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How to Ride a Fixed Gear Bike? (7 Tips to Breakless Biking)

In this article, you will learn what a fixie bike is, why people ride them, and a few tips to help you learn how to ride a fixie quickly and safely.

Image of man riding fixie bicycle with blue backpack in the city streets. Source: Adobe Stock
Image of man riding fixie bicycle with blue backpack in the city streets. Source: Adobe Stock

If you’re new to the world of fixed gear cycling, learning how to get the hang of this type of bike can be daunting. So how do you learn how to ride a fixed-gear bike?

Learning how to ride a fixie requires practice. Try practicing in a safe environment where you are comfortable falling, such as on grass. Make sure you have the right kind of shoes and pedal straps. Don’t forget to keep pedaling! And don’t be alarmed when the pedals naturally push your body up as you ride.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn what a fixie is, why people ride them, and a few tips to help you learn how to ride quickly and safely.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 14, 2022, to include additional information about how to ride a fixie.

Before learning how to ride a fixed-gear bike, let’s first understand what a fixed-gear bike is in the first place.

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What is a fixed-gear bike?

Fixies (also known as fixed-gear bikes) are bicycles that do not have gears. Instead, the pedals are linked directly to the rear wheel hub. This indicates that if the wheel is spinning, so are the pedals. Consequently, freewheeling (rolling down a hill without moving the pedals) is impossible, but the pedals may be used as brakes to manually slow down the bike.

Why do people like riding fixed-gear bikes?

Fixed gear bikes have a lot of advantages. Fixies provide a level of simplicity that harkens back to the early days of riding when one gear was the norm. Because your feet are directly attached to the back wheel, which moves the pedals around, your pedal stroke becomes practically flawless, and you are more efficient because there is no dead spot in the stroke. 

You also learn to spin more effectively since you must cycle continually and faster on every descent. There is no mental energy spent tinkering with changing mechanics.

Finally, the link between the rider and the machine is almost flawless. Some riders are so talented that they can balance in place, slow down, and stop without using brakes.

Furthermore, since fixies originated in the “underground” bike messenger scene, the fixie culture has a lot of counter-culture characteristics.

If you’re looking for a new fixie, check out our post on the best fixed gear and single-speed bikes.

Image of a fixie cyclist on a trackstand in the city streets.
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Image of a fixie cyclist on a track stand in the city streets. Source: Tom Austin on Unsplash

How to ride a fixed-gear bike

You don’t have to be a tattooed bike messenger to appreciate and enjoy riding a fixed-gear bike. Anyone can ride a fixie, and here’s how.

  1. Start at a standstill

    To place your feet on the pedals, lift the rear wheel off the ground and orient the pedals in the best position for you to slide your feet inside. Next, rotate the pedals while lifting the rear tire and placing the pedals in the proper position. It’s ok to use your hands to get your feet into the pedals at this point.

  2. Make use of straps

    Pedal straps are standard on most fixed-gear bikes. Stopping can be difficult or dangerous without straps.

    Insert your leading foot inside the straps. Then, push down with your lead foot while placing your other foot on the pedal to move the bike ahead. 

    You should practice getting in and out of them until they become second nature. When you have difficulty getting out, you wind up tumbling when you come to a halt. That has the potential to be pretty harmful. Also, do not use any foot fastening mechanism that requires you to use your hands to get into or out of! That may be fine on an indoor track, but it is a terrible idea for riding on the road.

    Try practicing while leaning against anything you can grasp onto, such as a lamp post or a railing, or on soft ground, such as grass.

    Pedal straps may be purchased at a bike shop or online. Take a look at the product selections listed below.

  3. Wear the right kind of shoes

    If your foot becomes caught when you try to take it out of the straps, it might be because the straps are too tight or you’re wearing the wrong kind of shoe.

    Canvas shoes with relatively thin bottoms and no excessive pattern, such as Converse*, are ideal for use with straps. Modern running shoes feature heavy, bulky bottoms, which might cause you to become trapped. Classic leather shoes are often broad in the front and small in the center, making it difficult to fit into the strap. And cycling boots are just a horrible idea.

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  4. Don’t stop pedaling

    It may take some time to get accustomed to riding a fixed-gear bike. You’ll probably have a few situations when you attempt to stop for a break or stand up with your legs braced in a kind of triangle, and ideally, just have a short surprise skid… and then you’ll soon realize you can’t do that.

    If you stop pedaling while on a fixed-gear bike, you will most likely lose your balance and fall, or the pedals will lift your legs awkwardly, and you will bail. So don’t stop pedaling.

  5. Learn how to stop properly

    Use your front brake to stop, especially if you’re new to riding. The truth is that the front wheel has far more stopping power than the rear.

    On a road bike with front and rear brakes, you still use the front one the most. A downward force is applied to the front wheel when braking at high speeds. More downward force provides more stopping power before sliding.

    Your front wheel will not slide on grippy terrain with good tires. Even with highly sticky 35 mm tires on my gravel bike, it doesn’t take much braking strength to lock up the back wheel. When you stop hard enough to lock the front wheel, you don’t skid; instead, you go over the handlebars. While it’s not perfect, it’s much better than crashing into someone because your rear-brake-only bike has little stopping force.

  6. Be cautious of cornering and pedal strikes.

    Cornering is something you should practice. You risk hitting the road with your pedal since the pedals continue to spin even as you lean into the bend. The more you lean over, the quicker you go and the tighter the turn.

    Striking the ground in this manner might quickly throw you off balance. Also, be mindful of other possible stumbling blocks.

    To counteract this, take broader turns while turning. Because the pedals on a fixed gear bike are continually moving, turning may be different from riding a freewheel bike. If you take too tight a turn, your pedals will scrape against the ground, and you will collapse over. Slow down substantially when going around turns and take them wider than you would with a freewheel bike.

  7. Be patient

    Learning a new skill does not happen overnight. But you need to keep practicing. The more you do it, the better you get at it. It can take one day or one week to get the hang of it. Just never stop riding.

How long does it take to learn?

Learning how to ride a fixed-gear bike is like learning any other skill. The more you do it, the sooner you get better at it. It can take one day or one week. It truly depends on how often you ride.

Are you looking for more advice? Watch this video called “How To Ride A Fixed Gear Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

A video called “How To Ride A Fixed Gear Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Below are some commonly asked questions about riding a fixed-gear bike.

Is it difficult to ride a fixed-gear bike?

Riding a fixed-gear bike is not as difficult as some people would have you believe, and you can get the hang of it in less than a week.

Can you ride a fixed-gear bike without pedaling?

The simple answer is no. The pedals and rear wheel of a fixed-gear bicycle are directly linked, which means that as the rear wheel spins, so do the pedals. As a result, you cannot coast on a fixed-gear bicycle and must pedal every time the bike moves.

Are fixies suitable for long-distance travel?

In general, riding a fixed-gear bike over long distances is quite feasible. But it isn’t easy and is not recommended. If you want to do this, you’ll need to work on your fitness and gradually increase your distance over time.

Conclusion

Riding a fixed-gear can be done in as little as a day. It’s all about your determination.

This article covered what a fixie is, why people ride them, and a few tips to help you learn how to ride quickly and safely. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Start at a standstill
  • Make use of straps.
  • Wear the right kind of shoes.
  • Don’t stop pedaling.
  • Learn how to stop properly.
  • Be cautious of cornering and pedal strikes.
  • Be patient. Learning takes time.
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So, are you new to the whole fixed gear thing? Or are you a seasoned veteran? 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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