Fixed-gear bicycle

Fixed-gear bicycle

A fixed-gear bicycle or fixed wheel bicycle, is a bicycle without the ability to coast. The sprocket is screwed directly on to the hub and there is no freewheel mechanism. A reverse-thread lockring is usually fitted to prevent the sprocket from unscrewing.cite web | title = Why We Love Fixed-Gears and Single-Speeds | publisher = Circle A Cycles | url = | accessdate=2007-08-12 ] Whenever the rear wheel is turning, the pedals turn in the same direction. [cite web | title = What is a Fixed Gear? | publisher = Commute By Bike | date=2005-05-31 | url = | accessdate = 2007-08-12 ] By resisting the rotation of the pedals, a rider can slow the bike to a stop, without the aid of a brake. A fixed gear bicycle can even be ridden in reverse.

Most fixed gear bicycles only have one gear ratio. Some have a sprocket on each side of the rear hub, giving the choice of using one of two different gear ratios. Such a hub may have a fixed gear on each side (double-fixed) or a fixed gear on one side and a freewheel gear on the other (fixed-free). To change gear, it is necessary to remove, reverse and refit the rear wheel. [cite web | first = Bob | last = Shaver | title = Bicycle Derailleurs | publisher = Patent Pending Blog | date=2004-09-28 | url = | accessdate = 2007-08-12 ] Typically, the number of teeth on the sprockets will differ by one or two, for example 19 teeth on one side and 17 on the other, making the latter gear some 11 or 12% higher than the former (for the same chainring).

In the past Sturmey Archer made fixed multi speed hub gears allowing the rider to change gear while riding. [cite web | first = Sheldon | last = Brown | title = The Sturmey-Archer ASC Three-Speed Fixed-Gear Hub | publisher = Harris Cyclery | url = | accessdate = 2007-08-12 ]


The track bicycle is a form of fixed-gear bicycle used for track cycling in a velodrome. But since a "fixed-gear bicycle" is just a bicycle without a freewheel, a fixed-gear bicycle can be any type of bicycle. [cite web | first = Greg | last = Goode | title = Fixed-Gear vs. Track Bikes | publisher = Old Skool Track | date = 2003 | url = | accessdate = 2007-08-12 ]

Traditionally, road racing and club cyclists would use a fixed wheel bicycle for training during the winter months, generally using a relatively low gear ratio, believed to help develop a good pedalling style. ["The Complete Cycle Sport Guide", Peter Konopka, 1982, EP Publishing, pages 70-71: "Top class riders spend the whole winter on such small gears (42x17 or 18) get good pedal training some adopt a "fixed wheel"...".] In the UK until the 1950s it was common for riders to use a fixed wheel for time trials. [The 1959 British 25 mile time trial championship was won by Alf Engers with a competition record of 55 min 11 sec, was ridden on an 84 inch fixed wheel.] [ [] [] [] [] Various accounts of fixed wheel time trailing in the UK.] The fixed wheel was also commonly used, and continues to be used in the end of season hill climb races in the autumn. [ [] "Fixed wheel" bike used to win the 2003 British national hill climb championship.] [ [] Account of the 1987 British national hill climb championship.] A typical clubmen's fixed wheel machine would have been a "road-path" or "road/track" cycle. In the era when most riders only had one cycle, the same bike when stripped down and fitted with racing wheels was used for road time trials and track racing, and when fitted with mudguards (fenders) and a bag it was used for club runs, touring and winter training. [ [ Rotrax ] ] [ [] [] [] Examples of fixed wheel cycles of the period, including the bike that Ray Booty used for the first sub-four-hour "out and back" 100 mile time trial in 1956.] However by the 1960s multi-gear derailleurs had become the norm and riding fixed wheel on the road declined over the next few decades. [cite web | first = Hilary | last = Stone | title = Sturmey Archer ASC 3-speed fixed-wheel hub gear | publisher = Classic Lightweights | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] Recent years have seen renewed interest and increased popularity of fixed wheel cycling in the UK. [ cite web | first = Simon | last = Ward | coauthors = Clune, Arthur; Curtin, John; "others" | title = Going Fixed - The Art of Cycling without Gears | publisher = | date = September 12, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ]

