Fixed Gear Bike Buying Guide
Choosing a fixed-gear bike is all about knowing what you want. Although these seem like a good bike for beginners from the outside, you’ll want to do some research before diving right in. The first thing you want to think about is what the difference is between a single speed bike and something like a mountain bike with a carbon fiber frame, carbon fork, and tons of gears.
One of the biggest advantages of this kind of bike is that there is very little need for maintenance since single speed bikes don’t have more than one gear. There is no cog, no shifter, and no derailleurs to deal with, which also means that a single speed bike will be lighter than other road bikes on the market.
In addition to that, most single gear bikes you run into are preferred for those who do velodrome or track riding. Riding fixed can be done for exercise or simply because the single-speed bike has a distinct and trendy look to it. There are tons of reasons to switch to a single-speed bike, many of which may apply to your experience.
Components of a Singlespeed Bike
The first thing to consider with a fixie is the components. Consider whether you want a more robust frame for more durability, such as steel or carbon fiber, or a more lightweight frame for more comfort, such as aluminum. It would be best if you also considered the comfort and durability of components like the saddle and the handlebars.
While all of the components make a difference in riding, some things are more important than others. For instance, deciding between aluminum and steel is probably pretty crucial to the bike ride you enjoy when all is said and done, but a slightly smaller tire and wheel may not have as large of an effect. Below are some of the things that are most important to think about.
Singlespeed vs. Fixed Gear or Both
You may have noticed that many of the best choices for a fixed gear bike on this list can also be used as a single-speed bike. If you’re wondering what the difference is, you aren’t alone. Both a single speed bike and a fixed gear bike have only one gear. A single-speed bike has a freewheel on the rear hub, which lets you coast without pedaling. The cranks do not move on single speed bikes unless you start to pedal.
This isn’t the case with a fixed gear bike, which does not have any freewheeling available. The cog spins while in use at all times. On the best fixie bikes, the cranks move in a speed that is relational to your rear tire and wheel. Braking requires locking each pedal and riding backward requires pedaling backward.
Either of these bikes’ models can be suitable to get around cities. They tend to be used as a way to minimize costs and maintenance in areas with a lack of hills. These bikes have a speed that can range from around 15 MPH all the way up to 60 MPH after some practice. You may not find each wheel going 60 MPH a clip the first time you ride it, but it’s something to strive for.
These bikes may not go as fast as mountain bikes or other options with multiple gears, but they can be less expensive and easier to maintain. They are also far from slow since there is less resistance moving through air thanks to the one cog and one gear setup. These bikes are also quieter than other choices might be.
The flip-flop hub is what allows a bike to be both single speed and fixed gear depending on your needs. This is a hub with a cog on either side. One of them is a single-speed freewheel, while the other is a fixed gear cog. The former lets you coast around, as we mentioned, while a swap can quickly turn it into a fixie.
Fork & Frame
The fork and frame should also be considered in terms of their shape and geometry since that affects the riding experience you will have in tandem with the handlebars. Racing designs put you in a position where you lean forward, while commuter and road frames have a more upright position.
- There are many aluminum frames that offer the best shock absorption and a lower weight. Aluminum frames tend to be the most affordable and resist corrosion and rust.
- Steel fixie bikes are heavier but much stronger than aluminum. This creates a comfortable, smooth ride every time. However, rust and corrosion can occur if you leave the bike out in the elements.
- The highest-grade bikes tend to use components of carbon fiber. This is light like aluminum, but it’s also quite sturdy like steel. As you might expect, the combination of those two things means this is the most expensive frame type.
Single-speed bikes and fixies often have flatter and shorter handlebars than other bikes. However, there are several options to choose from, including the following:
- Bullhorns – Bullhorns are typically featured on riser/mustache or flat bars. They provide a perpendicular handle that can be gripped while leaning forward and is intended for racing or going as fast as possible.
