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My daily commute is a 1.7km long, almost straight line with minimal slope. Since I have no other method of private transportation, I am thinking of getting a bike and have come up with two interesting candidates:

Some of the things that affect my decision:

  • I have not riden a bike in about 8 years (since my teens)
  • Every day I will be caring a laptop case with me
  • The super market is pretty far for hauling the week's groceries by foot, so the bike should be useful there as well. If not, then I will be thinking for something like this: Good backpack for carrying groceries
  • The temperatures around here, year-long range from -4° to 36° Celsius (averages 13°-22°)
  • I don't know much about bike maintenance but I have some experience with maintaining other mechanical stuff (car, motorbike) and since my dad is a mechanic, I think I can get it going with a manual or something
  • I don't want my budget for the bike to go above 400 euros
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You should go to a bike shop and try different bikes out. My guess is a more conventional urban bike would fit best, but you really should try before you buy. –  obelia Jan 27 '13 at 15:56
    
@obelia I will most certainly test-ride before I commit to a purchase. I am solely trying to narrow down the scope of my tests and prioritise them. –  vrinek Jan 27 '13 at 18:50
    
If you decide to go with the fixie, make sure to keep the front brake on it. The added weight of hauling groceries will make it very difficult to stop with your legs alone. –  jimirings Jan 28 '13 at 14:36
    
2km? Your kid sister's bike will make that trip. I commute 40km round-trip on a fixie with a rear rack. No backpacks for me, I bungie my bag to the rack. Your grocery-getting would be maximized with a rear rack. Hang panniers or baskets when you need to haul cargo, take them off when you don't. You won't know that rack is there when it's empty. –  drspell Mar 4 '13 at 3:26
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7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

For practical day to day commuting I would stay away from a fixie because:

  1. You are not a very experienced cyclist, riding a fixie in traffic is actually not that easy.
  2. No fenders, so dirty clothes/mud in the face on rainy days.
  3. No rear-rack, so for luggage you are forced to use a backpack.

I also wouldn't go for the type of urban bike you link because:

  1. You will have a very straigth posture on the bike. This makes quick steering more difficult even though it might be a matter of life or death in traffic.
  2. The straight-up posture with your pedals almost directly in line with your torso is not very comfortable when you have to put some effort into your cycling.
  3. The small wheels make this type of bike unnecessarily unstable.
  4. A luggage rack on the handlebars leads to unpleasant/unresponsive handling.
  5. It looks dorky (but that is just my opinion)).

I would find a nice secondhand bike that looks like the fixie you link but has fenders, a rear-rack and proper brakes.

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most fixed gear bikes have a flip flop hub, you could always put a freewheel on the other side if you're not comfortable with a fixed drivetrain. Worst case, you can remove the fixed cog and lock ring and thread a freewheel on that side. –  Benzo Jan 28 '13 at 13:34
    
I would argue that the possibility of controlling speed without touching the brakes when maneuvering at low speeds actually makes it a better choice for traffic. The only inconvenience is not being able to reset your pedals to get on the saddle again after stopping without lifting the rear wheel first, but that hardly qualifies as a hazard. –  Jaime Jan 29 '13 at 4:42
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If you remove the fixed gear it can hardly be called a fixie. My issue with fixies lies not in low-speed-manouvering-through-high-traffic-moments, but more in the higher-speed-suddenly-a-car-in-front-of-you-stop-pedalling-in-a-knee-jerk-reacti‌​on(heh)-oh-look-at-me-I'm-flying-moments. –  jilles de wit Jan 29 '13 at 9:52
    
A fixie does not preclude rack nor fenders. –  whatsisname Mar 8 '13 at 3:31
    
Indeed, it does not, but the norm says that fixies lack rack and fenders, as this google image search shows: google.com/… so –  jilles de wit Mar 9 '13 at 21:34
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A lot of this comes down to personal preference, but if you plan on hauling stuff I would go with a traditional framed single speed/fixed gear. Just make sure it has mounting points for a rear rack so you can run panniers in case you want to haul lots of stuff without putting it all on your back. You can mount a rack to a bike that doesn't have mounting bosses but it's less sturdy and aesthetically it looks like garbage. Also, if the bike is coming fixed make sure it has a flip flop hub and a mount for a rear brake- preferably it will come standard with a rear brake.

To give my personal opinion, between the two bikes you linked to I'd shoot for the fixie. The urban bike doesn't look like much fun to ride. As I mentioned earlier I'd seek out a bike that's ready out of the box to swap between fixed and single speed. The one you linked to need a back brake at the least to make it a single. If you wanted to go with an old staple that's extremely versatile you should check out the Surly Cross Check SS. It comes complete as a single with a flip flop fixed/free hub and you can build it up to nearly any configuration imaginable short of a mountain bike.

