riding single speed bikes

Single Speed Commuter Bikes – The Pros and Cons

So you're thinking about getting a single speed commuter bike and are possibly weighing the many advantages and disadvantages between cheap and more expensive bikes and so on? Single speed road bikes, single speed commuter bikes, fixed gear bikes or fixie bikes, all fall under the same category and continue to grow in popularity due to the performance and simplicity they provide. We understand there are many single gear bikes to choose from, you may not be a guru on the subject, and when you're in the market for one it's good to understand whether this style of bike is the best one for you. For this reason we've created this guide that's designed to help you understand the pros and cons of single speed bikes and to give you a thorough overview before you make a decision.

fyi: People love single-speeders because they are the easiest and least maintenance bikes to ride.
Single Speed Commuter Bikes – What is a True "Fixie"

The Pros of Single Speed Commuter Bikes

Fixies are Cheaper
Simplicity
Fixies Excel in Cities
Every Day is Leg Day
Just Add a Flip Flop Hub
Quick City Commuter
The Cons of Single Speed Commuter Bikes

Steep Hills Are the Enemy
Traditional Fixies Lack Brakes
Simplicity
Hard to find he right frame
Fixies are Heavy
Unable to Carry Cargo
No Lights
Fixed Gear Bike Rims
Fixed Gear Bike Wheelsets
Bike Tubes
Open Bearing Hubs

In the End, It's up to You

Single Speed Commuter Bikes – What is a True "Fixie"

You may have heard people describe their bicycle as a fixed gear bicycle, single speed bicycle, single gear bike,  or a fixie. These terms all mean the same thing and get thrown around a lot. Still, it isn't always clear what they mean.

At the most basic level, fixed gear bikes are bikes that have a single gear ratio, no derailleurs, hub gearing, or any way to alter the gear ratio of the bicycle without modifications. The main differences between a "fixie" and the rest is that you're not able to coast/cruise when the rear hub is in the fixed gear position. This basically means that if the wheels on a fixie are moving, so are the crank legs, and your legs. Peace fixies feature a "flip-flop" hub that allows you to ride fixed or freewheel by easily switching out the rear wheel/ hub. If you turn the hub to the freewheel position, you then can coast when you're pedaling.

Since our fixies bikes allow both fixed and freewheel biking we'll be using single speed commuter and fixed gear bike interchangeably.

The Pros of Single Speed Commuter Bikes

single speed commuter bikes parked

Here are a few reasons why you should consider a single speed commuter bike:

Single Speed Commuter Bikes are Cheaper

When it comes to price, a high-quality fixie commuter bike will always be cheaper than an equivalent geared bicycle. Fixies have less parts, making them cheaper. The lack of derailleurs, brakes, freewheel, and other parts makes the price cheaper. This means you can invest in a better frame and wheels to get more performance out of your ride.

On a geared bike, repairs can often be expensive. Should a part break, you will find yourself on the hook for a decent amount to replace your parts. With a fixie, maintenance isn’t that big of a deal because you have fewer parts to maintain.

A single speed bicycle is the right choice for you if price is the main factor driving your next purchase.

Simplicity

Some riders prefer a ride that is complex, one that has all of the bells and whistles, and one that comes with that gorgeous paint job. More practical riders want a bicycle that is affordable and capable of helping them get from point A to point B. Single speed commuter bikes are incredibly popular with today's cyclists because they get the job done and aren't overly complicated.

You never have to worry about shifting gears, your derailleur will never get stuck because you don’t have one, and so long as your chain is oiled and your tires are pumped, you will be able to ride your bicycle.

If you are a more practical rider, a single speed bike is the ultimate bargain and is defined by its simplicity. As previously mentioned, these types of bicycles come with less parts, are easier to maintain, and you have the ability to upgrade it should you want to move onto something more complex.

The simplicity of a fixie also means that your ride will typically be lighter than equivalent bikes from the other bike groups.

