Fixies on the Cheap: Affordable Ride Reviews for 2018
The first time I saw a fixie, I thought, “That is one beautiful bike.” I instantly loved the clean chain line, the minimalist approach.
Fixed gear bikes are everywhere, and they’re here to stay. I can’t remember the last time a bicycle style has hit the scene so hard. Riders everywhere are getting into the simplicity and visceral experience of riding without gears or a freewheel (or, in some cases, brakes!)
One gear, one speed, it’s a blast.
The good news is they’re very affordable. The bad news is that, because they’ve become so popular, there’s a lot of cheap junk on the market — nameless brands made from garbage components.
So what are the best fixed gear bikes on a cheap budget?
I’ve been building them professionally (not to mention riding them) for years now, so I feel qualified to review eight of the top, affordable fixed gear bicycles for sale today. I’ll give a brief overview of the components, the build quality, and what you can expect.
As for price range, we’ll be specifically looking for the best fixed gear bikes below $500.
Hopefully by listing the pros and cons of each ride, you’ll find a top quality fixie for a cheap price! Read on.
What does a good, inexpensive fixed gear bike look like?
The best budget-priced fixie bikes are simply those which are well designed and properly fitted. They should have decent components, and the frame should be well constructed.
I mean, fixed gear bicycles are already noticeably cheaper than their geared cousins. That makes total sense: less componentry means a lower cost for the manufacturer, and a lower price for you.
The Wheelset: An affordable fixed gear bicycle is only as good as the wheel set it rolls on. You want something that rolls well, something that’s sturdy, and something that’s equipped with a high quality cog and freewheel.
I’ve ridden on some bad cogs before; what happens is the lockring which holds the cog in place will strip. That’s bad news if it happens mid-ride.
Many affordable fixie style bicycles will come fitted with a flip-flop hub. That’s a hub that has both a fixed and a freewheel cog on it. To switch between the cogs, you just take your rear wheel off, flip it around, and reinstall.
The freewheel cog allows you to coast and pedal backwards, in case you get tired of constantly pedaling. It’s a great feature to have if you live in a hilly spot.
The Crankset: A good experience with a fixed gear bike is often determined by the quality of the cranks. They transfer all the power from your legs to the rear wheel, and you’ll want something that’s light but tough, smooth and strong.
Pure Fix: An affordable fixed gear bike for under $400
This is one of my ‘go-to’ brands, and they’re typically my first suggestion when someone tells me they want an inexpensive fixie bike with great features and components.
Pure Fix’s line of single speeds are beautiful bicycles. They are seriously head turning in their good looks; you’ll get tons of comments riding around on one of these. I really like that they look so great right out of the box, and because of their ‘stealthy’ design you can easily customize it to make it your own.
Let’s dig into the components. It features a welded steel frame with a slightly aggressive, urban inspired stance. You won’t be forced to hover over your handlebars, but the frame geometry is designed for a nimble, city-friendly ride.
The wheelset is made by Pure Fix, and features deep dish style alloy rims laced to a pair of KT Quando hubs. The rear is a flip-flop hub, and it comes with a freewheel gear and lockring already attached. The hub quality is OK, my only beef is that they could use a bit more threading for the lockring.
It rolls on Kenda tires and tubes, and uses a Lasco laser cut three piece crank with a sealed bottom bracket. It comes with wide handlebars with BMX style grips, and a single front brake (Radius brand calliper).
For anyone getting into this style, the Pure Fix reviews well and is one of the best fixed gear bikes to get started with. Find a colour / wheel combination that works for you and dive in.
The Good: Great looking ride, Lasco cranks, great wheels
The Bad: Rear hub threading is tight
Big Shot Havana: A dual-brake, budget-priced fixed gear bike, excellent reviews
This review is specifically for the Havana, but in reality it covers Big Shot’s entire line of fixies, since the colours are designated by different names. They come in a range of hues, so choose the name that best suits your style.
With Big Shot, what you get is a lot of components for a reasonably low price tag. What you DON’T get is name brand anything, but since the build quality is pretty good, that’s not the end of the world.
They state that the frame is track inspired, but it’s really an all-around bicycle with a relatively comfortable geometry.
It’s constructed using 4130 chromoly, which is a durable yet light alloy and a step above what you find on most budget-priced fixies.
Equipment wise, this is one of the better fixed gear bicycles for under 500 bucks. It comes equipped with dual brakes, and the dual caliper style actually stop you really nicely. I love how tiny and ‘stealthy’ the brake levers look. Despite their small size, you still get an impressive amount of leverage.
It also comes equipped with a flip-flop rear hub, so you can ride fixed or free, your choice.
The whole line also happens to have one of my absolute favourite features: bullhorn bars. They’re comfortable, attractive and a lot more versatile (in my opinion) than traditional drop bars.
Big Shot are a good company to order from for a few reasons. All their bikes are assembled and boxed in the USA, and their support is superb. On the whole the Havana is among the top fixed gear bicycles below $500.
