A fixed-gear bike, commonly known as a “fixie,” has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism – no freewheeling means an incredible cardiovascular workout every time you pump the pedals.
A fixie is the form of transportation of choice for fitness-focused cyclists. Fixie’s don’t have a freewheel mechanism, which means you can’t coast. Going downhill means pacing yourself and going uphill means pushing your quads even harder. The low-tech ride that demands a tough workout is preferred for all kinds of reasons.
Here are the benefits of riding a fixie.
The top attraction of riding a fixie is precisely the one that the uninitiated might cast as a negative: the extreme effort required to ride it. On a fixie, you can’t freewheel. To fixie fans, however, this is the best feature – the conventional rider freewheels too much. Fixies are hardcore and give riders an incredible cardiovascular workout. In fact, working up a sweat is guaranteed. After rolling to a stop at the lights, when the time comes to restore momentum you must make a massive push. Additionally, when a fixie approaches a hill, gone are the days of slipping into bottom gear to slowly slither up and gain altitude. On a fixie, you must pump your quads, which makes getting to the top all the sweeter.
Fixed-gear bike evangelists say that the experience is like nothing else on two wheels. Riding a fixie is similar to running in minimalist sneakers – it puts you more in touch with the road and your body. Fixed gear purists, such as Scott Larkin, claim the most enticing side of the fixed-gear bike is the sense of being at one with the bike, as if it is an extension of your body. With a fixie, every ounce of speed, balance and acceleration is amplified.
Another reason to ride a fixie is the mechanical simplicity. Some fixies don’t even have brakes – to stop, riders just quit pedaling or lock their knees, causing the ride to come to a skidding stop. This simplicity means a sleeker look that results in less technical mishaps. Riders need not worry about slipping out of gear during some delicate maneuver with gut-wrenching consequences. On a fixie, very little can go technically wrong – it’s just you and the road. Additionally, fixed gear bikes are much lighter than 9-speed all-terrain bikes and the like because of its lightweight nature. Finally, you have at least one less part to oil and fix, which in the end gives you more time to ride.
Because a fixie has no gears or, in some cases, brakes, it lends itself to theatrics. If you like to test your agility or show off a little, a fixie is just the ride you need. If you pedal backwards, the bike goes backwards – you can always execute that maneuver if your brakes fail or you have no brakes and you need to stop. Even dismounting a fixie can be a bit of a performance. In his superb post on fixies, hardcore rider, Sheldon Brown, explains how to dismount from the back, instead of the side. As your fixie slows to near walking speed, raise your left foot. Wait for the right pedal to reach the bottom of its cycle. As the right pedal rises, straighten your right leg and let the motion of the pedal propel you upward. As the bike rolls on, grab it by the saddle. “It takes a bit of courage to try this,” Brown says, “but it is actually very easy to do. It is also extremely impressive to watch.”
Fixies are edgy and can be customized in daring designs and colors. It has more wow factor than an orthodox vehicle. The bohemian, alternative side is reinforced by the fact that fixies are deployed in the circus arts. Their stripped-down design makes them more suitable for gymnastics – standing on the handlebars and the like. All in all, a fixie will eventually become a part of who you are. Cyclists looking to expand their biking persona and fitness enthusiasts looking for a new workout alike should check out all that fixie’s have to offer.