Riding A Fixie – Making The Transition
The fixed gear bike is the most basic form of cycling and many people think it’s the freest form of cycling too. What you’ve got is a bike with one gear and no coasting ability – the pedals turn continuously and as a result, serious speed is generated! A fixed gear bicycle is a track bike but luckily all road legal ‘fixies’ are armed with a front brake. Learning to ride a fixie is pretty challenging; firstly, you’ve got to force your mind to forget what coasting is; secondly, you’ve got to learn to pedal all the time; and thirdly, you’ve got to be prepared to get it wrong at first!
Here, we’ve listed some top fixie riding tips for any cyclist hoping to make the transition to a fixie! Fixies aren’t easy to ride at first but with these tips, time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it and enjoy everything that the fixed gear bicycle has to offer!
Helmets are up for debate…for regular bikes! On a fixie, consider a helmet mandatory. Why? Because they’ve got the power to throw you from your pedals, they’re harder to bring to a stop and of course, they go pretty damn quick too. If you’re used to riding sans helmet, you should definitely wear one for fixie riding…’cause you’re going to fall at some point…
So, you’ve got a fixie and you want to take it for a spin? Wait until the time is right! With all new toys, you’ll want to take it for a ride as soon as you can but trust us when we say that patience is a virtue. Unless you have a magic ‘forget’ button for your brain, you’re going to have to recondition your mind to the whole ‘this bike won’t coast’ business. Start by practicing at quiet times of the day and away from anything that remotely resembles traffic. Your usual instincts will only hinder you at this stage in the game. Wait until the conditions are safe before trying out your new bike or you might hurt yourself!
Leave them at home. That means no headphones, handle bar accessories like smartphones, bike computers or anything else that might direct your attention away from the matter at hand. Of course, when you’ve got fixie riding nailed, you can add a few accessories (at your own risk) but while you’re learning, you should keep your focus on the bike and the road at all times!
Certainly. For the beginner, you should limit your riding to designated cycle paths and areas where you’ll be separated from motorized traffic. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ride anywhere – it just means that for your first week, you should familiarize yourself with your fixed gear bike in a forgiving environment. Riding in proper cycling lanes keeps unwanted obstacles like cars, lorries and buses away from you and at a safe distance too!
Even if for no reason: learn how to slow and stop a fixie – it’s not nearly as simple as on a geared bike! Firstly, you do have a front brake to play with but learning a few more techniques can really help you control your speed. We found this little video (see below) to help illustrate some of the moves but the only way to know how to bring your bike to a stop is to take the time to practice. Find a secluded area, build some speed and learn how to bring your bike under control – remember, you ride the bike, the bike shouldn’t be riding you!
If you watched the video above, you’ll see the demo rider standing to help bring the bike to a stop…that’s right, he only stands when trying to bring the bike under control. When you’re moving forward, whatever you do, resist the temptation to stand. The pedals will be carrying a lot of force and they can easily throw you off – unless you’re riding clipped in, then you’re just going find yourself falling over unless you’re careful! If you’re not clipped in, try riding relatively slowly and lifting your weight onto one pedal – this will show you how much force those pedals have!
Ride as fast as the road allows and ride as fast as you can comfortable stop: that’s the moral of this story. Fixed gear bikes are great for speed and that’s why they’re used on the track…but the road and the track are two very different things. Learning to maintain a comfortable speed is the real art to riding a fixed gear bike, so take your time when perfecting your optimum speed routine!
Expect A Fall
No-one like to fall over but for your first time on a fixie, it’s worth being prepared for one. Luckily, if you’re wearing the right gear, practicing in a secluded area and not trying to race anywhere, any fall that you might encounter should be relatively painless and an important learning curve. We’re not saying that you will fall but it’s always good to anticipate one on your first attempt!
- Lubricate your chain
- Keep an eye on your chain tension
- Set your saddle at the correct height
- Watch a few instructional videos before trying it out on the road!