Difference - Fixed and Single Speed?

Page may contain affiliate links. Please see terms for details.


Just idle curiosity really, but what's the difference between fixed and single speed?


New Member
Single speed bikes have a freewheel mechanism, fixed bikes don't.

Afaik fixed allows a few tricks like braking (sortof) with your legs, and track stands (the type of thing you sometimes see on velodrome racing when a rider comes to a stop without putting a foot down, slightly rocking back and forth with the front wheel at an angle balancing the bike).

I imagine that on fixed bikes the bottom bracket is placed higher, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get much of a lean in bends (you can't stop pedalling as you can on a bike with a freewheel).


Master of all he surveys
As I understand it, though probably wrong. Single speed allows one to coast, whereas with fixed gear the pedals are always going round, so therefore one can't coast, but one can trackstand.

Keith Oates

Penarth, Wales
I think Admin may have been asking the actual riding advantages or differences with one over the other. If so I would also like to know, I'm sure some of the regular users can give the answer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Well-Known Member
Well then, to start, there's the serenity of zooming along on a spring day with that Zen-like oneness... oh wait, that's for the nude cycling topic.

Er, it's different, see. There's only one gear. It doesn't go to eleven, or ten, just one. I find it a slightly different skill to be mastered, rather than anything life changing; I ride 2 or 3 bikes in a week, 2 fixed and one geared at the moment, and have no trouble adapting from one t'other, and have no particular preference, but fixed gear riding is a slightly different art. It's good to have a drivetrain which is clinically precise and efficient, and good to 'feel' the road and nuances (wind, slight gradients) through a drivetrain which keeps you moving forward. It seems to preserve momentum which is hard won - some call it a flywheel effect as your legs go over TDC [top dead centre] and it's probably good for your riding style in terms of cadence and smooth style, using a gear to learn of what you are capable instead of automatically downshifting for a small hill, and getting a good feel for the bike and how to handle it over bumps and potholes etc. The ability to moderate speed with the legs is also an advantage, using leg braking and 'soft pedalling', and slightly sore legs and learning how to get the best out handling the bike took a few months. Downsides, not that I can think of, provided you're not caught miles from home riding into a 25mph headwind. Singlespeed, which has its place, is in no way comparable. I rode SS (chain looped over the 15t on a 5 speed freewheel) for less than a week before I invested in a fixed sprocket.

Problems: when riding in traffic, it helps if you're good at clipping in, either side. I had to learn, especially in traffic, to keep clipped in as I slowed, and then unclip and put the foot down in one smooth motion, having the other in the 2 o'clock position ready for takeoff. I would not, under any circumstances, ride a fixed without a well connected pedal system.

Keith Oates

Penarth, Wales
Thanks Rusty, that is very clear to me, now do I go for one or just carry on as usual.....................................oh decisions decisions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


SW London
peejay78 said:
single speed serves no purpose at all.

I disagree. Singlespeed off road is good - less to clean, light and simple bike, less to break or to go wrong - compared to a geared MTB. However the freewheel is necessary to do those fun quick descents that are an integral part of riding off road.

On road I think I'd agree though.

Mr Phoebus

New Member
If you go for a thirty mile ride on singlespeed, you'll probably cycle about twenty-six miles. On fixed you'll cycle the full thirty.

christian dieu

New Member
Mr Phoebus said:
If you go for a thirty mile ride on singlespeed, you'll probably cycle about twenty-six miles. On fixed you'll cycle the full thirty.

Disagree. You can still coast on fixed. Okay your legs can't actually stop but you can go along with no effort, just letting the pedals take your legs round. One of the things I enjoy about fixed is that exact feeling - speeding up, 'coasting', slowing down all through the pedals.

Agree that single speed on road just seems like a chore whereas fixed doesn't. Riding solely single speed off road this year though. Fixed off road just takes the fun out of it for me - no more manualling over things, jumps, fast downhills etc,.
Fixed is posing, single speed is real. ;)
'Serves no purpose'? Cobblers, that's a Bonj argument! I converted my main road bike to SS some months ago and am thoroughly enjoying it. Made me realise how much I dither about what gear to be in when I ride my other bikes. Fixed, in a hilly area like Devon, just seems wilfully masochistic. As the old saying goes, 'if it ain't broke, don't Fix it'.:biggrin:
Top Bottom