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Fixed Gear Bikes - What Are They and Why Are They Popular?

Jul 17, 2008
Some of you may have heard the kid down the street or even seen the young punk on the corner riding around and what looks like a 10 speed bike. However, if you take a closer look, you'll discover that there aren't 10 speeds on that bike. In fact, you'd probably discover that there is just a single speed. That's because these kids undoubtedly took their parents old Schwinn, took off the derailer, put on a fixed-gear or track-bike hub, took off the brakes, slapped on some crazy "mustache" handle bars, rolled up their pants, and rode down to the closes critical mass ride with their new converted fixed gear (OR spent a few hundred bucks to have someone do it for them).

In any regards, fixed gear bikes are all the rage in the hipster population. And it couldn't have come at a better time. With gas prices at an all time high and the need to go "Green", you can't blame the kids for huffing it on 2 wheels for free and no exhaust smoke rather than spending close to hundreds each month just to go a few miles down the road and spew forth fumes for miles (come on admit it - you've driven to places that you totally could have walked to). So if you're new to this fixed gear bike thing and are curious about how it all works, here's a quick breeze through the basics.

HOW A FIXED GEAR BIKE WORKS

It's simple. Fixed gear bikes are exactly that - fixed! Also known as a fixed wheel bicycle, it's basically a bicycle without the ability to coast (coast meaning you stop pedaling but the back hub still spins). The sprocket is screwed directly on to the hub and there is no freewheel mechanism. That means you can't coast on a fixed gear bike. Your feet are always pedaling. As exhausting as this sounds, it does provide you with more efficiency when pedaling.

Most fixed gear bicycles only have one gear ratio. This means there are no additional gears to switch to. Your typical BMX bike is a single speed gear, however, BMX bikes tend to have freewheels (aka you can COAST!).

WHY DID FIXED GEAR BIKES TAKE OFF?

Some say the popularity of fixed gear bikes can be traced back to bike messengers. They've been using fixed / single speed bicycles for years as it helps them get around faster (back to the whole efficiency of movement thing). Bike messengers were also known for being renegades on some level and having a "punk" attitude. This combined with the general popularity of bikes, skateboarding, surfing, and anything else that allows the youth of today to break free of government mandated roads and public transit system and blaze their own trails across the land (and look good doing it too).

WILL THE FIXED GEAR BIKE CRAZY LAST?

Who knows. I honestly hope so because it is a way to cut down on pollutants, spend less on gas, stay in shape, AND make a statement - ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Who could ask for anything more (Toyyyota!).
About the Author
Jim enjoys stuff. Stuff is cool. This article is on fixed gear bikes. They are cool. For more cool stuff, I suggest http://www.thefixedgeargallery.com
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