Let’s get this out of the way: a single speed bike isn’t for everyone. There are so many multi speed bikes on the market because they give many riders great flexibility to adapt to all sorts of road and riding conditions. This guide helps you better understand the features and advantages of a fixed speed bike, since they’re different from other types of bikes. There is a small but dedicated community of fixie bike riders in New Zealand, and some great bikes and accessories on the market. It’s easy to find a complete fixie, or build your own, when you know what you’re looking for.
Every good bike starts with a good frame. A single speed bike is no exception. The same materials that go into other types of bikes are available for fixie frames, with their own advantages and disadvantages:
Aluminum: A popular choice because of its low weight and great strength, aluminum isn’t great at absorbing road irregularities and vibrations. When you’re building a simple fixie, which doesn’t include suspension, aluminum isn’t advised unless you only ever ride on a track or very smooth surfaces.
Carbon fibre: The priciest of the fixie frame materials, carbon fibre is a natural shock absorber and isolates you from vibration. The down side is the flex in the frame, which can sap some of your power and tire you out over long distances.
Steel (Chromoly): This is the most popular choice due to its combination of strength, impact resistance, and relatively low price. Different alloys exist, and modern quality steel bikes, while not as light as aluminum or carbon fibre, are not as heavy as you might think.
Depending on your budget and the amount and type of riding you’ll be doing, such as street, mountain, or trick, you’ll want to choose the frame size, type, and material that best meets your needs. Remember, it’s easy to upgrade other components, so buy the best fixie bike frame you can afford and aim to keep it for a long time.
Here’s where building or choosing a single speed bike is different from another type of bike. Most fixie riders want the simplest, most reliable bike possible. It’s not about adding gears and accessories — it’s about getting back down to bike basics. You don’t need to be worried about gear sets, derailleurs, and shifters. Instead, focus on:
Your seat: With no suspension on a fixie, make sure you’re choosing a seat that supports your bum and is comfortable over long distances.
Handlebars: Here again, simple is best. Shoulder width flat bars are the standard in fixie bikes, though long distance riders might want to the added comfort and flexibility of drop handlebars.
Brakes: If you’re new to fixie bikes, you might want to consider including brakes. Some single speed enthusiasts opt for bikes without hand-actuated brakes and simply use the pedals to stop. It takes some getting used to, so give one a try before you buy!
There are some great complete single speed bikes on the NZ market and you can also find a good deal on a used one. No matter which path you choose, following these guidelines ensures you enjoy your fixie every time you head out!
You’ll find plenty of options on BikeExchange. Ride on over to our editorial section for all things bike, including the latest news, reviews, and interviews.