Single Speed Commuter Bikes Excel in Cities

Have you ever tried riding a road bike on city streets? The sheer number of potholes will see your back screaming for mercy. While single speed commuter bikes don’t come with shocks, they can be outfitted with a comfortable seat to help you take on bumpy city roads.

Do you plan to lock your bicycle on city bike racks? Road bikes and other single speed commuter bikes are the ultimate target for theft because of how sporty they look. Your average bike thief believes that the spiraled handlebars found on road bikes means that the bike is more valuable. Because single speed bikes lack many of the common components found on bicycles, bike thieves don’t always consider them to be as worthwhile to steal.

Every Day is Leg Day

single speed city bike

Image via Flickr (Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious).

Are you looking to get an insane leg work out and live a healthier lifestyle? A single speed bicycle is one of the easiest ways to do this. Road bikes excel at long distance, but the need to continuously pedal with a fixie means that you will be actively engaging your legs and building muscle tone over the course of your ride. Unless you flip over to a freewheel off course :) Peace fixie give you that option.

Just Add a Flip Flop Hub

This simple part will change the way you ride your fixie. A flip flop hub is a hub for your rear wheel that allows you to flip it over and enjoy the benefits of freewheel coasting.

By adding a flip flop hub, you will greatly increase the versatility of your ride because you can change the way you experience it by turning your rear wheel around. Peace fixies all feature flip-flop hubs:)

If you plan on using your bike for city style flatland commutes only, single speeds get you there quickly. Fixies are lightweight and can build some serious speed. Let's not forget that fixies have roots in track racing, after all. This is the reason you see lots of bike messengers riding fixed-gears.

The Cons of Single Speed Commuter Bikes

What kind of pros and cons list would this be if we said nothing bad about fixed wheel bikes. While we are a huge fan of this type of bicycle, they do come with their own disadvantages.

Fixed gear bike problems are something that every fixie rider has to deal with. As fixed gear bikes continue to grow in popularity, new and experienced riders are turning to them. They look hip, cool, and ride quick. Like any bike, there are certain things you should know about them before buying one.

It's also important to note that we here at Peace Bicycles have worked towards eliminating these issues to create a better fixed gear bike!

Steep Hills Are the Enemy

If you have ever ridden a single speed fixie, you will know the torment that is a steep hill. Next time you are riding, look at a fixie rider’s face as he or she approaches a massive hill, it will be a look of pure dread and defeat.

When it comes to hills, the lack of gears is a real sore spot for the single speed city bicycle. Where road bikes can gear down and take advantage of shorter gear ratios, the fixie rider is forced to take the hill on at whatever gear ratio their bike is set at, meaning, if your gear ratio is tuned for top speed, you will struggle to complete your pedal strides and get up the hill.

Similarly, going down a hill can also be challenging if your fixie doesn’t have a freewheel. When traveling down hills without a freewheel, you must keep pedaling. Your pedals will not stop and they will smash into your legs as they build up momentum from the hill.

To solve this common problem, we've packed our bikes with a gear ratio that will back taking on hills easier. Off course as riders ourselves we know that a hill is a hill and the real solution is adding gears or going electric with it, but this makes life a little easier.

Traditional Fixies Lack Brakes

The first problem with fixed gear bikes is one of mindset and purpose. Fixed gear bikes are bikes without a freewheel and they are often ridden without brakes, (Peace Fixies come with brakes standard), which can increase your chances of having an accident, especially for inexperienced riders.

We identified this problem, worked to fix it, and as a result Peace fixies have brakes standard. Creating an ordinary fixie was never the goal so we balanced the need for a fixed gear bike experience with keeping our customers safe.

Although a fixed gear bike can be stopped while in motion, it is difficult for a beginner to handle. The methods used are a bit different from the normal ways that people use to stop their bikes, as some fixed gear bike riders opt not to use brakes, or use them minimally.

