Due to their affordability and simplicity, single speed bicycles have grown in popularity in recent years. But what are singlespeed bikes and how do they work? Generally speaking, single gears are bicycles that do not contain a gearing mechanism — bikes with multiple gears allow the rider to adjust the gear ratio, making the ride smoother in hilly areas.
As a result, a one gear bike is a cheaper, lighter option that is ideal for people looking for a straightforward cycling experience. If you are thinking about purchasing a single gear bicycle, here is an overview of some of the features and characteristics that you should keep an eye out for.
Freewheel vs. Fixie
For individuals who are new to the one speed bike, one of the crucial distinctions that needs to be understood is the difference between the fixed gear (i.e. fixie) and freewheel mechanism. So, what is the difference? To begin with, the freewheel mechanism is what we are used to seeing on an average bike — pedaling forward makes the bicycle move forward, but if you stop the bicycle will coast and you will still keep moving.
On the other hand, a fixed gear mechanism — the most common mechanism in a single speed bike — means that you only move when your pedals are moving. This can be very dangerous for the uninitiated – if you stop pedaling, the wheels will stop turning, except they probably won’t. If you go back to old habits and “forget to pedal” in order to coast there is a good chance the bike will fight you, with predictable results. However, certain fixies have a so-called flip flop hub on the rear wheel which allows the cyclist to switch between the fixed and freewheel mechanism.
Advantages of Riding a Single Speed Bicycle
So, which option is the better one? And what are the advantages of riding a single speed bicycle? While the multi-gear option may be more familiar to most riders, here is an overview of some of the ways in which one speed bicycles stand out:
Due to the absence of a gearing mechanism which can weigh up to several pounds, the single speed bike is a lighter option that permits a smoother and faster riding experience.
- The mechanical simplicity of the one speed is an advantage because it requires very little maintenance — this brings down the costs of owning a single speed in the long-term and is ideal for individuals who do not have much time to dedicate to the up-keep of their bike.
- The lack of a gearing mechanism normally present in a multi-gear brings down the overall cost of purchasing a bicycle. This means that you can count on purchasing a higher quality single gear bicycle for the same price as a multi-gear one.
- The overall efficiency of a singlespeed is much greater than in a typical multi-geared bicycle — the single gear’s straight chain line is inherently much more efficient than the multi-gear which loses efficiency as a result of its frictional losses.
- The fixed gear mechanism in a single speed bicycle which makes a cyclist constantly turn the pedals is a much greater option for people wanting a good, intense workout.
What Types of Riding Are Fixed Gear Bikes Best For?
Fixed gear single speed bikes can be an excellent option for people who are looking for a simple, low maintenance bicycle that suits their riding needs. But what are the types of riding that these bikes are generally considered best for? Here is a look at the top 3 types of riding the fixed gear bike is best accustomed to:
1. Riding speeds between 15 and 20 mph
The single speed bike is not a good option if you are planning to ride at speeds higher than 20mph. However, if your plan is to use your bicycle for casual rides and getting around the city, you won’t even need to ride the bike at higher speeds.
2. Rides that avoid hills
Riding up hills on a single gear bike can be quite arduous. If you are a casual biker and aren’t accustomed to the levels of exertion required of steep climbs on a fixed gear bike, it’s best to avoid hilly areas. On the other hand, if you are generally physically fit and looking for a challenge, riding uphill on a bike like this can push you in a positive way.
3. Trips that are shorter in distance
While the single speed bike can offer a liberating and simplistic cycling experience, covering longer distances is not recommended. This is generally the case because of the inconvenient position that you will probably find yourself in when riding a single gear, as well as the specific clothing that you will most probably need to use. However, if you are looking for a bike that is great for short jolts or running errands around the city, the single gear is probably a great option for you.
Choosing the Right Single Gear Bicycle for You
If you’ve decided to purchase a single gear bicycle and that fixed gear riding is something that you would manage well, take a look at some of the additional factors that you should consider when purchasing single gear bikes:
Does it have a flip-flop hub?
A flip-flop hub is an excellent feature for riders who want the option of riding fixed gear in certain situations. If you want to be able to coast every once in a while, purchasing a single gear with a flip-flop hub is the best choice for you.
What will type of activity will you be using it for the most?
When choosing any bicycle, it’s important to consider the type of activities you will be using it for at least 60% of the time. Is it going to be used for your commutes to school or work? Or are you going to use it for leisurely rides around the city? The amount of money you spend and the quality of the bicycle should reflect the purpose of your future bike.
How important are aesthetics?
Simple one gear bikes have become increasingly trendy as of late, so there are many bikes available that are colored in bright or unusual colors. However, keep in mind that this sometimes means that quality is sacrificed for the sake of appearance — make sure to closely examine its features before you opt for the brightest and most interesting model in the shop.