Do fixies have brakes? You'd be amazed to find out that there are many fixie bikes for sale without brakes and this is one of the most important fixie bike parts! This is also one of the big differences between fixies and road bikes.
If you ride a fixed gear bike, it is time for you to install fixie brakes. And if you already have brakes, you should make sure you're adjusting those brakes too!
By now you’ve learned a thing or two about fixed gear bicycles including how cool the flip flop hub is. You have also learned that traditional fixies don’t have brakes on them.
It doesn’t matter if you are a new or experienced rider, we strongly recommend that you always put brakes on your fixed gear bicycles.
There are a few types of fixie brake sets including coaster brakes, fixie bullhorn brakes, and fixie drop bar brakes, but overall we, recommend getting some calipers or v-brakes.
Why Traditional Fixed Gear Bicycles Are Brakeless
The main reason why traditional fixed gear bicycles don’t have fixie brakes is because the original track bikes didn’t come with them.
But there was a very good reason why track fixies didn’t have brakes. In a competitive track setting, it is extremely dangerous for riders to brake as it could lead to a massive pileup and injure other riders. In this context, having no brakes makes a lot of sense because you are in a simulated racing environment.
However, riding in the heart of the city, without fixie brakes, is a terrible idea on every level.
Overcoming the Macho Fixie Image
Today, a lot of diehard fixie riders will say that a true fixie doesn’t have brakes. Personally, we don’t recommend this approach as riding in a dense area with no brakes is not only dangerous, but an incredibly bad choice.
Even the most experienced riders make mistakes and the quickest way to bail yourself out when you make a mistake is to use your brakes. When your only method of braking is to slam your pedals and skid, you are opening yourself up to potential injury or even worse.
Peace Bicycles loves fixies, but we decided to take a stand against the “no brake” fixie rule. What does this mean for our riders? It means that all of our fixie bikes come with fixie brakes. We feel that safety is more important that a bikes coolness because bikes are meant to be enjoyed and safety will greatly increase your ability to enjoy a bike.
No Brakes Is Illegal in Some Places
Biking without fixie brakes is actually illegal in some places. While it may vary from state to state, it is illegal in the United Kingdom to bike without brakes.
In simple terms, a legal bike in the UK must have two brakes. If we are to take this law literally, a traditional fixed gear bicycle would be illegal.
In the United States, the majority of states only require you to have one brake, but this doesn’t mean that you should only have one on your fixie.
If you are currently riding a fixed gear bicycle that doesn’t have brakes, it is easy to add a set of brakes to them and it will help keep you safe out there on those busy streets.
Installing Brakes Isn’t Expensive
Installing a front and rear brake on your fixed gear bicycle or single speed commuter bike isn’t overly expensive.
A mid-range set of brakes will cost the following:
- $30-$50 for the brake pads
- $15-$40 for the brake levers
- $10-$20 for brake cables
- $20-$40 each for a rear and front caliper
- $50-$100 for labor
If the cost seems a bit high, you can try and salvage a set of brakes off a used bicycle or one of your older rides. However, if you are going to use this method, make sure that you purchase new pads incase the old ones are worn out.
Most of the cost is the parts themselves. The installation process is fairly easy.
Installing Fixie Brakes on Your Fixed Gear Bicycle
If you want to try and save a few dollars by installing themselves, here is how you can do it.
Install the Caliper
Start by taking your caliper out and removing the nut and sliding the caliper through the hole on the brake bridge on your rear wheel. Start to tighten the nut, ensuring that it is tightened all the way. At this point, the caliber will still be movable, don’t worry.
Install the Lever
Next, pop your lever onto the handlebars and grab a 4mm allen key. Open the lever and place it where you want it on the handlebar and start to tighten it into place.
Install the Cable and Housing
Grab your cable and remove it from the housing by simply sliding it out. On your cable, you will notice a y-shaped hole. Slide that into the back of your brake lever and slide the housing back over the cable until it clicks into place.
