Six Things to Know Before Buying a Fixie So You Don’t Irreparably Damage Yourself or Your Pride
1. What is a fixie?
A fixie is a fixed gear bicycle. A fixed gear bicycle is a single-gear bicycle that has no freewheel, so that its wheels cannot move unless the pedals are also moving and vice versa. In a fixed gear bicycle, the back wheel, pedals and gears are affixed; they are put together in such a way that none of these parts may move independently of the other two, instead all three move together as one.
2. When riding a fixie you basically have to pedal the ENTIRE time.
No freewheel = No coasting. If your fixie is moving so are your legs.
This can be great and super zen, allowing you to feel “one” with the bike/road. If you’re even a little out of shape, however, just up and riding all your regular routes on a fixie will be a sweaty, un-zen, MISERABLE experience. Especially if its summer. And especially if where you live is an un-flat/comically hilly place. Of course, if you’re gung-ho and/or just really masochistic, feel free to jump right into 25 mile fixie rides up winding hills and feel the burn to your heart’s content!
For the average, fit-ish, not-great-at-cardio humans out there, starting small and slowly building to longer, more difficult routes is a solid way to get used to the unique physical demands of a fixed-gear bicycle while keeping it fun, being zen & stuff or at least not hating everything while working up to the point where fixie rides can be fun/ zen & stuff.
3. Your fixie has special wheels, so there’s a good chance you’ll need an adapter to inflate the tires.
Most fixies have special, high pressure wheels. These wheels use a different type valve for tire inflation than many standard American bicycles. THe valve fixie tires use is called a “Presta” or “French” valve. It comprises an outer valve stem and an inner valve body with a lock nut that you twist and untwist to secure the stem at the wheel rim. To inflate this type of tire you will need either a Presta valve pump OR you can buy a Presta Valve adapter which will allow you to use a normal, “American” or “Schrader” valve pump. However if you buy it online, some retailers send you partially inflated/deflated tires
4. To stop a fixie… Use the brake.
Fixies come with a hand brake 99% of the time. It’s usually attached to the right side of the handlebars. Depending on where you live it may be legal to remove this brake, but keeping it is a good idea. The hand break is your friend, it will save your ass in a pinch. Even after you’re a pro at badass, break-free fixie stops and skids, keeping the hand brake as back up won’t tarnish your hardcore fixie cred.
5. To do cool stops… Practice.
To stop like a cool cycling-enthusiast/ hipster/badass: PRACTICE.
The no-freewheel situation means your fixie is a wild, tricksy beast of a bike. Fixies don’t have foot brakes like the bike you had as a kid. If you try to stop your bike by pushing backward, against the pedals and you’re not prepared, you’ll be in for a bad time. In most cases, the momentum of the bicycle will be greater than the force you’re exerting against it; instead of stopping like you want, the pedals will continue their rotation and if the force of momentum is sufficient, the pedals will actually throw you from the bike.
Stopping a fixie without breaks is a little less intuitive than is seems. So practice. Watch a YouTube tutorial or several. Go to a safe, car-free paved place. MAKE SURE NO ONE THERE KNOWS YOU. And practice. You will probably fall, and it will most likely hurt, but as long as you go slow and don’t do anything reckless, it’ll mostly hurt your pride.
6. Remember, fixies are fun!
Few things at a party are worse than being cornered by that hyper-serious hipster who can’t take a joke with a monk-like religious devotion to his fixie. He’ll go on a tirade if you mention the train…
Don’t be that guy, BE THESE GUYS!