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Are Fixies Dangerous? (The Truth)

Let’s be honest here. We like to live dangerously.

Image of a man wearing jean shorts holding a white fixed gear bike.
Image of a man wearing jean shorts holding a white fixed gear bike.

If you’re new to the world of fixies and just learned that they tend to not have brakes, you’re probably wondering—are fixed gear bikes dangerous?

The danger level of a fixie depends on how your fixed gear bike is set up, as well as the rider’s competence. Once you get used to not being able to coast, a fixie is no more dangerous than a single speed if you have brakes. If you run without brakes, you instantly expose yourself to a slew of risks, regardless of skill level.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn if fixed gear bikes are dangerous, what makes them potentially dangerous, and how to ride safely so you can hit the streets with confidence.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on January 16, 2022, to include additional information regarding cycling safety.

Are fixed gear bicycles hazardous?

And while fixed-gear bikes have a ton of benefits, one of the common concerns is that they are dangerous. The fact is that fxed-gear bike is not always dangerous, but it is dependent on the rider’s competence. All bikes pose some risk to both the rider and the pedestrian.

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When you stop pedaling on a fixed-gear bike, the bike may swerve and fall over. This may be a huge issue since fixies perform best on city terrains. If you fall while riding a fixie, you fall hard. That can, however, be said about any bike.

Riding with a helmet will significantly increase your odds of not killing yourself on the road. Check out some of the ones below.

When is riding a fixed gear bike dangerous?

If you run without brakes, you instantly expose yourself to a slew of risks, regardless of skill level, there are simply too many external factors, such as bad drivers and mechanical problems, that skill cannot overcome.

Chainring bolts

Your primary means of stopping is immediately ruled out if your chainring bolts failed and the chainring itself was no longer intact/not connected to the crank-arms. Stopping using skidding is also not very quick and may take significantly longer than stopping with typical rim brakes.

Pedal strikes

It is never a good idea to hit your pedal on the ground when cornering tightly. On a freewheel bike, you may cruise around the turns with your pedals horizontal, eliminating the possibility of colliding. This is not an option for a fixed-gear machine.

If you hit a fixed gear pedal, the pedal might pull the back wheel off the road, sending you down. The severity of the issue will be determined by your bottom bracket height, crank length, and pedal design.

Consider 165 mm cranks, which provide slightly greater ground clearance than the 170 mm cranks often used on road bikes. I try not to use pedals that extend too much.

Wheel Lock and derailment

Throwing a chain on a freewheel bike isn’t a huge concern, but it may be quite hazardous on a fixed gear bike. If the chain breaks loose from the chain-wheel, it may get tangled or even loop around the back sprocket, causing the wheel to lock up. You will very surely crash if this occurs when you are bent over in a turn.

This is avoided by ensuring that your chain line is straight and that your chain is sufficiently tight.

Surprise pedal movement

A fixie does lack the ability to “coast.” This means you can stop pedaling, and your bike continues to move. If you are a new rider, the pedal movement can be surprising and may throw you off the bike. However, you’ll get the hang of it after your first few rides. 

Bad Weater

Another important consideration for safety is the weather. When it rains, the street will inherently be a lot slipperier. This is also true for the bike lane. This is something that all bikes have to come to terms with.

Image of a wet city bike lane.
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Image of a wet city bike lane. Source: Andrew Gook, Unsplash

How to ride a fixie safely

A fixie is no riskier than a regular bike for experienced and cautious riders. 

If you’re a first-time fixie rider, it’s best to start modestly. Try cycling around your neighborhood. Look for locations that are both calm and open. Don’t push the bike beyond its capabilities. Any bike is most secure when the rider understands what they’re doing. This is especially true for fixed-gear bikes because the rider has greater control over the movement.

When you initially ride a fixie, I suggest spending some time in areas where there aren’t many other bikes or pedestrians. We propose beginning with a flip-flop rear wheel, with a fixie on one side and a freewheel on the other, and carrying a 15mm wrench to flip it. Starting out on a fixie might be more difficult on your legs than you would imagine. It can be very beneficial to be able to switch to a single-speed (freewheel) and give your legs a rest.

If you want to see a video of this covered in detail, take a look at this one called ‘How Safe Are Fixed Gear Bikes On City Streets?‘ from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

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A video called ‘How Safe Are Fixed Gear Bikes On City Streets?‘ from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do fixies have shifters?

As the name implies, fixed gear bikes only have one gear. This means that they do not have shifters and cannot change gears. You can change the gear ratio on a fixie. However, it requires some mechanical work.

Are fixies fast?

Fixed gear bikes are very lightweight and, by nature, very fast as they are intended to be used in Velodrome track racing. However, since they do not have gears, you will only be as fast as your legs.

Are fixies safe?

While all types of bicycles inherently pose more risk to the rider. Fixed gear bikes tend to be a little bit more on the dangerous side. This is because they tend to lag both front and rear brakes. I, however, this does not mean that fixies themselves are not safe. It means that a writer must have additional caution on writing.

Conclusion

Fixed gear bicycles, when used and maintained correctly, maybe just as safe as any other kind of bike. Remember that for a long time, all bikes were fixed-gear. Or, more precisely, no gear bikes. They take some getting used to, but if you can ride a geared bike, you can learn to ride a fixie securely.

In this article, we discussed if fixed gear bikes are dangerous, what makes them potentially dangerous, and how to ride safely, so you can ride with confidence. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Fixed gear bikes are as safe as the writer is skilled.
  • Fxies themselves are not dangerous. You can ride fixed and still have both front and rear break.
  • However, riding a fixie does include some inherent risks if you’re riding brakeless.
  • Be cautious while you’re riding and pay attention to pedestrians and traffic laws to avoid accidents.
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So, do you like to live on the wild side like we do? Or is this a little too risky for you? 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.

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Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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