In urban North America recently the popularity of fixed gear bicycles have attained something of a cult status, and even discernible regional aesthetic preferences in terms of finish and presentation of such bicycles have appeared. [cite news |author=Hannah Karp|title=More riders trying 'fixie' bikes with one gear, many risks |url= |format=HTML |work=Sign On Sand Diego |publisher=The Union-Tribune|date=2006-06-08|accessdate=2007-08-12 ] The rise in popularity of fixed-gear bicycles in the mid-2000s, complete with affectations such as spoke cards (gathered from "alleycats" typically), is attributed to bicycle messengers. [Ryan, Singel. "Fixed-Gear Bikes an Urban Fixture". Wired Magazine. Retrieved on Aug. 31, 2008. ] Some messengers disparagingly refer to persons sporting these affectations as 'fakengers,' 'posengers' or 'hipsters'. [Ephraim. "Ask A Track Bike". San Francisco Weekly. Retrieved on Aug. 31, 2008.] [Chidley, 'Buffalo' Bill. "Fakenger". Moving Target. Retrieved on Aug. 31, 2008. ] [Poeter, D: "Critical Class". San Francisco Chronical, pg. E-1 (December 31, 2006)]

Dedicated fixed-gear road bicycles are being produced in greater numbers by established bicycle manufacturers. They are generally low in price, [cite news|author=Jim Miller|title= Quest for a Fixed Gear|url= |format=HTML |work=Washington Post|date=2006-06-18|accessdate=2007-08-12 ] and characterized by a more forgiving, slacker road geometry, as opposed to the steeper, more aggressive geometry of track bicycles. [cite web|url=|title=Buyers' Guide To "Fixie" Bicycles!|work=Cyclesmith|accessdate=2007-08-12|format=HTML] These too are made in increasing numbers at budget, or entry-level price and quality-points.

Fixed-gear bicycles are also used in cycle ball and artistic cycling.

A fixed-gear bicycle is particularly well suited for track stands, a manoeuver in which the bicycle can be held stationary, balanced upright with the rider's feet on the pedals. [cite journal|url=|journal=Montreal Mirror|title=Bare bones biking|author=Lucas Wisenthal|volume=23 |issue=2|accessdate= 2007-08-12]

A subset of fixed gear track bike riding is emerging from urban youth, often associated with Hipster (contemporary subculture), with roots in modern skateboarding and Freestyle BMX. Track bike tricks are largely unexplored and like the sport's precursors, have an overwhelming appreciation for style and originality. "Fixies" are also used for increased performance.

Advantages and disadvantages

Fixed gear bicycles are ridden by cyclists for many reasons, such as their light weight, simplicity, low maintenance, or image. [ cite web | url =]
title = Fixed-Gear Bikes an Urban Fixture
first = Ryan
last = Singel
accessdate = 2007-12-23
date = 2007-04-07

Many people who ride fixed-gear bicycles simply find it more enjoyable than or as an alternative to riding bikes with freewheels. Although the bike has only one gear, the lighter weight of a fixed-gear bike over its multi-speed freewheel equivalent can provide increased performance. [cite web
url =
title = the fixed gear purist cult mentality thing
first = Scott | last = Larkin | year = 2004
] Although the rider cannot change to a lower gear, climbing hills on a fixed gear is easier than with a multi-speed freewheel because it is easier to maintain momentum as the cranks are pushed through the dead centers by the chain, though this could be because a fixed bicycle is lighter than its multi-speed freewheel equivalent. [cite web | url =
title = Fixies vs FreeWheel
author = "freddered" | date = 2007-05-29 | work = another cycling forum
] [cite web
url =
title = sweet fixie revenge | author = "mike"
date= 2006-12-02 | work = another cycling forum
] [cite web
url =
title = Matt Seaton | author = "Clarion"
date = 2006-09-06 | work = another cycling forum
] In slippery conditions some riders prefer to ride fixed because the transmission gives feedback on back tire grip. [cite
url =
title = Fixed Gear Bicycles for the Road
first = Sheldon | last = Brown | date = 1995-12-26

Descending is more difficult as the rider must spin the cranks at a very high speed (sometimes at 150rpm or more), or use the brake(s) to slow down. Nevertheless, the enforced fast spin when descending is said to increase "souplesse" (a French word roughly meaning suppleness), which improves pedaling performance on any type of bicycle. [cite web | url =
first = Matt | last = Seaton
title = Fixed Idea
work = Rouleur
Selected extract.

Riding fixed is generally considered to encourage a more effective pedaling style, which translates into greater efficiency and power when used on a bicycle fitted with a freewheel. [cite web | title = About Fixed Gears | publisher = Old Skool Track | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ]

When first riding a fixed gear, a cyclist used to a freewheel has a tendency to try to coast now and again, particularly when approaching corners or obstacles. Since freewheeling is not possible, this can lead to anything from a 'kick' to the trailing leg, up to a loss of control of the bicycle.


Because it is possible to slow down or stop a fixed-gear bike by resisting the turning pedals, some riders think brakes are not strictly necessary. However, since the rider of a fixed-gear bike can apply braking force only to the rear wheel, the maximal deceleration is significantly lower than on a bike equipped with both a front and rear brake. [ cite web | first = John | last = Stevenson | title = Fixies outlawed? | publisher = Cycling | date = August 8, 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11] As a vehicle brakes, weight is transferred towards the front wheel and away from the rear wheel, decreasing the amount of grip the rear wheel has. Shifting the rider's weight aft will increase rear wheel braking efficiency, but normally the front wheel might provide 70% or more of the braking power when braking hard ("see Weight transfer").

