This week’s Cycling Weekly magazine fixie fitness special definitely fits into the ‘nothing new’ category. For the urban rider under a certain age, it’s still the only way to be seen on two wheels, but for those of us born before the end of Beatlmania, it’s the way we started our cycling careers.
Innovative or nostalgic, it really doesn’t matter, what’s important are the cycling skills you develop by riding a single gear. Whether you choose city streets or a velodrome, hurtling along without the option to change up a gear or to freewheel certainly teaches you how to pedal. It’s how you accelerate and it’s through track racing that Mark Cavendish developed that bunch-beating jump.
Even if you’ve no ambitions to race, you really would miss out if you never tried riding fixed. It’s not for the faint hearted, particularly that first heart-stopping moment when you try to freewheel, but the force from the back wheel just keeps your legs spinning.
Your initial reaction is that you’re not in control, but in fact it’s exactly the opposite. It doesn’t take long to get to grips with fixed and once the dark art has been mastered it increases skill leaves tenfold.
Riding on icy roads isn’t recommended, but your best chance of staying upright is on fixed when you can slow down using leg speed alone and keep off those brakes.
Of course I can’t mention fixed wheel riding without revealing my ratio of choice. It was always 63-inches. Ah, the good old days…
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly