Best Fixed Gear Bikes of 2018 & Buying Guide
For the last few years, fixed-gear bikes have risen in popularity faster than ever before. For a while they were only used by bike couriers, who used the design to maximize speed and wind through dense city traffic with ease.
The recent “hipster” revolution revitalized this category, though, and has since brought fixed-gears back into the mainstream. It’s not uncommon to find commuters on them; many racers prefer them over freewheel choices, because they’re so effective at increasing leg strength and overall fitness.
Make no mistake, though: fixed-gears aren’t new. In fact, the earliest bicycles were fixed-gears, because derailleurs (used to change gears) weren’t invented yet, and didn’t become widely used for quite some time.
The Penny Farthing bicycle—the vintage style you’ll recognize from antique photos, with a very large front wheel and a small one in back, for balance—was a fixed gear, although its pedals connected to the front wheel, instead of the rear.
Some fixed-gear bikes have dropped handlebars, like road models; others have flat handlebars or even riser styles, like mountain bikes. They can have brakes…or not. And while all have a cleaner design than multi-speeds, they come in no shortage of color schemes to suit every taste.
If you’re considering purchasing a fixed-gear bike, let our buyer’s guide help. We’ll answer a few question about fixed-gear models, and feature some of our favorites to start your search.
What is a fixed-gear bicycle?
Also known as “fixies,” fixed-gear bicycles are ones without a freewheel component in their drivetrain. Other bikes have a freewheel ability, which means the pedals can stay still but the bike can keep moving, or “coast.”
On fixed-gears, however, the chain is directly attached to a hub on the rear wheel; cyclists must pedal to remain in motion—coasting is not an option.
Most fixed-gear bikes have just one speed. While the possibility of multiple speeds exists, it’s not often implemented on these bikes; most riders with find 3- or 5-speed variations in fixed-gears, if any.
What are some advantages of fixed-gears over other models?
Riders on fixed-gear bikes, once experienced enough and accustomed to the design, can precisely adjust their speed and stops in a way other bikes can’t do. On slick surfaces, it’s easier to determine how much traction your wheels have because they can’t lock up by accident.
Fixed-gear riders also get a better workout overall, because they have to keep pedaling to move; you can’t coast. These bikes usually have toe-clips and straps on the pedals, as well, so riders can keep their feet in position, even at high speeds.
Additionally, fixed-gear bicycles are cheaper to maintain—and they can move backwards by reversing the direction of your pedaling, a trick that can’t be done with standard drivetrain mechanisms. What’s more, thieves tend to be discouraged by fixed-gears, because many people don’t know how to ride them.
I’ve never ridden a fixed-gear. Is it difficult to learn?
Yes and no. On the one hand, it’s much simpler than you might think, once you get used to changing your pedaling cadence and braking patterns. For example, you might be accustomed to coasting down hills; this isn’t possible on a fixed-gear. Instead, you’ll have to keep pedaling.
When it comes to brakes, you can get a bike with front brakes (or add some yourself), which is highly recommended, since that’s the system most people are used to. Even if you decide not to use it, it’ll be handy in the event you can’t brake with your feet.
That brings us to the next difficult aspect of fixed-gear cycling: learning to brake. Apart from a hand brake, the only way to stop is to lock up your rear wheel by pedaling backwards for a beat and skidding to a stop. You could also stop pedaling and plant your feet on the ground, if you aren’t moving too fast.
To balance on a fixed-gear, many riders learn what is called a track stand: turn your front wheel sideways and pedal gently back and forth, standing as balanced on your pedals as possible, so that your bike rocks from side to side for balance, yet remains stationary.
This is helpful at stoplights and other short stops where you’ll have to start moving again very quickly, and don’t want to strap your feet back into the pedals in a rush. In the case of longer stops, it’s better to save your energy and just plant your feet/one foot on the ground.
It does take some practice and determination to learn, but most riders who take the time to do so claim they love their fixed-gear bike—and many enjoy riding it more than any other bike they’ve owned.
Do fixed-gear bikes cost more than other types?
