Single-Speed and Fixed-Gear Bikes

This article is an excerpt from Stephen Regenold’s story on covering “Five Gear Innovations” from the past five years.

You know a trend is dead when a major retailer like Wal-Mart embraces it. That’s the case this year with single-speed bikes, as the big-box retailer recently began selling a one-speed bike from Mongoose for just $149. But I remain a fan of single-speeds, especially of the fixed-gear variety. Over the past five years, almost all of my road miles have been spent on a “fixie.”

Fixed gear

A fixed-gear bike locks the chain into the motion of the rear wheel — no coasting allowed. There is no freewheel, just a “fixed” rear cog. The result is a fast and wild ride, a thrill where your body is locked to the motion of spinning wheels on a road. As long as the wheels are moving, so is the cog, the chain, the cranks, the pedals, and, consequently, your feet, which may be caged or clipped in via the cleat of a bike shoe.

Kona Paddy Wagon

To me, a fixie offers more control in traffic. It is a better workout, too. There is no slop in a bike ride. The experience is akin to running for me — each time I head onto the road on a fixie, I am set to pedal constantly until I stop — and it has made me a stronger, more confident rider.

Caveat: Your butt gets sore on a fixie, as you can’t easily shift your weight. Watch your knees, too. Putting resistance on the pedals to slow or brake the always-propelling cranks on a fixie can ratchet your knees as you ride.

—Stephen Regenold

“Five Gear Innovations”

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.