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Not sure about 'fixie'

annoyingtwitannoyingtwit Posts: 127
edited May 2013 in Road beginners
After having my second puncture in a few weeks, I decided to try the 'other side' of my flip-flop hub, the fixed gear. Up to now I've been using the single-gear-with-freewheel side.

I must admit I'm finding it strange. Stopping and starting the bike takes more care without a freewheel. When I'm up to speed, I don't notice much of a difference as I tend to be pedalling all the time in any case.

However, I'm not sure I've noticed any advantages to using the fixed gear compared to the freewheel. And at the moment I'm finding a number of minor annoyances. Maybe I'll get used to it, but I'm very tempted to just flip the wheel back to the other side.

What advantages do other riders find with a fixed gear?
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  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    Do you have any hills on the ride?

    Going up hills on fixed is awesome (up to a certain steepness). You can really climb well on fixed as you firstly can't be lazy and rely on gears (in much the same way as your single speed), but the big difference is the cranks being pushed over the dead spots and helping you climb. I really enjoy climbing on fixed, even though it can really really push your fitness.

    Clearly there are points where it's just too steep to get up on fixed, and you need to resort to the 24 inch gear.

    Downhills on fixed - well, I am not a great fixed descender. It is much harder and will really test fitness. But it is fun spinning like a loony down a big hill struggling to get air in!

    I have never ridden single speed (apart from as a kid), but I do really enjoy fixed. That whole oneness with the bike thing when you going along at a nice pace, spinning well - really man and machine in harmony stuff!

    You get used to it. The bike will remind you that it is fixed if you do forget - that reminder can be pretty scary.

    I currently do almost exactly 50% of my miles on fixed (all commuting, most high intensity training) - I would like to try riding some longer distances on fixed (I have only ever done 110km on a fixed ride).

    Keep at it - if you get it all, it does lead to some much more enjoyable cycling than gears.
  • Developing a super smooth pedalling action & when riding through junctions/lights etc anticipating what speed I need to be at.
    Pain hurts much less if its topped off with beating your mates to top of a climb.
  • smidsysmidsy Posts: 5,273
    Indexing the gears is easy :-)
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • Thanks for the feedback. I know what you mean by the bike reminding you that it's a fixie if you forget! My biggest surprise was arriving home after the first trial ride with the fixed gear. I did my standard thing of popping my right leg over the bar so that I was standing on the left pedal with one foot only. Except of course that pedal kept going around!

    I was riding it on pretty flat route. I live on a hill, but even with a fair amount of shopping on my back, it's an easy climb if standing up, out of the saddle. I'm not having my fitness tested by the bike much at all. I'll try some bigger hills. There aren't any challenging hills around here. I don't know what it would be like going up that hill up from Spa Francochamps station in Belgium.

    The fixed cog is 16T, while the freewheel side is 14T. 44T on the front. Wheel size is 700c. The gearing isn't challenging, though I think the freewheel side is a good compromise for commuting. Marcus, what gearing do you have for your high intensity training?

    And, what is a '24 inch gear'? I'm guessing this is slang for getting off and walking. EDIT: Ah yes, 24 inch = two feet. http://kentsbike.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04 ... -gear.html
  • Thanks for the feedback. I know what you mean by the bike reminding you that it's a fixie if you forget! My biggest surprise was arriving home after the first trial ride with the fixed gear. I did my standard thing of popping my right leg over the bar so that I was standing on the left pedal with one foot only. Except of course that pedal kept going around!

    I was riding it on pretty flat route. I live on a hill, but even with a fair amount of shopping on my back, it's an easy climb if standing up, out of the saddle. I'm not having my fitness tested by the bike much at all. I'll try some bigger hills. There aren't any challenging hills around here. I don't know what it would be like going up that hill up from Spa Francochamps station in Belgium.

    The fixed cog is 16T, while the freewheel side is 14T. 44T on the front. Wheel size is 700c. The gearing isn't challenging, though I think the freewheel side is a good compromise for commuting. Marcus, what gearing do you have for your high intensity training?

    And, what is a '24 inch gear'? I'm guessing this is slang for getting off and walking. EDIT: Ah yes, 24 inch = two feet. http://kentsbike.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04 ... -gear.html

    24" = 2 feet :wink:
  • Damn your speedy editing!!
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    44/16 gives about a 72 inch gear. Reasonably high, but not insane.

