Saturday, August 15, 2009

Further Along On Fixie: A Fun Fad?

I've still not tried my 10 mile round trip daily commute on the fixed gear; I'm too chicken to play in traffic, especially on some of my downhill runs.

However, I've spent maybe two hours on the Keystone Trail riding fixie. In short, it's fun, but I don't know how practical it is. Maybe it doesn't have to be practical.

Navigating starts and stops and slow speed turns is different than when on a freewheel. It's almost like learning how to ride a bike all over again. Also, my legs are a little sore, as if I'm new to cycling, all over again. The back pressure required to slow down (unless I cheat and use brakes) requires a different force to be applied from the legs. Even when using brakes, the legs are never along for a free ride. I can never simply ignore what my legs are doing. My mind must always be on pedaling strategy.

I suppose there are some good things to take away from the fixie experience. For one, I like to coast. Perhaps I coast too much. If I can get in the habit of always pedaling, as if I were on the fixie, I'd be a better rider.

Secondly, I think the constant pedaling, and standing to climb and back pressure on the pedals to slow, could make the fixie a great workout bike. I wonder if I could get a better workout in an hour of fixie than I would on single speed or with gears.

Lastly, I think fixie gives me better balance. Since I don't ever want to have to stop and unclip, I'm more likely to slowly approach my stop and balance at slow speeds, or even stand for a few seconds.

I wouldn't want a straight up fixie bike, but I'm really having fun with the flip-flop hub on the Schwinn that let's me ride single speed or fixed gear depending on the experience I want to have.


Scott Redd said...

On a related note, I think I've gotten better at climbing using the single speed at 40x18 teeth, and on the fixie at 40x17.

Today I picked up a 17t freewheel and a freewheel tool, but I can't get a good enough grip on the freewheel tool to get the old 18t freewheel off.

I've seen the trick of putting the tool in a bench vise, but all I have are a crescent wrench and a pipe wrench. Every time I try to back off the freewheel, the teeth in the tool slip out of the four notches in the freewheel.

Do different brands of freewheel use different sized freewheel tools?

munsoned said...

Reading Sheldon Brown's article on freewheels, he mentions it is really hard to unscrew them after pedal torque has been applied for a while. He says secure the freewheel removal tool with the axle nut, put on the appropriate box wrench, then hammer the wrench. Hard to explain, but it makes sense.

Your experience is the same that I had with fixie. An interesting concept, but not very practical when it comes to the hills of Omaha. Just my opinion though, as I know plenty people that really enjoy riding fixie most the time around here. Different strokes for different folks type of thing.

Scott Redd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Redd said...

Munson to the rescue again! It seems so obvious to secure the freewheel tool with the axel nut!

I did that, and with just a little force on a crescent wrench, was able to unscrew the freewheel. I almost got into trouble when the loosening freewheel began to lock up against the axle nut. Duh! By that time, I could take off the axle nut and continue loosening the freewheel by hand.

I now have a brand new Shimano 17 tooth freewheel on the Schwinn. I should be able to keep a quicker pace on the flats now, but still tuned well for my daily hills. Who knows, maybe a 16 tooth is in my future, if my knees hold out.

If ever traveling, I might need a single speed kit to carry, consisting of an assortment of freewheels and required tools.

Thanks again, Munson.

RD said...

mod's set up is is for cogs attached to regular freewheel hub not for flip-flop fubs that thay freewheels

Scott Redd said...

Another thing... I wonder if there's a cult of fixie. On my second ride out last week, I had a cyclist come up behind me, but rather than pass, he matched my pace and started talking to me like I was his buddy.

He had instantly recognized that I was riding fixie and wanted to compare notes. I told him it was my first day (other than a test ride) and he gave me some advice and told me of his experiences and how he rode RAGBRAI on his fixie.

I rode an easy 16 miles on the Keystone tonight with my teenage son, half on fixie. It is a fun workout, and I feel likely to do some more fixed gear rides on the trail to work on my cadence and strength.