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Fixed gear is great!(48 posts)

Fixed gear is great!Dog
Nov 15, 2001 7:38 AM
Got my Bianchi Pista (fixed gear track bike) on Monday. Flat black paint. Very utilitarian, or sort of stealth, looking. Got it cheap. Rode it on the trainer Monday night - no big deal.

Tried it on the road Tuesday, just around the block a few times. 48/16 gears too tall for spinning workout. Needing different gears. Installed front brake, front lever on right, lights, and bottle cage mount, too. This is a training bike.

Got a 41 tooth ring at the LBS Wednesday; installed it and went for 24 mile ride. Lots of fun.

First, mounting was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined. Put one foot in, start slowly, just catch up with the other foot and pop it in. If you miss a little, just make your foot go round with the pedal. No big deal.

Remember, you can't coast. You can't coast. You CANNOT COAST. Your brain and your body, trained over thousands and thousands of miles, don't communicate very well on this one. Good thing is, the bike will remind you RIGHT NOW when you forget.

Get 100 feet down the street. The shorts are a little wrinkled in the crotch and need to adjust. Start to stand a little - woooeee - the pedal coming up shoots you 6 inches up, real fast, when you stiffen that rear leg. Oh, my. This is interesting.

Feels really weird to come up to a stop, applying the front brake, and still pedal. Got to still pedal. Got to pedal always. Weird.

"I'm freaking Marty Nothstein!" "I'm a muscle bound track racer!" That's how it feels. With the curvy low slung handlebars (very comfy, BTW) and fixed gear, I feel like a sprinter. This is fun. "Everyone look at me, I'm Marty Nothstein!" No one notices, of course.

Oh, boy, first downhill coming up. Usually around 30 mph coasting on the roadbike. Wheee, gotta pedal really fast. (With this gearing, rpms/speeds: 50rpm/10.3mph, 70/14.4, 90/18.5, 110/22.6, 130/26.8, 150/30.9) Can't muscle your way to high rpms, got to move legs really fast. Luckily, a short hill. Goal to descend without braking.

Normal riding along flats and rollers, no big deal, really. Just pedal along. Comfortable around what is probably 20 mph (no speedo). Feel the urge to shift now and then - thumbs even move for shifters - oops, not there. Come up to stop - oops, nothing there for left hand to do. Drivers must think I'm strange, pedaling all the say to a stop. "Hey, I'm on a fixed gear," I want to tell them, as if that would sink in.

Start to run off road (mind wandering) and start to unload saddle and stand. Holy cow! Can't coast. Butt shoots up in the air again.

Bike feels fine. Despite steep angles and short wheelbase, no sensation of getting beaten up. But, these are relatively smooth roads and this is a short ride.

First long downhill, normally about 40 mph coasting. Can't keep legs going that fast (195 rpms, anyone?). Got to brake. Try "braking" with legs, and bike slows, but at high rpms, this gets pretty jerky.

Uphill, gearing about right. Approx 8% grade, need to stand, but not overwhelming. Working up a sweat, though.

Stock saddle, a "Bianchi" labeled Vetta, with one of those cut down middle sections, is sawing a groove on each side of my crotch. Just thought I'd give it a try, as it came with the bike, and has lots of padding. Thought the padding would be good, since standing to absorb bumps is not as easy. However, I may be bloody before this ride is over. This thing is coming off the moment I get home. Got a spare Flite lying around to replace it. Donating Avocet back to shop.

Realizing fixed gear is built in interval training, but with active rest. Legs always doing something, even if it's just trying to stay out of the way.

Rollers for a while, then longer uphill. One thought. Can't hammer early and then downshift when tired. Must pace carefully. Hmm. This requires a little different thinking.

Coming back long downhill, normally around 35-40 mph for several miles. Trying different approaches to spinning really fast. Discover pulling up at top of pedal stroke helps, but can't figure out why. Try just letting legs be passively pulled around by pedals. Sort of works, but very weird sensation. The bike is making my legs go round, not the other way. Strange. Must brake a little. Just can't keep legs moving around and maintain control of the bike over what seems like 150 rpms for very long.

Drinking is interesting. Reach down to grab a bottle, and my knee nearly pops the bottle from my hand. Can't coast.

Rode 24 miles, pedaling every inch. That's different - nevery did that before, even on 200 mile rides. No opportunity to coast for even one second to stretch, fiddle with something, drink, blow nose, nothing. Got off bike, and my legs still feel like they are pumping up and down. Never felt that way before. Even hours later, still sort of have that sensation. Weird.

