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Anybody ever ridden a fixed gear?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Last Feb. I put together a bike that was a long time in the making. A fixed gear. There is only one gear -one ring in front (my'ne is a 39), and one cog in back (my'ne is an 18). No need for derailers, and a decreased need for brakes. There is no free wheel. If there were it would be called a single speed rather than a fixed gear. Without the freewheel your rear wheel and cranks are "fixed" together. There is no coasting on one of these bikes. When the bike is rolling so are the cranks/pedals/feet. The faster the bike goes the faster the rider pedals. Its the same idea as a track bike, but the set up is more road bike. Since your feet move with the rear wheel you can actually use back pressure to brake/decellerate. Some testosterone cukes rider theirs without brakes -I don't recomend it. For one thing you cant let the bike go when going down hill, you have to keep applying back pressure to keep control/speed down. Another reason is its not safe. I use a front and rear brake. Combine those with the ability to back pedal and you have great stopping power.
Here is my point. I saw another thread asking if biking had any cross over other than aerobic ability. I think that for those willing to try, the fixed gear has the most cross-over. Riding this bike down hill is almost more difficult than riding it up hill. As a matter of fact, good luck keeping up with a fixed gear in a climb situation. Descending your feet must move faster and faster to keep up with the bike. This is a great way to build up foot speed. Because you cant change gears, you have to use your muscles more for climbs. (one of the ideas is to teach the rider propper spinning skills, otherwise climbing is extremely difficult) The bike also improves upper and lower body seperation. Since the pedals are ALWAYS going, even through corners, the rider no longer shuts off the lower body to coast through a turn while making balancing movements with the upper body.
The final bennefit I can think of, is that once you learn how to ride the bike and how to spin propperly you beging to use your ham strings more and more, even while climbing -hopefully AS MUCH as you use your quads. This helps to balance out the imbalance most people have in strength between their quads and their hamstrings. What does that mean to Johnny Q. Skier? Stronger knees!!!!!
For those interested checkout this website, fixedgeargallery.com. you will see all of the different bikes people have built, and maybe find some inspiration. They will help your skiing.
post #2 of 15
dangerous to recommend fixed gear MTB to occasional cyclists.

anyone considering fixed gear should try SS first, then fixed gear on a soft grassy field if the person digs the SS routine. most folks who know how to ride a bike have NEVER ridden a fixed gear, and have no muscle memory or conception of what it's like to have to be pedaling at all times, nor what it's like to reverse-pressure in your cadence as a braking tool... just too danged difficult.

I agree that fixies are fun and valuable as conditioning tools, but I don't think they're something that anyone but a diehard cyclist would want to try... IMO of course.
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm not at all recomending a MTB fixed gear. Not a good idea. With a little patience, and common sense though, a fixed road bike is a great training tool. They're also darn cheap to make since you don't have to buy all of those expensive components. Nor do you have to have them serviced as much in crummy weather. This makes them ideal for winter training.
post #4 of 15
Never ridden a fixie. How the heck do you corner with any speed? How do you keep the pedal from contacting the ground? Are you able to lean your body into the turn while keeping the bike upright while pedaling?

I've herad of them and seen them, but never ridden one. I bet they weigh next to nothing.
post #5 of 15
Never ridden a fixie. How the heck do you corner with any speed?
Carefully. You develop a feel for where the pedals are.

How do you keep the pedal from contacting the ground? Are you able to lean your body into the turn while keeping the bike upright while pedaling?
That's pretty much it. or just slow down and not lean as much. The biggest thing about riding a fixed gear on the road is you have to think way ahead. Also, I agree with fressen, if you ride a fix gear on the road, put brakes on it.

I converted a road bike, with brakes, to a fixed gear for a training bike when I raced on the track. Mostly because I scared myself silly once riding my track bike (no brakes) on the road. I got on a downhill, got wound out and couldn't stop. however, it's great training because 15 miles on a track bike is about the same as 20 miles on a road bike. Plus, you it's easy to do track stands at stop signs and lights and not have to put a foot down.

