If you’re new to the cycling scene, you may have heard the terms “fixed gear bike” and “track bike” used interchangeably. Let me be the first to tell you that a fixed gear bike and a track bike are different. And not knowing the difference can be pretty embarrassing.
So to save you from looking like a chump in the bike forum, this article will teach you the difference between a track and a fixed gear. I will also cover the pros and cons and give you my recommendations on a few great options to check out. So let’s take a moment and answer the question: what is the difference between a track bike and a fixed gear bike?
The main difference between a fixed-geared bike and a track bike is that track bikes are specially designed for racing. On the other hand, fixed-geared bikes are primarily for casual use, enjoyment, and transportation.
What is a fixed-gear bike?
A fixed gear bike (often called a fixie) is a bike that has a single gear with no freewheel mechanism, which means it can’t coast. The bike must stay in constant motion. You will typically find them with no hand brakes. However, fixed gear manufacturers usually provide a single front hand brake to satisfy many local laws.
This style of bike has become immensely popular because of its simplistic design, lightweight, and low maintenance. As a result, fixies are the go-to choice for many bike commuters and messengers.
Benefits of fixed gear bikes (pros)
There are many benefits to riding fixed. If you enjoy doing repairs on your bike, you will love owning a fixie. This type of bike is known for being easy to repair, and replacement parts are affordable. If you maintain your bike and keep up with the required maintenance, it will last for years.
They are also extremely customizable. There is a huge industry of bike manufacturers who cater to the activities of fixed-gear cyclists. The result is many colorful parts to make your fixie look and feel unique. Below are some parts you can swap on your fixie.
Cost is also a major pro for fixies. Due to their minimalistic design, fixed gears have fewer moving parts, thus making them less expensive than most other bikes.
They are ultra-lightweight. You can usually carry a fixed-gear bike up a set of stairs with a single hand. You can’t say that about most other bikes.
Finally, fixed gear bikes also have the ability to go backward, not that you’d ever need to, but it can make for a neat trick.
Disadvantages of fixed gear bikes (cons)
While there are many reasons why fixed-gear bikes are great, they may not be the best bike for your needs.
If you need a bike that can conquer hills or rough off-road terrain, a fixie may not be the bike you’re looking for. Fixed gear bikes are best on flat ground. The single gear makes it very difficult to pedal up steep hills. It can be done, but prepare for a workout of epic proportions.
State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061
State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061
What is a track bike?
A track bike is essentially a fixed-gear bike made specifically for racing. Track bikes have been around for many years. Track bikes are usually ridden on a velodrome.
Track racing is considered to be the most intense form of cycling. It involves track bikes which are made for racing, and aerodynamic body suits that reduce wind resistance as much as possible. A track bike has aggressive geometry, with the seat and head tube angles at around 74 degrees. In addition, the bottom brackets on these bikes are placed higher off the ground to avoid scraping against the velodrome.
The tires on these bikes are narrow and inflated to the highest volume possible. Track bikes are built as stiff as possible; comfort is not a high priority. Any customization done to this bike is to optimize it for racing. Additionally, track bikes do not use hand-powered brakes.
Advantages of track bikes (pros)
As mentioned, track bikes were designed for indoor bike racing tracks called velodromes. They are built for maximum light and speed. They look amazing and unique and are about as fast as any bike can get. So if you want to ride a bike at a velodrome, this bike is for you.
Disadvantages of track bikes (cons)
A drawback is that they are not made for the outdoors. They are not meant to handle bumpy terrain and potholes. And their stiffness and aggressive geometry might be uncomfortable for long commuter rides.
Since they don’t come standard with hand brakes, riding them outside is not always safe. There will be times when you’ll need to stop immediately without warning. Not being able to do so with ease is a safety issue. And most states and cities require bikes to have brakes to be street legal.
And, of course, the cost is a major factor. Track bikes can be very expensive compared to most casual, fixed-gear bikes.
Which is best for me?
Track and fixed-gear bikes are designed for different purposes. One is for casual street use, and the other is for racing and maximum efficiency.
In most cases, you are going to want a fixie. Fixed-gear bikes are the top choice for those purchasing a bike for commuting. Fixed is the way to go if you want a bike to ride in the park or on your commute to work. However, a track bike is the way to go if you want to do any racing.
If you want to learn more about velodrome racing, check out this video from Mobile Cyclist.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about fixed gear vs. track bikes.
What are the similarities between fixed gear and track bikes?
Track and fixed gear bikes share many similarities. For example, they are both technically fixed gear bikes (bikes with single-geared drive trains), look very similar, are very lightweight, and both primarily require leg power to stop or slow down.
Which is better, a fixie or a track bike?
If you’re trying to decide between a fixie and a track bike. Keep in mind that the additional safety features of a fixie make it a good choice for street riding.
A fixie is a good and safest choice for leisure cyclists. If you are not a pro or avid cyclist, maybe stay away from the track bikes for now. If you’ve settled on a fixed-gear bicycle as your mode of transportation, you should go for a high-end one. It’s crucial that you focus on the quality of the construction and the details of the layout.
Are all track bikes fixed-gear?
All track bikes are essentially fixed gear bikes, but not all fixed gear bikes are track bikes.
And although all track bikes have just a fixed gear (no coasting), their gear ratios differ based on the event. A sprinter, for example, will run a lower ratio than an endurance rider; they have to accelerate quickly, whereas, in the longer distance races, riders want to cruise at high speed.
While fixed-geared bikes are poised to be the new craze, track bikes have been around for years. Hopefully, you have learned the differences between a track bike and a fixed gear bike.
In this article, we covered fixed gear bikes, track bikes, and the pros and cons of each. Here are some key takeaways:
- Both track bikes and fixies are fixed (single-geared) bikes.
- Fixed-gear bikes are primarily used for city use, commuting, and fun.
- Fixed-gear bikes are easy to repair, and replacement parts are affordable.
- Track bikes are specially designed for racing.
- Track bikes are lighter and faster but more expensive. A crank is the component of a crank-driven rotating mechanism that converts reciprocating linear motion into rotary motion.
- A chainring is a device that connects the chain to a bicycle’s rear gears. They are usually steel, but some modern-day models feature aluminum or graphite construction.
So, are you a fan of the velodrome? Or are you riding a standard fixie? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.