Fixed vs. Geared Bikes: Difference & How to Choose the Best for You

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In recent years the popularity of fixed-gear bikes, or “fixies” as they are often called, has waned. I remember a time back in the late 90s-early 2000s when you couldn’t walk through a bike shop without falling over a fixed-gear bike, but sadly those days have long gone; or have they?

It would seem that the “fixie” is making somewhat of a comeback, especially amongst young hipsters from bigger cities like New York, London, Sydney, and my home city of Tokyo. As a matter of fact, fixies have exploded in popularity in Tokyo, with every bike courier and uber eats delivery person seemingly riding one. 

But you might be surprised to learn that even some of the most experienced cyclists have never actually ridden a fixed-gear bike before. I’ve ridden fixies on the track, and boy, are they a lot of fun, but riding a fixie can be downright terrifying on the road with traffic and pedestrians.
So why would you want to own a fixie? And are there differences between a fixie and a geared bike? You bet there are. So keep reading on as we explain all this plus more in this comprehensive guide to “everything fixies.”

fixed vs geared bike

In-Short: What Are The Main Differences Between Fixed-Gear Bikes and Geared Bikes?

When it comes to the main differences between fixies and geared bikes, there are probably many more than you actually think. 

Fixed-Gear Bikes


  • A great way to build aerobic fitness
  • An even better way to build super strong legs
  • Very safe to ride in tricky weather conditions
  • Become “one” with the bike
  • Cheaper than your regular road or mountain bike
  • Requitres little to no maintenance


  • Not the best for long rides (unless you’re Lance Armstrong)
  • No brakes; that’s right, NO BRAKES
  • Almost impossible for beginner cyclists to ride

Geared Bikes


  • Multiple gears make riding a joy 
  • Easy to ride on any terrain 
  • Ergonomic position
  • You can coast; super convenient
  • Perfect for longer rides 
  • Ideal for bike couriers and city commuting


  • More moving parts can mean more trouble
  • More maintenance is required, compared to fixies
  • Replacing parts can get pricey

Fixie: What is it, Pros, Cons

There are many definitions of what exactly a fixed-gear bike or “fixie” is but in short; fixies are simply bikes in which you can’t coast. If your bike is moving, so are your legs. Fixies are also referred to as bikes with single gears, but this is erroneous. 

On the other hand, a single-speed bike only comes with one gear, one chainring, and one rear sprocket. But as I’ve mentioned defining each and every bike as a fixed-gear bike is inaccurate. A genuine fixie is easy to spot because they have no freewheel. This means that if you want to move the bike, you can’t just coast; you’ll have to use pedal power.

fixed gear bike girl

However, a single-speed comes with a freewheel which allows riders to take a break and coast if they so wish. In this instance, you can say that single-speed bikes act just like a normal road or mountain bike. You can also purchase what is called a “flip-flop hub,” which allows riders to “flip” the hub between fixed and/or “freewheel.”

Generally speaking, the vast majority of fixies now come with a flip-flop hub connected on one side of the wheel, allowing you to ride your bike as either a fixed-gear bike or flip the hub and transform your bike into a single-speed bike.

Pros of owning a fixie

  • Comparatively less expensive than a road bike
  • Fewer components mean less maintenance
  • Builds good aerobic fitness
  • Looks cool 

Cons of owning a fixie

  • You can’t “coast”
  • There are generally no brakes on fixies
  • Dangerous for beginners

Geared Bike: What is it, Pros, Cons

As their name suggests, geared bikes come with multiple gears allowing the rider to choose or “find” the gear that suits their riding style and the road they are riding. Going Uphill? Simple, gear up, and away you go. What about riding fast? No problem, simply gear down and smash on the pedals. 

Geared bikes offer incredible flexibility in terms of riding styles and positions, and because so many gears are available, different people can ride the same bike

long bike ride along the sea

Geared bikes, however, tend to be much more expensive than “fixies”; that’s because geared bikes have more moving parts and components than a fixie. Because these components are constantly in use, they tend to wear out much quicker, meaning they need to be maintained and, at some point, replaced, which can get expensive. 