Take the other end of the cable and click it into place on the caliper. Once again, pull the housing up to this point.
Now, pull the caliper closed and pull the cable through the tiny eyelet on the side of it. As you are doing this, tighten the bolt so that the cable will be held in place.
If done correctly, your brake should create tension when you pull on the lever.
Attach the Housing to Your Frame
This next step is the easiest. Take the cable and housing and start to attach it to your bike’s frame. Remember, if you have any kinks in the cable, it will affect your breaking, so take the time to make sure the line is kink-free.
Align the Brake Pads
Almost there! Take your 4mm allen key and start to align the brake pads. Using your eyes, line them up so that there is a tiny bit of space between the pad and your wheel and try to keep the amount of space even on both sides.
You also want to make sure that the brake pad is touching the optimal braking zone. If your pad rubs against your tire, it could result in a lockup or tire puncture, while a brake pad that touches your lower rim will be less effective.
Continue to press your lever to see if the response time is right. If the braking response is too slow, continue to feed more cable through the rear caliper and re-tighten it until it responds as soon as the lever is pressed. In the end, you want your fixie brakes to engage right away and to intensify the deeper you press the lever.
If you are more of a visual learner, we’ve got you covered. Check out this simple video:
Which Fixie Brakes Should I Have?
Fixie brakes can be installed on your front and rear wheels. In addition, you can install either caliper or v-brakes on your fixed gear bicycle.
The majority of cyclists tend to use their front brake the most. While the rear brake is important, it is often used in conjunction with the front brake to add additional stopping power.
If you are only willing to install one brake on your fixie, you should prioritize the front brake. However, it is highly recommended that you install both.
V Fixie Brakes
The v brake or cantilever brake is most common on non-road bikes. The brake lever faces horizontally in this setup.
Typically, they have considerably more stopping power than average caliper brakes. They are often used on heavier bikes or off-road bikes. Many road bike riders avoid v brakes because they provide too much stopping power for their lighter frames.
When you pull your brake lever with v brakes, the cable housing pulls the brake noodle. When this happens, the two cantilevers rub against the wheel rim, causing your wheel to stop. Once the brake lever is released, a spring at the bottom of the cantilever pops them back into position.
This type of brake is perfect if you need a pair of brakes that will help you stop immediately. Some riders like instant stopping power, while others prefer to feather the brakes to stop. V brakes can be rough on your tires as the additional stopping power can wear down your tire tread quicker.
Side-Pull Caliper Fixie Brakes
Side-pull caliper fixie brakes can be attached to the front and rear wheel and work a little differently than v brakes.
Caliper brakes are extremely common on road bikes because they are lightweight and provide ample stopping power.
When you pull your brake lever, the brake caliper will activate and push your two brake pads against the wheel rim.
This type of brake is perfect for an experienced individual that knows how to feather their brakes. They also tend to be easier on your tires as you are gradually stopping rather than an abrupt skid.
V Fixie Brakes Vs. Caliper Brakes
Are you unsure of what type of fixie brakes to install on your bike? First, you need to consider what type of riding you plan to do.
Choose v brakes if you:
- Plan to bike with a heavy load and need additional stopping power
- Are riding a heavier bike and are afraid that caliper brakes won't cut it
- Ride a bike that has suspension
- Want to ride off-road
- Have a bike with wider tires
- Plan to ride in wet conditions
Choose caliper brakes if you:
- Plan to ride a lightweight fixie
- Are looking to ride in the city
- Want to feather your brakes and don't require immediate stopping power
- Will ride in dry conditions
- Have a bike with narrow tires
If you have any questions about installing fixie brakes on your fixed gear bicycle, do not hesitate to contact us. Here at Peace Bicycles, we love riding, but we also like to make sure that everyone has a safe ride.
Installing brakes on your fixie doesn’t have to be challenging and it is something that every fixie rider should do before hitting the road. Remember, fixie brakes will help you stay safe and your safety is most important.