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+1 on surly cross check single speed. Its versitile. If you decide you want to add gears and a derailleur, then it's easy. If you only want to own one bike, this is a great one to have. –  Benzo Jan 27 '13 at 20:11
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For that distance on flat roads it doesn't matter. Just get whatever you like, is comfortable to ride, and will be capable of carrying whatever you might need to carry. (I suggest a rack and baskets or panniers rather than a backpack, but that's a personal thing.)

For your budget and needs look for a nice used bike. Especially since you've not ridden much there's no sense spending money on a new bike you may decide you don't like in a year.

You might want to budget some money for some good raingear -- it's not cheap.

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A fixie will be easier to maintain than a geared bike purely because it has no derailleurs.

On all your other points would be satisfied by either type of bike, you'll just need to spec them when you buy.

If you do end up buying a fixed gear bike, make sure it has standard brakes - do not rely on the pedals as your brake. That kind of approach is great on a track but not on the road.

On a totally subjective note, I have four bikes and the fixie has become my firm favourite. Great fun to ride and very easy to maintain. I gave mine a full service a couple of months ago, right down to swapping out the bottom bracket, and it took just a couple of hours.

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I own a Colnago fixie which I love - it's just sheer fun. However, for commuting to work, I built myself a simple single speed a while ago. Here is why:

  • A fixie can't be ridden properly without toe clips and straps (or click pedals). Sometimes I have to wear at least proper leather shoes for work (and sometimes a suit), which really don't go well with toe clips as a) they don't really fit into the clips and b) the shoes will get scratched badly. Maybe this sounds stupid, but a fixie is simply impractical in this aspect. Of course I could wear sneakers for riding and then change shoes at work, but I just can't be bothered.

  • In my case, I found the fixie to be somewhat uncomfortable for day-to-day city riding after a while, mainly because I can't (and wouldn't want to) fit any tires wider than 700c/25, but there are a lot of tram tracks to cross where I live plus quite a lot of pot holes plus part of my (old) way to work wasn't paved but gravel, which really sucks with slim tires. Also, it doesn't have a rear brake. In dense traffic or when a lot of stopping is required, this can be quite cumbersome after a while. But these are of course things you could pay attention to should you decide to get yourself a fixie.

Cheers, Alex

PS.: And I definitely wouldn't buy any clumsy geared city bike. A single speed is just so much easier to maintain, plus it's so much more fun, and it's damn silent ;-) And let's be honest - who the hell needs more than one gear in a flat terrain? Just pedal, dammit ;-)

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As far as commuting goes, I would pick the fixie/single speed over the other bike you linked to, and here's why.

  1. Parts are more easily available. If you need a replacement tube, your local bike store is almost guaranteed to have one. With 24 inch tires, they will probably have one, but it depends on the store. Same goes for things like tires. Just about everything on the "urban" bike looks non-standard and would be difficult to find replacements for. When you have a commuter bike, it's nice to have something that can be fixed by the next day.

  2. Speed. There is internal gearing on the hub and it doesn't mention the ratios. But if it's the one I'm thinking it has ratios of 1:1 and 1:1.37. Which won't give you much speed especially with the size of the wheel and the small chain ring. While speed isn't essential it's nice to be able to get up to a good speed without a really high cadence. Also, bigger wheels coast a lot better so you'll be able to keep moving without as much effort.

  3. Ability To Upgrade. Both the bikes you linked to are pretty low end bikes. But the fixie has the advantage that it can be upgraded later if you want to. It would be easy to put better wheels on there, upgrade the brakes, better tires, add a better quality crank. It doesn't even look as though there's a good place to mount a water bottle on the urban bike.

  4. Use for other purposes. The urban bike looks like it would be fine for your short commute, but doesn't look good for much else. The fixie could probably be used for much longer rides, such as going out for fun rides on the weekend or at night.

The main thing I don't like about the fixie you linked to is that it doesn't look like it can accommodate a rear rack. This can be very useful for commuting. Although you have a very short commute so it probably isn't that much of an issue. I'm the kind of person who would much rather have a rear rack than have a back pack on, but that's just personal preference.

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You might want to consider a mini velo as well I faced the same dilemma in the end I got a Raleigh MV7 Has a fixed front cog which makes for a good compromise

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Welcome to Bicycles SE. This site, like all Stack Exchange sites, is not a typical forum. Users ask questions and the community attempts to answer it. This particular answer would be better suited as a comment rather than an answer on its own. –  jimirings Mar 8 '13 at 20:52
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