Fixed gear and single-speed bikes both have a rear cog and a single front chainring. This means they essentially have only one gear.
Both appear very similar, but that’s only when you look at them on the surface. A more in-depth examination will reveal quite a lot of differences.
What is a Fixed Gear Bike?
A fixed-gear bike or fixie is a bicycle with a fixed cog in the rear and doesn’t have freewheel gear.
The rear hub and rear cog are joined in a fixed gear bike. This means as long as the rear wheel is turning, the cog is turning, too.
What is a Single Speed Bike?
A single-speed bike is any bicycle with a single gear ratio.
It is fitted with one freewheel at the back and one gear in the front.
This allows the rear wheel to keep turning even when you stop pedaling.
Typically, a single bike doesn’t have hub gearing, derailleur gear, or other features that can be used to vary its gear ratio.
What’s the Difference Between Fixed Gear and Single Speed?
Let’s check out the differences
Ease of Use
Generally, it takes plenty of practice to get used to riding fixed.
You need to learn how to maintain cadence in different terrain and riding conditions, as well as how to brake using only your legs.
This is especially true if you take off the brakes or your bike doesn’t come fitted with a front brake.
Conversely, single-speed bikes are a lot easier to ride.
You don’t need any special skills to ride them. You can hop on them and ride away, provided you know how to ride any regular bicycle.
The subject of safety is one of the biggest differences when comparing fixed gear vs single speed.
Some fixed gear bikes do not come with front brakes while others do.
Brakeless types rely solely on the rider’s skill, road position, and stopping the cranks to come to a halt.
On the flip side, single-speed bikes all feature standard brakes just like every normal geared bike.
This makes the process of bringing a single-speed bike to halt very easy and simple. You don’t have to learn some complicated stopping skills as with fixed gear bikes.
Keep in mind that riding a fixed gear bike without a front brake is considered illegal in some cities or regions.
Make sure to check your local laws before you ride a brakeless fixie, especially if you plan to use it for daily commuting.
The rear wheel and pedals are directly connected in fixed-gear bicycles.
This design means that the pedals or cranks will keep spinning as long as the rear wheel is turning.
In other words, the rear wheel will stop once you stop pedaling so riding fixed gear eliminates coasting or cruising.
While this usually means working harder, it provides plenty of workout opportunities.
On the other hand, you can cruise or coast around with single-speed bikes. In fact, their coasting ability is one of the biggest advantages of single-speed bikes.
This means you can give your legs a break, especially on long rides. Plus, it is a lot safer and feels more comfortable when you are riding downhill.
Which one Will be Better for Me?
Knowing the difference between these two is one thing; deciding which option is best for you is the next logical step.
Here are a few pointers to help you decide between fixed gear vs single-speed bikes.
Consider a fixed gear bike if:
- You want a bike optimized for racing on an outdoor track or velodrome.
- If you want a bike that doesn’t require too much maintenance, especially during winter. A fixie typically doesn’t have a derailleur, gear cable, and other freewheel mechanisms so there is little maintenance to worry about and fewer parts that may wear out easily.
- You want a great way to exercise, build up stamina, and stay physically fit. Riding fixed means you have to work harder during steep climbs pedaling all through. Either that or you’ll have to walk uphill carrying your bike!
- You want to maintain better-pedaling cadence, modulate your speed with leg control, and learn better cornering. With fixed gears, coasting is completely off the table. This means you will have to adapt your pedaling and riding style whether you are going down a sharp slope at 100 mph or riding up a steep ascent at 18 mph.
- You want to have sheer fun on your bike. It might even feel as if you are one unit with your bike – that’s how thrilling the feel and experience of riding fixed can get!
A single-speed bike is a great option if:
- You want a highly affordable and low-maintenance bike. You won’t be paying for regular services with single-speed bikes because cleaning and maintenance are pretty straightforward.
- You prefer an upright riding position. Single speeds are usually fitted with flat handlebars, making them more suited for upright riding positions.
- You generally ride in flat, smooth terrain. Single-speed bikes are as effective and quick as geared bikes in areas with few steep hills.
- You want to build up stamina but don’t want a fixed gear. However, make sure you can handle climbs with only one gear and understand that you will likely be standing while climbing hills.
- Your riding style involves getting up to speed and maintaining momentum instead of stopping or braking unnecessarily.
- You prefer to pedal slower and harder when required instead of changing gears.
- You currently have a geared bike but only use no more than 3 gears at most.
- You don’t exceed speeds of 12 to 18 mph and generally cover short to medium distances.
Comparing fixed gear vs single speed is not necessary to declare a winner.
Instead, knowing their difference will help you figure out what’s most suited to your riding needs.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference.
But you may want to go with a fixie if you prefer a fun bike that gives you absolute control and provides an incredible riding experience.
Consider a single-speed bike if you want a more relaxed and comfortable ride while keeping things simple.