womens fixie bike by wall

Fixie vs Road Bike and How to Choose Between the Two

Many riders often ask, what should I choose when it comes to fixie vs road bike and which bike would win in a race. This question is similar to comparing bike that are single speed vs geared as most fixies including ours feature a flip-flop hub and are single speeds. A fixie, single speed commuter bike, or without gear bike, also comes with the connotation of being a bit "hipster". Just fyi, if you didn't already know.

When explaining the difference between fixie bikes and road bike it's great to consider what type of rider you want to be. Fixed gear vs geared road bike commuting is a question of what you're more comfortable with and though the two have a lot in common, we've created this guide to help you choose.

Fixie vs Road Bike

Are you in the market for a new bicycle? Do you find yourself lost when it comes to choosing between a fixie and a road bike? Cycling is one of the greatest hobbies out there and it comes with a lot of benefits. After all, who doesn’t like getting a little exercise, helping the environment, and saving a lot of money when compared to the average cost of a car and its maintenance.

Whether you are a new or experienced cyclist, one of the most common questions that we get asked is whether our customers should purchase a single speed gear bicycle or a road bike. While we specialize in both types of bikes, both of these bikes have their merits and no one is better than the other.

Through this article, we will help you establish the pros and cons of each type, how they fit into each riding style, and help you make a choice between the two.

The Pros and Cons of a Fixed Gear Bicycle

Fixie vs Road Bike

In the fight of fixie vs road bike, we'll first start out in the respective order. Fixies are great for beginners and professionals alike because they are approachable. So long as you can ride a bike and understand safety, you can ride a fixie.

Typically, fixies are used in cities and are geared more towards commuters and individuals that want a bicycle that they can hop on and ride with little need for preparation.

Pros:

  • If you take care of your fixie, your maintenance costs will be lower because fixies are inherently simpler than road bikes.
  • They dominate flatland rides.
  • You can switch between fixed gear and free wheel if you have a flip-flop hub.
  • While the majority of your weight is determined by the composition of your frame and wheels, less components typically means less weight.
  • You can install brakes on them.
  • Fixies are highly customizable.
  • Compatible with the many types of handlebars.
  • Great for commuting and city riding (check out the bike messenger movies)

Cons:

  • It takes time to adjust to the fixed gear style of riding. The lack of shifters forces you to master your gear ratios.
  • Hills are your worst enemy, especially if your gear ratio favors speed over acceleration.
  • Some fixies don’t have brakes (Peace Fixies come with them).
  • Customization requires some knowledge of bike parts and how they work.

The Pros and Cons of a Geared Road Bike

Fixie vs Road Bike

 

In this second round of fixie bike vs road bike, let us tell you about the contender. Unlike fixies, road bikes are a little more complicated in design and cater to a completely different market. The average road bike user is typically looking to ride longer distances and will require additional accessories to increase the comfort and suitability of their ride.

Pros:

  • Multiple gears allow you to shift to adapt your ride to whatever terrain you are riding on.
  • Typically have the highest top speed of all bicycles.
  • Designed for efficient sprinting at high gears.
  • Most new road bikes are made of carbon fiber.
  • Can be customized, but less so than a fixie.
  • Come equipped with brakes.
  • Dominant choice for longer rides.
  • Extremely aerodynamic because they are often designed with optimal performance in mind.
  • Can come with wireless electronic Di2 shifters.

Cons:

  • Can be very expensive, especially if you go for carbon fiber.
  • Uncomfortable seats will leave your back aching.
  • Require special riding shoes if you equip SPD pedals.
  • Do not handle rough pavement well due to the absence of shocks.
  • Chains can slip if you shift too quickly.
  • Expensive to maintain.
  • A lightning rod for theft if left locked up in the city (your wheels can easily be stolen if not locked properly).
  • Come with spiraled handlebars, something that not every rider likes or is comfortable riding.

We’ve already established the major pros and cons in the great fixie bike vs road bike debate, but if you are truly into riding, you will want to know more about the technical aspects of each ride.

Things to Consider With Fixed Gear Bicycles

If you are looking to buy a fixed gear bicycle, you will want to familiarize yourself with these two technical aspects of your ride.

