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What is a single speed bike and what is a fixed gear ?

Most people have at one point ridden or seen a bike with multiple gears. Known as multi-speed bikes, the cyclist has the opportunity to pick a gear ratio (clicking those switches on the handle-bars to make pedaling easier/harder) to their preference for efficient riding. But is it really efficient? Does having all those gears give the rider the perfect output in speed and distance or does it usually result with the rider constantly playing with the gears unnecessarily; at times using their entire body weight for one pedal rotation, to pedaling 100 miles a minute but only moving a few feet.

Additionally, all that shifting usually ends up malfunctioning. Even the best derailleurs can have trouble sometimes, leaving you with only a few functioning gears (if any). And unless you’re an infallible rider, dropping your bike can easily damage your derailleur and hence, shifting and riding opportunities.

You can probably guess from the name, but a single-speed bike only has one gear. Although one gear may not give you the “perfect” gear ratio for every riding condition, the gear train on single-speed bikes run in a straight line from the cog to the crank. The straight line makes a single-speed bike quicker and easier to pedal than a multispeed in the same gear ratio; the system is mechanically more efficient and sturdy. And with fewer components on the bike, especially ones that require constant adjusting, there is much less of a risk of something going wrong. Now is that not a type of efficiency?

A lot of riders are just seeking a modest return in their bike ride: whether its exercise, getting to school/work, or just pure pleasure, a single-speed bike delivers. Shifting the focus of the bike ride to the ride itself …and not just shifting. On a single-speed there’s no clutter, it’s just you, your bike and the sensation of your surrounding city (which can get cluttered).

So what is the difference between a freewheel and a fixed single-speed?

All fixed-gear bikes are single-speeds, but not all single-speeds are fixed-gear bikes. A fixed-gear does not permit coasting (like freewheels do); if the bike is moving then so are the pedals. The chain is “fixed” on the cog and crank so even going backwards will cause your pedals to go backwards. Unlike a freewheel cog, there are no bearings on a fixed-gear. So the difference between a freewheel and a single-speed bike is the ability the simple ability to coast.

A fixed-gear bike is said to be the purest form of cycling (the very first bikes were fixed). On a fixed-gear, the bike and rider embark on an endless dance between man and machine. Or to put it simply, there is a higher degree of control and mechanical connection between you and the bike.

For those of you who have never ridden a fixed-gear and find it odd at first, that’s normal. It takes a while to get use to the strangeness of your legs constantly moving, but once you get the hang of it, it can be quite addicting. Additionally, riding a fixed-gear teaches you a more efficient pedaling technique; rather than just constantly “mashing” your pedals, you will learn how to optimize the “spin” of the pedaling motion giving you a higher cadence (crank RPM). You will instantly feel a bond with your bike that you have never experienced. The feeling of riding fixed is an amazingly unique sensation that you must experience for yourself!

Life can have some tough decisions sometimes. But don’t worry, you don’t have to choose between a coasting single-speed (freewheel) and a fixed-gear. Here at City Bicycle Company, our bicycles are specially equipped with our own flip-flop hub which gives you the option of both! A flip-flop hub is threaded on both sides, with one side having a fixed cog and the other having a freewheel cog. The rider can easily change between styles and choose one that satisfies their needs. So what are you waiting for? Discover your City today!