While it's great training, I don't think recreational cyclists need to try it. There are some real pitfalls if you forget to keep pedaling.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by SrMike
While it's great training, I don't think recreational cyclists need to try it. There are some real pitfalls if you forget to keep pedaling.
I guess I could qualify this a little better. I posted this under the assumption that people who are more advanced to expert level skiers would benefit from a fixed gear. To ski at that level you need a bit of athletecism, and that would help anybody out there who may want to try riding a bike like this. I think that fixed gear bikes get a bit of a bad rap. They truley are not that difficult to ride, especially if one takes one's time learning how the bike handles. You're absolutely right about the bike bucking you the first time you try to coast. However, I think just about everybody whos made the switch to clipless pedals/cleats had to go through a bit of a learning curve. They probably tipped over once or twice onto their hip/elbo. I was no professional rider before I built my'ne and yes it bucked me once or twice, never off, and it never happened again because it definately leaves an impression on the rider. Your muscles learn quite quickly what to and what not to do.
So yes, your right. Fixed gears are not for everybody. For those who've grown up on 10 speeds and mounain bikes however -with a bit of athletecism and an adventuras spirit- looking for a fun source of cross training that can lead to some some pretty big break throughs in your skiing, fixed gears are a great training tool. Better balance, more stamina, faster feet (if you choose the right gear)

As for JonH's questions, my cranks are 172.5's which is average and I haven't hit my pedals once. If you've got a bunch of money you can build a sub 16lb bike easy. That woud require a bunch of that carbon stuff -I don't trust it as much, carbon does not have the shelf life of steel. A more realistic weight for a steel frame bike would be around 19 20 lbs. If your curious, check out fixedgear.com. There is tons of information and a lot of cool bikes to check out.
post #7 of 15
fressen - I agree with that. Expert or aspiring expert skiers should be able to figure out how to ride a fixed gear quickly. Riding a fixed gear can be a great training aid.
post #8 of 15
Do you ride the fixie with clipless or platforms. Maybe platforms to learn so that you can take your feet off if required, then go to clipless?

It sounds interesting. I could take my old commuter (a Raleigh mtn bike, which can only find 4-5 of the 7 gears on the cassette), lose the RS QR10 fork and convert it to comething more... um... esoteric, such as a SS or fixie.
post #9 of 15
I ride a fixed gear road bike with a front and rear brake, and clipless pedals. Regardless of what anyone says, a front brake is necessary to ride safely on the road, and the rear brake helps control speed when I spin out on long or steep descents.
Most road racing frames have enough clearance that you don't need to worry too much about a pedal striking the ground, regardless of how fast you corner. I use slightly shorter cranks on the fixed gear, which reduces the risk more.
A fixed gear is good exercise. I think it's easier to maintain a high level of effort than on a geared bike. It also helps build power and foot speed for cycling. Nevertheless, I don't think there's much ski specific benefit of road cycling. Cycling builds leg strength, but can lead to muscle imbalances and an inflexible back if you don't do other kinds of training. Skiing requires core strength, flexibility and agility.

post #10 of 15
I rode a fixie in San Francisco or two years. Definately a GREAT ski conditioning tool.

Reflexes, timing, strength, cardio,& looking ahead, all benefit.

There is only one problem: it kills your knees!

Braking or stopping with your leg muscles places huge stresses on the knee joint. I had to stop, as the pain and loose feeling in the knee became tiresome.

My recommendation on the Fixed gear issue: skip it.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Wow! Lots of responses. Finally. Hope alll of you folks outside of the Pacific Northwest in Snowland are enjoying your winters. All of our local ski areas are closed. This gives me a bunch more time to be on the bike. This thread is another result of my new not-so-wanted free time.

First, in response to JohnH

"Do you ride the fixie with clipless or platforms. Maybe platforms to learn so that you can take your feet off if required, then go to clipless?"

If you ride clipless right now you should be OK to start out with clipless. If your not used to them, your asking a lot to get used to these two together. You will need the clipless pedals quickly though. The whole point of the fixed gear bike is to teach you how to spin propperly. By SPIN I mean consistant pressure on your pedals throughout the pedal stroke -Pushing and pullling through a full circle. This can not be done with platform pedals. Clipless pedals on your fixie will lead to more balanced leg musculature if you practice this technique. A lot of knee pain can be traced to overdeveloped quad muscles and underdeveloped ham strings.
If you do decide to build up a fixie, make sure your bike frame has horizontal drop-outs. These allow you to adjust chain length properly, and also to tension your chain. Hope this helps. Read further for a little more info.

Second, in response to jdowling,

"Nevertheless, I don't think there's much ski specific benefit of road cycling. Cycling builds leg strength, but can lead to muscle imbalances and an inflexible back if you don't do other kinds of training. Skiing requires core strength, flexibility and agility."

