Fixed Gear Bike vs Single Speed – What’s the Difference?

If you are reading this article, it is safe to assume that you are doing your research on these two types of bikes mainly for commuting or for just riding around your neighborhood. Knowing the differences between these two bikes can help you make an informed decision on which one you should get. So, let’s take a look at the differences

The main differences between these two bikes are that single speed bikes have a flywheel and brakes. A fixed-gear bike normally does not have brakes or a flywheel. This means that you cannot freewheel with the bike and as long as the wheels are spinning, the pedals will rotate. You stop yourself with the pedals.

If I’m being honest with you, I understand that a lot of the information out there regarding these two bikes are vague and not very helpful. So, my goal with this article is to give you as much information about these two bikes as possible. Let’s get into it.

 

Fixed Gear Bike vs Single Speed: What’s The Main Difference?

To someone who does not know much about bikes, these two might seem rather similar. However, there are differences that separate the bikes and what they offer. I want to make a quick list highlighting the main differences between these two bikes and then we will move on to discuss them in more detail. If we use the term ‘Fixie” it is short for “Fixed Gear bike”.

  • Single speeds are fitted with a flywheel. Fixies are not.
  • Fixed gear bikes often do not have brakes. Single speeds do.
  • Fixed gear bikes are best used on tracks. Single speeds are great for road use.

The fact that single speed bikes have a flywheel is probably the most significant difference. To put it simply, the flywheel allows the wheels to spin without the pedals rotating. I want you to keep this in mind when we discuss the brakes of the bike.

Single-speed bikes normally have brakes while fixed gear bikes don’t. This might leave you wondering how you brake on a fixie? Well, let me explain. The lack of a flywheel means that the pedals will continually rotate with the wheels. You brake by placing resistance on the pedals.

In order to brake on a fixed gear bike, you need to be quite skillful at applying pressure or resistance to the pedals. This combined with clever road movement will start to slow the bike down.

 

Are Single Speed Bikes Better Than Fixies?

This is a subjective question and it completely depends on what you want to use the bike for. I will say that for road use and general commuting, a single-speed bike is always the best. This is especially true for beginners. Fixies tend to have more of a cult following when it comes to road use.

Fixed gear bikes are used mostly on tracks, most notably, tracks like the velodrome. However, in states where riding a bicycle without brakes is legal, you will find quite a lot of cyclists using fixed gear bikes on the road. It is starting to become a little bit of a fashion statement.

I feel like we have covered the differences that matter. Now, let’s take a look at a few important talking points. That leads us into the next section.

 

Fixie vs Single Speed Bike: The Cost

When comparing two different types of objects you always need to talk about the price especially because this article is intended to help you choose which one you should get. So, let’s take a look at which bike is more expensive.

  • Fixed gear bikes: A decent bike starts at around $400.
  • Single-speed bike: A decent single-speed starts at $250.  

Both types of bikes can cost a few thousand dollars. I just felt that it was important to give you an entry-level price point for decent bikes in both categories. With that said, fixed gear bikes tend to cost more even though they come equipped with less.

Fixed Gear Bike vs Single Speed

Single Speed Bike vs Fixie: Which Is Better For Beginners

Single-speed bikes are better for beginners in my experience. While fixed gear bikes are slowly becoming very popular amongst commuters, they do require some skill as they are built specifically for track use.

Slowing down on a fixie is a lot more difficult than on a single-speed bike. This is because a single-speed bike still has your conventional bicycle brakes. To slow down on a fixie, you need to know how to work the pedals and find a good balance between speed and resistance in order to slow the bike down.

At the end of the day, the best thing that you can do is try and take a test ride on a fixie to see if you can handle it. Other than that, if you are a beginner, maybe it is best to stick to a single-speed at first.

 

Fixie vs Single Speed: Which Is Faster?

There are a lot of variables that go into this question. One brand of single speed bikes might be faster than fixed gear bikes and vice versa. However, we can break it down in a general sense.

A fixed-gear bike is generally faster than a single-speed. However, this can change depending on a few factors such as brand and quality.

 

Should You Get A Single Speed Or a Fixie?

In order to answer this question, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Here is a list of questions that you need to consider when thinking about which of these two bikes to get.

  • What terrain are you riding on?
  • Will you use the bike for commuting or exercise?
  • How comfortable are you with having no brakes?
  • Is it legal to ride a fixie in your state or country?

What Terrain Are You Riding On?

If you are riding around on flat roads then it does not really matter if you are using a single-speed or a fixed gear bike as long as you know how to slow down without brakes. With that being said, if your route has a lot of hills and slopes, this changes things quite significantly.

Going uphill on either bike will deliver a similar experience to each other. However because a fixie does not have a flywheel or brakes, you cannot freewheel. This means that slowing down is a lot easier on a single-speed bike. Therefore, if you will encounter a lot of slopes or hills on your route, a single-speed is better. 

How Comfortable Are You With Having No Brakes?

So, I feel like we have repeated this at least three times in this article but it is because this is one of the most significant differences between the two bikes.

Because you don’t have brakes and you rely on your skill and the amount of resistance you place on the pedals in order to stop, it means that your stop distance is a lot further on a fixie. 

If you are riding around busy streets like in New York and you are not comfortable stopping without brakes, it can be quite dangerous.

Is It Legal To Ride A Fixie On The Road?

Basically, in some parts of the world and in some states of the US, it is illegal to ride a bike without brakes on the road. Before buying a fixie, be sure to check the regulations of your state or country.

 

Summary Table: Fixie vs Single Speed Bike

Here is a table with a few of the most notable talking points from this article.

Topic Single Speed bike Fixie
Does it have a flywheel? Yes No
Does it have brakes? Yes Mostly no. Use pedals
Best used for Flat road commuting Track racing
Best for beginners Yes No

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading that article you can walk away from it without having any further questions. Also, hopefully, you can now make an informed decision of which bike you are going to get for yourself. Whichever one you choose, remember to stay safe while riding and have a good time.