Bicycle commuting is an encouraged activity because it not only contributes to reducing the number of pollutant emissions into the environment but also enhances your physical and mental health. Being aware of its benefits, many people nowadays try to cycle more regularly in their daily routine. It is a really good sign.
But have you ever experienced the feeling of dead tired legs when cycling because your bike is too heavy? Do you think that your bike is more cumbrous than other bikes you have seen on the road? Would you like to have a simple and light bike?
In this article, I will help you to compare 2 simplified and low-weight bike types, which are fixed gear and single-speed. With this informative sharing, I hope you gain more knowledge about the similarities and differences between them so that you can choose the most suitable bike for yourself.
What Is A Single-speed Bike?
As its name reflects, a single-speed bike is the type of bike with a single gear ratio, including one gear installed on the front wheel and one freewheel facilitated in the back. The gear ratio of a single-speed bike can not be adjusted and shifting gears is impossible when riding this bike type.
Thanks to the freewheel, when you stop applying force to the cranks, they will stay but the back wheel still continues rolling. That allows you to freely coast and does require the use of brakes.
The design of a single-speed bike is very simple and irreducible. It does not have a fender, carrier, shifter, rear cassette, or rear derailleur. You totally can make a conversion of your present bike into a single-speed bike by removing all unnecessary parts and replacing needed parts with those for single-speed bike type.
There are a lot of tutorial videos available on Youtube teaching you how to build a single-speed bike. Just follow them then you are able to create your own bike. Or you can also get a new one because it is very affordable. Believe me, riding a single-speed bike will give you definitely new feelings, new experiences compared with multi-speed bikes.
For more information about why ride single speed, let’s watch a helpful video on:
What Is A Fixed Gear Bike?
A fixed gear bike is also called a fixie. In general, a fixed gear bike is quite similar to a single-speed bike except that the former does not have a freewheel, instead, the cog is fixed and the drivetrain is directly connected to its back wheel. So any movement with the pedals will bring a corresponding move in the wheels.
So when riding a fixie, you control your movement and speed by flexibly shifting the rotating direction of the pedal arms. As the cranks turn, the wheels turn. If the cranks roll forwards, then the wheels roll forward and if they roll backward, the wheels roll backward. It allows you to use your legs to stop or slow the bike instead of using brakes.
For more information about reasons you need a fixie in your life, let’s watch a helpful video on:
The Similarities Between A Single Speed Bike And A Fixed Gear Bike
A single-speed and fixie are so similar. They are basically siblings. They are like the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of the bike world. Both single-speed and fixie are relatively lightweight with a simple design and irreducible structure.
All optional parts and gears are removed to ensure that the bikes can perform their function as properly and efficiently as possible. These bike types are really perfect for commuting and winter riding.
Thanks to this simplification, the maintenance for these bike types is also trouble-free. All you need to worry about are the chain tension and tire pressure (and brakes if you are riding a single-speed bike).
Parts for these bikes are also available and affordable so if you need to change or fix any parts of your bike, it is time-saving, cost-saving and very simple.
Differences In Use Purposes
The use purpose is the first difference between fixed gear and single speed.
Pick a suitable bike depending on your purposes. If you want to cycle combined with an intensive workout, a fixed gear bike can satisfy you. Burning more calories and quickly building muscle are the benefits of riding a fixie.
There is no bailout gear on a fixie. If you want to get up a steep hill, you have to grit your teeth and get on with it. Riding a fixed-gear bike will force you to work harder at times than you would on a single-speed one. And you will get stronger and fitter as a result.
Furthermore, a fixie will bring you a chance to have amazing and challenging experiences. Trust me, it must be an achievement to you when you are able to control your bike with your legs only. It feels like you totally take command of your life.
On the other hand, a single-speed bike is a good choice for those who want to literally cycle and enjoy the scenery at the same time. With a freewheel on the back, the bike is still moving as its inertia even as you are not pedaling anymore. Therefore, when you feel a little bit tired and want to take a break, just stop pedaling and let the bike coast.
A single-speed will be your powerful assistance when conquering relatively flat and moderately sloping roads. If your commute involves a lot of hills and a single-speed might not be the best as you may need to gear down to get up those hills. And if it is a really long distance, you might want a little bit of variety in your ride, not just a single speed.
Differences In Safety
Both fixed gear and single-speed bikes are safer than multi-speed ones because you do not have to struggle with gear adjustment when the terrain varies.
By and large, riding a fixie is a little bit harder than a single-speed bike. For the first time ever you have tried riding a fixie, it may take your time to get familiar with its operating principle.