I may do most of my winter training on this. Good workout, almost no maintenance (may burn up some brake pads), workout in shorter time (sort of).

Anyone do longer rides on fixed gear, like 100 miles? That sounds intriguing. (HH, you got my respect of going 150 miles with one gear - holy cow.)

Nov 15, 2001 7:50 AM
The all mighty Doug Sloan has spoken..... now everyone will be converting to fixed. The last bastion of coolness on a bike is gone. Can the questions on how to convert a bike, what gearing to use, best workouts, and how treat the resulting scrapes and flesh wounds be far behind?
Nov 15, 2001 8:02 AM
You mean you knew about this and were keeping it a secret? Holding out on us?

I would think we'd all want everyone to join in the fun. What the heck does "cool" have to do with it? It's fun.

Miss M is nuts about fixed.MB1
Nov 15, 2001 7:51 AM
Monday we did our 4th fixte century this year. Long rides on fixtes are much harder since you can never really rest although you sort of learn to "coast" on slight downhills. Steep downhills are a real workout unless you brake pretty hard.

Another thing that is odd is getting back on a free bike after spending time on a fixed. You keep expecting the pedals to keep coming around and it feels really odd that they don't.

I just recently put a freewheel on the other side of my hub and have been single speeding-oh it is a lot of fun and much easier than riding fixed. Did you notice how quiet your bike is without derailleurs?

Welcome to the club Doug!
Nov 15, 2001 8:00 AM
Wow. Sounds like fun. Any advice for centuries on fixed?

Know what you mean about no rest. Legs always working. Might just have to stop and get off now and then?

Avoid mountains.MB1
Nov 15, 2001 8:10 AM
It is not going up that is the problem. This last fixte century was the hardest route we done on fixed yet. We rode up to Gettysburg and back-it is fairly rolling the whole way with a few short steep climbs. Perhaps we are getting used to riding fixtes but we felt really good at the end. Sure had to work on the climbs.

Miss M runs a 39X14, I'm using 42X16 and I am pretty comfortable in a 42X17 freewheel. I'm still experimenting with gearing but I have always been a gear freak.

I've got about 2000 miles fixed this year and always want to do more. It is great to ride fixed in town, you actually have a lot more control over your speed and it is nice to not even think about shifting.

I suppose the best advise is to relax while you are riding fixed-don't fight yourself and it will be a lot easier. I guess that is the point of getting some off-season fixed miles.
Nov 15, 2001 10:40 AM
I plan do do Solvang on the century this year. I think it will make it a little more interesting.
Nov 15, 2001 11:41 AM
Solvang would be ok, but that "wall" around 80 miles might be pretty darn tough. Ask HH.

Nov 15, 2001 2:36 PM
Don't forget the free mud bath at mile 15 - lota very unhappy campers with temporary latte fade paint jobs. Wifey didn't see any humor in it - but I sure did. Still, it's no biggie and it's only about 4,400' of fairly easy climbing. Make sure you hang around afterwards and get the gals with the flowers sticking out of their helmets to show you their tattoos after they've had a few beers. Highly entertaining.
Nov 15, 2001 2:53 PM
Yes, I got the Roubaix mud treatment on my nearly new C-40 this year. That was interesting. What was really intersting was to see riders later on who had no mud on them whatsoever. Huh? There was no avoiding it. I found it was much better to fall back and not draft - much of the mud came from riders ahead.

If HH could do it on the 40 pound Swine and one gear, I think I could on a 18 pound track bike. Just can't coast down the big hills and make up time, though. For me, some of the funnest parts of rides are the big descents. I'd say riding the fixie would add an hour to the ride.

We must have taken off too soon. I always do that, and miss the fun stuff. My tradeoff for doing these out of town rides is getting my butt home again as quickly as possible.

Nov 15, 2001 3:08 PM
Well, wifey made me hose her bike down - she's "deathly allergic" to any form of terra firma and calls me Mr. Piggy. So mid way through the ride her Holland looked like it just came from the shop while mine looked like it just came from the CX races.

Here's a concept - your wife doesn't know exaclty when you finished the ride so who's to say you didn't "come right home" when you were done? Sounds like your sense of guilt is rearing it's ugly head - same thing happens with my surfing buds. She almost prefers me to hang in town as opposed to dragging a bunch of dirtballs like myself home only to make a big mess in the kitchen.

