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It seems to be assumed you will not have any brakes on a fixed gear bike, why?

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Crazy as it sounds...the majority of bmx street riders have no brakes and a freewheel. –  dotjoe Nov 3 '10 at 17:35
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To back up @dotjoe, here's a example of bmx no brakes and freewheel: youtube.com/watch?v=7Dw5BAZJuqk –  David HAust Nov 10 '10 at 5:33
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Haha...Karl Poynter rides a freecoaster as well (roll backwards without back pedal). The most dialed street riders have no need for brakes...Garrett Reynolds, Dakota Roche, Chase DeHart to name a few... –  dotjoe Nov 10 '10 at 14:58
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6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The reason is historical. Fixed gear bikes have been traditionally used for track racing, long after most other bikes had switched to using freewheels. In the high-speed velodrome environment, it would be dangerous if the rider in front of you could brake suddenly: you would crash into them, and likely most of the group behind you would join in the fun (this is also true in a paceline or peloton on normal roads). So brakes have always been banned, and aren't really needed on the track anyway.

But track bikes sometimes get retired to road use. And as fixed gear has gotten more popular, many frame makers are building similar bikes for the road. Some of them are closer to track bikes (no brakes), others might include front brakes or both front and rear.

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You surely must mean a fixed gear bike.

A freewheeling bike with no brakes is going to require you to stop via crashing, some sort of flinstones-esque maneuver, or a ted shred move.

A fixed gear bike can be ridden marginally safely because the pedals are locked to the rear wheel in both directions, so locking up your legs can slow down the rear wheel.

People do that because they believe it gives them a better connection and feel with the road, a more 'zen' riding experience, and that the bike has better looks. Fixed gear bikes are ridden in track racing with no brakes, and so the track bike origin is part of why people ride them on the street with no brakes.

There are still many people who have brakes on fixed gear bikes. I have a fixed gear, but I have brakes on it because I prefer to stop quickly and safely.

People that ride coasting bikes with no breaks are insane.

Lastly, this excludes coaster braked bikes, which have a brake built in the hub, common on bikes for small children.

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question was edited to be about fixed gear bikes, not free wheel. Maybe remove first 2 paragraphs and last 2? –  freiheit Nov 4 '10 at 1:38
    
Don't laugh because I've seen BMXers (freewheel and no brakes) do your 'flinstones-esque maneuver'! Ripping along on dirt and just thrown it sideways so both wheels are skidding and come to a complete stop - feet never leaving the pedals! Very impressive skills! (even if it was on dirt) –  David HAust Nov 10 '10 at 5:26
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A track bike has no brakes because braking would cause a pile up.

When a fixie on the road has no brakes it is because someone is being macho. They will insist they can stop just as quickly or they can always see the road and path ahead. The former being easily disproven and the latter generally being optimistic. There seems to be a fair overlap with the same crowd that shuns helmets in traffic.

I ride a fixie with two brakes (rear rarely used). The bike store near me sells fixed gear bikes set up for both track (no brakes, swept handlebars so as not to catch) and for road (with brakes and regular handlebars).

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There is no need for a rear brake. –  Tim Nov 8 '10 at 21:44
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There is no need for a front brake. There is no need for a bicycle. The rear brake serves a purpose. This is easily demonstrable by applying it and seeing that it does something. Apply them both and stop a tad faster, not much, but some. Then there are road conditions where you might apply the rear only to slow, such as on slick wet roads or gravel. –  LanceH Nov 9 '10 at 3:16
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My fixed gear bike has brakes. And I wear a helmet when riding it. And I don't listen to my iPod while on the bike. I'm the new non-conformist.

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I'm not sure about that assumption, while you can ride a fixed without brakes and use solely pedal pressure, I wouldn't want to rely on it on the road.

Track bikes don't have brakes and historically fixies came from the track. My fixed has both front and rear (although I don't use the rear much as it chews through pads) and while I can brake reasonably well with just the pedals, through in the front brake too and I can stop on a sixpence.

Of course, in the UK to be strictly road-legal you must have at least one brake.

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In the UK the requirement is two independent brakes - so you'll see that (legal) fixies have a front brake (the lack of freewheel providing braking via the rear) –  Murph Nov 6 '10 at 17:59
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Why spoil the clean look of a lumberjack shirt, rolled up jeans and espadrilles with hideous cabling, calipers and pads?

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No upvote cuz I'm not sure it constitutes a real answer, but it's still piss-funny! –  David HAust Nov 10 '10 at 5:19
    
upvoted for good use or irony in (what I consider to be a real) answer. And quite funny too! –  heltonbiker Oct 8 '11 at 16:27
    
Would probably be better as a comment :) –  naught101 May 11 '12 at 9:28
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