They Include Bikes Like:

  • Road bikes
  • Mountain Bikes
  • Kids bikes

My daughter has a geared road bike for kids, which she absolutely loves. She loves riding lightning-quick downhill, and yet she still has the option of coasting if she likes.

We live in a very mountainous area of Japan, and coasting comes in handy, especially after a long ride home. Geared bikes are perfect for mountainous regions because it’s easy to grab another gear and get over the top of any mountain with relative ease, well, compared to a fixie.

Pros of owning a geared bike

  • Changing gears is simple and efficient
  • You can “coast” 
  • Ideal for fun, casual rides with friends or family
  • Perfect for the serious road racer or mountain biker
  • An ideal commuter for the flat roads of the city

Cons of owning a geared bike

  • Vastly more expensive than fixies
  • More moving parts mean more maintenance

Detailed Comparison 

Ok, so why would you want to own a fixed or geared bike? And what are the main differences and similarities, if any at all? Many of you reading this article might be unaware of the differences between these two popular bikes, so let’s delve a bit deeper and find out exactly what all the fuss is about.

Practical and Simple

Single-speed bikes are generally equipped with much wider chains, particularly compared to bikes that need derailleurs. Here’s the thing, though, if you want to customize your bike, you can easily swap out heaps of parts and components such as brake levers, cassettes, and derailleurs.

This leaves you with a bike that is durable, robust, and, most importantly, looks cool; it’s also “your bike,” and the fact you can “pimp your ride” so easily means that you’re much more likely to take care of it.

Geared bikes are practical and easy to use. Whether you’re a beginner cyclist or a seasoned veteran, riding a road or mountain bike is a piece of cake. Once you understand the gearing system, geared bikes make it easy to ride on flat, uphill, or downhill roads, and let’s not forget they have front and back disc brakes, too, making them exceptionally safe to ride. 

Cost-Effective For The Budget Conscious.

Do you have a tight budget you need to stick to? Don’t worry; you’re not alone; most of us do. Would you believe that a tight budget is one of the main reasons many people opt for a single or fixed-gear bike?

These types of bikes have fewer moving parts, and as such less can go wrong. This results in a durable and robust bike and keeps your hard-earned cash in your pocket right where it should be. 

Most fixes are well under the $1000 price point, but that being said, as with any type of bike, more expensive models are available such as track bikes or those from chic, high-end brands, such as the fixed-gear bike Bugatti, costing a whopping $40,000. 

Alternatively, geared bikes are more costly, but that being said, just as with any bike, you can find a lot of good deals among reputable dealers like TREK, Giant, Canyon, and Cannondale. Geared bikes tend to be for the more “serious” rider, and prices can balloon out of control if you’re not careful. Many new bikes cost as much as a small car. 

Weight Is Everything In Cycling

Believe it or not, some cyclists actually prefer to ride fixed-gear bikes for specialized hillclimb events; this is because, generally speaking, fixies have fewer components meaning a lighter bike; but that’s not always the case.

As a matter of fact, some of the lower-end fixies and single-speed bikes are made from steel which, although it’s cheaper than alloy and carbon, its also a lot heavier. Geared bikes these days tend to be made from either carbon fiber or high-grade lightweight aluminum. Typically speaking, the lighter the bike, the more expensive it is. 

With that being said, if you have your heart set on building a truly super lightweight climber, then a fixed-gear bike might well be your best option. Remember, fewer components and parts mean a lighter bike, perfect for your next hill climb challenge. 

Bike Handling And Fitness Capacity

OK, this is one of my favorite benefits of owning a fixed or single-gear bike; you can drastically improve your fitness and your pedaling technique. Although fixies are challenging to master, they can be a great way to teach beginners correct pedaling techniques, so instead of pedaling squares, they are actually pedaling circles.