Overall, fixed-gear bikes are similarly priced to other models: that is to say, there’s a very wide price spectrum, and how much you pay will be dependent on brand, materials, and any extra features you might need.
Fixed-gear bikes are cheaper to maintain, however, because they have less parts and a much simpler design that other bikes. This means less parts can malfunction, wear down, or break, which will save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
In recent years, fixed-gear bikes have become very trendy, especially in dense urban areas where cycling is just as common as driving a car. This has driven up the price on some models, and given way to new brands hopping on the bandwagon, but overall, it’s very easy to find a fixed-gear bike in your personal price range.
Many models come with the option to switch between fixed-gear or single-speed operation, so riders can change their bike to suit their needs in just a few easy steps.
Best Fixed Gear Bikes Reviews
1. Critical Cycles Harper Single-Speed and Fixed Gear Urban Commuter Bike Review
Critical Cycles is a popular brand, especially when it comes to fixies. Their Harper model is one of the best selling choices online, and it’s easy to see why: with a flip-flop hub, your choice of six colors, a lovely vintage simplicity, and a price almost everyone can afford, this is one option you’d be remiss not to consider.
We highly recommend this to seasoned fixie riders, but also beginners—if learning to ride a fixed-gear proves more difficult than anticipated, users can simply flip the rear tire to use the other hub, which will make the Harper perform just like a regular single-speed bike. Not just that, but the flip-flop feature could make this ideal for riders who want a fixed-gear in the city for commutes, but would prefer the option of coasting during weekend rides.
2. 6KU Aluminum Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Urban Track Bike Review
Like the Harper from Critical Cycles, the 6KU Urban Track Bike offers a flip-flop hub for both fixed-gear use, or freewheel riding. It has front and rear brakes too, which are removable (some fixed-gear riders do not use brakes, stopping with their feet or by ceasing pedaling instead).
Also available in multiple sizes and colors, it seems like this model is identical to the Harper—except when it comes to price, which might have something to do with the fact this is made from a much lighter (and pricier) aluminum, rather than steel.
Commuters looking for a lightweight bike with clean design and impressive speed should consider this model from 6KU. While more expensive than the Harper, it’s also lighter by 7 lbs., won’t rust, and comes in almost as many colors. Its main drawback is the lack of shock absorption, although this shouldn’t be a huge issue for standard roads.
3. Pure Cycles Original Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Bike Review
You’re probably noticing a trend among fixed-gears by now: most feature the popular dually designed flip-flop hub, and this fixie from Pure Cycles is no exception.
Price-wise, it’s going to cost a little more than previous models we’ve looked at, but does have some impressive add-ons and options that justify that—like thick yet narrow tires for better shock absorption (without bulkiness), or an astounding color selection touting 23 different combinations.
Despite the fact it might stretch just beyond some budgets, we think this fixie from Pure Cycles will suit just about anyone. Its frame is light at only 24 lbs., despite being crafted from high-tensile steel (which tends to be quite heavy), and the beautiful designs will appeal to riders and onlookers alike. It’s got some standard features you’d expect in any fixed-gear, but an ultra-strong frame—good for riders prone to wipeouts.
4. Vilano Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Road Bike Review
With clean-cut designs and bold, logo-free finishes, the Vilano Fixed-Gear/Single-Speed is hard to miss.
Add in the fact its price is lower than some box stores can offer, and this deal seems almost too good to be true. Like the previous models, Vilano’s features a flip-flop hub. Its threadless fork allows for easy control.
Vilano has released a pretty solid fixie here. It isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, especially those who need to sit more upright to avoid discomfort—but for buyers looking for a road bike with the option for fixed-gear operation, this model will work perfectly. Its price is very fair, and it has all the features of the other fixed-gears we’ve looked at.
Whether you’re new to fixed-gear riding or just want to try it out, you can’t go wrong with the models highlighted in this buyer’s guide. All four have the option to switch between fixed gear or single-speed, so riders can adjust their bike to their terrain and activities with a quick flip of the wheel. What’s more, all the bikes shown here have very affordable price ranges, to please buyers with any budget.