    I use 67, which works well for me commuting (couple of panniers, reasonable amont of weight with laptop etc.) and also for doing hills repeats etc. at the weekends.

    I think a lower gear does wonders for fitness overall - it'll get the lungs going! I have used a higher gear for a time (76 inch), but I didn't get on with it (but bigger stronger riders do).

    Stick with it. If it clicks, then great. If not, at least you tried!
  • Mine is 48/16 & I love it, hill's are hard work but with "nowhere to hide" its a good feeling of satisfaction.

    FIXED = NO CHEATING ON HILLS :mrgreen:
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    I've started on 48/17 (around 76") and as I said up above, I just don't get on with taller gears - I liked it, and it certainly made getting up hills fun. But I felt I was relying purely on physical grunt (and being only 60kg, I don't have the pure strength of bigger riders). Dropping to 48/19 (67") was a revelation and really got me into fixed much more - for me, it doesn't rely on the legs so much as the lungs, so I feel it does more for my overall fitness.

    Of course, shorter gear = spinning out sooner on the downhills - so there's some detractors from riding with a shorter gear (though I know riders who use 60ish inches and can still sail past riders as they can spin at silly RPM) - not me - by 50kph I am done (155ish RPM) - scaredy cat me!
  • I'm a bit confused concerning gearing, but like the idea of converting to a penny farthing wheel size for comparisons. I note that considering the crank length is also important, but 72" does me. The rule of thumb I read is inches of gearing matching inches of height, which would make 5'11" and a bit me very slightly short for 72. But on the singlewheel side, I've got a 14T gear. I think that would make the gearing 72" * 16/14 = 82.2". I'm on a diet, so while I'm 82kg, I should only be 77kg. (Though, that's better than the 89kg I was before christmas). I've always had relatively strong legs and a wimpy upper body.

    If I stick with the fixed gear (still riding today, though admittedly still not convinced, yet?) I might swap the 16T fixed cog for a 14T. It's fairly flat here in Leicester, and there's nothing that is really challenging my legs. Though, I'm just doing regular riding, and training may be very different.
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    There are many three main measures of gearing (progression, ratio, inches) - I just happen to understand inches better and know what a 67" gear feels like (and equally what a gear on my geared bikes is like - say a 100" gear or 30" bottom gear). It's just a reference point (but, yes, you are right - it's crazy referring to your gearing based on what was the height of bike technology 100-odd years ago!).

    72 isn't insane by any stretch - 82 could well work for you on the flat (you're a reasonably big chap with self-confessed strong legs). I know people who ride on 90" gears (and not just on the flat) - but that's starting to get a bit nuts! And the thoughts of what it does to your knees makes it very much not for me even if I did have the strength to push that sort of gear!
  • I rode a geared bike today, as I bought my son a bike and I picked it up from the seller.

    By comparison, I feel that a single gear bike is a good choice for me. I found the gears a bit of a hassle, and wondered what these silly low gears that allowed me to ascend the hill on the road I live on with no effort at about 0.2kph were for. Also, there is the temptation to wimp out by not choosing a challenging gear.

    Freewheel versus fixed? Jury is still out. I think I'll try fixed for a few weeks before finally deciding.

    Off-topic: Second hand ebay bike versus my fixie bought as a cheap new bike? No contest. The bike for my son (small adult size) cost less than half what my new bike cost, and is simply a much better bike all around. Lighter, even with all the gears and *£&%$, good pedals, good brakes, good seat, feels well put together.

    PS: I quite like the idea of calculating gearing based on the equivalent Penny Farthing wheel size. Once at an event in my city's park, there was a biking organisation there giving sample rides. I went straight for the Penny Farthing. Took a while to work out how to get going on it, but once I did, it was easy to ride, even though it was on grass.
  • annoyingtwitannoyingtwit Posts: 127
    Just as a long-time follow-up here, I did ride on the fixed side of the hub for some time. After I got used to it, I could ride the bike fine. But I didn't find it better than using the freewheel side. After yet another puncture a few weeks in (I"ve upgraded to a Schwalbe kevlar rear tyre), I accidentally put the wheel back on using the freewheel. And I haven't felt any urge to switch back to the fixed side. Apologies to the fixie fans, but I did cycle around for 3-4 weeks, and IMHO I slightly prefer the freewheel.