Generally speaking, fixed-gear bikes give the rider no option to “coast,” which means that if you want to go anywhere, you have to move your legs. RESULT? Massive leg muscles that will have you smashing out the power and riding around looking like a World Champion Track racer. 

You can make it tougher to ride on a geared bike by selecting the biggest chainring at the front and the smallest cog on the back; this is referred to as “biggie smalls.” I do this frequently, especially on long flat roads where you can lay down the power. 

Fixies also teach you to ride and produce power at different cadences, such as descending when your cadence is higher or climbing when your cadence is lower. This simultaneously improves your pedaling technique making it smoother and more efficient. One final benefit is fixies force you to improve your bike handling skills, especially through corners, because you have to keep pedaling without “grounding a pedal.”

Ideal For The Colder Winter Months

With less that can go wrong, fixies make the ideal bike for those cold wintery months. You’re much less likely to experience a mechanical, which is the last thing you want during the middle of winter. 

Many cities, mine included, dump large quantities of salt on the roads during winter, which can damage expensive geared bike components. Still, because fixies don’t have many of these parts, they are durable, robust, and reliable and make the ideal winter bike.

Easy To Maintain

Let’s be honest, what cyclist doesn’t want a bike that requires less maintenance? I know I do. Fixies and single-speed bikes require little to no maintenance, and the maintenance that is needed can be done at home.

As long as you regularly wash, degrease and lube your chain, your fixie and the single-geared bike should last a long time. Cleaning your bike only takes 5 minutes, and it’s well worth the effort in the long run. And besides,, who wants to ride a dirty, squeaking bike?

Geared bikes need to be maintained and washed on a regular basis to avoid prematurely wearing out expensive components. I highly recommend spending ten minutes after each ride to give your bike a quick wash to get the dirt and grime off the moving parts. Once a week, you can give it a more thorough wash.  

Stand Out From The Crowd

There is no denying that fixies are sexy bikes that draw the attention of even the most devoted and passionate “roadie.” Apart from being relatively cheap, fixies and single-speeds have that “WOW FACTOR” making you stand out from the crowd. Sounds like a win-win for most people.

That being said, brands like Pinarello, TREK, and Specialized have some pretty cool-looking bikes too. They’ll just cost you an arm and a leg. 

Which Bike Is Best For Me?

If you’re new to cycling, I recommend you steer clear of getting a fixie until you have enough confidence and riding experience, especially in the busy streets of big metropolis cities. Fixies typically have no braking ability, which is the last thing a panicked newcomer to cycling wants to deal with in peak-hour traffic.

Fixed-Geared Bikes Are Perfect For:

  • People who want to build their fitness
  • Riders that are trying to improve their bike handling skills
  • Cyclists who want a reliable and durable bike
  • People who want to look “hip”
  • Those riders on a tight budget

On the other hand, geared bikes allow riders to coast and are much easier to handle and maneuver than fixies. Geared bikes also have front and rear disc brakes, making them the perfect option for beginners to cycling.

Geared Bikes Are Perfect For:

  • Riders who want the option of coasting
  • Those cyclists who are serious about the sport
  • People who commute to work or school 
  • Delivery cyclists or bike couriers 
  • Mountain bikers


fixed gear vs geared bike featured

Although geared bikes and fixies may look similar, and they are in many ways, there are also plenty of differences that help to separate the two bikes. 

Fixies, for instance, are a much better option if you plan on building your fitness and developing your bike handling skills. Geared bikes offer the best of both worlds, building your fitness but also allowing riders to “coast” and take a well-earned rest when needed.

As with any bike or expensive purchase, you need to factor in the style of riding you’ll mostly be doing; then, there’s the fun part of choosing a bike that fits your budget. 
Your skill level also plays a vital role in which bike you choose, with the geared bike being a much better alternative than your fixie, particularly for beginners.

Brenton Barker

Brenton holds a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Delaware and was the former Head Advisor for the Japanese Government's Sports Science Institute. Brenton currently consults with several Professional Athletes and clients in Self- Accountability, Health, and Goal Orientation.

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