Ever since I started to fall in love with bicycles, and then moved on to grow a deeper and deeper obvious obsession with them, people have began to ask me more and more questions about bikes. Most of the time I don't know the answer. I'm more of a bike bag connoisseur, anyway.
But, one of the questions I get the most is about the difference between a single speed and a fixed gear bike (or a fixie), how to tell the different, and also WHY someone would even want to ride a fixie or single speed. Especially here in my new home of San Francisco. (Don't worry New York, I'll be back.)
And so many commuters are riding single speeds now-a-days, I even sometimes ride a single speed, that I recently converted to a fixed gear bike pretty recently.
So...what is the difference between a fixed gear and a single speed bike? Let's answer this in 2 parts.
1. What is a single speed bicycle?
A single speed bike is a bike with-you guessed it-just ONE speed. There is no switching gears as you may do on a multi-speed bicycle, which can be quite nice. You only have one gear ratio to mess with, no slipping gears or gear maintenance to keep up with. This is actually a similarity between fixed gear bikes and single speeds.
The main difference between a single speed is that it has the ability to coast. A single speed is has a free wheel, this allows the wheel to move while the gear stays still, or can move at a different pace/direction. That means you can be going down a hill without pedaling, like you can do on a multi-speed bicycle. That takes us to fixies.
2. What is a fixed gear bike?
A fixie is similar in that it only has one speed. But where it differs is that it does not have a free wheel.
This means that as long as your bike is moving, your pedals also will move. This is because the gear on your rear wheel is fixed, not free, and cannot move separately from the wheel. If you move your pedals backwards, the gear will move backwards, and the wheel will too.
If you're going down a hill, your pedals are flying too. And oh, they're flying!
In fact, often times a fixed gear bike is also brake-less, so the rider of the bike must stop the bike simply by pedaling in the backwards direction against the momentum of the bike.
People often ride fixed gear bikes and single speeds because they are low maintenance, and light. Fixed gears can be a lot of fun to ride because they are very different from other riding experiences.
You can also get bikes with flip-flop hubs, which allow you to choose between riding fixed or free by switching the the wheel around.
We have a special collection of fixed gear bike bags if you're interested in cycling fixed, or awesome handmade bike bags.
We'll leave you off with a good instructional video on switching your flip flop hub around from a single speed to a fixed gear which could help you understand a bit more.
Comment below with any questions!