a brakeless bike may seem absurd, although the phrase is rather deceptive. While there are no brakes, there is still a means to stop.

How do you stop on a fixed gear bike?

Stopping or slowing down is a little different depending on whether or not you are using handbrakes.

To stop or slow down on a fixie with front or rear brakes, pull on the hand brakes slowly. Do not suddenly stop pedaling; you need to maintain peddling on a fixed gear, even as you brake.

Press back slightly on the pedals to provide a little resistance while squeezing the front brake. Applying back-pedaling pressure should be supplementary; the primary stopping power should come from the hand brakes. Be ready to take your legs out of your toe cages or pedal straps to stay upright when coming to a complete stop.

If you don’t have pedal straps, below are a few great options worth considering.

Most fixed-gear bikes use one front brake located on the front wheel, which is a legal requirement in most counties and municipalities. You can also install a back brake to improve stopping power.

Stopping on a fixed gear without brakes is a little more difficult.

The only way to stop a fixed gear bike without a hand brake is by locking out the back wheel and going into a skid-stop. Slow the bike down using your legs, then abruptly reverse direction and skid your rear tire to get the desired effect.

The bike will slow down more quickly before getting into a skid if you lean forward a little bit while doing this. I don’t recommend it for safety (but it does look cool AF).

Should I ride with or without brakes?

I recognize that some fixed gear purists would argue that brakeless is the way to go. There is undoubtedly a pleasure provided by a brakeless bike, and some riders have perfected this riding style and are very capable. 

However, since brakeless bikes are illegal in a number of cities worldwide, I always recommend having at least one brake on your bike at all times.

You can also just remove it later if you really want to go brakeless for whatever reason. 

Are fixed gear bikes street legal?

Fixed gear bikes are 100% legal. However, riding brakeless can land you in hot water. Remember that a fixed gear bike does not, by definition, need to be brakeless. You can have a fixie with both front and rear brakes. You will lose fixie points, but you will be on the safe side. 

Here are a few more legal pointers you should know if you are riding in new york city

  • You don’t need a helmet to ride a bike
  • You cant ride on the sidewalk
  • You can’t go against traffic
  • You must follow all traffic signs 
  • You must utilize head and tail light at night, aligned with reflectors. 

Be sure to check out our article on NYC cycling laws to learn more.

What is a single-speed bike? 

A single-speed bike is much like a fixed gear bike. However, they use a freewheel cog to keep the wheels moving when you stop pedaling. 

The ability to coast or cruise is an obvious benefit of single-speed bikes. This makes riding down slopes and hills more comfortable and safer overall. It’s particularly useful on long journeys when you want to rest your legs.

Single-speed bikes are easy to maintain due to there being fewer moving components that may get damaged and need to be replaced. They are also usually less expensive and lighter than a conventional multi-geared bike.

Handbrakes are the only way single-speed bikes can stop, which is why every bike manufacturer is legally required to supply hand brakes with their bikes.

The ease of riding single-speed bikes is also a benefit. You can just jump on and ride at any moment, with no prior expertise needed, unlike fixed gear bikes, which require some getting used to.

How does a freewheel cog work?

A freewheel cog is similar to a ratchet. It will allow movement in one direction easily but will halt the movement if it reverses.

​​Can I convert a single-speed bike to a fixie?

You can convert a single-speed bike to fixed gear with a flip flop hub. This will allow you to flip your wheel around and switch from fixed to single speed and back again if you so desire. This is very common and most single speed bikes already come with two cogs in the rear hub—one fixed and one freewheel.

We will cover how to convert any bike to a fixed gear later in this article.

Difference between fixed gear and single-speed bikes

It’s natural to mistake fixed gear bikes with single-speed bikes. After all, they look very similar. However, there is a very important distinction in the way they operate.

All fixed gear bikes (fixie) are single-speed bikes. But not all single-speed bikes are fixed gear bikes. 

Single-speed bikes are equipped with a freewheel, while fixed gear bikes are not. On a fixed gear bike, the rear cog is connected to the rear hub, so as the wheel rotates, the cog will also rotate. So when you stop pedaling on a single-speed bike, the rear wheel will continue to spin, but the cranks (drive train arms) won’t.

