PFTV is back! In the first episode of the season, Amanda’s answering the age-old question, “Fixed or Free, what’s right for me?”.
Before you declare yourself #Fixed4Lyfe or commit to coasting, watch the video right here to get the full scoop!
Stuck in the library, or somewhere you can’t play noisy bike videos? Let’s break it down blog-style:
Fixed-gear. The dream. A direct connection between the pedals and the rear wheel. Pure bliss.
If that’s what you’re into.
With a fixed-gear set-up, the cog on the rear wheel is fixed in place by a lockring, so if the wheel is spinning, so is the cog. And because that cog is connected to the pedals via the chain, if your rear wheel is moving, your pedals are moving too. That relationship between the pedals and the rear wheel has two big impacts.
First, no coasting. That’s right, if you’re moving, you’re pedaling. Pedal forward and you move forward, pedal backwards and you go backwards – it’s the simplest possible manifestation of the bicycle and that’s why fixed-gears are still around after all these years.
The second effect of a fixed-gear drivetrain is that you can control your speed with your cadence. Because of the direct tie between the pedals and the rear wheel, if you pedal fast and really mash it out – you’ll go fast. If you put some back-pressure on the pedals and slow down your stroke, the bike slows down too. That means you can control the bike through traffic and adjust your speed on the fly without ever needing to touch the brakes. The connection you feel between yourself and the bike becomes pretty impactful. It’s an extension of yourself. Speeding up takes no extra thought than walking a bit faster to pass someone on the sidewalk would. Slowing down happens naturally as you slow your body to assess changing situations. You reach a point where the bike no longer feels like a machine you’re using, just another limb – or a faster pair of legs. That feeling of “connection” is what gets a lot of first-time fixed riders hooked.
Not being able to coast also means no cheating on your workout regimen and the constant motion helps perfect your pedal stroke, so even when you jump on another bike you can deliver even power all the way around. Add in the simplicity of the fixed-gear drivetrain (low maintenance) and it becomes clear just what makes riding fixed so appealing.
A freewheel refers to a cog that’s attached to the rear wheel through a set of bearings that let the wheel move independently of the cog. If you pedal, the cog pulls the rear wheel forward. If you stop pedaling, the bearings will allow the wheel to keep rolling while you coast dreamily along.
Most people are used to riding a freewheel and, in fact, the idea of standing on the pedals and coasting along in the sun is almost the stereotypical bike experience. If you’re just after a comfortable cruise, or your legs aren’t hungry for the challenge of constant effort – a freewheel is the perfect set up for you.
Because you can’t slow the bike with your cadence, you’ll need a front and rear brake (and know how to use them). That means they’re not quite as minimalist as a fixed-gear bike and they’re a bit more complicated, but the choice to ride free or fixed should really come from your legs, not your eyes.
And that’s the basics! But the best way to make a decision is just to try them both out for yourself. Lucky for you, all of our Original and Premium Series bikes come with a flip-flop hub (fixed on one side of the rear wheel, freewheel on the other). That way you can try both, decide what’s best for you, and get the most out of your ride!