Some people are worried about getting tossed off the bike because the pedals would just never stop. You also have to adapt your cornering style because leaning over too hard carries the risk of pedal strikes. So, if you don’t know how to control a fixie, riding a bike with no brakes may push you into danger.
However, once you get to know it, you can feel the bike better than ever because you can definitely control it with your legs that are even more efficient than brakes. Besides, the fixie works better on slippery terrains because the traction is optimized when you keep pedaling.
Therefore, my advice for you here is, if you are a beginner, a single-speed seems more suitable for your safety because its brakes can help you take control over your speed. In contrast, if you are confident about your cycling skills, a fixie must bring you amazing experiences.
For more information about the difference between single speed and fixed gear bikes, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Differences In Wheel Sizes
In terms of structure, fixed gear and single speed have many similarities so it is quite simple to convert a fixie to a single speed and vice versa. Therefore their wheel sizes are quite similar, too, ranging from 12-inch to 29-inch size. The most popular wheel sizes for those are 700C-18/29 inch (622mm), 27 inch (630mm) and 26 x 1-⅜ inch (590mm).
Single-speed bikes are suitable for daily commuting, for both kids and adults so the difference in wheel sizes is not a challenge for riders. Meanwhile, with its unique operating principle, 700C is the best and most common wheel size among fixed gear bikes for some reasons.
Firstly, 700C wheels roll better. Due to the larger diameter, 700C wheels roll over potholes, rocks, and other obstacles more easily. This allows you to tackle technical terrain more easily. Ride quality is also better.
Secondly, 700C wheels maintain speed better. 700C wheels have more mass and more inertia. Once you get them rolling, they keep going. You will not lose speed. This improves efficiency because it takes less energy to keep the bike at speed.
Differences In Speed
I recorded my commutes and came to the conclusion that a fixie is faster than a single-speed bike. With the single-speed, I rode for 19 kilometers with a time of 54 munites 19 seconds with an average speed of 21.05 kilometers per hour. On the fixie, I rode 19.69 kilometers and 53 minutes 48 seconds for an average speed of 21.65 kilometers per hour.
Although the speed gap between the 2 bike types is really significant, I do feel like when I’m riding the fixie, I am going faster than the single speed which is kind of unexpected. I think it is because of the momentum of the drivetrain. Since you can not coach, those pedals are always nudging you to keep pedaling and go faster.
Psychologically or maybe a bit physically, the fixie does compel you to go a little bit faster than the single-speed does. In summary, the fixie is faster.
For more information why fixed-gear bikes are ridiculous, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Differences In Comfort
I must say that it is super fun to ride a fixie. When riding a fixie, your feet always stick to the pedals and there is no wasted energy because every ounce of energy you put into pedaling is transferred right into the asphalt, pushing you forward. The bike is super zippy and responsive. That’s cool.
To be fair, if you are into the feeling of coasting with your legs free, of the 2 bike types, only the single-speed can satisfy you. Or after a long cycling distance and your legs are dead tired, you can stop pedaling while your single-speed is still moving forward. It is time for you to enjoy the scenery and recharge your energy.
Differences In Geometry
The table below indicates some main geometry differences between fixed gear and single speed.
If you are a minimalism who loves the simplicity and up-to-date models, single speed and fixed gear should be your priority when considering about bike type to buy. Regardless of your gender, age and gout, these bike types can definitely meet your requirements.
Both fixed gear and single speed have their own advantages and drawbacks. I hope that my review about bicycle differences in this article is informative and helpful to you. The bike which makes you feel comfortable and happy when riding is the most suitable choice for you. Make a smart decision.
Fixed gear v single speed, which one is better?
It really depends on your preferences and use purposes as I mentioned above. If you are a beginner and want a low-weight bike just for commuting, a single-speed bike is better. If you seriously consider cycling as a sport to enhance your health, build muscle and keep fit as well, choose a fixie instead.
But to be honest, I prefer a fixie because it is funnier and safer, as long as you know how to control it.
Does fixed gear go uphill better than single speed?
The answer is No. Both are not bad at going uphill because they only have one gear that is a disadvantage when cycling on unstable terrains. But if you love the feeling of coasting downhill, it must be a single-speed bike.
Is a fixed gear faster than a single-speed?
Definitely. This has been verified by experiment. There is no wasted energy when riding a fixie because every ounce of energy you put into pedaling is transferred right into the asphalt, pushing you forward.
The measured speed gap between them is unremarkable, 21.05 km/h and 21.65 km/h with the same power needed. However, if you try to cycle both of them, you can feel the difference more obviously.