Fixed Gear



Fixed Gear Bicycle
(Archived from 2004)

After completing my summer 2001 cross USA tour, I returned home to find out that my job had relocated to another office in the Los Angeles area.  For the first time ever, my bike commute was almost completely flat.  How boring, I thought!

After surfing Sheldon Brown's web site, I got the idea of getting a fixed gear bike to make the commute more exciting.  Sheldon's article explains in detail what a fixed gear is and why anyone would want to ride such a thing.   Basically, it's a bike that only has one gear, and you can't coast on it.  I was a little skeptical at first (partially due to previous knee problems), but because converting an old frame into a fixed gear is relatively inexpensive, I thought it was worth a try. 

At first, I got a hold of an old Peugeot to convert.  This bike had a strange seat post that clamped into the seat tube using an expander bolt (the same way a handlebar stem is clamped on).  Unfortunately, I needed a longer seat post, and because these seat posts are no longer made I was out of luck with this bike. 

Then I found a fixed gear bike at the San Diego swap meet for the bargain price of $200.  (I don't know what brand of frame it is...)

It needed some work before it was roadworthy.  First, it needed a front brake.  Also, the gearing it came with was 40x14 (77") , which I knew was way too tall for me.  I started out with 39x16 (66") and 38x16 (64") before ending up with the knee-saving 39x17 (62").  (Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind on the gearing again?)  The local bike shop guy was also putting together a fixed gear (and a singlespeed for mountain use), so we able to get me some of the necessary parts.

Bike swap meet special $200
Crankset Shimano 105, 170 mm $10
Front Brake swap meet special - Weinmann sidepull $10
Stem swap meet special - ITM $5
Handlebar Profile drop bars, shallow drop $20
Brake Levers Shimano Exage, bike shop closeout $15
Rear Cog EAI 17 tooth cog $30
Freewheel BMX freewheel $25
Bottom Bracket Shimano UN-72, 68x113 $25
Other Stuff from the garage -
Total definitely my cheapest bike $340

This bike is especially cool for commuting.  I'm a little worried about locking my other road bikes outside (it's too difficult to bring a bike into the office), but this bike has that POS look that makes it an unattractive target for theft.  But it would be amusing to see a would-be thief try to ride off on this thing!

As I said before, I was originally a little skeptical at first, but riding the bike has been a blast.  It's really hard to explain why, but I guess it has something to do with the simplicity of the bike (less "clutter" compared to the other bikes).  There's also something to be said about the greater efficiency due to the simplified drivetrain.  Normally I'm the type of person who prefers to downshift to climb, but you can really feel the bike respond when getting out of the saddle for those short hills!

There was a small learning curve with the you-can't-coast-or-shift thing, but you get over it after the first couple of rides.  I'll wait before working on a track stand, though.

Supposedly a fixed gear offers better control in wet conditions, but it's been a dry winter here in Southern California, so I haven't had a chance to test it in the rain.

My weekend rides involve significant hills, so my geared bikes won't be seeing dust anytime soon, but I will continue to use the fixed gear for utility trips and the flat commute!

Thanks, Sheldon!



Sheldon Brown's articles about fixed gear cycling and equipment


German web page with links


Fixed Gear for the Road


Fixed Innovations


Fixed Gear email list and archive

Page Last Edited (though probably not for content): 14 September 2010