Some debates are meant to go on forever. Milk chocolate or dark? Latte or Americano? Chicken or lamb doner? Same rules apply for Single Speed or Fixed Gear.
Let me make one point clear right away, we are not going to settle this here and now. The split in the society is at times as diverse as the Clinton vs Trump argument but we will look into pros and cons on both sides here.
So aren't they all just fixies?
You would be surprised to find out how much you can get yourself in trouble with this one simple question asked in the wrong place. The term Fixie seems to be carrying a mystery for itself similar to Hipster. Everyone uses the word but no one seems to know what it truly means.
The term Single Speed Bike speaks for itself. It's a bike with one single gear. Or no gears..? Whichever way you look at it, it has two sprockets. One with crank and pedals and another on your rear wheel. So technically both, single speed freewheel bikes and fixed gear bikes are considered single speed bikes.
So are they the same?
No. Freewheel allows you to coast, so a single speed freewheel bike is a simple standard bike with no gears. Good if you like to enjoy the wind while going down a hill. Perfect for nice and easy rides. It's a bicycle and does what it says on the tin.
On a fixed gear bike, the cog is fixed or locked with the rear wheel, meaning they spin together. They are entangled in one motion, rendered in one single unit. If the wheel spins, your pedals will be spinning along with it. You can not coast. The faster your bike moves, the faster you have to spin your pedals.
Why on earth would anyone do it anyway?
Fixed gear bikes have a long history. First bicycles in production were all fixed gear. Freewheel was invented later. You can see Thomas Edison (yes, the world-famous inventor from the 19th century) performing some fixie tricks in THIS VIDEO HERE filmed on his newly invented video camera.
Fixed gear bikes are still widely used in track competition racing, by bicycle acrobats, playing something called Cycle Ball, in criterium races and by bearded hipsters going to coffee shops and farmer's markets (that includes me).
So? Why the hell would anyone do it anyway?
Frankly, get fit or die trying.
Since you have to pedal at all times, fixed gear makes you exercise a lot more than a freewheel bike. It gives no choice. You can even use your leg-power to slow down the bike, especially when going downhill.
It does take some time to get the hang of it and the first couple of weeks can feel like the bike is trying to kill you at all times but hey, once you are used to it it's a whole different world. Your bike becomes literally a connector between you and the road in the purest way possible.
So how do I stop the bloody thing?
Simple, my friend. You put brakes on it.
But I heard fixies have no brakes!
Nor would your car if you'd remove them. All bikes, except special sporting bikes, are provided with two working brakes (front and rear). In the UK fixed wheel cog can be accounted as the rear brake since you can stop the bike that way but legally it does not allow you to remove the front brake.
Ok cool. I want to try both. Can I?
Sure. Most of the single speed bikes in our store are equipped with something called a flip flop hub. It has both, single speed freewheel and fixed gear sprockets fitted, one on each side of the rear hub. That way you can switch between fixed gear and single speed freewheel simply by flipping the rear wheel around.
Cool, where do I get one of these bikes?
Here, just click here.