Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of people asking whether they should ride their bike fixed or freewheel. Well, I thought I’d take a second and give you my good ol’ two cents worth.
What Does It All Mean?
Our bikes all come with a flip-flop hub, which means they have a freewheel cog on one side of the rear wheel and a fixed cog on the opposite side. This means you get to choose whether you want to run free or fixed, and you also have the freedom to switch back and forth between fixed and freewheel anytime.
What’s the Difference?
Let’s start with freewheel. Freewheel is what most riders are familiar with. If you pedal forward, you will move the bike forward. If you stop pedaling, the pedals will simply stop and you will coast, and if you pedal backwards…well, nothing much is going to happen.
Fixed gear, on the other hand, is slightly different. Fixed gear means that the motion of the pedals is directly connected to the motion of the rear wheel. If you pedal forward, the bike will move forward. If you stop actively pedaling, but the rear wheel is still turning, the pedals will continue to turn. This means there is no coasting, if that back wheel is spinning, so are the pedals. And if you apply reverse pressure to the pedals, you can slow the rear wheel, or move the bike backwards if starting from a stop.
Pros and Cons
So now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s discuss pros and cons.
The pros of freewheel: This is familiar to a majority of riders. It allows for coasting, which means not only can you rest your legs, but if you use that coasting ability correctly, it can make climbing slightly easier and descents faster.
The cons of freewheel: Because you have the ability to coast, freewheel can be easier, and so less effective as a workout. In addition, it can leave a gap in your pedal stroke, meaning you could possibly lose some speed on flat land.
Now for fixed.
The pros of fixed: Because the rear wheel and pedals are directly connected, your legs are constantly moving. This is one of the best workouts you can get on a bike. Plus, the ability to control the rear wheel gives greater bike control.
The cons of fixed: For many riders, it is unfamiliar. If you try to coast while riding, the pedals will continue to turn, which can disrupt your balance and possibly lead to an accident. Also, the more tired you get, the less control you have.
So What’s Best?
I know what you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what’s best for me! Well, here we go:
I’d recommend freewheel if you are:
A new rider/returning cyclist/hopping back on after a hiatus – Freewheel is the classic riding style. Get your bearings here, and then you can always switch to fixed whenever you’re ready!
Looking to ride long distance/do a lot of climbing – Freewheel really has advantages on longer rides and climbs. Gives you time to rest while riding and can keep you stronger longer.
I’d recommend fixed if you are:
An experienced rider looking to ride flat and fast – If you feel comfortable on a bike and are looking for a great way to challenge yourself, train harder, and crush the flats, go fixed, all day, e’r’yday.
Looking for a great workout – Nothing burns calories like fixed. Spinning all the time, there’s no rest. If you’re new to biking, I’d still say start with freewheel to get comfortable. But fixed is definitely the endgame for making those gams look glam.
Well, there you go. It’s quick and dirty, and doesn’t cover everything ever said about fixed gear and freewheel, but hey, it’s a start. Hope this helps! (If not, the picture below should do the trick)