Gearing Ratios

First, you will need to decide what gear ratio you want to use. Two of the most common ratios are 44:16 and 46:16. Gear ratios simply define whether your fixed gear bicycle will have a higher top speed or be better at accelerating. Because fixies rely on one gear ratio, you can never have both, but it is possible to find a ratio that compromises between the two.

Rear Flip Flop Hubs

This tiny part is one of the most important things to have on your fixie. By flipping your rear wheel around, you can switch between freewheel and standard, allowing you to modify the way your fixed gear bicycle performs when you coast. In short, you can have the bicycle pedals continue to spin or sit in place as you coast.

There are still many other parts you can customize on your fixed gear bicycle, like your handlebars, wheels, and saddle, but without a proper gear ratio and a flip flop hub, it can be difficult to adjust to the style of riding that a fixie requires.

As always, if you have questions about how these things work, we are more than happy to help you out and recommend a ratio that will suit you.

Road Bikes and Group Sets:

Road bikes are heavily defined by which group set they are in. Because the majority of road bikes are designed with performance in mind, there are several group sets that cater to each type of rider. They also make great fixie bike alternatives for riders that want a more technologically sound ride.

First and foremost, the most popular bike component company for the majority of these group sets is Shimano. They are considered the gold standard and 9/10 road bikes will come equipped with their parts. These group sets usually include the road bike’s front and back derailleur, brakes and pads, gears, shifters, cranks, and cables.

With that said, here are the most common group sets sorted from worst to best:

Entry Level: Claris, Sora and Tiagra

shimano claris road bike derailleur

 

This tier of components is geared towards new road bike riders. Shifters in this group set will still perform a lot better than lower tier ones, but performance junkies will notice an extremely slight delay in shift speeds if they are used to the higher tiers. The gears in this tier also come in 8, 9, and 10 speed varieties.

Performance: 105 and Ultegra

shimano 105 road bike derailleur

 

At this level, road bike riders will notice a massive jump in performance. These 11-speeed 105 is considered a great compromise for new riders as it introduces them to a competitive component class without breaking the bank, while the 11-speed Ultegra is as good as Dura Ace, with the only difference being weight.

Pro-Level: Dura Ace

shimano dura ace road bike derailleur

If you are looking to get the best of the best, the 11-speed Dura Ace is what you want. Dura Ace components are the lightest and some of the more top end Dura Ace group sets even come in carbon fiber.

If you want to learn more about group sets, we recommend you check out this useful video:

Fixie vs Road Bike – What Should I Choose?

With the basics out of the way, it really depends on what you want to use the bicycle for. There is nothing wrong with either a fixie bike or road bike, but there are many areas where each bicycle excels.

As a general rule of thumb, here is what we recommend.

You should choose a fixed gear bicycle if you:

  • Plan to commute to work.
  • Will ride within the city.
  • Want a simple bicycle that is capable of performing.
  • Plan to use the bicycle for short to moderate length rides.
  • Want a bike that is both affordable and solid.
  • Plan to lock your bicycle up outside in the city.

You should choose a road bike if you:

  • Plan to go on longer rides on smooth asphalt.
  • Are looking for the highest performance ride possible.
  • Want a bicycle that will help you get in shape.
  • Want the lightest ride on the market.
  • Plan to compete in biking events or triathlons.

Remember, these are purely recommendations. If you want to take your fixed gear bicycle up a big hill, you certainly can. Likewise, if you want to use your road bike in the city, that is okay too. A lot of cyclists get too caught up in the fixie vs road bike debate.

The key is to be aware of the limitations of each bicycle and to find ways to overcome them. Here at Peace Bicycles, we are huge fans of fixed gear bicycles and Dutch bicycles, but we would never tell someone not to buy a road bike if that is what suits their riding personality. What makes cycling so great is a riders’ ability to choose whatever ride suits their personality and unique needs.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of this information, do not hesitate to leave a comment below. We want everyone to experience the joy of riding and we want to help you find that perfect bicycle for you. If you are still unable to decide on the fixie vs single speed question, leave a comment below and we will try and help you make the right choice.

Eric Carriere

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