Fixed gear bikes are all the rage, but single-speed bikes offer the same type of pure ride as a fixie, with the added benefits of braking and cruising.
Cycling aficionados new to fixie bikes often panic the first time they forget to keep pedaling and nearly get thrown from the bike. Likewise, the act of riding sans brakes is equally as frightening. Fortunately, if you like the idea of a stripped-down machine, but don’t relish in the idea of a brakeless bike, then a single speed could be for you.
Here are the benefits of riding a single speed bike.
This is the biggest advantage that single-speed bikes have over fixies. With a freewheel, your back wheel spins independently of the cranks, meaning you don’t have to pedal downhill or when you just want to coast. If you are new to fixed gear bikes, you run the risk of forgetting to keep your legs moving at all times. This can be an extremely hazardous mistake, as the pedals will keep spinning – and with quite a lot of force, even at slow speeds. If you’re unable to get your feet moving right away, you can be tossed from the bike or have your balance thrown off. For people who are looking for a relaxed ride, single speeds are the way to go.
The fixie crowd loves their brakeless bikes. They’re sleek and lightweight, but for some riders, brakeless bikes are just a little too pure. Brakes can be added to fixed gear bikes, but single speeds need brakes. If you convert a geared bike to a single speed, you can just leave the brakes in place. If you buy a new one from a shop, chances are that it will come with brakes already installed as well. There won’t be any extra cost or hassle to outfit your bike with two solid brakes.
Fixed gear bikes have their roots in velodromes, where riders pioneered the art of standing still – a maneuver called a track stand. For riders who can competently do it, a track stand shaves off a second or two at stop signs and red lights. Unfortunately, most casual riders can’t do track stands. It’s an advanced technique that requires dedication and time to learn. If you have not mastered it, but are riding a fixed gear bike, you can start the bike by rotating one pedal into the three-o’clock position. Unfortunately, with a fixie, you have to lift the rear tire off the ground in order to rotate the pedals. With a single speed, however, this isn’t a problem. The freewheel allows you to easily rotate the pedals into any position you want. If you’re a fixed gear rider who cannot track stand, this will save you time. Until you are inspired to learn to track stand, the stubborn pedals of a fixed gear bike will be a hindrance any time you wish to halt.
Same Fixie Advantages
A single speed bike has all the advantages of a fixed gear with none of the drawbacks. By dispensing with gears, both of these types of rides offer enormous advantages. First, they are far cheaper to build and maintain, as there is no maze of fragile parts crowding the rear hub or hanging precariously from the frame. This makes the bike easy on the eyes, and easier and cheaper to repair than geared bikes. They’re also lighter. Over the hundreds of thousands of miles you may ride your bike, this weight difference will add up to easier travel.
Single speeds, however, carry all of the exact same advantages with added bonuses. The freewheel adds no weight or mechanical complications and the brakes add minimal weight, but immeasurable safety. Fixed gears and single speeds are virtually the same, but with a single speed, you’re getting a familiar bike that requires no extra time or effort to learn to ride.