A rider can slow down or stop the bike by reducing pedaling cadence or by locking their legs, effectively halting the motion of the rear wheels. This is called skid stopping. Check out our guide to learn more about skid stopping.

Most fixed gear bikes are equipped with only a single brake, typically on the front as the rear brake is the wheel itself.

Single-speed bikes have the same brakes you would find on any regular geared bike. This is because, on a single-speed bike, the only way to slow down is with a hand brake.

Single-speed bikes are excellent for commuting or as a winter bike since the absence of complicated gearing makes them much simpler to maintain. 

Take a look at this video on single-speed bikes vs. fixies from the Shifter YouTube Channel.

What is a track bike?

A track bike is essentially a fixed gear bike made specifically for racing. Track bikes are usually ridden on a velodrome. 

Velodrome racing

Track bike racing, which is often held in a specially constructed arena and track for racing called a velodrome, utilizes fixed gear bikes that have been modified for maximum speed. Racers make their way around the circular track, which often has very steep curves, sometimes as steep as 45 degrees.

In velodrome racing, the rider has no time to change gears or use the brakes; it’s an all-out sprint that depends on raw pedaling force and the ability to avoid wind resistance while maneuvering. Additionally, bike weight plays a significant role, which is reflected in the design of these bicycles. 

Four cyclists on track bike at velodrome race.
Advertisement
Four cyclists on track bike at velodrome race. Source: Simon Connellan, Unsplash

At the velodrome, all the participants are moving in the same direction; one person suddenly braking could be dangerous. With a brakeless configuration, all the participants stop at the same rate and point, which is why they have no brakes. 

Difference between fixed gear and track bikes

You may hear a fixed gear bike referred to as a track bike, they are not necessarily the same thing, But they are very similar. In short, a track bike is a type of fixed gear bike that’s typically used in indoor velodrome competitions. They are lightweight, fast, and costly. 

As mentioned earlier, track bikes were designed for use on indoor bike racing tracks called velodromes. They are built for maximum lightweight and speed. They look amazing, unique, and they are about as fast as any bike can get. If you want to ride a bike at a velodrome, this is the bike for you.

The main difference between a fixed geared bike and a track bike is that track bikes are specially designed for racing. Fixed geared bikes, on the other hand, are primarily for casual use, enjoyment, and transportation.

While track bikes are fixed gear bikes, they are not often referred to as fixed gear bikes.

Track racing bikes use a fixed gear powertrain with a gear ratio that is inefficient on urban highways. The bike’s frame is quite aerodynamic, as are the wheels and tires.

The frame is lightweight yet very rigid, ensuring that the rider maintains the maximum amount of pedal force possible. All of this adds up to a bike that is exceptionally quick on the track.

Fixed gear or fixie bikes often share a road bike frame but are not designed for racing. They may be equipped with drop-down handlebars, flat handlebars, BMX grips, and a range of wheels and tires. They prioritize appearance above performance and are not designed for aerodynamics.

The standard road frame also has a modest amount of flex, which provides some moderate shock cushioning. If one were to ride a track bike frame in the city, it would feel very stiff and unnatural.

History of fixed gear bikes

Here’s a little on the history of fixed gear cycling. We’ll divide fixed gear bike history into five distinct periods. 

  • Early cycling era
  • Track racing era
  • Bike messenger era
  • Mid-2000s ‘hipster’ era
  • Modern era

Early cycling era

Even though the single-speed road bike utilizes little technology and is seen as “simple” by many today, the bike’s history seems to be more contentious than that of most other creations.

The oldest examples of fixed gear bikes date all the way back to the invention of bicycles. 

All of the early bikes, in their many variations, had some type of fixed gear system. They employed a wheel linked to a pedal by the chain, and the hub and cog of that wheel were one and the same.

Things stayed this way for years until the freewheel was invented, followed by derailleurs and multi-gear bicycles.

Who Invented the Fixed Gear bike?

Giovanni de la Fontana, according to some, invented the first bike in 1418, describing it as a human-powered, four-wheel creation with a rope loop attached to gears. Though not exactly a “bike,” the earliest fixie bikes may be traced back to Fontana’s invention.

Four hundred years later, in 1813, a German nobleman replicated Fontana’s innovation, developing his own four-wheeled human-powered vehicle. However, it was Drias’ introduction of a two-wheeled creation in Europe in 1817 that laid the groundwork for contemporary fixies as we know them today.