A rider can also lock the rear wheel and skid to slow down or completely stop on a fixed-gear bicycle, a maneuver sometimes known as a "skid stop". It is initiated by unweighting the rear wheel while in motion (and usually lifting it off the ground slightly) by shifting the rider's weight forward and pulling up on the pedals using clipless pedals or toe clips. The rider then stops turning the pedals, thus stopping the drivetrain and rear wheel, while applying his or her body weight in opposition to the normal rotation of the pedals. When the rear tire again contacts the ground the rear wheel will skid, which acts to slow the bike. The skid can be held until the bicycle stops or until the rider desires to continue pedalling again at a slower speed. The technique requires a little practice and using it while cornering is generally considered dangerous. [cite web | first = Sheldon | last = Brown | title = Fixed Gear for the Road: Skip Stops | publisher = Harris Cyclery | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] [citeweb | first = 'Buffalo' Bill | last = Chidley | title = Track bikes at CMC 1993 | publisher = Cycling Plus| url = | date = October 1993 | accessdate = 2007-09-19 ] As with the technique of resisting the pedals, the maximal deceleration of this method of slowing is also significantly lower than using a front brake. A wet surface further reduces the effectiveness of this method, almost to the point of not reducing speed at all.

Brakeless fixed riding has an almost cult status in some places, based on the perception by some riders of the experience of riding in a state of intense concentration or 'flow' where brakes are thought not to be needed. [cite web | first = Lucas | last = Wisenthal | title = Bare bones biking | publisher =Montreal Mirror | date = June 28, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ]

Other riders dismiss riding on roads without brakes as an unnecessary affectation, based on image rather than what is practical when riding a bicycle. [cite web | first = Paul | last = Churchill | title = Are Brakes For Flakes? | publisher = Moving Target | url = | date = 2005-10-13 | accessdate = 2007-09-16] Furthermore, riding brakeless may jeopardize the chances of a successful insurance claim in the event of an accident and, in some jurisdictions (including the UKFact|date=August 2008), is against the law. [cite web | first = Sara W. | last = Colegrove | coauthor = Briggs, Todd E. | title = Do You Ride A Fixed Gear Bike? You May Be Breaking The Law | publisher = League of Michigan Bicyclist | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] It also greatly increases stress on the knees which can lead to injury. Some will have one (usually front) brake for emergencies, for descending steep hills, for safety in the event of a broken or derailed chain, to comply with traffic law, or to prevent knee injury. Others will have two brakes for better control in hills, for slippery road conditions, or for use in the event of a broken or thrown chain, broken brake or brake cable.

In the United States, fixed-gear bikes without hand brakes are illegal in many places. Fixed-gear sidewalk bikes -- the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's term for one with a seat height of no more than 25 inches adjusted to its highest position, and no free wheel -- are not required to have brakes if they bear a permanent label visible from 10 feet displaying the words "No Brakes." The same label must be displayed prominently on promotional display material and shipping cartons.Fact|date=August 2007

In the UK, the Pedal Cycles Construction and Use Regulations 1983 requires that pedal cycles 'with a saddle height over 635mm to have two independent braking systems, with one acting on the front wheel(s) and one on the rear'Verify source|date=May 2008 . It is commonly thought that a front brake and a fixed rear wheel satisfies this requirement.

U.S. and British English Usage

"Fixed gear" is the standard term in the U.S., whilst "fixed wheel" is used in the UK. [cite web | title = Time Trial Regulations | publisher = Cycling Time Trials | url = | quote = Bicycles with a fixed wheel shall have a left hand threaded locking device securing the fixed sprocket. Similarly, tricycles with a fixed wheel shall have a suitable locking device or alternatively shall include an integral system as part of the design. Machines with fixed wheel require only a brake operating on the front wheel(s). | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] cite web | title = National Hill Climb Championship: King Paul Grabs Title on the Chimney | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] The confusion comes about because "fixed", "gear" and "wheel" can have more than one meaning in this context. "Fixed" can mean not able to freewheel (coast), it can also mean not variable. "Gear" can refer to the sprocket or to a gear ratio. In the US, "fixed-gear" is used to mean the gear (sprocket) is attached to the hub without a freewheel. In the UK, "fixed-wheel" is the normal term, meaning the opposite of freewheel, whereas fixed gear usually means one gear (gear ratio). See also single-speed bicycle.


