Owning a multi-speed bike makes cycling easier, but some enthusiasts argue it doesn’t deliver quite the pleasure of a bike with one gear. In this last category, there are harsh debates between fixed gear vs. single speed bikes.
But is there such a huge gap between the two models? And is this one better than the other?
I’ve tried to find the answer to these questions and this quick guide should help you decide which, if any, is the right one for you.
Fixed Gear Vs. Single Speed – What’s The Difference?
Although they seem the same, there is a huge difference between the fixed gear and single speed bikes. But even if the difference is huge in terms of mechanics, in terms of looks it is so small that newbies find it hard to understand it.
The difference is in the rear hub, namely in how the rear cog connects to the rest of the drivetrain.
Single speed bikes come with a freewheel cog which rotates freely in one direction but locks when rotated in the other direction. The cog turns the rear wheel when you’re pedaling but if the wheel starts spinning faster than the cog, it will enter in the freewheel mode.
The mechanism is similar to those of the multi-geared bikes and the only difference between single speed and multi-speed is precisely the number of gears.
These bikes come with solid braking systems that allow you to stop the wheels from spinning at any given time.
Fixed gear bikes, on the other hand, don’t have a cog mechanism nor do they have a braking system. The cog is fixed to the hub and it turns the rear wheel together with the pedals. Stopping a fixed gear bike is harder, that’s why these machines are usually preferred by those who like to have full control of their bike.
Although this difference seems small, it really has a huge impact on the ride and control. To help you decide on a bike, read the next paragraphs to find out more about this difference.
Fixed Gear Bikes – What To Expect?
Fixed gear bikes are perhaps the hardest to ride. Not only you won’t be able to shift gears and make a climb or descent easier, but you’ll also have to learn how to control and stop the bike.
Yet, fixed gear bikes have a wealth of admirers and by riding such a machine, you’ll become part of a trendy group.
The truth is that there is something special in riding a fixed gear bike. The fixed drivetrain creates a special experience by challenging your balance, control, and riding skills. It is also awesome to have full control of the bike.
On a fixed gear, how the bike moves is determined by how you pedal. Pedal forward and the wheels will spin forward. Pedal backward and the bike will go backward.
However, I wouldn’t recommend hopping on a fixed gear bike and hitting the road before you learn how to control the machine. Stopping a fixed gear is tricky and it takes a lot of practice to fully understand the mechanism.
Single Speed Bikes –What To Expect?
Most fixed gear enthusiasts have a saying. For them a fixie = Zen, so a single speed is just plain boring. But things are not always black and white. Sometimes, there are some grey shades in the mix.
Not only a fixed gear requires a bunch of experience on the bike but the ride will always be engaging. And sometimes, you might just enjoy better a relaxing ride that doesn’t require your undivided attention.
You’ll still get to enjoy all the challenges of a single gear bike but the machine is easy to control. The freewheel cog allows you to coast instead of pedaling, riding on the downhill is a breeze and you’ll be able to easily stop whenever needed.
Undoubtedly, a single speed bike is a more appropriate choice for a newcomer as it is easier to ride and easier to control.
Flip-Flop Hub – The Best Of Both Worlds
If you’re unsure where you stand in this debate, know that you can have the best of both worlds by simply investing in a hybrid machine. In fact, many fixed gear bikes come with a flipping hub that turns into a freewheel hub by simply turning it on the other side.
To switch between modes it’s enough to just flip the rear wheel over as shown in the video below.
Riding a bike with only one speed takes the whole biking experience to a whole new level, but there is a huge difference between fixed gear and single speed.
But what is the fixed gear vs. single speed outcome?
Well, you’ll have to figure out on your own which riding style you enjoy most. Do you like to have full control over the vehicle? Choose a fixed gear. Do you enjoy relaxed leisure rides and don’t want to be too involved? A single speed could be the bike you need.
Regardless of your choice, just follow the basic safety rules. Learn how your bike works and how to control it even in the most challenging situations. In the end, what matters is to have fun and ride safely on the bike of your choice.
What do you think? Have you ever tried riding a single gear bike? Do you like most the fixed gear or the single speed? Tell us in the comments below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.