Fixies are designed to provide a more minimalist style of riding. While this works for some, others still want to experience the joy of riding a fixie with the comforts that come standard on most bicycles.

Here at Peace Bicycles, we are huge fans of single speed commuter bikes. They all come installed with a dedicated braking system because we wholeheartedly disagree with the whole “brakeless” trend.

Simplicity

single speed bike chain

That same simplicity that we said is a major advantage of the fixie also happens to be a disadvantage. Yes, we understand that we are contradicting ourselves, but here us out.

Sometimes having features is a necessary part of riding. Would you rather approach a hill and have the ability to downshift and more easily take the hill on, or approach that same hill and nearly fall off your bike because you cannot physically pedal no matter how hard you try. The answer to this question is rather simple for the average rider, though in general you'll find this excruciating no matter the amount of gears or type of bike unless it's an electric bike:)

Off course we're talking big hills here boy and girls:) Small hills will be no problem at all.

Hard to Find the Right Frame

single speed commuter bike by brick wall

Fixed gear bike frames can be a blessing. They are a blessing because you can theoretically pair any bike frame with a fixed bike. However, when doing so, you should be careful because certain types of frames are better than others. While most cheap fixies have dropouts that can easily crack, which is a big problem, Peace fixies solve this issue by using forged dropouts. Since the frame is one piece, Peace bikes are less prone to cracking, and are stronger overall.

In addition, a frame with a vertical dropout is best ignored because the rear wheel needs to slide into the bike frame at that point. It is recommended that you use a horizontal dropout to fully embrace all the benefits of a fixed gear bike frame. With the unique chain tension present on a fixed gear bike, you will need a fixed bike frame with a horizontal dropout, rather than a vertical one. So, if you are picking out a bike frame, and all you see are vertical ones, wait a little longer while until a horizontal bike frame becomes available, or find one. You will get a better quality of ride this way.

Next, you need to pick a fixed gear bike frame that best suits your body size and type. You would be surprised how many people are out there riding bikes that are either too big or too small for their body types. Although you can ride a bike that does not fit you, we do not recommend it as it can be very uncomfortable. Like wearing shoes, you should ride a bike that fits.

The general rule regarding finding the perfect size fixed bike frame for you is whether you feel comfortable when mounting, riding, and dismounting the bike.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when selecting a fixed gear bike:

  • Can I easily mount and dismount this bike?
  • Can I reach the pedals without overextending my legs?
  • Am I comfortable while sitting on this bike?
  • Can I easily balance the bike while at a stop?

What if you aren’t into building your bike from the ground up? That’s where Peace Bicycles does things differently. We offer the same fixie value that you are looking for, but save you the trouble of part hunting by selling you a complete bike from the start. Make fixed gear bike problems a thing of the past by choosing Peace Bicycles.

Single Speed Commuter Bikes can be Heavy

Some fixie bikes, well the really cheap ones, can sometimes be heavy and this is often due to the material the bike frame is composed of. Of course, more expensive bike frames, especially with fixed bikes, will be made from lighter and stronger metals, which will improve the quality of your ride.

Fixie frames can be made from any of the popular frame materials, including steel, aluminum, and carbon. However, not all fixie bikes are worth their weight.

At Peace Bicycles, we use high-tensile chromoly steel for our bike frames. We have found that it provides a good compromise between strength and weight. It may be a little heavier, but the ride comfort is unparalleled. We have found the strength comes in handy when you need to carry anything more than yourself. Most light bikes simply cannot be used to transport heavy objects, or even another person.

Major fixed gear bike problems like this can be solved by choosing a lighter frame and components.

Unable to Carry Cargo

fixie cargo rack

Have you ever taken your bicycle to the supermarket on the weekend to grab some groceries? If you have, you remember that awkward bike back with a carton of milk, some vegetables, and if you were feeling especially crazy, some eggs.

Standard fixies do not come with the ability to carry cargo. This is a major problem for casual riders that want to use their bicycle to take care of their errands.