Post ride beer and chatting with foks is half the reason for doing the organized rides in my mind. Of course my single bud did the same thing by splitting and totally missed a *very* interesting (2 vs. 1) opportunity - he just had to get back to SF to try and meet women. Other trick is to drag the little lady along - course that could be dangerous: leaving her alone in a gucci towne like Solvang with a credit card and all those little botique shops...
ya, but she's not totally un-bike-savyDog
Nov 15, 2001 3:12 PM
She knows it won't take me 8 hours to do 100 miles. I guess I could bonk, though, right?

She did go to the Central Coast Double and Terrible Two. She had fun there. I don't have to worry about her spending in the slightest. In fact, I almost beg her to, trying to even things up a bit.

Whoa, the Central Coast and Terrible 2? I'd say she knowsMB1
Nov 15, 2001 4:51 PM
something about bikes. Maybe she would enjoy riding along with you on your fixte-her with gears-she could make you suffer for a change.

BTW I love the Central Coast Double-trying to figure out a way to fit it into next years schedule. Got lost there one year and ended up doing an extra 30-no fun at all.
she didn't rideDog
Nov 15, 2001 5:25 PM
she shopped

That's a lotta shopping, did she do some wine tasting too? nmMB1
Nov 16, 2001 5:11 AM
Should be do-able ...Humma Hah
Nov 15, 2001 5:52 PM
The Big Climb around 80 miles I rode even with my blown knee until it pitched up to about a 10% grade for the last 350 ft of climbing or so at the top. The knee hurt too much to stand-climb that, but most folks with derailleurs were barely climbing it any faster than I was pushing. Most of the climb is a very mild 2% grade that just goes on interminably.

I also pushed a few shorter but steep hills after that. I rode the rest. Of 104.4 miles, all but a couple of miles were perfectly ridable with 42/18 gearing, and I could probably have ridden almost all of what remained if not for the bum knee.
Don't forget Humma runs 26" steel wheels. 42X16 ought toMB1
Nov 16, 2001 5:10 AM
be fine for Solvang on a light track bike. I'd be more bothered by the winds than the climbs. Of course the wind doesn't always blow but the hills will always be there.
... on really fat tires ...Humma Hah
Nov 16, 2001 5:25 AM
I've not been able to get any of you to provide me with actual tire circumfrences on your road wheels, but I believe a set of 700c wheels with 20 mm tires are only about .25" larger diameter than the cruiser's, and might actually fit on the bike. That's hardly enough diameter change to tell.

Its the 6-pound weight savings on rear wheel, 5 pounds on the front, that would be the most noticable.
2 words..."Rolling Resistance". nmMB1
Nov 16, 2001 5:37 AM
The cruiser out-coasts your Bianchi!Humma Hah
Nov 16, 2001 5:06 PM
I thought we put that to rest in St. Mary's County. The one thing the cruiser could consistently do was roll just a little faster downhill, even with those fat tires with 63 psi in them. They're bound to be a little draggier than your road tires, but not so much the extra weight of me and my iron horse couldn't overcome it.

Yup, half a second faster on the downhills, anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes slower on the uphills. Its the WEIGHT and the aero drag of sitting upright that really hold that thing back, plus the lack of gearing.
re: Fixed gear is great!John-d
Nov 15, 2001 7:53 AM
40 years ago when I was a club racer, I used a fixed gear bike all winter, Nov - March. Rode on a 66" gear. it teaches you all the bike skills you need. In fact even now I ride my geared bike in the manner of a fixed. You will know what that means if you stick with it.

I think this is one of those things that should be compulsary, like car drivers spending time on two wheels.

You got me thinking.....
Interesting account. Question.scottfree
Nov 15, 2001 7:54 AM
Great details. I've always wondered what fixed gear FELT like, and I think you nailed it. I have an old beater I'm thinking about converting.

One big question: What about knees? Especially when you 'resist' the pedals to slow the bike, do you feel torque-y pressure on your knees? I'm wondering if those of us with sketchy knees would be flirting with trouble.
no knee issuesDog
Nov 15, 2001 7:58 AM
the resistance part is when your leg is somewhat extended, not at an acute angle; sort of like stepping down and bearing you weight on one leg; no problem here; you can always brake, too

No knee problems with a sane gear size...Alex-in-Evanston
Nov 15, 2001 8:18 AM
but spinning down a hill on a fixie will really hurt the crotch. Once I get over 150rpm I start bouncing all over the place, which is why I like a bit more padding on my saddle for the fixie. I have even used my old specialized BG saddle with good results on the track bike, after having dismissed it as useless and painful on the roadie.

