How Do Fixed Gear Bikes Work? 

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A fixed-gear bike, or “fixie” as they are affectionally known, is a bicycle that does not have the ability to “coast” because there is no freewheel mechanism. Bikes have changed drastically over the years, but one thing that has remained the same is that track bikes still remain fixed-gear bikes to this day.

It hasn’t been until the last 15 to 20 years or so that the term “fixie” has become a part of the cycling pop culture. Fixies are incredibly popular with hipsters who commute to work in the major cities like New York and San Fransico. 

The main reason fixies are so popular is that they are:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Less expensive than a road or mountain bike. Check our best budget fixed gear bike list!
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to ride because they require no gear changes and 
  • Look cool

In short, fixies make the riding experience simple, stress-free, and a lot of fun

fixed vs geared bike

How Do Fixed-Gear Bikes Actually Work?

Typical road and mountain bikes have a freewheel mechanism that allows the pedals to stay motionless while the bike is still moving; in cycling, we call this “coasting.” In essence, it’s just another way of saying, “you’re taking a rest.”

Now, when it comes to a fixed-gear bike or “fixie,” the drive sprocket is directly attached to the rear wheel, which basically means the pedals are also linked. As you ride a fixie, the pedals are constantly in motion meaning your legs are doing double overtime (a great way to build leg power)

Now, what you might not know, is that fixies come with no brakes meaning the only way to slow down is by reversing the motion of your pedaling stroke. Simply put, the only way a fixie will move is when you use the horsepower of your legs. Because the drive sprocket is attached to the back wheel also means that if you have the skillset, you can ride in reverse; a neat little party trick.

Typically speaking, most fixed-gear bikes have a single-speed. You could add a derailleur, but that would take away from the romanticism of the fixie, not to mention it would also add slack to the chain, causing all sorts of mechanical issues. 

fixed gear bike girl

What Are Fixies Primarily Used For?

Track cycling is one of the most exciting aspects of cycling. Professional cyclists fly around the velodrome at breakneck speeds on bikes that look like they’re straight out of a science-fiction movie. But how many of you new to cycling know that these “track bikes” are actually fixed-gear bikes?

Although rarely used now, in years gone past, many professional riders would rely solely on their fixie bike during the winter months to help develop their pedaling technique and improve their power output. Fixed-gear bikes are also commonly used on the track for time-trials, a form of racing that involves racing against the clock rather than other riders. 

Back in the day, most riders only had one bike, so they would strip them down and use them on the road for time-trials and even go to the trouble of attaching mudguards and fenders so they could be used as a daily commuter or for club rides.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s – early 70s that fixies started to be “phased” out in favor of the more popular road bikes, which had gears and derailleurs, making them much easier to ride and produce better performance and more efficiently too. 

In recent years, the fixies have seen a resurgent comeback of sorts as they are now trendy among young people who reside in the big cities like New York and San Francisco. Fixies are seen as chic and cool because they are somewhat different and unique compared to a regular bike.

Fixies are also popular with bike couriers and delivery riders because they are reliable, durable, and less expensive. Fixies are also light which is another reason they are favored by those who ride bikes to make a living. 

fixed gear bike minimal design

What Are The Benefits and Disadvantages Of Owning A Fixed-Gear Bike?

Let’s take a quick look at the main benefits and disadvantages of owning a fixed-gear bicycle or fixie.

Benefits of owning a fixie

  • Fixies are reliable because they have fewer moving parts
  • Fixed-gear bikes are cheaper than road and mountain bikes
  • They require less maintenance and upkeep
  • They build power in your legs
  • They develop your aerobic fitness
  • Fixies are COOL

Disadvantages of owning a fixie

  • NO BRAKES (although it’s easy to add one)
  • You cant ride up steep hills 
  • You can’t “coast” or take a rest

That’s A Wrap

How Do Fixed Gear Bikes Work?

In summary, although fixies are cool and somewhat unique, they aren’t for everyone. To be honest, for most people, fixies are just not practical for their day-to-day riding. 

If you have plenty of riding experience and use your fixie as a second bike, then they make sense, but other than that, I would be leaving the fixies to the professional track riders and those enthusiasts who just can’t get enough of them. 

Editorial Team

IF-FIT Editorial Team consists of experienced fitness writers and cyclists. Every article has been deeply researched to educate every bike lover.

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