Because the bicycle’s history is contentious at best, determining when the first fixie was created outside of a general “19th-century” response is difficult. However, when fixie bikes gained popularity among both Americans and Europeans, they were used by the postal courier system in the 1800s for the transportation of vital business papers.

Track racing era

Fixed gear bikes remained enormously popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Major cities like New York City often sponsored massive track races, and Madison Square Garden began hosting a velodrome track in 1876. As a consequence, these events became known as the “Madison races.” In these team races, participants pushed themselves to the limit, circling the course until they were “tagged” into the race.

In the 1800s, the typical racer earned $150,000 yearly, compared to a tradesman’s average of $5,000.

Track racing was (and continues to be) dominated by fixed gear bikes. While the sport of track racing has evolved throughout time, the usage of fixed-gear bikes has remained consistent.

Even now, racing is a popular activity, making it an unknown “pastime” for both Americans and Europeans. Legendary racers such as Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser invented a fixie built entirely of washing machine components, which served as the idea for the film “The Flying Scotsman,” demonstrating how important fixies have been throughout history.

Track racing was (and continues to be) dominated by fixed gear bikes. While the sport of track racing has evolved throughout time, the usage of fixed-gear bikes has remained consistent.

And, due to the popularity of fixed geared bikes, many road bike competitors were already acquainted with them, and fixed gear bikes remain a popular off-season training option for road cyclists since they provide a unique exercise and help them improve their pedal cadence.

Bike messenger era

When you think of fixed gear cyclists, you probably envision a cool bike messenger. A bike messenger (also called a bike courier) is a person who is employed to transport a package or letter from one place to another. Bikes are always around, but they gained popularity around the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. 

Bike couriers are still essential for intercity document transportation. Companies in the United States and Europe continue to rely on couriers to transport cheques, legal papers, and other sensitive documents in densely populated metropolitan regions with a central business center. The fixie’s ease of mobility enables users to reach their destination more quickly than a car.

Bike couriers would modify their bikes to make them more suitable for quick movement around the city. This resulted in fixed gear bikes that were both light and swift, as well as requiring significantly less maintenance.

Fixed gear bikes and track bikes are still preferred by many bike couriers. Jim Wirtanen, a 12-year veteran of the courier system, discussed fixed bikes and their overall influence on America in a 2005 interview with Wired magazine. Wirtanen, dubbed “Deadguy” by coworkers after being struck by a Lincoln automobile and hurled 40 feet across an intersection, colliding with a light post, has vital expertise riding fixie bikes.

“Basically, a track bike is a perfect invention,” says Wirtanen, “You can’t make it any better.”

Mid-2000s hipster era

This is where we have to address the elephant in the room. Around this time, the word ‘hipster’ started becoming some sort of derogatory term. And this term was typically associated with fixed gear bikes. 

For a time, anything nostalgic was considered ‘cool’. Including the huge handlebar mustaches from the late eighteen hundreds, which were so popular with hipsters in the mid to late 2000s. 

The simplicity and timelessness of a simple bike also accompanied this aesthetic perfectly. This is why I believe hipsters and fixies were so synonymous. 

While it is true that fixed gear bikes started as a subculture. Like any subculture, it gradually started making its way into the mainstream and became extremely popular. 

Another reason why people started to associate the ‘annoying hipster’ with fixed gear bikes is that, as fixed-gear cycling became part of the mainstream, it started becoming a sort of fashion statement. People would use their bikes as an accessory and nothing more. They wouldn’t know how to ride it. This would create hazardous conditions on the road, especially when people try to ride brakeless without knowing how to properly stop.

Additionally, companies like Wal-Mart suddenly kept them in stock. 

So, naturally, at some point, fixies started to be used as a derogatory term in the fixed community to address someone who is a poser (people who used fixies as a fashion statement). 

(Note: I use the word fixie all the time because I’m not an elitist jerk)

However, the spirit of fixed gear cycling is still alive and well, as a matter of fact, I would argue that we have entered a new era of fixed gear cycling; The modern era. 

Modern era

Now that the posers have worn out their fixies and gone back to road bikes. Fixed gear cycling has entered the modern era.