    Just as a general comment on single speed bikes - I have external evidence which suggests that my legs are quite a bit stronger than they were before I started riding it.
  • paul_mckpaul_mck Posts: 1,058
    I love mine but I ride singlespeed havent tried the fixie yet.

    done 30miles on it the other week (max was about 12 previously) and was surprised at what hills you can cope with. Made it up a short 10%er which was just awesome. Doing about 1rpm lol.

    Going to try a coastal sportive on it in a few weeks (65m) as there are no killer hills but on some of the sportives I do you just couldnt use it. 15% + average over a couple of miles there is no way. up to 25% short bursts.

    PS - have a good bike for the weekend/sportive rides. The singlespeed is a commuter just.
  • annoyingtwitannoyingtwit Posts: 127
    I've got an approx 46km round trip coming up on Sunday. I'm unlikely to buy another bicycle before then :) Though, I'm very much planning to buy a spare innertube to take with me. Anyone else got a feeling about, if I suffer a puncture, where it would be guaranteed to happen? I'm enjoying riding the bike, and am looking forward to the ride.

    I'd like to enter some triathlons. I was thinking of buying a old Peugeot ten speed racer or something like that. I can't justify £000s for a carbon fibre wonder.

    I live in Leicester, and it's on my 'todo' list to go over and see if I can ride up Mowmacre Hill on the single-speed.
  • paul_mckpaul_mck Posts: 1,058
    halfords have quite a nice carerra for 299 atm if you want something budget. or triban 3 from decathlon.

    as for a puncture just pop the tyre off where the hole is (if you can find it) and take the tube out enough to patch it, then pop it back together. no need to remove the wheel then.
  • annoyingtwitannoyingtwit Posts: 127
    paul_mck wrote:
    halfords have quite a nice carerra for 299 atm if you want something budget. or triban 3 from decathlon.

    Which Carrera is this? Looking on their site they have the virtuoso for £379, but I can't see any cheaper road racers. My strategy would probably be to keep a long watch on ebay to see what the sell for. I bought my son a Carrera subway 1 for £72.
    as for a puncture just pop the tyre off where the hole is (if you can find it) and take the tube out enough to patch it, then pop it back together. no need to remove the wheel then.

    I've never thought of doing that. Is it easy to find where the hold is? Clearly I can pump some air in and listen for a hiss, but I've never even thought of trying that before.
  • jds_1981jds_1981 Posts: 1,858
    I've never thought of doing that. Is it easy to find where the hold is? Clearly I can pump some air in and listen for a hiss, but I've never even thought of trying that before.

    Sometimes it is easy to find and then worth doing - think easier to do on mtb tyres as they hiss for longer.
    Actually did this just the other day, put a snakebite in my tyre so was fairly straightforwards to find.
    FCN 9 || FCN 5
  • SalsaSalsa Posts: 753
    I've a couple of single speed road bikes and also prefer the freewheel side. Fixed just seems annoying for the stop/start/short city riding the bikes are mostly used for and fixed just scares me on downhills. If I had longer trips where I wasn't stopping as much then I think I'd actually prefer running it fixed.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Took me a few weeks to adjust to fixed, maybe months but I'd not want to go back.

    Much much nicer to hill climb and hammer the headwinds. I find I get a much better rhythm too and turn a nice consistent pace. Then if you really push yourself and your legs start to scream, you just gotta keep pedaling :twisted:

    Give it time. The other little things like controlling speed with your legs and that connection are really missed when going back onto gears.
  • paul_mckpaul_mck Posts: 1,058
    surely while you are actually pedalling (ie on hills/into the wind etc) there is NO difference whatsoever to being fixed vs freewheel? the difference only comes when you want to not pedal and coast a bit
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    paul_mck wrote:
    surely while you are actually pedalling (ie on hills/into the wind etc) there is NO difference whatsoever to being fixed vs freewheel? the difference only comes when you want to not pedal and coast a bit

    I can't tell you, with scientific proof, if there is a mechanical advantage but there is a mental one. Slow down and you'll fall over :lol:

