Riding with a fixed gear on the road gives you a feeling like no other. You feel intimately connected with the terrain you are riding on. Without the use of gears or a freewheel, you must adapt yourself to the terrain, so steep means grinding, descending is spinning, and flats are about rolling through everything.
I love riding fixed on the road, I feel it makes me a better rider. Each ride involves something different, it is always challenging, physically and mentally, and the intimate connection with the terrain needs to be felt to be understood.
I ride 60-120 kilometres weekly on my fixie, and try to ride on hilly terrain as much as I can. Riding a fixed gear bike is something you get way more credit for than you deserve – people think its harder than it is. It really takes no time to pick it up, you just have to remember to pedal. All of the time. Never stop pedaling. Ever. Naturally at some point you do forget, and you get a VERY sharp reminder of your mistake, as the crank tries to drive your leg up into your hip.
For track cyclists, gearing choice can make the difference between winning and losing. For rolling on hilly roads no matter what gear you have, it’ll be the wrong one. Get the right gear for a climb, and riding down the other side will suck-diggety-suck-suck as you need to spin like a sewing machine to keep up. The same if you choose the right gear for descending, you’ll be popping veins in your neck with the strain to climb.
I ride with a 42×18 gearing – fairly standard. It’s a good choice for rolling around on flats. But take that into the hills, and everything changes. Ride up a moderate hill of 5-8% average, and you will spend most of your time standing up, dancing on the pedals with a low cadence. You get used to that pretty quickly, even a climb of 5 kilometers isn’t too difficult if the gradient is fairly consistent.
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