Nov 15, 2001 10:43 AM
I ride SS mtn or road almost everyday, so I don't get very sore. But, after two days of fixie riding I could barely walk! My ankles were sore from 'braking' on the dowhills and the back of my thighs hurt. New muscle group to hurt, I suppose.

Also, I met a lot of guys on the road who race/raced track. I had no idea there was such a big track scene. I might check it out sometime.

And, my riding buddies said I looked hilarious spinning like mad on the downhills. Ha ha, jokes on me.
Miss M says it is like riding a Spinning bike.MB1
Nov 15, 2001 8:00 AM
If you try to slow down a lot by backpressure you are going to have some new sore muscles.

Sheldon Brown has a lot of information about riding fixed on his site. I believe he feels that you shouldn't backpedal a lot as it is harder on your knees. That is what the front brake is for-you really don't need or want a rear brake on a fixte. I've got a rear brake on my Street Dog and using it while fixed makes it too easy to lock up the rear wheel-a very bad thing on a fixte.
now you should try a fixed skid world record just 4 usdupe
Nov 15, 2001 8:25 AM
let us know how far you get.

apparently the record stands at 479 feet. now that is bike hooliganism in its purist form.

and go into much detail (i promise not to laugh if you crash)
no stupid bike tricksDog
Nov 15, 2001 8:36 AM
I try to avoid the stupid bike tricks, at least the intentional ones.

One of my favorites I saw on television recently, highest speed wheelie. I think it was over 80 mph behind a van. Then, did a front wheel wheelie, too. Nuts.

exception: try a track stand now -NMTig
Nov 15, 2001 10:14 AM
There was a guy...Ed
Nov 15, 2001 8:56 AM
that did this- maybe the same one- who went for a long skid but had to stop. Why did he stop? Puncture- he wore a flat spot in his tire that went entirely through the tire and into the tube.
re: Fixed gear is great!brider
Nov 15, 2001 8:46 AM
Great account -- reminds me of some of my first fixie rides. I do, however, have a rear brake on my fixie (actually a custom TiCycles Softride track bike, with brake mounts front and rear). If you don't try to resist with the legs while using the rear brake, there's no problem with locking up the rear wheel. I use a single speed freewheel on this bike for my commutes. A tip for high cadence pedalling (ala downhill) -- consciously move the thghs fast using hip flexors and glutes, but keep everything below that loose. Don't use the quads and keep the ankles loose. That will help.
no kiddingEd
Nov 15, 2001 8:56 AM
Nobody in their right mind would freewheel without a rear brake!
no kiddingbrider
Nov 15, 2001 10:10 AM
I use the rear brake even with the fixed wheel and have never had a problem with the rear wheel locking up. I thought that was clear from my earlier post, but apparently not.
I love my new Fixie, too!DAS
Nov 15, 2001 10:15 AM
I just picked up a Soma Rush. 44:18, Fixed on one side, free on the other. Front brake only right now. Running fixed. It's great for commuting, and I've taken it in the hills already. Fun! So pretty, too.
another picDAS
Nov 15, 2001 10:16 AM
rear hub
Peanut Butter Wrench!DAS
Nov 15, 2001 10:18 AM
I got a flat last night. Thank goodness I had this tool with me for the track nuts!
somebody just learned how to post pics!xyz
Nov 15, 2001 10:36 AM
oh joy
Bikes sure look clean without derailleurs, don't they. nmMB1
Nov 15, 2001 5:22 PM
Tell me about the crankzelig1
Nov 16, 2001 1:34 AM
Who makes it, is it for single rings or adapted for single rings, and can it be had in 170mm?

It's a hoot, isn't it?Greg Taylor
Nov 15, 2001 2:25 PM
Glad to see that you like riding "fixed". It is a bit different, isn't it?

I find that I stay seated much more than on a "regular" bike, even up most hills. Staying seated and honking up hills has done wonders for leg strength (mine is geared 46 x 16) and I still generate opportunities to "spin" on my commute into work. One thing that I really like about riding fixed is that you get a good sense of the physical forces that are at work when you ride a bike. Try to stop pedaling -- WHAM! Your leg is yanked down and you are called to the task at hand. Want to go fast? Simple, you have to pedal faster. Want to stop? Say hello to Mr. Momentum, and find out how weak your legs really are.