Peace Bicycles identified single speed commuter bike problems like this and solved them. All of our fixies come with a rugged rear rack. Because our frames are built with durable steel, our fixies are capable of hauling all of your goods across town and it will save you from a backpack full of broken eggs.

No Lights

Most cities have bylaws requiring cyclists to have a light on their bike at night. The average fixie doesn’t come with a light. Because of this, some cyclists will put their safety at risk and bike at night.

While you may think that you are safe in a city due to all the street lamps, motorists still have trouble seeing cyclists at night.

Want an easy fix? Get your fixie from Peace Bicycles. All of our fixies come standard with front and rear lights. Never put a price on your safety, a simple light can save you a lot of headaches in the future and help you ride safely at night. Even better, you can attach reflectors from your local bike supply shop to your bike, as well as wear reflective clothing (Peace fixies come with reflectors standard). The more visible you are, the safer you are on the road. Unlike the other fixed gear bike problems, this one is easy to fix.

Fixed Gear Bike Rims

fixed gear rims

To non-bike aficionados, bike wheels are complicated. They are often thought of as being one piece of rubber and air, but the wheel of a bike includes several components: the tire, the wheel, the inner tube, and the rim strip. Now, while the tire, wheel, and inner tube on a fixed gear bike more closely resemble their counterparts on non-fixed gear bikes, the rims can be different. Rim strips can be made of rubber or cotton tape.

The rim strip protects the inner tube from being punctured by the metal spokes of the wheel itself. If your bike did not have rim strips, your bike would be impossible to ride. Choosing a quality rim strip is of the utmost importance. Most bikes are sold with plastic rim strips, which are less durable than cotton tape or rubber, which means your bike rides will be shorter and less eventful.

Sometimes punctures occur when your inner tube expands into spoke holes that are present all around the wheel. This is true of fixed bikes and non-fixed bikes. In addition, any imperfections on the rim strip and inner rim may also puncture the inner tube. This is why it is vital that, if you are going to put your money into purchasing a bike, you should purchase a high-quality one. At Peace Bicycles you get what you pay for, a setup that lasts.

The type of rim strips that you purchase will be determined by the rims your single speed commuter bike has. If your bike has hollow section rims, it is best to avoid rubber rim strips. Since there are hollow sections of the rims, the inner tube will be pushed into the holes. In this case, cloth or cotton rim strips will be best for you. Single wall rims and double wall rims, however, are not hollow. If your bike has walled rims, you can get away with using rubber rim strips.

The rims you use will depend on your personal preference. The great thing about bikes is that you can simply swap out parts you do not like, for parts that you want.

Fixed Gear Bike Wheelsets

single speed commuter bike

The two main wheelsets that fixed gear bikes have are track wheelsets and fixed wheelsets. The difference is slight, but important. Track wheelsets are mainly used for racing on tracks. While you can use a fixed gear bike with track wheelsets on the road, they are not really meant for that.

Fixed gear bikes have a different cog system than non-fixed gear bikes. The cog on non-fixed gear bikes have the bike chain rotate around a bunch of metal teeth. This system allows you to have more control over your bike, especially the brake system.

Most times, on non-single speed commuter bikes, the cog system will also have a ball bearing system on it, which will give you more control over your wheels, and your brake system. However, although it is a stereotype that fixed gear bikes do not have a brake system, some do and you can install some of your own if yours does not. Fixed wheelsets, however, come with two cogs, allowing the rider to switch between a fixed cog and a freewheel cog set. Peace bikes come with brakes, so there is no need to worry.

It is common for wheels to be made from either carbon or aluminum. Although other materials can be used, you need to consider the resale value, as well as the maintenance value of your fixed gear bike. In addition to the commonality of parts and their availability at stores, you should consider the costs. It is basic supply and demand. There is a high supply for carbon and aluminum wheels and wheelsets because there is a large demand for them. You can often save a lot of money if you shop intelligently.

