If you interested in cycling as a serious workout, you might be thinking of getting a fixie. As the name implies, a fixie, or a fixed-gear bike, has no gears.
The rider is solely responsible for getting the bike to accelerate, decelerate, and stop. To ride one successfully, the bike needs to be kept in constant movement. Those pedals need to be worked hard, even on the smoothest terrain. This is what makes them such a powerful workout.
You might be wondering if all the extra work can cause damage. It’s a long-standing rumor that riding a fixie might cause wear on the knee joints. There’s no room to ‘coast’ when riding a fixed-gear bike, so your knees can take a heavy pounding.
How true are the rumors?
Are fixies bad for your knees?
There isn’t much truth to the belief that fixies cause knee damage. Any exercise can put wear and strain on your joints, especially your knees. If a fixie is damaging your knees it’s possibly because you have a pre-existing condition, are overworking yourself, or you have bad form.
To use a fixed-gear bike, the bike must be kept in constant motion. If you’re riding in a poor position, or using an inefficient pedaling movement, you may damage your knees. As you’re riding constantly, there’s no time for the knee to rest. A problem will become exacerbated by bad technique.
To pedal efficiently, the strength and force should come mostly from your thighs. Apply pressure from the ball of your feet on the down stroke. Scoop the pedal back up using your foot inside a toe rest. The movement should be smooth, repetitive, and controlled.
You should treat riding a fixie as any other high-level exercise. Stretch well before setting out, cool down when you’ve finished. If you do experience pain, stop riding. Don’t push the bike outside its limits, because this will be more likely to cause issues.
Keep yourself at a good overall health to avoid problems. You can also purchase knee supports, if you’re worried or have experienced wear previously.
Are fixies good for your health?
Yes, riding a fixie is good for your health. It’s a better workout than a conventional change gear bike, as it engages muscles constantly. With a fixie your legs are in control of the bike, so they quickly grow muscle to keep up.
It also works the muscles in your core and your back. To match the demands of starting the bike, your strength will grow to compensate. Riding a fixie improves endurance, as it needs to be kept in motion.
Are fixies dangerous?
A fixed-gear bike isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it depends on the skill of a rider. All bikes have some level of danger, for both the rider and the pedestrian.
A fixie can be seen as more dangerous because they take more adjustment. Careless riders may stop paying attention, and that can be a big issue.
When you stop pedaling on a fixed-gear bike, the bike can swerve and fall down. As fixies work best on city terrains, this can cause major problems. If you fall on a fixie, you fall hard. Still, that can be true of any bike.
If you’re a first time rider of a fixie, it’s safest to start small. Try riding locally. Look for quiet and open areas. Don’t push the bike beyond its limits. Any bike is safest when the rider knows what they’re doing. This is even more true for fixed-gear bikes, where the rider is more responsible for the movement.
For experienced and careful riders, a fixie is no more dangerous than a conventional bike. It may not allow for lapses in concentration, but that’s just good cycling.
Remember, for a long time all bikes were fixed-gear bikes. Or, rather, no gear bikes. They are an adjustment, but if you can ride a gear bike you can learn to safely ride a fixie.
Are fixies illegal?
Across the US, state law demands that to be road legal all bikes must have either one or two brakes. The specifics change from state to state. A fixie is road legal if it has brakes. Most states require two brakes for safety, but some only require one. If you’re unsure, check your local laws.
Historically, fixed-gear bikes have no brakes. It was entirely the responsibility of the rider to bring the bike to a stop. However, fixies have needed to adjust to laws. Many fixies will come with a brake pre-installed, or you can get them installed later. This is a good idea anyway, for your safety as a rider.
A fixed-gear bike requires effort, but gives rewards. Don’t push you or the bike beyond what you can handle, and you should be fine.