Riding fixed-gear for the first time

Here are some tips for when you start riding a fixed-gear. Start out by riding a regular free-wheeling bike, but don't ever coast. This will get you used to pedalling around corners, as well as get you thinking about stopping and starting off at traffic lights. Once you are confident with this, swap to the fixed-gear bike, but with at least one brake. Take it easy, and beware of times when you might be tempted to stop pedalling, such as when

  • you look behind you to see what traffic is there before changing lanes
  • you ride over a particularly bumpy part of the cycle way
  • someone unexpectedly steps into your path

Any time you sub-consciously stop pedalling, you are likely to get 'kicked' by the pedals. At the very least this is a bit of a shock, but you might end up on the top bar (ouch) or on the road (double ouch).

As you get used to riding fixed-gear, reduce the amount you use the brake. Eventually, if you are brave enough, remove the brake altogether. I personally prefer having a brake because I lack the skill to stop quickly without one. Some people have the skill to lock up the rear wheel and skid, which is pretty impressive. Respect!

Riding fixed-gear and the law

Depending on where you are in the world riding on the road with a single brake or no brake at all may be illegal. For the situation in New Zealand, you might like to have a look at the New Zealand transport agency website. In particular Your cycle must have good brakes on the front and back wheels. (If the cycle was made before 1 January 1988, the law only requires a brake on the back wheel.)

First Gear is copyright 2006-2008
Martin van den Nieuwelaar
Last updated 27 Sep 2012

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