The difference between a Fixie and a Single Speed bike

The difference between a Fixie and a Single Speed bike

On this edition of the Ask Coach Parry Cycling podcast we look at the difference between a Fixie and a Single Speed bike.  Our cycling coach Devlin Eyden explains all the technical stuff to us and chats about the benefits of training with one of these bikes.  We find out here whether this would be a good tool for training and if there is any benefit to strength training.

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David Katz: We’re talking everything cycling here once again on the Ask Coach Parry Cycling podcast. We look at mountain biking, we look at road biking, but there is some stuff in between and around both of those and that leads to our question today and it’s becoming a trend, if you go back, it’s the only option we had in the past. Devlin, looking at Fixie’s and Single Speed bikes, what are they all about?

Fixie’s and Single Speed bikes, what are they?

Devlin Eyden: I think just to determine quickly the difference. A Fixie or a fixed gear bike is obviously more, we see them in track cycling, it’s a single gear, but you have no option of a free wheel. You have to keep pedalling and when you reduce your cadence is how you would slow your bike down typically. A single speed is again, a single gear, but you have a free wheel hub or a free wheel body on the back wheel, so you’re able to pedal and then free wheel on the downhills, gaining a little bit of rest. I think in terms of what they’re all about, I think it’s a really good tool for training as well, especially for those of us who might have time constraints, be time restricted and you spend a fair amount of your time doing the long rides and you don’t always have the time to get into the gym to do the strength training.

Using a single speed is actually a really good way to get a little bit more strength gains out of your riding and your training and typically it would be riding the same, your usual routes. Something you would typically ride on your mountain bike or your road bike with multiple gears, now using a single speed you’ll have to put a lot more force or power into that pedal stroke to get up the obstacle, get up over the hill than you typically would if you’d just gotten into a different gear, if you had a multiple gear bike. It is then important obviously to try and find the right gear ratio when you start talking about what spokes you want to put on the back, so on your back wheel and also what size chain ring you want to be using and the whole idea there is just to make sure that you aren’t putting on something that’s too difficult for you to ride and the flipside of that, nothing is too easy when it comes to the flat, open sections and you start running out of gears, you start spinning out.

A useful tool in your cycle training

I think that’s a really good training tool in terms of gaining more strength out of your Power strokes and then another benefit to a single speed itself, when you’re riding on multiple gear bikes, so your typical mountain bikes and road bikes for instance, you find improvement in your physiological efficiency. In terms of your cardiovascular fitness and that, when you start talking single speed bikes, we start seeing more of an improvement in your mechanical efficiency, so in terms of your pedal stroke, and there have been a couple of studies out there that actually have proven this. The reason there is because you’ve got constant tension on the chain and you’ve also got a straight line from pretty much where your chain start to your chain link is. It allows your mechanical efficiency to be a lot better.

With a multiple gear bike, where I mentioned that you have an improved physiological efficiency, you then do have the downside of a slightly decreased mechanical efficiency when you start talking there. Then another huge benefit, obviously is the maintenance as well. There’s a lot less maintenance on the single speed or Fixie purely in the sense that you don’t have derailers that you need to constantly be servicing and changing, there’s maybe gear cables that need replacing, you don’t go through various cassettes and it’s messing around with chains and that sort of thing. Just from a maintenance point of view, it also those huge benefits there.

DK: Of course and a cost benefit that comes with that. Brilliant Devlin, thank you very much for that. I’m always impressed when I do see guys racing on those bikes, big ups to them and as I said, a great effort.

Thanks for joining us once again here on the podcast and please do leave us a review and a rating on iTunes and with that you can stand a chance to win a lifetime membership to the website.

From Devlin Eyden and myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up with you again in a couple of days’ time.

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