    The sensation of momentum is there, as long as you keep a good speed it feels like the wheels are helping drive your legs. All probably in the head until someone says otherwise. I can only go as scientific as my Box Hill times where the fixed is so far 20 seconds faster.
  • paul_mckpaul_mck Posts: 1,058
    cool - someone mentioned about the momentum of the wheel keeping the cranks turning helped but surely that would just sap speed too.

    as for falling out as mine is a commuter I dont clip in. flat pedals are much better for me on it. If I was running fixed id see the advantage of clipping in though.
  • RiderUkRiderUk Posts: 71
    Looking to buy a fixed gear single speed machine in the near future.
    Was looking at buying one of the shelf, but decided to commission my LBS to build a custom bike as the extra cost I think is going to be well worth it.
    As a test, I stayed in the same gear for about 5 miles recently just to get some sort of idea as I how it would be.
    The hills did require me to stand on the pedals at times, but found it quite good.
    Going for the classic retro “old school” look.
  • wrudswruds Posts: 74
    Just as a long-time follow-up here, I did ride on the fixed side of the hub for some time. After I got used to it, I could ride the bike fine. But I didn't find it better than using the freewheel side. After yet another puncture a few weeks in (I"ve upgraded to a Schwalbe kevlar rear tyre), I accidentally put the wheel back on using the freewheel. And I haven't felt any urge to switch back to the fixed side. Apologies to the fixie fans, but I did cycle around for 3-4 weeks, and IMHO I slightly prefer the freewheel.

    Just as a general comment on single speed bikes - I have external evidence which suggests that my legs are quite a bit stronger than they were before I started riding it.

    I have a single speed and geared (Charge plug, vs Kuota kharma). Both are totally different bikes and I enjoy riding them both. I ride the single on 42/16 as a fixed, tried the freewheel for a few weeks then switched to fixed and have not looked back in 2 years. I used to ride the single every day as a general commute (30 mile round trip) however its now just a few miles daily, but also when I want an intense ride. I encounter hills but find them as a challenge.
    Stick with the fixed - you'll grow to love it!!
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,162
    iPete wrote:
    paul_mck wrote:
    surely while you are actually pedalling (ie on hills/into the wind etc) there is NO difference whatsoever to being fixed vs freewheel? the difference only comes when you want to not pedal and coast a bit

    I can't tell you, with scientific proof, if there is a mechanical advantage but there is a mental one. Slow down and you'll fall over :lol:

    The sensation of momentum is there, as long as you keep a good speed it feels like the wheels are helping drive your legs. All probably in the head until someone says otherwise. I can only go as scientific as my Box Hill times where the fixed is so far 20 seconds faster.

    If one was turning a big gear at very low RPM fixed vs freewheel might have a marginal effect.

    I'm a fair bit faster up Box Hill in terms of timings on the SS than I ever was on the geared roadie.

    While I can see why folk like the feeling of momentum from fixed, it also comes with a number of disadvantages, going down hill is a pain, and a lot of trouble for little gain, and loose the pleasure of letting a bike roll on a hill.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Indeed, coming back from Box Hill has at times been a bit spinny, especially trying to lead out a group!

    On the flip side, the 20 mile commute is an honest 20 miles.
  • annoyingtwitannoyingtwit Posts: 127
    I rode 40km on the single speed today. It was fine for the first 15km or so. After that it was a bit of a slog, and my legs did feel a bit leaden. IMHO it's more likely to be just me not being quite strong/fit enough, rather than a single speed being unsuitable for longer distance rides. It did help that there were no killer hills on my route, though I did make it up a fairly steep, but not too long, hill on my return.
  • paul_mckpaul_mck Posts: 1,058
    Gonna be doing a 65m sportive on mine in a few weeks looking forward to the challenge I gotta say. No major hills though as its a coastal route.
  • lotus49lotus49 Posts: 763
    I have to admit I'm a little mystified by the whole fixie thing.

    I can see the appeal of a mechanically simple, light bike so I understand the appeal of single speed. The bit I don't understand is fixed vs freewheel. Freewheeling downhill after the effort of getting to the top is an appealing part of the ebb and flow of a ride. Having to waggle your legs like crazy to reap the reward of the climb just seems like a double dose of torture to me.

    I'm obviously missing something here. Can someone enlighten me?
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