The general interest has grown, and there are now several fixie clubs in major cities, as well as numerous sanctioned and unauthorized racing circuits. 

You can see the newfound passion for fixed gear cycling in the countless Instagram accounts related to fixed gear cycling. The culture is tighter and more connected than ever—with true cyclists, not posers.

Fixed gear culture

Fixed gear cycling has its own passionate subculture. There is no shortage of Facebook groups, and Instagram accounts dedicated to sharing the passion of riding fixed. Fixed gear cyclists swear by their bikes and see them as the optimal mode of transportation, particularly for navigating densely populated places. 

Fixed gear cyclists are also heavy into aesthetics. These bikes are ideal for people who want to show off their creativity, as they allow many customization options. Much more so than on any other kind of bike. 

Unfortunately, while their culture started in the underground, fixies have found a place in the daily marketing of huge corporations. And at some point, fixies became synonymous with hipster culture. And with hipster being a derogatory term, nobody wants to be labeled a hipster these days. 

Outdoor track bike crit race.
Outdoor track bike crit race. Source: Jonny Kennaugh, Unsplash

However, as I have addressed in this article, the scene is alive and well. No, that the fixie hype of the mid and late 2000s, the posers have disappeared, fixed gear bikes are not around like they once were, but this has led to a tighter community of truly passionate cyclists. 

Parts of a fixed gear bike

When compared to other types of bicycles, fixed gear bikes have a pretty common construction. Nonetheless, there are certain distinctions that are better suited to their riding style.

Frame

A fixed gear bike’s frame is very similar to a road bike frame. The frame is a normal road bike design, featuring a top and bottom tube, as well as a front fork and rear chainstays.

Fixed gear frames can be made of steel or aluminum, and even carbon fiber.

Many fixie frames come in brilliant, flamboyant colors to make a statement, while others come in more subdued hues to give the bike an even more streamlined, elegant, and minimalist appearance.

There are some fixed gear bikes available with frames that resemble mountain bike frames, but they are much less popular.

Fork

As with the frame, the fork of a fixie is comparable to that of a road bike. The fork will sweep slightly forward, positioning the front wheel optimally. 

Often, the fork will have a fast-release latch that enables the rider to quickly remove the wheel and tire. Those looking for a little more flair may either upgrade to a fork that is a different color than the frame or just repaint it.

Forks can be made of steel or aluminum, and even carbon fiber.

Handlebars

Steering the bike is accomplished through the handlebars. Almost all off-the-shelf fixed gear bikes will come with riser bars, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with them. There are many different types of handlebars you can choose from, including

  • Riser bars
  • Bullhorn bars
  • Flat bars
  • Drop bars
  • Pursuit bars

Every cyclist has a preference when it comes to handlebars. Some riders prefer a straight handlebar with custom tapered ends and aftermarket grips. Others may use a road bike-style drop-down handlebar, preserving more of the road bike’s appearance and feel.

Others opt for a shorter handlebar with BMX-style rubber grips on either end. This design is popular among fixed gear riders who want to do bar spins and other tricks. 

Most fixed-gear bikes on the market now offer a variety of handlebar options, allowing you to really customize your bike’s appearance and feel.

Stem

The stem is the metal portion of the handlebar that attaches to the headset. The angle and length of a stem have a significant effect on how the bike turns and how you sit when riding. Most fixed-gear bikes have a stem length and angle comparable to non-competitive road bikes.

Headset

The headset is the component that connects the fork and stem to the handlebar. It extends out from the bottom of the bike frame, where the fork is attached and meets the stem where the handlebar is attached.

In combination with the stem, the headsets define the total height of the handlebars. Additionally, they enable unrestricted movement of the handlebar assembly.

Saddle

The saddle is the bike’s seat, where the rider often sits while not standing. Fixed gear saddles are generally comparable to road bike saddles in that they are minimally padded and have a small amount of seat covering. 

For those seeking a little more comfort, a mountain bike-style seat or even a hybrid seat are available. However, if you go this route, you can kiss your “fixie points” goodbye.

Saddles are some of the most “swapped “parts of any bike. Most off-the-shelf fixie bikes come with a boring plastic black saddle. The color, material, and style of your saddle play an important part in the overall look and feel of your bike. This is another reason riders swap out their saddles; to match the style of the bike. 

