Riding at its most simplified form is riding a bike with just one gear. That’s what the first Tour de France riders did in 1903 and that what people still today whether they are riding to work on a single speed bike or blitzing round a velodrome on a fixed gear bike.
>>>Racing track? Check out out best track bikes buying guide
Our guide will clarify what it means to ride a fixie or single speed and offer the best singlespeed and fixed gear bikes on the market.
Best singlespeed bikes
A single speed bike does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a bike with just one gear. It still has a front and a back brake like any other bike but just fewer gears.
Not usually built for racing, these bikes sometimes house mudguard and pannier mounts making them ideal commuting bikes.
The lack of cassette, derailleur and cables mean that the need for maintenance and cleaning is low. Turning one gear also helps you to learn to use your cadence to moderate your effort and speed – something that’s easy to forget when always riding a geared bike. For these reasons, some riders choose a singlespeed as a winter bike.
Some singlespeed bikes come with a ‘flip flop’ hub – that means the hub is double sided. Swapping between the two allows the rider to choose between a freewheeled singlespeed, and a fixed gear (explained below).
Fuji Feather 2019 singlespeed bike
A lovely looking bike from Fuji, the Feather is a bike perfect for those pining for that retro look but modern construction. Thanks to its chromoly steel frame the bike it’s hardy but also comfortable to ride making it great for commuting on.
With removable cable clips and a flip flop hub on the rear you can take it to the track or keep it singlespeed for the road.
Charge Plug 0 Singlespeed bike
Originally reviewed on our site back in 2009, Charge have stayed true to their mission statement building a bike that can be as minimalist as possible so it can be run like a true fixie.
One change the company have made is implementing the use of wider tyres giving it a comfier ride through the city.
Buy now: see it at Charge for £399
Genesis Day One 10 singlespeed gravel bike
If you want a singlespeed bike with more stopping power, then the disc-equipped Genesis Day One Singlespeed is the choice for you.
With mudguards and mounts for racks front and rear, this bike will be just as capable exploring the countryside as it would on the commute to and from work.
Jamis Beatnik Singlespeed bike
If you’re looking for a singlespeed on the cheap the Jamis Beatnik is solid bet. Using a cheaper HiTen steel as opposed to Chromoly means that the Beatnik is heavier than most but if you’re just looking to get to A to B then look no further.
Best fixed gear bikes
A fixed gear bike, or fixie, is exactly like a singlespeed bike in that it has only one gear. So what makes a fixed gear bike different? As the name suggests, the drive train is ‘fixed’ meaning there is no ability to coast as the cranks turn as the bike moves, regardless whether you are pedalling or not.
Usually reserved for the velodrome, track and fixed gear bikes have seen a resurgence in urban riding for their mechanical simplicity thanks to a bike courier cult following. They’re also used in the growing discipline that is fixed gear crit racing – as seen in the Red Hook series.
If you’re riding on the road, it is important to remember that it’s a legal requirement that you fit a working front break to your machine.
Cinelli Vigorelli fixed gear bike
Sporting a wacky paint colourway, the Cinelli Vigorelli is a great buy is you want to take your fixed gear biking to the next level. Built with competition in mind, the Vigorelli is a great springboard for your competitive ambitions.
Named after the Vigorelli velodrome in Italy, this is bike combines the futuristic designs of Cinelli with their prestigious past.
Fuji track road bike
An entry level track bike, built from bombproof Reynolds 520 CrMo steel, promising comfort and a responsive ride.
The robust material will work well for someone planning to dip their toe into their first fixed crits. Front and rear brakes come fitted if you’re riding on the road, but can be removed for events.
Specialized Allez sprint
Something a little further up the performance ladder!
The Allez Sprint frame is a thoroughbred racer, built from an aluminium frame but boasting SmartWeld tech which reduces the weight. Aero shapes mean this isn’t the most compliant ride, and it’s not cheap either – but if you’re after every ounce of performance you can find, this could be it.
Choosing a gear for your singlespeed or fixed gear bike
Since you’ve only got one gear, it’s pretty important that it’s the right one. Too much resistance, and you’ll come to a stop at every hill. Choose too little, and you’ll be spinning your legs like a hamster in a ball.
The gear is created by the ration between the front and rear chainring, which is measured in inches. The ideal gear varies a lot between riders. For commuters, often something in the region of 65 to 75 inches is about right.
Track riders will go for a much higher gear, since the only hills involved are the banking.
Here’s a look at the gear rations you’d get with various different chainring and rear cog combinations. A wider tyre will very slightly increase the gear inches, and vice versa:
Things to remember when riding fixed gear
- Be sure to practice on a quiet road if it’s your first time riding a fixed gear bike or better yet, take to your local velodrome. They are usually filled with classes for beginners and have a great sense of community for fixed gear riders.
- Both singlespeed bikes and fixed gear bikes use nuts to secure their wheels, unlike road bikes and quick release skewers you will need to carry a small wrench of some kind to be able to fix any punctures.
- If you’re riding on the road, you must have a working front brake
- Finally, if you’re riding fixed, DON’T forget to pedal. Otherwise you may find your bike doing its best bucking bronco impersonation.