The Good: Chromoly frame, great brakes, bullhorn bars
The Bad: No brand name components (not really a serious con though.)
Critical Cycles: A cheap fixed gear bike for well under $300
If you’re hoping to find a truly affordable fixie bike for less than $300, Critical Cycles has a good lineup that might fit the bill.
Costing just $219, these are about as affordable as you’ll find.
These are urban-ready bicycles with good looks and excellent reviews. Are they the fanciest you’ll find? No. But they perform admirably, and that’s the most important thing.
The whole frame is designed to give the rider an upright stance and good visibility for city riding. It’s not an aggressive stance at all, very comfortable, laid back, and versatile.
The welded steel construction of the frame itself is basic and machine welded, but strong. It’s quite decent for such a budget-friendly price tag.
The BMX style bars let you sit a lot more upright, and give the whole ride a ‘city’ feel.
For componentry, Critical Cycles has outfitted this bike with basic but well-made equipment. The fixie wheelset features a flip-flop rear (16t) with a freewheel cog attached. The wheels are double-walled, alloy, and moderately deep V in style (colourful too!)
I would have loved to see two sets of brakes on this bike, but it just comes with a rear. It’s a dual calliper Promax that stops pretty nicely. The front fork is drilled to allow a second brake if you want to install one.
The Protek crankset is basic (46t), but provides a good gearing for flats and mild hills. It’s nice that they added clip pedals too.
With a nearly unbeatable price tag and a dazzling display of colours to choose between, this capable little fixed gear bike is one of the best and cheapest options at just over $200.
The Good: Great price, good looks, upright stance for city riding
The Bad: Only one brake (rear), forgettable components
State Bicycle Co. Cardinal: Gorgeous, affordable fixie bike below $500
I mentioned aesthetic before. It’s important, and a brand that recognizes it better than most is State Bicycle Co., who have produced a shockingly beautiful line of fixed gear bicycles for a comparatively cheap price tag.
Not only are these some of the best fixed gear bikes below the $500 price tag, they’re just stunning to look at. They’ve put a particular emphasis on paint quality. I’ve chosen to highlight the Cardinal today, but most of their fixie line are quite similarly outfitted.
With subtly sparkled crimson paint and super deep V 43mm wheelset in white, you’ll definitely get some stares while riding this thing.
Under that paint, the frame and fork are constructed using 4130 chromoly, which is a high-end material, strong and vibration resistant.
The crankset is forged aluminum (State brand), and it’s paired to a sealed bottom bracket.
This particular model features bullhorn bars, but I believe you can also find the Cardinal with risers and drops, if you prefer that style.
The wheelset has a flip-flop hub, with both a fixed and a freewheel cog installed. It does come with brakes (they just removed them for the photos), and you’ll have stopping power front and back with included Radius alloys; a nice addition.
Not into the red and white? Do a little digging around and you’ll find State models in all colours and combinations.
This a great fixed gear bike with excellent reviews and a real following. It’s definitely worth your while to check out.
The Good: Awesome light frame, fantastic paint, dual brakes
The Bad: Expensive compared to others on this list
BAMF Piledriver: A top quality fixed gear bicycle with a disc brake
Stopping power is often a problem on fixed gear bicycles, especially on models that opt to go with a single brake setup. BAMF has smartly sidestepped this problem by adding more stopping power to that one brake!
The Piledriver is a great looking fixed gear bike for around $500. It’s extremely well built, and it’s ready to tear up the streets.
The bike has a high tensile steel frame that’s actually quite light as high-ten steel goes. The frame geometry is built for an urban adventure, and a city rider will simply love the way it handles.
Riser bars with BMX style grips are ultra comfortable, with a nice wide grip. The wheels and tires are beefier than what you’ll find on some ‘track’ inspired fixies, perfect for navigating potholes and streetcar tracks. This bike is tough, and it can take a beating!
The Bengal mechanical disc brake on the front is a good performer, even in mud and rain. The Tektro lever gives you excellent leverage and stopping power, despite being a single brake setup.
At 46mm, these deep V wheels are wider than most and strong. They come paired with 700cx 40 Kenda tires with a rain style tread.
Flat, platform pedals, a Truvativ bottom bracket and a KMC chain round out this top quality fixed gear bike. At just $500, it’s easily underpriced.
*For a drop-bar version, check out the BAMF Assassin, another great offering
The Good: Beefy frame, wide tires, disc brake, built for city riding
The Bad: Among the priciest listed here.
Nashbar Cyclocross: A single speed road bike with classic good looks
The fixed gear is a historic design, and many riders prefer a more classic and vintage style. Nashbar listened, and they’ve come up with their single speed cyclocross, a gorgeous, minimalist single speed bike. It’s perfect for city fun, bike polo or even racing, and it’s one of the best single speed / fixed gear bikes under $500 for that reason.
The looks are vintage inspired and the bike is stunning in a minimalist way. With a dark blue / blackberry paint job, this bike has classic lines. It’s built on a sturdy steel frame which makes a fantastic base for any customization you want to do.
