single-speed/fixed gears & hills...


Legendary Member
...the two don't go together, do they? I was going to buy one for my commute, which involves a few hills. I guess it would play havoc on the knees over time.
Is the assertion accurate? Opinions?


New Member
depends on the gradient and number hills you're talking about. You can adjust your gearing to suit the hills but then if you have a lot of flat or downhill you'll be spinning out a lot. The key is to find a decent balance but if you live in a hilly area that may be hard to do.
Depends really. I wouldn't ride fixed in a hilly area, because it's just plain daft. Singlespeed on the other hand is a different matter. Pick a gear that will get you up hills with the minimum of strain and will allow you to cruise at an acceptable speed on the flat. Freewheel down the hills, as God intended.;)

FWIW I live in Devon, which has roughly the same profile as an unmade bed. I find that 46x18 is enough for the hills and will allow me to cruise at an easy 15 on the flat, 20 or more if I'm in a good mood.
i use 47 x 20 fixed in the dales without too many problems, though i'm only going as far as ribblehead, not the proper hills round dent.
it's not been a problem, you can climb hills on a much larger fixed gear than on for downhill just relax and let the legs spin. you soon get used to it.on the flat it's good for 20 -22 mph.which suits me as i don't race.


Legendary Member
Now I'm confused...I thought singlespeed bikes were like 'kids' bikes (not wishing to demean singlespeed riders) i.e. there are no gears.
I thought fixed was a bike that stopped moving when you stopped pedalling.


Both fixed and singlespeed bikes only have one gear.
Singlespeed have a freewheel so you can stop pedaling and still keep moving.
Fixed don't have the freewheel, so you can't stop pedaling until you've stopped the bike.

With fixed the gear chosen is a compromise between being low enough to get up the hills, but not so low that you can't ride down them at a reasonable speed.
With singlespeed, you can freewheel down the hills, so the compromise is between low gears for up hills and going quick on the flat. This generally leads to a somewhat lower gear being selected.

I use 46x19 fixed, which is just about low enough for 10% on a longish hill, or 15% on a short one. It equates to 105rpm at 20 mph, which is quite adequate for making good progress on the flat. However I find that I can't pedal at more than about 160rpm for very long, so I have to use my brakes to keep below about 30mph going down hill.

As for knees, I don't think it does any damage so long as you get used to riding fixed, and riding up hills in a relatively high gear, over a decently long period.

Smokin Joe

Legendary Member
If you're going to use single speed, get a fixed. A single freewheel is worse than useless, all the disadvantages of only one gear and none of the benefits of a fixed gear.
I used a singlespeed 48 x 16 for a while, loved the simplicity and enjoyed not having to think about gears, I would recommend anyone give it a go. Unfortunatley my knees are pretty knackered and began to complain so the ss was sold.
Still considering another though, maybe with lower gearing.
Smokin Joe said:
If you're going to use single speed, get a fixed. A single freewheel is worse than useless, all the disadvantages of only one gear and none of the benefits of a fixed gear.
Beg to differ old chap...
I'm enjoying the simplicity of it and frankly, giving up the benefit of freewheeling down Devon hills just seems like madness.


SW London
Smokin Joe said:
OUTSIDE NOW!! :biggrin:!YOU BAS...

Yeah, I see your point, Chuffy. Guess we all look at it differently. ;)
Also, just to chip in, off road is a different kettle of fish where, in my opinion, singlespeed is fun and simple but fixed is not so good an idea.
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