Wheelset

The wheelset will typically include the whole wheel assembly, including the tire, tube, spokes, rims, and hubs. The wheelsets can be expensive, but they offer a great way to further customize your ride.  

I own a pair of Deep-Vs’ and completely fell in love with them. Whenever I take my bike in the subway, I get tons of looks, and I know it’s because of my white deep-v rims—definitely an eye turner. 

Seat post

The Seatpost connects the saddle to the frame of the bike and also serves as a support for the saddle. They enable modification of the seat’s height and angle.

Seatposts are often made of aluminum alloy or steel. Seatposts designed for road bikes continue to be the most preferred choice for fixies.

Crankset

The crankset is the component that connects the pedals to the body. It’s a large cog that keeps the chain in place, with the other end held up by the rear cog on the rear wheel hub.

The crankset size heavily influences the gearing ratio of the bike, which has an effect on how it rides and feels while accelerating and sustaining speeds.

Rear cog

The rear cog is essentially a little crankset linked to the rear wheel. As with the crank, the size of the gear influences the gearing ratio.

Pedals

Pedals power the crankset, which in turn propels the bike forward. 

Due to their simplicity, flat platform-style pedals are considered the standard. However, you have many options to choose from, like toe clips, pedal straps, and clipless pedals. Your riding style should dictate what kind of pedals are right for you. Clipless pedals and holster variations provide the rider additional control, particularly when braking.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Much like new handlebars, adopting a clipless pedal set upright to make that old bike feel brand new.

Like saddles, pedals are a matter of preference, not just for how they feel but for how they look. Shopping for a pair of pedals is a great opportunity to add some color and character to your fixie. 

Hubs

The hubs are the center of the wheel. They come in pairs, a front hub and a rear hub. The rear hub contains the sprocket that connects the rear wheel to the chain. Hubs are largely responsible for the smoothness of the ride. THey kinds of bearing inside of a hub can heavily affect the speed and performance of your ride. 

You may find some fixies and single-speed bikes with flip flop hubs.  A flip-flop hub features a sprocket on both sides of the wheel. One for freewheel coasting and one for fixed gear riding. With a flip flop hub, you can easily flip the wheel over and connect the chain, quickly changing your bike from single speed to fixed gear. 

A flip flop hub also allows you to switch between different gear ratios on your bike by choosing the ratio for one side and selecting a different ratio for the other side.

There are four hubs you can use on your fixed gear bike. 

  • Track hubs
  • Flip flop hubs
  • Freewheel hubs
  • Cassette hubs

We have a full article detailing these for different kinds of hubs in our guide to choosing the right type of fixed gear hub. Be sure to check it out. 

Pedal straps and Toe clips 

Pedal straps and toe cages are critical for riding fixed.

Toe cages also referred to as toe clips, are frames that attach to the front of platform pedals and surround your toes. They allow you to pull the pedal in the upstroke, giving you a more controlled, powerful, and efficient stroke. Some toe cages come with adjustable straps to secure your foot. Toe cages should not be confused with pedal straps.

Pedal straps are similar to a toe cage in that they allow you to pull the pedal in the upstroke. However, unlike toe clips, which attach to the front of your foot, pedal straps go around and over your foot, securing them into place from the sides rather than the front. Pedal straps are fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of colors and styles, making them excellent for fixie customization.

Some prefer pedal straps because of their modern look. Some prefer toe cages for that more refined, classic look. The choice is yours.

Brakes 

Even if you’ve been riding track bikes for years and know how to stop dead in your tracks using nothing but the power of your legs, you are still going to want a powerful front brake.

When it comes to fixie brakes, there are a few different types to choose from. The simplest and most common by far are the caliper brakes.

Some states even required you to have brakes for your bike to be considered street legal.

Fixed Gear Bike Manufacturers

There are a ton of fixed gear bike manufacturers out there. Some are better than others. Here are a few worth mentioning. 

Engine 11

Dosnoventa

LOOK

Leader

Aventon

Aventon is a relatively young bicycle company, but they’ve generated a lot of interest since their inception in 2013. They are a boutique firm specializing in fixed gear bicycles and frames.