The visible components are all done in classic chrome / silver, and the resulting combination is at once throwback and modern. The crankset, brakes, seat post and stem are all matching in gorgeous chrome and brushed silver.
The wheels, unlike most of the reviews done so far, are not deep V. Nashbar instead opted for a classic look with low profile alloy rims. They’re wider than typical, and the tires have beefier tread. The rear is a Formula alloy hub, but it doesn’t come with a flip flop hub. You’ll need to set it up as fixed independently, if you so choose… it comes set up as a single speed with a 17T freewheel.
At 17t / 46t, the gearing is really good for a high speed ride. Hills will require some stamina, but you should be able fly on the flats.
The nameless bike comes equipped with classic drop handlebars, a set that are wide enough to be used like straight bars in a pinch. Brake levers are hooked up to front and rear Tektro alloy brakes that stop nicely.
For a vintage classic inspired and versatile ride, the Nashbar Cyclocross is a good single speed bike for well under $400.
The Good: Cool, classic looks, great gearing for flats, cyclocross tires
The Bad: Doesn’t come with a fixed cog or flip-flop hub
Retrospec Mantra: A beautiful, well-made fixed gear bike under $300
Based out of Los Angeles, Retrospec has dedicated a lot of their energy towards fixed gears and fixie culture. They make wheelsets, accessories, and (of course) bicycles. The Retrospec Mantra is one of my favourite fixed gear bikes under the $500 mark. They’re a nice mixture of good looks and function.
The frame is spartan and gorgeous. It’s made from high tensile steel and it’s durable and relatively lightweight. It’s a modern design with enough classic elements to appeal to just about everyone.
One thing I like about Retrospec is the care with which they assemble their parts. They ensure the components fit together nicely, function well and last a long time. A good example is the sealed bottom bracket that they now incorporate on all fixies.
The Mantra comes with a front brake, a dual calliper Promax that stops well. I’d prefer to see two brakes, but it does the trick.
The wheels are dual wall alloy with deep V rims. The rear is paired to a flip-flop hub with 16t freewheel and fixed cogs. Both wheels feature sealed cartridge bearings, another indicator of quality. They’ll spin for a long time.
Other things I like: the riser bars give a slightly BMX appearance, and provide a more upright riding position. The platform pedals are large enough to keep you planted, and they come with synthetic BMX straps to keep your feet in place while riding fixed.
Available in a wide array of colours, the Mantra is one of the best cheap fixed gear bicycles for under $300 no matter how or where you want to ride.
The Good: Great quality components, lots of colours
The Bad: Only one brake
Takara Sugiyama: Proof that a cheap fixed gear bicycle can still be fun to ride
Of all the fixed gear bikes I’ve reviewed here, this is the only sub-$200 offering. It’s rare that I’d recommend something that inexpensive, to be honest, but the Takara Sugiyama is a surprising bike in more than one way.
First, the looks are quite atypical for this style. It has an odd blend of colours and a very upright frame. The whole ensemble sort of reminds me of a BMX.
Secondly, it’s incredibly affordable. It’s almost impossible to find a good fixie bike for less than $200, but here we are.
As you’d expect at this price point, the Sugiyama has a steel frame and fork. It’s durable and strong, though not the lightest.
Unexpectedly, it comes with both a front and a rear brake. They’re basic, but they do the job when properly tuned (though admittedly it would be the first part I’d upgrade).
The wheelset is alloy and the rear wheel comes with a flip-flop hub and both a fixed and free cog. The tires are wide at 700 x 32, making this a capable bike for city riding. I’d expect to change the tubes pretty soon after the purchase, they’re not very good quality.
Most of the components are very basic, and you should be aware of that going in.
The colour combination isn’t for everyone. The non-matching tires and the use of black, white and blue make this a very ‘loud’ bike, but it’s one of the best cheap fixed gear bicycles you’ll find for such a low price, and the customer reviews are very positive. Personally, I think it looks great!
The Good: Super cheap fixed gear bike, durable frame, funky good looks
The Bad: Cheap components, particularly the brakes
What else is out there?
You’ll find a dizzying array of single speed bikes nowadays. They’re no longer a niche market and literally every major outfit I know of has jumped on board.
Frankly, the bigger brands will charge a significant premium for basically the same materials and componentry. That’s not necessarily bad; they’ll come with robust warranties and standardized parts, so fit and finish will be premium.
Where I find they fall short is in aesthetics and risk. The latter, in particular, is something they’re allergic to. It’s up to you whether that’s a tradeoff worth taking.
What to avoid. Seriously
Don’t make the mistake of opting for no name bikes. Honestly, would you buy a car from a dealership selling Toyondas?
This is different from purchasing a tablet or something. A bike is a machine that can end your life. In my work as a bike mechanic, I have seen cheapo bicycles come in with the frames literally split in half.
Imagine if that happened while you were flying down a hill.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them below. Thanks for reading!