Choose Your Gear Wisely

With new handlebars fitted along with the new brake lever, attention turned to the drive train...

And that meant delving into the murky world of gear inches and ratios.

Driving Along

I started looking at the chain ring and found that the one fitted by the previous owner couldn't be changed without changing the cranks too. It was an all-in-one unit, so yet again what had appeared to be a quick and easy job was going to be something a little bit more. Fortunately, I love tinkering with bikes!

Gearing is something that you need to get your head around, and is not something you think about on a geared bike; with around 22 gears available on a modern bike the hardest decision is choosing which one to tackle that hill in. When you've only got one gear, getting it right is even more important.

Whichever gearing you select, you'll find that hills become a lot harder and downhills also become quite hard - remember that you can't coast on a fixie. As you accelerate along the flat, your legs spin faster and there is a point where you just can't go any faster - for me, that's about 25-27mph on my bike. That's a lot slower than on my geared bike, where thanks to the ability to coast downhills, 40mph or more is not uncommon.

But something strange happens to time on a fixie - I think I ride a quicker average speed on it than I do on a geared bike. At first it doesn't seem possible but then I start thinking about all those times where I was able to ride more smoothly and not have the same stop/start style of riding that I would on a bike with gears.

Choose Your Gear Wisely

Unfortunately choosing which gearing to select is not so simple as it will depend upon your level of fitness and the type of terrain where you cycle. Where I live there are quite a few hills but they tend to be short with a moderate gradient - not flat like it is in the East of England, but not mountainous either.

If I lived somewhere that was extremely hilly then I would tend to opt for lower gearing, and the opposite for somewhere flat. So what do we mean when we talk about gearing and how do we work it out?

My fixie is currently running with a 46 tooth chain ring (46T) upfront with a 17 tooth sprocket (17T) on the back. This gives a gear ratio of 46/17 = 2.70 and that suits my riding ability, my location, and is typical of standard road roading... but what if I were to start riding somewhere seriously hilly? I'd want to change that ratio to something a lot lower than 2.70.

Getting the right gearing is important to your enjoyment of riding fixed, so in the next article we'll delve a little deeper into the black art of selecting your gear.

Whatever your view on fixies, dangerous or awesome (or if there's something about them that just appeals), I'd love to hear your views and experiences with them.

This article was written by DC. Vickers

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