I don't at all agree with this last statement of yours. Cycling in the off-season has been a form of cross training for years. One of the race acadamies in Steamboat has a cycling team for the off season -they put out a jr. national champ. Darron Ralves uses a bike to spin in the off season. They're not just using them for cardio training. OK, they're not riding fixies either, but biking done properly absolutely transfers to skiing. If you look at some of the bio-mechanics, a lot of the same principles apply to turning on skis as they do cornering on a bike -upper and lower body seperation, pressuring, body positioning...etc. The dual action push/pull of pedaling a fixed gear trains the rider to use their ham strings more and to develope them. Eventually the rider relys on them as much as the quad pushing muscles. This transfers over to skiiing by building the skiers ability to protract and to retract the legs. Absorbtion extension. Moguls and bumpy terrain become easier to tackle. Also, when you finaly get to the point on your fixed gear bike that you can "spin out" in a semi relaxed state, you can ABSOLUTELY apply that foot speed to skiing. I've felt it in my own skiing.
I ride with two other fixed gear riders. One introduced me to it, the other started just before me (November). The one who started just before me started making huge jumps in ability, and stamina last year. The gentleman that introduced the bike to me, is in his latter 40's, a fully certified level III tech director, and can technically/physically out-ski most people if not all 20 years younger. As for me, my training applies more to this season. I have had the most unbelievable first few days of the year. I've NEVER felt as on top of my skis this early in the season. I KNOW its the bike.
If you were/are a competive rider and have been doing it for most of your life, I doubt you would notice as much as I or anyone else who has recently picked up riding a fixed gear.
Also, core strength is important no doubt. But don't discount the importance of leg strength in skiing. Theres a reason most speed event racers can give any NFL linebacker a run for the money on a squat rack. Fixed gears are awesome for building leg strengt all the way around front, back, top, and bottom.

Finally, a response to eleven.

"My recommendation on the Fixed gear issue: skip it."

I will agree that a fixed gear can cause knee pain. I think that most people who build up one of these bikes as a commuter are too tempted to put a big gear on there to make it easier to cover ground quicker, go down hill easier. But when it comes to climbing hills this puts an overload of stress on the knee. I started with a 39/18 gear ratio. Its a high spin gear that makes climbing hills easier. On some of my longer rides I was getting tired of being passed by people left and right -even people on mtn bikes would go cruising by- with multiple and bigger gears. So, I put on a bigger front ring, a 42. The bike was faster, going down hill was easier -the pedals don't spin as fast- and I could ROLL on the flats. But climbing hills was too much stress. I thought that I would build up the strength and eventuall ride into the gear. This never happened. What did happen is my knees started getting too soar. I would wake up in the morning and hobble around until the blood would start pumping some lubrication into the knees. I also started relying too much on my pushing muscles and lost all of the developement in my hamstrings. So I went back to my smaller ring up front, and now my knees are doing really well. 4 years ago I had my ACL replaced. I know what soar and week knees feel like. This year they feel the best they have ever felt. No need for vioxx -used it before we knew what it could do. I kept it just to ski days- No pain, soarness, or swelling after skiing or riding. Moral to the story; Pick the right gear, go small.
So eleven, did you sell your bike or do you still have it? You might wanna try putting a smalller ring up front.
Also, you did mention San Fran. which is known to be quite hilly. If you were tackling some of those monsters I could see wanting to use gears. I ride the hills here in Seattle every day -capitol hill mostly. No monsters here, but you can certainly give yourself a beating if you want to. One of the things I like about fixed gears is that once you get the hang of it, they are faster more efficient climbers -granted you have the right gearing.

Peace everybody
post #12 of 15

Thanks for the input on fixed gear.

Yup, I sold the fixie. Now ride a 29" MTB (now THAT is fun) and a carbon fiber road bike, both geared.

I went smaller and smaller in an effort to stop the pain. Ended up at 40-18, which is what some famous TDF winner has reportedly ridden on his fixie.

If I lived in a relatively flat place orsomeplace with rolling hills, I would still have a fixed. It is without a doubt some of the funnest riding I have ever done. With a properly setup chain line, there is virtually no noise or friction, and one can really feel the man-machine connection. I LOVED riding that thing.

Fixed has become a total fad here in SF. Bike messenger chic pervades the scene. I watch everyone cycle by, turning too large of a gear at 50rpm, and am sure that there is some knee damage going down.

My orthopedist told me to start spinning at a higher cadence, and stop mashing, and my knee pain would go away.

He was correct!
post #13 of 15
Anybody out there have a 48-51 cm. fixie to sell?
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Nope, I squeeze onto a 60. I did score a sweet Waterford (Reynolds 853 tubing) on ebay. There are some sweet deals there. If you don't have a ton of money the Bianci Pista bike comes complete for around 500 bucks. Not a bad deal. Be ware of the big gear though!
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Oh yeah! You will need to supply your own brakes on the Pista.
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