Why Don’t Fixed Gear Bikes Have Brakes

If you are new to fixed gear cycling, you’re likely perplexed by the fact that many fixed ear cyclists ride with no brakes. Are they nuts? Or is there something more to it? Why don’t fixed gear bikes have brakes?

Fixed gear bikes are derived from track bikes. Track bikes are all about speed, and having a hand brake increases speed, and is unnecessary when backpedaling can also slow down the bike. And on the velodrome, if one bike makes a sudden stop or squeezes the brakes, it could cause a catastrophe. The lack of brakes also aids in the bike’s clean aesthetic.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn why fixies don’t have brakes, how to stop a fixie without brakes, and whether you should ride breakless or not.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 10, 2021, to include additional information regarding fixed gear cycling.

Why don’t fixed gear bikes have brakes

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

A cyclist smashes into another at the velodrome.

Another factor is aesthetics. Because fixed gear bikes have a minimalist aesthetic, eliminating the brake component and the ugly cable results in a tidy, clean appearance.

Also, Many within the fixed gear community 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.

The concept of a brakeless bike may seem absurd, although the phrase is rather deceptive, because, while there are no brakes, there is still a means to stop.

Is it legal to ride without brakes?

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

How can I stop on a fixie without brakes

If you want to ride your fixie on a public road, make sure it has a front-wheel hand brake. You’ll have trouble defending yourself if you cause an accident.

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.

You will need pedal straps to do this efficiently. If you don’t have pedal straps, below are a few great options worth considering. 

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).

Can I use my foot to stop the bike?

Stopping with your foot on the front wheel or between the rear wheel and seat tube is a method some people use to stop, but I definitely don’t recommend this. It will ruin your shoes, and it does not look cool AF). Not to mention that if you apply too much pressure, you might lock the front wheel, maybe your shoelace gets caught in there, and you’ll go flying over the bars. Ouch. Yea doesn’t do this, please.

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. 


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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between A Fixed Gear Bike And A Single-Speed Bike?

All fixed gear bikes (fixie) are single-speed bikes. But not all single-speed bikes are fixed gear bikes. The main difference is that single-speed bikes are equipped with a freewheel cog, while fixed gear bikes are not. 

Are Fixed Gear Bikes Street Legal?

Fixed gear bikes are 100% legal. However, riding brakeless is illegal in many cities and towns worldwide. This is why I always recommend attaching at least a front brake.

Are Fixed Gear Bikes Lighter Than Regular Bikes?

Fixed gear bikes are some of the light bikes in the world. They derive from racing track bikes which have a strong emphasis on being as light as possible. They have few components, and from the ones they do have, they are still intended to be lighter weight.



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