Fixed Gear Bikes

Fixed Gear Bikes

About Fixed Gear Bikes

Fixed gear bikes are generally regarded to be the most simple and robust bikes that one can buy. At Single Speed Co we agree but rather than just use any old fixed gear bike range we have found the best brands on offer and collected them here.

What is a fixed gear bike?

Some say a fixed gear bike is the truest form of bicycling. You get out what you put in through your pedals and you become one with the bike and with the road. But before we get to revelations of hardcore fixie riders, let's put all the evangelical sorcery aside and look at some facts instead.

Quite frankly, a fixed gear bike is a bike with no gears (or one gear) where the rear sprocket is fixed to the rear wheel and does not allow the rider to freewheel. The rider must move their pedals at all times while the bike is in motion.

No doubt many relate fixed gear bikes only to bike messenger punks and snobbish hipsters but you should know a fixed gear bike wasn't invented by a bearded bitcoin trader in Ray-Bans drinking Club Matte while high on micro-dosing a questionable substance.

Do fixed gear bikes have brakes?

Yes. All of the city fixed gear bikes we sell in our store have two separate working braking systems and we highly encourage our customers to use them as intended. There are a few exceptions for purpose-built criterium and track racing bikes where brakes do not apply and these bikes should be used in the designed environment. 

A short history of a fixed gear bike

Fixed gear bike, actually, was the first bike to be around right after the famous penny bike. Penny bikes had a huge front wheel as they did not have a chain and the size was needed to gain enough speed. Once a chain was invented, the power of the chainring could be driven to a smaller rear sprocket fixed to the wheel. And fixed to the wheel it was. Before a freewheel was invented and popularised, all bikes were fixed-wheel bikes. Or fixed gear bikes as they are deemed.

The invention of a bike chain and realisation you can have two wheels the same size brought us a bicycle in a form we know it today and apart of few inventions such as a freewheels in 1869 and some knobs to shift the gears much later, it hasn't changed much since.

Freewheel slowly started to take over the cycling world after it was invented in 1869 but by then cycling was big already and velodromes had started popping up around Europe. Although commuters mostly accepted the new invention and enjoyed coasting on their new fancy rides, it really took some time for the new invention to wear in and the old classic lived on.

There was a nationwide postal service operating on fixed gear bikes in the US and the sportive cycling was quickly developing in Europe. A fixed gear bike helps to keep momentum while pedalling and shreds off some weight off the bike and therefore allows to gain greater speed which is why these bikes were and still are used for track cycling world and fixed gear legacy lived on. Even the famous Tour de France was ridden mostly on fixed gear well into the 1900s.

Fixed gear courier bikes

While the US postal service was pretty much run on the fixie bike throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and largely forgotten with the car taking over the run, the legacy resurrected later on. The bike became a weapon of choice for bike couriers on the streets of New York. Perhaps, it was the simplicity of mechanics, perhaps it was the connectivity between a human and the machine, or perhaps it was a combination of both, but a fixed gear bike became a cultural staple between bike couriers. 

Being an extremely demanding profession in both, physical and mental ability bicycle couriering used to collect a rather strongly characterized crowd of people who tend to seek an edge of extremes. The high-risk job demanded to manoeuvre through the heavy traffic on the streets of NY in the 70s and 80s with no cycling infrastructure delivering goods ASAP and this crowd found a way to get a kick out of the adrenaline the job had on offer. The long hours demanded an extreme durability from the tool of the job and a fixed gear bike could offer just that.

Fixed Gear Alleycat Races

Alleycat races were born as a competitive racing between bicycle couriers. Considering the rebellious attitude of the crowd it comes as a no surprise the alleycat races were illegally organised events participated by daredevils often balancing on an extreme edge between life and death while navigating the set course through heavy traffic and on busy roads. 

Nowadays alleycat races are more often seen as organised events, often sponsored. Disciplines usually include fixed gear drag race, trackstand competition, a race against the clock on a set track through the streets or a courier race where participants have to find certain checkpoints through the city as fast as possible.

In recent years fixed gear criterium race series have arisen as a popular sport which has initially grown out of the alleycat races. 

Fixed Gear Criterium Race

Crit races are held on a bendy closed circuit track set on ordinary streets in an urban environment. The race always puts on a great show as only brakeless fixed gear bikes are allowed, just like track cycling. Many bends and the high speed in combination with a mass start often results in rather spectacular crashes making the race very popular to watch. 

The racing series Red Hook Crit, for instance, is held in Brooklyn since 2008 officially and was run as an alleycat race before that. Since it was officialised, the race has grown into a world series criterium race with events also held in Milan, Barcelona and London. 

Anyone can sign up and take part in a criterium race considering you pass the elimination events but the top positions are usually held by team racers. Some of the manufacturers we represent such as State Bicycle Co. and Polo and Bike also run their own racing teams and actively take part in the criterium races.