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I currently ride a single-speed bike with a flip-flop hub, both for my daily commute and for pleasure/exercise a couple nights a week. I've decided to pick up my first set of clipless pedals and shoes. I've never used toe-clips of any kind or ridden a fixed-gear so I'm curious if I should consider switching to a fixed gear setup.

My commute runs through the city and hits several intersections where I'm stopped by red lights. I know with a fixed-gear I could learn to track stand at intersections, but I'm unsure whether that's easier than clipping-out/in at red lights. Conversely, the same commute involves a large hill that I can't pedal fast enough to keep up with, and I don't know how difficult it would be to control my speed with a fixed-gear.

I'm not sure if there is a non-subjective answer to this, but I'm basically wondering if there is a case for or against fixed-gear instead of single speed with clipless pedals.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I've ridden fixed with clipless pedals for years and while I have been trying to learn how to track stand mostly I clip out if I reach the red and need to stop. The worst that will happen is that you need to spin your wheel a fraction of a rotation to place your lead foot at the right point when you push off again.

If you're at the front of a queue of cars, you probably don't want to be wobbling and twitching while showing off. With a bit of practice you can clip in and out in barely more time than a normal shoe.

The key to a fixed (and with clipless pedals) is that it promotes a need to predict what's about to happen. I definitely approach junctions more slowly - trying to keep moving as the lights change, to avoid being stationary.

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Track standing at intersections is more about showing off than about being quick off the stop line. By the time you can track stand consistently (btw, you can learn to do this on a freewheel bike, too), you will have mastered clipless pedals and you'll be able to clip and unclip very quickly. Other than that, riding fixed vs. SS is a matter of taste. Do you like to coast down hills?

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+1, tackstanding is in fact a basic mountain biking skill and they sure are not fixed. Also, cruising with your freewheel clickin' at full speed is the best feeling in the world. I don't see why you would want to get rid of that. – Vache Oct 21 '10 at 11:34
My commute involves a hill large enough that I have no choice but to coast, but otherwise I pedal. – meagar Oct 21 '10 at 13:47
Well, if you "have no choice by to coast", you wouldn't be able to ride it with a fixie? – zigdon Oct 21 '10 at 16:23
@zigdon That was part of my question. In regards to large hills: "I don't know how difficult it would be to control my speed with a fixed-gear." – meagar Oct 21 '10 at 22:19
@meagar: Use a front brake, and you won't have to worry about controlling your speed. Riding with a brake is so much more fun, because you don't have be on high alert all the time to be prepared to skid to a stop (rear-wheel skidding is a much slower stop than front-wheel braking). – Nick Oct 23 '10 at 5:17

Going down a hill on a fixie sounds like insanity to me. Are you sure about that? Controlling your speed will waste a lot of energy. (keeping the speed of your pedals low enough to be able to keep up). I'm with Nick concerning track standing.

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Part of the usefulness of riding fixed is the training angle - your legs are always moving - and descending it a different kind of hard work. It also means when you shift back to riding a free hub, your pedalling will be smoother, more rhythmical and you will definitely appreciate the ability to take a break ... – Unsliced Oct 21 '10 at 13:30
You can ride fixed and have brakes. – sixtyfootersdude Feb 21 '13 at 21:01

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