Many companies sell bicycle frames designed specifically for use with fixed-gear hubs. A fixed-gear or track-bike hub includes special threads for a lockring that tightens in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction compared with the sprocket. This ensures that the sprocket cannot unscrew when the rider "backpedals" while braking. [ [ Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary Tp-Tz ] ]

For a variety of reasons, many cyclists choose to convert freewheel bicycles to fixed gear. Frames with horizontal dropouts will be straightforward to convert, frames with vertical dropouts less so. [cite web | first = Sheldon | last = Brown | title = Fixed Gear Conversions | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] One method is to simply replace the rear wheel with a wheel that has a track/fixed hub. Another is to use a hub designed to be used with a threaded multi-speed freewheel. Such a hub will only have the normal right-handed threads for the sprocket and not the reverse threads for the lockrings used on track/fixed hubs. There is a slight possibility that the sprocket on a hub without a lockring will unscrew while back pedalling. Even if a bottom bracket lockring is threaded onto the hub along with a track sprocket, because the bottom-bracket lockring is not reverse threaded, the possibility still exists that both the sprocket and locknut can unscrew. Therefore it is recommended to have both front and rear brakes on a fixed-gear bicycle using a converted freewheel hub in case the sprocket unscrews while back pedaling. It is also advisable to use a such as manufactured by Loctite for the sprocket and bottom bracket lockring. The rotafix (or "frame whipping") method may be helpful to securely install the cog.

Bicycles with vertical dropouts and no derailleur require some way to adjust chain tension. Most bicycles with horizontal dropouts can be tensioned by moving the wheel forward or backward in the dropouts. Bicycles with vertical dropouts can also be converted with some additional hardware. Possibilities include:

* An eccentric hub or bottom bracket allows the off center axle or bottom bracket spindle to pivot and changing the chain tension.
* A "Ghost" or "floating" chainring. An additional chainring placed in the drive train between the driving chainring and sprocket. The top of the chain moves it forward at the same speed that the bottom of the chain moves it backwards, giving the appearance that it is floating in the chain.
* A "Magic gear". With some math you can calculate a gearing ratio to fit a taut chain between the rear dropout and bottom bracket. Also, using a chain half link and slightly filing the dropouts to increase the width of the slot will increase the chances of finding a "magic gear."

Separate chain tensioning devices such as the type which are attached to the dropout gear hanger (commonly used on single speed mountain bikes) cannot be used because they will be damaged as soon as the lower part of the chain becomes tight.

Additional adjustments or modification may be needed to ensure a good chainline. The chain should run straight from the chainring to the sprocket, therefore both need to be the same distance away from the bicycle's centerline. Matched groupsets of track components are normally designed to give a chainline of 42mm, but conversions using road or mountain bike cranksets often use more chainline. Some hubs, such as White Industries' ENO, or the British Goldtec track hub, are better suited to this task as they have a chainline greater than standard. Failure to achieve good chainline will at best lead to a noisy chain and increased wear, and at worst can throw the chain off the sprocket. This can result in rear wheel lockup and a wrecked frame if the chain falls between the rear sprocket and the spokes. Chainline can be adjusted in a number of ways, which may be used in combination with each other:

* Obtaining a bottom bracket with a different spindle length, to move the chainring inboard or outboard
* Choosing a bottom bracket with two lockrings, which gives fine adjustment of chainring position
* Respacing and redishing the rear wheel, where permitted by the hub design
* Placing thin spacers under the bottom bracket's right-hand cup (Sturmey-Archer make a suitable 1/16" spacer) to move the chainring outboard
* Placing thin spacers between the chainring and its stack bolts to move it inboard (if the chainring is on the inside of the crank spider) or outboard (if the ring is on the outside of the spider)
* Placing thin spacers between the hub shoulder and the rear sprocket - only recommended in the case of a freewheel-threaded hub, which has sufficiently deep threads for this


There are many forms of competition using a fixed gear bike, including most track racing. Bike messengers and other urban riders may ride fixed gear bicycles in alleycat races, including New York City's famous fixed-gear-only race Monstertrack alleycat. Some riders in a hill climb also use fixed wheel bikes.

See also

*List of bicycle parts
*Track bicycle


External links

* [ Fixed-Gear Bicycles] and the [ gear inch calculator] from Sheldon Brown's website
* [ Offroad Fixed Gear Site] including the [ Fixed-gear 101 introductory guide]
* [ Fixed Gear Gallery]
* [ Chained Revolution Discussions]
* [ velospace fixed gear bicycle community]
* [ A visual guide for fixed gear reversible transmissions]
* [ A discussion listing off-the-peg fixed-gear bicycles] from the [ London Fixed-gear and Single-speed] forum
* [ How To Wheelie on a Fixed Gear Bike]
* [ Hobnox TV report from the Fixed Gear Events at the ECMC 2008]
* [ My Fixed Gear] bike rating gallery
* [ Velodrome Racing with a fixed gear bike]

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