They provide a lot of diversity within their restricted inventory and aim to cater to a wide range of budgets.

They make one of my favorite fixed gear bikes ever, the cordoba.

State Bicycle Co.

Pure Cycles

Vilano

Vilano, headquartered in Florida, is a global producer of a range of bikes. Their primary focus is on developing very cheap bikes that are accessible to a large audience.

Their fixed gear bike collection contains various models that cover commuter, track, road, and more.

6KU 

6KU is a California-based bicycle company specializing in commuter, road, and fixie bikes. They offer fixed gear bikes in a variety of colors, and their bikes are aimed at riders looking for a high-quality fixie without having to spend a fortune to get started.

Fixed gear bike maintenance

One of the advantages of fixed gear bikes is their ease of maintenance. As previously stated, they significantly eliminate many of the maintenance concerns associated with multi-gear bikes.

Below are a few tips to help you maintain your fixed gear bike in top shape. 

Properly inflate your bike before every ride

Tires must always be properly filled to the recommended PSI. Before hitting the road, always check your tires to ensure they are not underinflated. Overinflation may also be problematic, resulting in a harsh ride or impact punctures. Ensure that the tread is free of any punctures or sharp items that may have been stuck in it.

Clean and lube your chain regularly.

The chain should be cleaned and lubricated regularly. If you detect dirt gathering, wipe it off with a clean towel and apply chain oil to prevent the chain from drying up.

Take care of your brakes

If you utilize brakes, ensure that the cables are in excellent shape and do not feel mushy while braking. The pads will also need to be changed from time to time, so if you detect a squeak or a harsh brake feel, it may be time for new pads.

How To Convert A bike To A Fixed Gear bike

You can easily convert your single-speed bike to a fixed-gear bike with a flip-flop hub. A flip-flop hub is a rear-wheel hub that features a sprocket on both sides of the wheel. One for freewheel coasting and one for fixed gear riding. Obviously, only one of them may be utilized at the same time. Depending on your mood, you can simply flip the wheel over and connect the chain, quickly changing your bike from single speed to fixed gear. 

You can also have sprockets with varying numbers of teeth on them, resulting in various size gears. For example, on the single-speed side, you may desire a different gear ratio so you can quickly change the bike settings, sort of speaking, to climb hills a little easier.

Note: The steps below are for single-speed bikes that already have a fixed cog and a freewheel cog.

What tools will I need?

You’ll need the following items since you’ll be rebuilding the drivetrain from the ground up.

  • Wrench 
  • Optional: Toe straps or clipless pedals, a front brake, new handlebars

Converting a single-speed bike to a fixed gear bike. 

If your single-speed bike has a flip flop hub. Below are the steps for converting a single-speed bike to a fixed gear bike

  1. Loosen and remove the bolts on the rear wheel. 
  2. Take the chain off the freewheel cog. You can do this with your fingers. This might require you to gently rotate the wheel backward for forwards.  
  3. Remove the wheel from the dropouts and flip it around so that the fixed-gear cog may be connected to the chain. 
  4. Insert the wheels back in the dropouts. 
  5. Attach the chain to the fixed gear cog. 
  6. Adjust the wheel position to maintain the same chain tension you had previously.
  7. Finally, tighten the bolts. Make sure they are tight!

If you’re looking for a more in-depth tutorial, check out our post on how to convert a single-speed bike to fixed gear. Here is a video showing you how to switch from single speed to fixed gear. 

How to buy a fixed gear bike?

In this section, we will cover what to look for when buying a bike, how much they cost, and where you can buy one.

What to consider when buying a fixed gear bike

How to determine your fixed gear bike’s size?

Knowing your height will allow you to make a more accurate bike size selection. This is because most bike manufacturers use height as a key metric when considering riding comfort.

Don’t have a way to measure? Here are a few measuring tapes you can use to help you determine your eight.

You will first want to determine the size of your bike. To determine the ideal size, identify your height in inches or centimeters and reference the manufacturer’s sizing chart, typically found on their website. 

If they don’t have a size chart, take a look at this size chart to give you a general idea of what size you should choose. 

