Introduction- The History of Fixed Gear Bikes
By William Cypher
Even though the single-speed road bike is considered “basic” by many today, bike history tends to be more contentious than most other technologies.
Some assume Giovanni de la Fontana invented the first bike in 1418, identifying it as a four-wheeled human-powered invention with a rope attached to gears. Though not a “bike,” the first fixie bike can be traced back to about four hundred years after Fontana’s creation.
In 1813, a German aristocrat imitated Fontana’s invention by designing his four-wheeled human-powered contraption. However, Karl von Drais’ introduction of a two-wheeled version in Europe in 1817 laid the foundation for modern fixies.
In the 1860s, a wooden device known as the “velocipede” was invented in Germany. It had fixed gears, pedals, and steel wheels. Karl Kech claimed to be the original inventor, while a Frenchman, Pierre Lallement, secured the first patent for the vehicle. Many other versions were also created by industrialists and inventors.
What is a Fixed Gear Bike/ Fixie?
A fixed-gear bicycle (also known as a fixie) has a drivetrain that does not have a freewheel mechanism. The fixed-gear bike remained the traditional track racing style despite the development of the freewheel.
The “fixie” has lately become a fashionable alternative among suburban cyclists, offering the benefit of versatility over a traditional multi-geared bicycle.
The freewheel on most bicycle hubs allows one to coast or travel without pedaling, enabling the pedals to stay stationary as the bicycle is moving. The driveshaft (or cog) is intrinsically linked or mounted to the middle of the rear wheel in a fixed-gear drive train, which directly attaches the pedals to the wheel. The pedal crank drives the wheel during acceleration, but the rear wheel will trigger the pedal cranks under some circumstances.
A cyclist may apply braking force with their legs and body weight by resisting the cranks’ movement. It also helps you to go backward on the bike.
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History of Fixies
Since bike history is contested, determining when the first fixie was invented instead of a conventional 19th-century solution is challenging. However, as fixie bikes became more common among Americans and Europeans alike, they were adopted by the postal courier system in the late 1800s to distribute sensitive business papers.
Up till today, fixie-based couriers (called ‘bike messengers’) are used by American and European businesses to carry checks, legal papers, and other sensitive documents in crowded metropolitan areas. The smooth maneuverability of the fixie allows riders to arrive at their destination faster than a car when faced with gridlocked roads.
Fixies have gained popularity for a variety of reasons. One factor is the bike’s appearance and style built for urban riding – It has a minimalist appearance. The fixie helps you sit more upright than a typical road bike or racer, allowing you more control.
Urban teenagers still appreciate the strengths of the fixie bike. The agility offered with just one gear and the tricks that can be done due to either having no brakes or an alternative front brake appeal to youths. The simplicity of the fixie bike has remained unchanged throughout its history.
A road bicycle, also known as a track bike, is a fixed-gear bicycle designed for racing on a velodrome or an outdoor track. During the winter months, some road racers and club riders use a fixed-gear bike for cycling, usually with a comparatively low gear ratio. Fixed-gear pedals were commonly used for time trials in the United Kingdom until the 1950s.
Fixed-gear racing was typical in the past, and it is still used for hill climbing races throughout the autumn. A track bike may have been a conventional fixed-gear club men’s machine.
Since many riders have only one bicycle, this exact bike was modified with race wheels, used for road time trials and road racing, and also fitted with mudguards when used for club trips, touring, and winter riding.
Fixed-gear bicycles have gained considerable prominence in metropolitan North America and other Western cities. There are discernible regional aesthetic tastes for finish and style details.
Proven bicycle manufacturers are producing a more significant number of dedicated fixed-gear road bicycles. They are relatively inexpensive and have relaxed road geometry rather than the steep geometry of track bicycles.
Fixed-gear bicycles are used in competitive events such as cycle ball, bike polo, and innovative cycling. A fixed-gear bike is appropriate for track stands, which are maneuvers in which the bike is held stationary and balanced upright, with the rider’s foot on the pedals.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fixies
- The most critical advantage of a fixie is its light weight. A fixed-gear bike weighs less than its geared counterpart because it lacks the extra parts needed for a fully geared drive train—derailleurs, shifters, wires, cable carriers, various chain rings, freewheel hub, and brazed-on mounting lugs.
- The chain itself is subjected to less sideway stress and would not wear down as quickly as it does on a derailleur device.
- A fixed-gear drivetrain is even more powerful than most bicycle drivetrains due to its straightforward power transfer from rider to wheels.
- Most riders prefer to ride in slick conditions because they say the drivetrain offers more incredible rear-wheel grip support.
- In some circumstances, there seems to be some elevated risk of losing control. This is particularly true given the large number of riders who ride without braking. It is best to minimize risk by not pedaling forward when nearing obstacles. This would allow the bike to lose momentum.
- Cycling down a steep slope is more complex, so the rider must turn the pedals at high speeds (sometimes 170 rpm or more) or use the brakes to reduce speed.
- Some claim that the performance improvement on fixies is marginal compared to the advantages of riding a freewheel.
Fixies are fantastic for winter biking, and yet they’re also great for city riding if you don’t have any long, steep hills to handle. Since there are no shifters and it is lightweight, fixies are agile instruments for those skilled in riding them. If you are new to riding fixies, just make sure to get lots of practice at a safe, flat space with little to no vehicles. And of course, never ride without your helmet!
William Cypher is the content editor of https://QuickStuffs.com, a website dedicated to reviewing the top kitchen accessories, hardware and products used in daily life.
Featured Image: Unsplash / Arif Maulana