I got a BIG physics lesson about stored energy and momentum on one of my first rides on the fixie. I was out of the saddle, sprinting up a hill, when a foot came unclipped. In the fleeting moment between the shoe coming out of the pedal and me hitting the pavement, my natural expectation was, of course, that the whole shebang would stop rotating and I could regroup and recover. No dice, for obvious reasons. So there I was, one leg up in the air, balancing on the other leg that was still clipped in...when the crankarm came around, up and over, with enough force to catapult all 6'0" 190 lbs. of me over the bars. I wound up with a moderate concussion, and a healthy respect for the physical forces that a bike can generate.
Bless MB1 for promoting fixie centuries around here ...Humma Hah
Nov 15, 2001 5:43 PM
... I'm positively lucky to have discovered, thanks to a poster here, MB1's little fixie century starting just 12 miles from here. On the last one, MB1 and Miss M, plus two other riders, were on their fixies, and averaged around 16 mph.

I wussed out on the cruiser, shortcutting and finishing with 88 miles (the headwinds were brutal at the start of the second half, dropping me down to about 10 mph, and I knew my wife would be upset if I got home an hour later than expected.

But I coasted a lot. I've never tried a fixie anywhere but a velodrome, and agree it would be sportin' on a century, though I could probably do it just fine with a little training. My big oops is, at the end of a standing sprint, forgetting it won't coast as I sit down.
fixed or free ???CT1
Nov 17, 2001 8:09 PM
I see LOT's of negatives to a fixed single .... anyone care to convince me??? I'm going to "rebuild" an old bike as a single speed but will VERY likely set it up with a freewheel type hub. Oh, I live where there are lots of hills and don't like the idea of being locked on the downhills.

learn to pedal fastDog
Nov 18, 2001 1:16 PM
That's half the effect - you learn to pedal really fast; it keeps you busy, no coasting and letting that heartrate drop to 70. Get more workout in less time. Plus, you don't need a back brake.

Remember, it's a training bike - certainly not the quickest way to cover a route.

You can have both. Get a hube threaded on both sides; put fixed on one side, and a freewheel on the other.

flip-flop help neededCT1
Nov 18, 2001 2:13 PM
I've done a fair bit of net research and it does seem like the flip-flp hub is the most useful approach.

HOWEVER, I can't find a source for these hubs that will give any info.... like hub width, gear availability, etc. Most have way too many spoke holes for my taste also. Are these available with 28 holes???

HELP...... Any suggestions for hub and gears that will work with an old 70's TREK frame with horizontal dropouts??? I need names and model #'s .... hahahaha.

flip-flop helpJack S
Nov 19, 2001 6:54 AM
Old track standard 110mm spacing- sometimes found on super cheap flip-flops (Sovos)- and modern track hubs have 120mm rear spacing. Typically they are 36-hole high flange (you want strong wheels for track and fixed riding), but occasionally low flange and 32, 28, even 24-holers are available (Campy, Phil Wood, DuraAce- you will pay premium price for these!). Since they are bolt-ons with solid axles you can add/subtract spacers for proper spacing. Or just stick in in ride around and let it cold set- that old steel trek in prob 126mm. As for gears, track cogs are typically 12-18 or so, although other options can be found (22 is the highest I've seen). Single freewheels come from the BMX world. FG riders often will use a 16, 17, or 18 cog (depending on desired gearing and 'ring, of course). As for sources it sounds like you need to brush up on your search engine skills... There are lots of real track shops online, line Business Cycles, World Class Cycles, Gene Spicer, Polly at Cycles Canada advetises FG stuff on newsgroups, Bill Ron Bikes, even Harris. Any LBS can also order from Quality. Go to your shop and flip through their catalog- they have a small section on track stuff.
can't help muchDog
Nov 19, 2001 6:55 AM
I'm new to this, so I can't help with specifics. There are far more knowledgeable people here who can. Meanwhile, check out this site:

subscribe here, tooDog
Nov 19, 2001 7:12 AM

lots of good info

"I'm virtually free to do whatever I want,
But I try to remember so is everybody else..."
-- Todd Snider
because King Dog says so.nfm
Nov 19, 2001 6:01 AM