Choosing Between A Fixed Gear Or Single Speed Bike

Remember the heady days of youth, mounting that first bike – a BMX, forging a way down the concrete highway to an off-road destination that included grass, dirt and hopefully, a ramp or two. Today the technology of bicycle engineering rivals that of automotive and aerospace with consumer ticket prices to reflect. Space-age materials, ultra-light metal fiber composites and petroleum-based synthetics are the highlights of modern day marvels. They belong on a pedestal, but are brought to light under competitive or showcase opportunities.

Enter the world of single-speed bicycles. These economical and highly efficient transports offer the best of today’s improvements with the simplicity of yesterday’s mechanics. With such simple mechanisms, they are a breeze to operate and maintain. With prices in the three to four hundred dollar range, they offer a simple yet compelling option for commuting where style is often as important as speed. These fashionable wheels are a favorite of both hipsters and bicycle messengers and are considered a growing trend in metropolitan North American cities.

The single-speed is a bicycle without derailleur or hub bracket, it has a single gear ratio and the drive train may be fitted with a chain or belt. While belts are uncommon, they do offer some practical advantages over chains, such as quieter operation, decreased wear and lubrication-free cleanliness.

The main difference between single-speed and fixed-gear is the freewheel system which allows the rider to coast. The fixed-gear is a subset of the single-speed and is a common system for track or velodrome riding. The fixed-gear allows the rider improved feedback from the transmission. Speed is a matter of RPMs while braking and deceleration are handled by the rider’s legs and weight. Braking occurs when the rider resists the revolutions of the pedal crank. It is a simple mechanism where weighting forward on the pedals moves the bike forwards, and resisting results in braking, deceleration or even backwards driving. Because of this drive-train, certain stunts such as track stands are made possible. While most fixed-gears are single-speeds, this is not always the case. Fixed gears are also used in cycle ball, bike polo and artistic cycling.

The single-speed does offer some advantages over the fixed-gear, such as front-wheel braking and the ability to freewheel coast. On the fixed-gear, the pedals will continue to spin as long as the wheels are moving. This can be somewhat hazardous while making sharp turns. Additionally, weight is shifted to the front wheel of the bicycle during braking. Seventy percent of the braking power may come from the front wheel when braking hard. Having two-wheel braking power is a valid consideration for anyone who employs rapid sprinting techniques on their ride. Of the two choices, the single-speed is a more sensible commuter choice.

Having said that, to argue in the fixed-gear’s defense only requires one word: fun. The BMX mentioned in the opening line of this article was a fixed-gear. It had one gear, no brakes and provided a fundamental riding experience upon which all others would be based. It was a rock solid, failure-proof machine that acquitted itself well on dirt, grass or pavement. The pressures of BMXing require split-second acceleration, braking and a very firm grip. Front-mounted brake grips would not allow the kind of aerial hijinx and stunt-making that is the basis of its riding experience. It is a sport machine first and a transport second. The irreplaceable skills of balance, coordination and timing can be learned on this “primitive” proto-cycle. This is what makes it so popular for sport and track. Consider this well when making your choice.

Older bicycles may be fitted with the single-speed or fixed-gear drive trains, but due to the low cost of these newer models, it may be more efficient to simply own two bicycles – each with its own best-suited purpose. The single gear ratio on both of these models limits the top speed to a matter of RPMs. They are generally not for performance or long-distance, however they do offer simplicity and style that is attractive for the common commuter. If convenience and low maintenance are weigh heavily in your consideration for choosing a bicycle, the single-speed and/or fixed gear may be just the solution for you.

Consider this final thought: the man on the bicycle traveling at 10-15km/h, using only the power required to walk, is the most efficient form of transport available. In terms of energy/distance it beats every animal or machine on the planet including horses, birds and even jet-powered airplanes. The bicycle will be man’s transport of choice, long after the fossil fuels are gone.

Build Your Own Single Speed Bike. Big Shot bikes is your route to a great quality, unique fixie single speed bicycle at an incredibly affordable price. At Big Shot Bikes you can design and customize your own fixed gear bikes just the way you want it! Choose from hundreds of track bikes and endless color combinations to suite your style. For more information visit us online today!

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