13 Lessons I Learnt Riding Fixed

Just over a year ago our good friend Loz(Trillion cycles) handed over a Beta Custom and thus began my induction into the world of riding a fixed gear bike. No gears, no freewheeling, no back brake, no mud guards but despite all of these shortcomings it soon proved to have far more going for it than I’d ever thought possible. 

I’ll admit that it took a little getting use to but I’m now officially hooked. So here’s all that riding fixed has taught my one year on. 

Rolling is wasted training

I thought my general level of cycling fitness was reasonable enough but only when I started to ride fixed did I realise just how much of each journey I had spent free wheeling. Put another way, only then did I realise how much of my journey had been utterly wasted. Ride fixed and every second on the bike is an investment in both your fitness and your technique. 

You need good knees

As a child God saved me from the chores of running and gave me a bike. Right now I am very glad. Riding fixed places definite strain on the knees and is probably not a good idea for anyone nursing long term knee injuries. 

To ride is to be in control; absolute control

Every single millimetre of riding exists because of the riders exertion. Nothing is an accident. Nothing just happens. I am accountable for the whole damn thing good and/or bad. Riding fixed gives an immense sense of connectedness to the bike and ultimately to the road; it also provides an important metaphor for life which I too easily run away from. 

Maintenance is highly over rated

Despite having the best mechanic in town pretty close at hand truth is that the Beta custom hasn’t needed a thing. 

Balance is control

I’m yet to fully perfect my track stand but even the little I am capable of gives me an immense sense of joy as utter control keeps the bike just where I want it; ready to roll when and only when I choose fit. 

Clipless and fixie are pointless bed fellows

Sure someone will disagree but I tried riding clipless for a while and have yet to understand a single worth while advantage. Ritchey SPD’s were promptly removed. MKS pedals and toe clips proved an effective replacement. 

Picking a good line saves time

Maintaining my pedal stroke while turning corners demands that I pic the perfect line every time. Lean too far and I’ll grind the pedals, not far enough and I’ll loose all sense of rhythm and control. 

Gears are a deceptive illusion

If gears exist to make climbs a little easier that is precisely their danger. Riding fixed reveals the truth of your fitness and there’s no hiding it. The hill is never too steep or long but I often need to get fitter, lighter, stronger. 

“Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a dérailleur?  We are getting soft… as for me, get me a fixed gear!”
(Desgrange, 1902)

Life merits my attention

Something about that utter sense of control and connectedness means I notice much more of my general surroundings; birds above the city skies, foxes under cars, changing road surfaces and the pounding rhythm of my heart. These are good things to notice. Fresh reminders that whatever the spread sheet says, I am in fact, still alive.  

Fixie without brakes makes you bad ass (I’m not!) 

When Loz built the Beta Custom I opted for a front brake and the truth is I don’t regret it.

Riding fixed makes a back brake surplus to requirement but I have no where near the required skill to apply sufficient slow pedalling resistance when rolling down a steep hill. Maybe in the future but for now a front break is a very good move. 

The phone will wait

Maintaining rhythm and cadence is key to the joy of riding fixed. Get distracted and you’ll get thrown off by your better self. 

Hip is nothing at all

I have no idea what it means to be hip or hipster but am certain I am not it. My bike is neither a fashion statement nor a political trend it’s just the way I roll. 

Smiling is a great way to start the day

So here’s the simple truth. I am prone to misery, I am far too cynical about life and I often despair at the struggle for safe cycling but despite all of this riding fixed has most definitely nuanced the start of each day with a large dose of joy for which I am all the better off. 

“YOU CAN ALWAYS ADD SOMETHING TO A BIKE, BUT YOU COME TO A POINT WHERE YOU CAN’T TAKE ANYTHING AWAY AND THAT’S A FIXED GEAR BIKE” – GRAEME OBREE (EDWARDS AND LEONARD, 2009:6

And for all those who insist on asking; 48/12 and no I have no intention of getting a proper bike.

Do you ride fixed? If so let us know what you've learnt.