What is a fixie?

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To help explain what is a fixie, first let’s take a look at what wikipedia has to say about it. This will give you a basic overview about what is a fixie, then we can get into some more details:

fixed-gear bicycle (or fixed-wheel bicycle, commonly known as a fixie) is a bicycle that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism. Most bicycles incorporate a freewheel to allow the pedals to remain stationary while the bicycle is in motion, so that the rider can coast, i.e., ride without pedaling using the forward or downhill energy of the bike and rider. A fixed-gear drivetrain has the drive sprocket  (or cog) threaded or bolted directly to the hub of the back wheel, so that the rider cannot stop pedaling. When the rear wheel turns, the pedals turn in the same direction. This allows a cyclist to apply a braking force with the legs and bodyweight, by resisting the rotation of the cranks. It also makes it possible to ride backwards although learning to do so is much more difficult than riding forward.”

fixed gear cog

Okay, that explains the mechanics of a fixed gear bicycle. In addition to the fixed gear, it is important to note that the bicycles are also single gear, one speed bicycles. All of our bicycles can be ridden either as a fixed gear or a single-speed bike. There are several reasons that a fixie is desirable.  Bicycle couriers were some of the first to catch on to the advantages of riding a fixie – they are big city cyclists whose livelihood hinges on their bike. Many choose fixies because they are fast, lightweight, and have a unique performance.  Riding a fixie gives you direct feedback from the pedals, allowing for quick and precise speed adjustments; critical when riding in busy traffic.  The feedback also makes it easier to gauge traction on wet streets.

Cars stuck in traffic with little room for your fixie to go through

Another key benefit is that fixies are practically maintenance free. Lacking gears and other components, there are fewer parts to maintain.   A multi-speed bike requires derailleurs, shifters, cables, cable carriers, multiple chain rings, freewheel hubs, etc, etc.. Fixies have less to weigh you down and fewer parts that might break down. What’s more, the chain is subject to less sideways force so will not wear out as fast as on a derailleur system. The fixed gear drivetrain is more mechanically efficient than any other bicycles, with the most direct power transfer from rider to the wheels. Bottom line: with a fixed gear bike there are only tires, a chain, and the brakes to keep in order. Easy.

For a growing number of avid cyclists the best reason to ride a fixie is the experience. It is the ultimate and most intimate connection between the rider, the bike, and the road.  It is hard to explain, but for me it is similar to why I prefer driving a stick-shift over an automatic and prefer a sailboat over a powerboat.

A sailboat, basically the fixie of the sea

I get the most fun when riding fixed if I save my brakes only for emergencies. Any time I need to decelerate it requires effort so I find myself more mindful of my surroundings.  The only way to slow is to resist the forward motion of the pedals. I find myself more aware and into enjoying the ride. There is no coasting. It is a metaphor for life. Like life itself, the ride is usually too short to coast.  Obstacles are avoided not by altering speed so much as by altering direction. Rather than plodding along in a straight line, on a route that someone else set, the rider drives tactically, weaving and bobbing as he goes. It is a beauty to observe, and a wonder to experience. It is truly thrilling. It’s like a surfer riding a wave.  At the moment, when in the zone it is a high like no other. Riding a fixie is a total blast. If you really want to get a feel for what it’s all about watch this short film about fixed gear riding.

Then there are the aesthetics. A huge part of the appeal and the initial attraction of many to these bikes is the look. With the minimalist design and choice of colors, the bikes are truly beautiful. No longer are you just riding a machine, you are riding a piece of art.  The purity and simplicity makes the bikes so pleasing as to be a fashion accessory. Whatever attracts you to a fixed-gear bike, we hope and believe that riding a fixie will ignite or revive your passion for cycling.

The Liberator - All white fixie by Baseline Bicycles

Perhaps you are attracted to the look of a fixed gear bike, but are not sure you want to ride fixed. Fortunately, fixies generally come with flip-flop hubs, so that you can switch between the fixed or freewheeling option. All that is required to go between the two is that you remove the rear wheel and flip it around.  In freewheeling mode you are back riding a single speed bike which is just like most other bikes you are used to.  You can coast when you want to and your braking options are restricted to the hand-operated brakes on the handlebars.

What is a fixie? To us, a fixie is all about good times and good-looking bikes.

Click here to check out the fixies in our shop