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Single Speed vs Fixed Gear – What Do Cycologists Prefer?

Single Speed vs Fixed Gear – What Do Cycologists Prefer?
Written by James Jordan

Single speed and fixed gear bikes are quite similar to each other. Both use a single gear on the rear for motion transmission. They’re also cheaper, lightweight and simpler than those multi-gear models.

But both bike types have a slight difference that makes them useful in different circumstances. If you’re thinking of buying a single-geared model but don’t know which one is the most convenient for you, don’t worry.

Today, we’ll show you the major differences between single speed vs fixed gear bicycles. After reading all this information, you’ll be better prepared to make a wise decision.

Single Speed ​​vs Fixed Gear – Which One is Better?

What is A Single Speed ​​Bike?

It’s a bike with just one gear ratio. So, you can’t vary the speed by using cassettes as you would do with a multi speed bike. Basically, the acceleration that the bicycle achieves depends exclusively on the power of the rider’s legs.

Unlike fixed gear models, single speed bikes allow you to coast or cruise. That means that the wheels will keep moving even if you stop pedaling. This feature is very useful when you ride on downhill, allowing you to accelerate taking advantage of gravity.

This feature makes necessary the existence of a good brake system to slow down. For that reason, you’ll probably find brake levers on the handles of most single speed bikes.

What is A Fixed Gear ​​Bike?

They’re also known as fixie bikes. As single speed models, fixed gear bikes have a single gear ratio. However, they don’t have a freewheel mechanism. So, the pedals will continue to move as long as the rear wheel keeps turning.

So, if you use your feet to stop the pedals, the bike will also stop moving. This feature allows you to use the pedals as main brakes. Some people prefer these kinds of bikes because of the absence of brake levers on the handles.

However, it’s convenient to have an additional brake system when the acceleration is excessive. Which can happen when you ride on downhill.

Difference Between Fixed Gear And Single Speed

single speed versus fixed gear

Freewheel mechanism

A freewheel is a mechanical device attached to the rear wheel hub that allows the rider to stop pedaling without interrupting the motion. If the driven shaft rotates faster than the driveshaft, both parts separate. This is possible thanks to the complex system of bearings and springs on the freewheel bike.

This device allows a single speed bike to coast or cruise. However, on fixed gear bikes the freewheel is absent and is replaced by a single gear. And that’s basically the main difference between fixed gear vs freewheel bikes.

The diameter of the gear can change according to the requirements of the rider. In these cases, a bigger gear provides more speed with less pedaling.

Braking system

Fixie bikes allow the rider to brake with the pedals. To do this, the rider must have strong legs, especially when the acceleration is high. So, mechanical brakes aren’t indispensables on fixed gear bikes.

Fixed gear bikes are perfect for tricks and spins. The absence of a brake system allows the front wheel to be rotated in a 360-degree range.

On the other hand, most single speed bikes use caliper brakes because they can reach higher speeds than fixed gear bikes. So, one of their many benefits is they are best for commuting.

Required experience

Single speed bikes are suitable for all kinds of riders, no matter how much experience they have. Single speed bikes allow you to travel long distances and decrease the pedaling frequency. So, the rider doesn’t require a lot of muscular endurance to go further.

However, this doesn’t happen with fixed gear bikes. The movement of the bicycle is proportional to the pedaling frequency. So, if the rider gets tired, the speed and traveled kilometers will decrease considerably.

Therefore, fixed gear bikes are more recommended for experienced riders, with high resistance. In addition, fixed gear models are the best for training purposes. However, using them for too long may affect your knees and require top quality knee pads.

Chain tensioners

Both single speed and fixed gear bikes don’t have a dedicated chain tensioner. So, the rider must constantly check the chain tension and make the corresponding adjustments if necessary. Improper tensioning and lack of supervision are the main causes of chain slippage and derailing. If this happens, the rider could be seriously injured.

Pros & Cons – Between Two Bikes

Single speed

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic
  • Affordable price
  • Low maintenance
  • Customizable
  • No shifting gears to apply side force on the chain
  • Allow to coast or cruise
  • Suitable for all kinds of riders
  • Easy to handle
  • Faster than fixed gear bikes
  • Included braking system
  • Ideal for commuting
Schwinn Kedzie Single-Speed Fixie Road Bike, Lightweight Frame for City Riding, Blue
  • Dive into the world of fixed-gear cycling with the Schwinn Kedzie 700C Fixie Bicycle. This fixie bike features a Schwinn steel racing frame and fork for a responsive, reliable ride.
  • In true fixed-gear fashion, a 46T by 18T single-speed drivetrain with flip-flop hub propels this bike (fixed cog sold separately).
  • 700C wheels with 32H alloy rims offer strength and performance during commutes.
  • Designed for city riding, alloy front and rear caliper brakes deliver precise stops, while Schwinn urban seat and grips add comfort and style.
  • This men's bike ships ready to be assembled, has a limited lifetime warranty, and the wheels measure 700C.

Cons

  • Limited gear ratio
  • Inability to change speeds
  • Slower than multi-geared bikes
  • Difficult to pedal when riding uphill

Fixed gear

Pros

  • Superior control
  • More lightweight than single speed models
  • Clean appearance
  • Allow braking using the pedals
  • Cheap
  • Low maintenance
  • Help build muscle endurance
  • Ideal for training
  • Safer on downhill

Cons

  • Limited gear ratio
  • Unstable on slippery terrain
  • May affect your knees
  • Slower than single speed models
  • Don’t allow to coast or cruise

Features You Need

There are some basic features that are mandatory on any type of bike you’re going to buy, either a single speed or a fixed gear. First of all, the frame must be sturdy and light at the same time. For these purposes, steel and carbon fiber are the best materials.

Also, the rear dropouts must be horizontal to allow an easier adjustment of the chain tension. If you’re not an experienced rider, it’s better to opt for a single speed model with a suitable braking system. So, you won’t have to work too hard to reach high speeds and travel long distances.

If you intend to use your bike for racing purposes, make sure that its features meet the standards of the governing body. If you want to use your bicycle as a single speed and a fixie simultaneously, use a rear wheel with a flip-flop hub.

Conclusion

Certainly, single speed and fixed gear bikes may seem the same on the outside, but in reality they’re very different. While one type allows better control on the road for enhanced safety, the other allows you to rest your legs while you’re still moving.

Fixies are more suitable for experienced riders, while single speed bikes can be used by all kinds of riders. So, choosing the right option between fixie vs geared mainly depends on your own experience and requirements.

FAQ

Q. 1: What can you use a single speed bike for?

A. Single speed bikes are ideal for commuting. They can develop higher speeds than fixed gear bikes and allow you to stop pedaling without interrupting motion.

Q. 2: Is a single speed bike good for commuting?

A. Yes. They allow you to travel great distances reducing the pedaling frequency.

Q. 3: Single speed vs fixed gear – Which one is faster?

A. Single speed bikes are faster than fixed gear bikes because their speed doesn’t depend exclusively on pedaling frequency.

Q. 4: Is it possible to turn a road bike into a fixie?

A. Yes. To do this you just have to change the wheels and replace the cassette on the rear wheel with a single gear.

Q. 5: Can you add more gear to a fixie?

A. No. If you do this, you would be turning your fixie into a multi gear bike.

About the author

James Jordan

As a kid I inherited the love for mountain bikes from my father who used to ride for weeks through the Colorado trail in the city of Denver. He had his gang, and I followed pretty much the same track.

Later on, my interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. My buddies and I also participated in the Downhill racing for the third consecutive year, and it’s been an amazing experience.

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