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How safe are fixies?

diydiy Posts: 6,680
edited May 2015 in Commuting general
Spotted this video:

which since its gone viral, I guess most people have seen. The rider claims to be on a fixie with just one front brake. Now there is a whole debate about if he really did intend to stop for the red light, but clearly there is a question mark about how safe fixies really are in the wet, for commuting.

I used to commute regularly by motorbike and I found the perfect bike was one with higher CoG, good suspension, light and short because you always needed to be ready stop and stop quickly.

I don't ride a fixie, but are they really safe as commuter bikes?


  • telesv650telesv650 Posts: 59
    I do. Never had an issue with front brake only. Just need to keep the brake tip top.

    IMO that guy would have been stuffed with two brakes at that speed on those road conditions.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Without watching the video I'll assume the rider is not safe, irrespective of his choice of drive train.

    But the benefit of doubt; are they safe? Yes.
  • graeme_s-2graeme_s-2 Posts: 3,382
    I usually commute on a fixie - it's out of action at the moment, so I've been on my nice road bike today. It is no more or less safe. My fixie has two brakes, but I've only bothered maintaining the front one as the back is unnecessary. If anything I'd say I can bring my fixie to a halt more quickly than my road bike, although that may be through practice and familiarity rather than any mechanical advantage.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    For those who didn't watch it. The rider ploughs a red light and crashes in to the side of a bus. On-lookers see the continued pedaling as no attempt to slow down and the rider claims the front brake cable snapped.

    My question was really about how easy it was to stop a fixie as you see so many in london, many without any brakes.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Stopping a bike with no brake cables is a very different question!

    In the event your one cable snaps it's very hard unless you are practiced in doing skidzzz.
    I very rarely see people riding brakeless but when I do they are (generally) very skilled at using the tyres to stop.

    The stupidest thing I see in town are tarty fixie bikes with freewheels fitted but no rear brake as the owners can't handle fixed.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,748
    diy wrote:
    Spotted this video:
    About six seconds from the light going amber to him crossing the line on red, looks like just sh!te riding to me, there can be no excuse for going at a speed you can't stop from in six seconds or not stopping from a sensible speed!
  • JackPozziJackPozzi Posts: 1,191
    In an emergency stop situation I find the rear end is so unweighted that a back brake is going to have very little effect anyway, so I'd say fixed bikes brake just as well as any other as long as the front works correctly.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    The Rookie wrote:
    diy wrote:
    Spotted this video:
    About six seconds from the light going amber to him crossing the line on red, looks like just sh!te riding to me, there can be no excuse for going at a speed you can't stop from in six seconds or not stopping from a sensible speed!

    When your brake cable snaps in heavy traffic, consideration for red lights is the least of your worries! Sounds like the chap got lucky to have a bus to cushion the impact and not something worse..

    from Road CC:
    “I was the driver of the bus and just to let everyone know I parked just round the corner and ran back.

    “The cyclist was very lucky and only suffered a cut to one of his knuckles. Also in the cyclist’s defence his brake cable snapped and he couldn’t stop.”

    He added: “Scariest thing that ever happened to me.”

    In a comment to the YouTube video of the incident, which took place at the junction of Portland Street and Oxford Street, the cyclist said: “It was me. Thought I’d just get the lights, hence the speed.

    “Realised it wasn’t happening, squeezed the front brake. Cable snapped. Not enough time to lose speed on back wheel in the wet. Not fun.”

    He went on: “It’s a fixed back wheel, front brake for urgent braking, pushing back on the pedals gives you controlled but sadly slower braking with the back wheel, so what you see is me pushing back as hard as I can but it’s a censored bit of road surface and it was wet.”
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    Fixed is safe.

    Some people who ride fixed are not. (Replace 'fixed' with carbon bling, folder, rusty BSO, sit up and beg, 'bent, hybrid, whatever else people commute on).

    In this case, if his cable did snap, then he is a lucky chap. If I were relying on one brake and my legs, then I would be very diligent in maintaining that brake (and the legs will take care of themselves).

    I have little issue with people riding fixed with only a front brake. Certainly in London I never use the rear brake anyway, but I do use it on longer riding when the legs are tiring on the descents.

    I do have issue with those that iPete calls out on single speeds with no rear brake. Idiots. If you think running no rear brake looks cool, then get on with it and ride fixed, it really isn't very hard.
  • telesv650telesv650 Posts: 59
    The brake snapping is the nightmare scenario. He was a lucky chap. In those conditions (damp road) and at the speed he was travelling skid stopping would not have helped.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,748
    Goes to show that even on a fixed a rear brake is a good idea, he would probably have been able to stop on a rear brake as he'd have much better control than just through the drive.
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