Here is a short list of the differences between carbon and aluminum. While these points apply to wheels and wheelsets, they can also be applied to other parts of the bike, fixed parts or not.

  • Aluminum, a common stock bike material, is more affordable
  • Carbon is higher quality, and therefore more expensive
  • Aluminum rims are better when used in rainy weather
  • Carbon has a higher strength to weight ratio than aluminum
  • Carbon is more aerodynamic than aluminum

So basically, an aluminum fixed gear bike is cheaper, but a carbon fixed gear bike performs better in most circumstances. If your first priority is performance, you would be better off with choosing a carbon fiber bike. However, if affordability is a factor, especially since you might purchase several bikes over your lifetime, an aluminum bike is more prudent. You will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages yourself in order to conclude which bike is more appropriate for you.

Unlike our competitors in the market, we use high-tensile chromoly steel for our bikes due to the advantages it provides our riders. Don't let your wheels be one of the fixed gear bike problems you suffer from.

Bike Tubes

bike tire tubes

One of the most common problems on single speed commuter bikes you will experience is a flat tire. Even in the best conditions, and with the best bikes, the unexpected can happen. One common occurrence that any rider can attest to, is the popping of tire tubes. It can easily happen. If you ride your bike through the city, where sharp objects like glass or nails can puncture the tire, tube, and rim. Many modern city bikes with thin tires have this happen to them.

Although you may think that it is impossible to avoid popping the tubes once in a while, and it is, there are some preventative steps that can be taken, as well as remedying steps to improve your ride quality when you buy a Peace bike.

Peace fixie bikes feature quality rim tape that is designed to reduce the possibility of tubes popping.

You can avoid common fixed gear bike problems if you purchase a quality bike. Likewise, once these fixed gear bike problems occur, you can minimize their impact by purchasing a premium bike or parts.

Open Bearing Hubs

When deciding on your bike hubs, you can choose one of two designs: cup and cone, or sealed bearings. While cup and cone bearings are easier to replace (as sealed bearings require the use of special tools), and are somewhat easier to clean, sealed bearings perform better. Many bike riders prefer bearings, which is why you will see bearings used on many high-end bikes, and why Peace bikes feature sealed bearing hubs.

The two criticisms of sealed bearings are, in our opinion, slightly misguided. You may need special tools to replace sealed bearings. However, once you have those tools, you will be able to replace the bearings. Next, while hubs are slightly harder to replace if you have sealed bearings, they last so long that the need to replace them often is irrelevant.

The greatest benefit of sealed bearings is that they are sealed. This allows the hubs to deflect dirt, dust, and grit away from the hubs, keeping the internals of your bike cleaner, and working more efficiently. Our goal with Peace bikes is to allow you to ride more, and ride longer. We build our bikes to last and make efficiency and usage decisions through the design process. This provides our customers with the best ride comfort possible.

In the End, It's up to You

No matter what, the final decision is up to you. Traditional single speed commuter bicycles are a lot of fun, but as you’ve learned, they have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

You should consider Peace Bicycle’s line of Dutch bicycles if you are on the fence about fixies. Our fully-equipped fixies come outfitted with all the luxuries and accessories of non-fixies, but still allow you to enjoy that classic fixie feel. If you have any questions about fixies, do not hesitate to leave a comment below. We want everyone to experience the beauty of cycling, regardless of what bicycle you choose.

The “fixie” community (what fixed gear bike riders call themselves), like stripped-down bikes with stripped-down features. However, not every rider wants this, and that is fine. We provided you with a list of the most common fixed gear bike advantages and disadvantages. Everyone has their own idea about what constitutes the best bike and the best biking experience. Peace bikes are designed with the fixie rider at heart, but have a more premium feel. We provide racks, built-in lights, bells, and more.  This makes them great for individuals who are looking to get into fixed gear bikes, but want more utility and comfort. You get the best of both worlds.

Eric Carriere

author

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