- Drop Bar – This kind of bar is going to offer an aerodynamic ride in a lowered position if you prefer that sort of experience.
- Flat Bars – Most single speed bikes use this type of bar, with some choosing very short bars with a narrow brake. This means there’s less need to turn the handle to corner well. The distance of the bars from the seat and your height determines how forward-leaning or upright you ride.
- Riser Bar – Risers are fairly uncommon with a fixed or single speed bike, but variations are more common. For instance, a mustache bar has a small curve and is swept back a small amount.
Tires and Wheels
The majority of the bikes you see for single speed are going to offer 700c tires and wheels. However, if you go for the best racing model or a bike designed for aggressive riding, the tires are going to start to become narrower and smaller with deep rims. These will be similar to what you find on a track bike.
This is one of the reasons to consider where and how you plan to ride your new bike. Having slightly wide tires with some profile to them will help a lot if you plan to hit those tires on trails or even city streets. Just remember that if you go for a higher-quality tire and wheel designed for racing, you might pay a higher price.
Most people will do well with the typical 700c tires, but don’t be afraid to try other kinds of tires to see how they work for you. You might find out the right tires for your riding style are something completely different.
While disc brakes are common on most bikes, that isn’t true for a fixie. Most single-speed bikes offer a front brake and rear brake for safety, while some fixies have only a front brake instead of dual brakes. This is because the brake can be used by just locking the pedal of the bike.
You want to be sure you’re aware of any regulations in your area in terms of bikes and brakes. Some locations do not allow riding bikes without having brakes. Thankfully, most of the bikes we’ve looked at have cabling that makes it a simple experience to remove one or more brakes if you do decide to go through with that.
Use of Your Fixed Gear Bike
Another thing to consider is what you’ll be doing with your fixie bikes. If you just intend to ride it to work on a paved road or trail, you have many options. But if you want to race a fixie or do some off-roading and trail riding with a single-speed, you’ll need beefier tires and should possibly consider a hybrid bicycle instead.
The truth is that a fixed gear bike is especially great for commuting. They are very simple to ride, even for someone who is a complete beginner to cycling. On top of that, they can get up speed that you might not expect. People are constantly pushing their fixie bikes to see how hard they can go with a single cog and gear. Fixie bikes are also affordable, which makes them popular for commuters as well as college students.
You May Also Like: Best Hitch Bike Rack
Choosing the Right Size Single-Speed Bike
Be sure that the size of the single-speed bikes you choose suits your size. For most riders who are comfortable on a regular road bike, you’ll want to go down one size on a fixie to give you better control. Finally, don’t forget the price when choosing your fixed-gear bike. This can make a big difference in the component materials or style you choose.
The good thing is that most of the best fixed speed bike models on the market come in several sizes. As an example, one of the items on our review can be ridden by someone who is 4’11” just as well as it can be by someone 6’6”. However, you do need to choose the most suitable size to be comfortable and get the best performance out of the bike.
While you’re considering the best bike size and fit, the most important factor to keep in mind is the standover height. Basically, what this means is that when you stand over a bike with your feet flat against the ground, you should experience about a one-inch clearance between the crotch of your pants and the top tube on the bicycle.
Give the Fixed-Speed Bike a Chance
There is a growing market for single speed bikes that keeps getting bigger, bringing this bike firmly out of the realm of niche rides. There are some more prominent name brands in the biking world hopping on board as well, which means the future of fixies is likely to be improving all the time. But as of right now, the best of the bunch offer plenty of fantastic features.
Fixies may still be on the rise, but we do know that there are some things to avoid with these bikes. While you can compromise for decent components over high-quality components to save money, it’s not an excellent plan to compromise for inferior quality parts. Fixed gear bikes are simple, but the mechanics need to be of good quality to ensure a good ride.
If you’re interested in a unique riding experience that lets you relive some of the earliest glory days of biking history, trying out a fixed-gear bike is a must. Don’t skip out on this very cool way to ride that many bike lovers miss!