Fixed gear bikes have gone from being niche to very mainstream of late. And with more and more of them hitting the road, we thought we’d look at whether they can actually help you with your training.
Written By Jene Shaw
The popularity of fixed-gear bikes has grown, particularly in subcultures of hipsters and bike messengers. But beyond the trendiness of “fixies” are their benefits to triathletes as an off-season training tool (or in-season recovery option). Jonathan Cane of City Coach Multisport encourages his athletes to get out on a fixie during the winter. It’s the simplest form of a bike—no derailleur or brakes necessary—just a direct drivetrain. “Because you can’t coast, you tend to get a lot out of your off-season road miles,” says Cane. Fixed-gear bikes aren’t that expensive, and with the help of a bike shop, you could even convert your old road bike to a fixie. Here are a few reasons to ride a fixed-gear bike:
It will smooth out your pedal stroke. Because coasting is not an option, you’ll find the dead spots in your pedal stroke pretty quickly. A fixie forces you to keep your pedal circles smooth and constant no matter your cadence, so you’ll automatically become more efficient.
It will boost your cadence. When you’re headed downhill, you won’t be able to rely on shifting to a bigger gear. You’ll have to pedal at a higher cadence, which helps improve neuromuscular efficiency. Cane says, “I find that if I can push an athlete’s ‘cadence comfort zone’ up by a few rpm, they’ll self-select a higher cadence during races, which can lead to faster run times as well.”
Find a gently rolling course where you can comfortably spin 85-90 rpm on the flats. Focus on the descents, where you’ll feel under-geared. See how fast you can get your cadence without bouncing your hips.
Riding a fixie defies negative stereotypes about triathletes. The cycling community is segregated and triathletes are known for their expensive taste and obsession with carbon. Get out there and prove we care about more than just being aerodynamic.
It will increase efficiency on rolling hills. If you have a habit of coasting over every crest of a hill, a fixie will break you of that habit quickly (because if you do try to coast, you’ll wind up catapulting over your handlebars). Uphills will be harder because you only have one gear option, so you’ll build strength in your legs that will come in handy for your upcoming season.
It mixes up your routine. In order to stay focused and excited all year, you should change something about your workout regimen. Fixie riders often say they feel more “connected” to their bikes—that it’s liberating not to deal with the complications of gears and to be able to just ride, pure and simple.