HeightInside LegFrame Size
5’1″ – 5’3″27″ – 29″48cm
5’3″ – 5’5″28″ – 30″50cm
5’5″ – 5’7″29″ – 31″52cm
5’7″ – 5’9″30″ – 32″54cm
5’9″ – 5’11”31″ – 33″56cm
5’11 – 6’2″32″ – 34″58cm
6’1″ – 6’5″33″ – 35″60cm
Basic bike sizing table.

How much do fixed gear bikes cost?

Fixed gear bikes are very affordable. You can grab a “decent” one for only $200. At that price, It won’t be a great bike, but still.  

Dosnoventa makes some of the best fixies in the world, but they aren’t cheap—ranging from $2,000 to $4000. Wow. 

If you’re looking for a few budget-friendly fixed gear options, check out our post on the best-fixed gear bikes under $500.

Where do I buy a fixed gear bike?

Like most things in the 21st century, you can buy a fixed gear bike online. But, not everyone is comfortable buying a bike online. So, you can, of course, opt to purchase a bike in person at a bike shop or a department store.

It’s important to note that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people want an alternative means of transportation that does not subject them to large gatherings. Because of this, many popular brands are consistently out of stock. You will be very lucky to find even a single fixie in stock, so if you do see it in stock somewhere, grab it!

Buying a fixed gear bike online

Now that you know how to determine your bike size, it’s time to buy a bike. 

First, check out the bike manufacturer’s website for availability. Remember that bikes are scarce these days, so if you see one you like. Do not hesitate. Grab it while it’s in stock.

The bike will come semi-assembled, meaning you only need to put together The wheels, The Handlebar, and new pedals. If you know what you’re doing, your bike should then be ready to ride. 

However, most bike manufacturers require you to have the bike assembled at a professional bike shop In order to validate your warranty. This limits their liability, in case you do something wrong and you hurt yourself, or you install something incorrectly. The point is they want to make sure that it was assembled properly. You will most likely require proof of some sort that you had the bike assembled at a bike shop.  In my experience, a receipt is sufficient.

Check out this video that goes over buying a fixie online in much greater detail.

A video called Beginner’s Guide to Online Fixed Gear Bike Shopping from the Zach Gallardo YouTube Channel.

Buying a fixie at a bike shop

Some people need to touch a product before they purchase it. If you’re the kind of person that wouldn’t dream of buying a bike before taking it for a test ride, there will always be a local bike shop ready to help you out.

Local mom-and-pop shops are the way to go when you want to buy a fixie or track bike. The employees at these shops are very knowledgeable (sometimes a little too knowledgeable) and can help you find the perfect fixie for you. This is an excellent place for a novice to go for their first bike purchase. 

The best fixie bike shops will even let you take the bikes for a spin. And even if you can’t go all out and cruise the block, you can at least get in a couple of pedal strokes indoors.

The bike selection will be limited, but do not let that discourage you. Many of these shops offer larger catalogs online, just check out their websites and order the bike you want. They will have it shipped from their distributor or the bikes manufacturer, and you can pick it up fully assembled a few days later. You only have to pay for the labor of putting the bike together, a reasonable fee considering it is being done by a professional. Additionally, buying within your neighborhood supports your local economy. It’s a win-win. 

If you live in Brooklyn, here are my favorite bike shops that specialize in fixed gear bikes. 

  • Haven Cycles
  • Silk Road Cycles
  • The Bike Truck
  • King Kog
  • Dixon’s Bicycle Shop

I recommend staying away from department stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, K-mart, or Walmart. Your options will be dramatically limited. These big box stores do not employ cycling experts. 

If you don’t know any bike shops near you, a quick google search should render a plethora of options. Just search for “fixed gear bike shops near me.” Don’t just settle for the first one you see. Check out a few. You will find that the culture is entirely different from one bike shop to another. Just choose the one where you feel the most welcome.

Conclusion

Fixed gear bicycles have outlived their trendy status. What began as a fad has evolved into a legitimate bike category that is gaining in popularity as more people become aware of their advantages. 

I truly hope that this guide inspired you to grab a fixie today.

Advertisement

So, are you riding fixed right now? Or are you single speed? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading. Stay safe, and stay fixed.

Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Historic one wheeled bicycle.

History of Fixed Gear Bikes: Origins and Future of The Fixie

Upgrade your fixie's pedals.

Advantages of Toe Cages and Pedal Straps (Which are Better)