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At our local bunch rides, we're seeing more and more guys out on fixies and they are going at a phenomenal pace. We have a local segment called the "Chicken Run" (and it's flat) and this one guy in an orange fixie went over 55km/h!

We've spent thousands on our own bikes (carbon, alloy, etc) to have a guy on a simple, light weight fixie / single speed bike beat us like that!?

So my question is - what fixie set up have you got that gives you the "edge in the bunch"? Any specifications to aim for?

At this rate, I am going to have to sell all my bikes for THE ONE fixie.

UPDATE

Yes I know the "engine" (ie: legs) is what counts, but I am after specific gear ratios that could (note I said could) allow you, with reasonable fitness (I am 173cm and in my mid 40s and consider myself fit to very fit) to be able to clock over 50k/hr on the above short 500m segment (my personal record is 43secs and I want to aim for under 40secs).

UPDATE 2

Incidentally, the KOM for that segment has been flagged as it was done by slip-streaming a motorised vehicle.

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Fixes can be good if you get the right gearing on them and there aren't a lot of hills. As soon as you hit a decently long reasonably steep incline, the people on fixes are going to have trouble keeping up. – Kibbee Mar 24 at 0:00
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I suggest you have a swapsies ride. Everyone brings a bike to the ride, but you have to ride something else from someone else and swap around every X km or at specific points.. We had this here a couple years ago, and teh most popular bikes were the raleigh 20 with drop bars, a grifter, and some old-school style BMXs. It was not a fast ride! – Criggie Mar 24 at 1:44
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People overrate technology when it comes to bicycles. Just imagine that Merckx did the hour record in '76 on a steel bike with no aero wheels/helmet/suit and he managed to cover over 49km. In the end the engine matters the most, I would spend most of my energy/money in optimizing the engine, the efficency difference between fixie and road bike is minimal. – Bogdan Petrica Mar 24 at 6:34
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@BogdanPetrica - yeah, but in 76' they had the advantage of using all the drugs with barely any testing. – Davor Mar 24 at 8:45
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This might be an example of survivor bias. You're only noticing the fixie riders that are really fast, but not the scores that aren't really that fast. – Carpetsmoker Mar 24 at 13:42
up vote 4 down vote accepted

For context, I have been doing group rides for about 20 years now, raced at the cat 1/2 level for a good portion of that, and had a fixed gear obsession off and on for many years too. Riding fixed is an interesting challenge, but it is most certainly not an out and out advantage. The short of it is that your 55 kph fellow is likely a strong rider, who also knows how to time an impressive effort. The combination of the factors is leaving all of you scratching your heads and doubting yourself... club ride mission accomplished!

When fixed gear be an advantage

In the right circumstances fixed gear bikes can be extremely efficient. You have a straight chain line, no pulley wheels and a lighter overall bike. Plus, your momentum helps push the pedals through the dead spot, making it easier to spin fast. If your gearing is right for the stretch you are riding then you may actually be at an advantage. For example, if you have a flat time trial with consistent wind and the right top end gearing, once you are up to speed, you will be hard pressed to find faster set up (other than a full aero TT setup).

That said, fixed gear are only optimal in a limited set of situations... the rest of the time it's a suffer fest.

When fixed can be a giant disadvantage

While there are times you can fly on a fixed gear, depending on your environment and terrain it can also be a massive disadvantage. 55 km is a fast pace, which suggests he is pushing some big gear-inches. If you had any big climbs on your ride, or strong head winds, this gearing would likely be a massive suffer fest.

One of our club rides has attacks starting on a stretch with sustained 17 degree gradient. On a fixed gear with a tall gearing pretty much any rider would get tossed out the back due to the mechanical disadvantage.

We can also have some nasty sustained head winds. Again a fixed gear with tall gearing would be a suffer fest.

If you lowered the gearing to accommodate these features, you likely would be able to hit your 55 kph "chicken run" speed.

How to make yourself look stronger when at a disadvantage

One part of group riding is figuring out ways to turn the screws on your fellow riders. This is often a combination of psychological warfare and physical strength.

One of the best skills to learn is knowing your limits, your advantages, your disadvantages, and developing a good sense of timing. If I find myself at a disadvantage (i.e., slower bike, less fitness), I will focus on pacing, never doing more than the absolute minimum (conserve, conserve, conserve). I will likely plan for only one large effort, but in that effort I will put all my cards on the table (absolutely everything). Leave nothing behind (similar to the swimming scene in Gattaca. Even if that means getting spit out the back shortly afterwards.

All you need is one massive effort for everyone to remember and be intimidated. No one thinks that is all you have, they often assume you could do it again and again (which is often not the case).

What you can do

Next ride, watch him for the whole ride. Does he hold back on other aspects of the ride (like taking shorter pulls), allowing oneself to slip from the front to the back during climbs. Is your club ride fairly sedate before the "chicken run?" All of these scenarios may allow him to metering and conserve his effort in preparation for laying down a beating on your "chicken run."

If that is the case, it's not the bike that is the advantage its the combination rider and strategy and execution.

If you want to flip the situation, you need to play to your advantages and his disadvantages. Because you have gears, you can ride at an optimal gearing in more situations. You need to make use of this advantage. You can do this by attacking him whenever his fixed gear appears to be putting him at a disadvantage. If it looks like the his gearing is too tall on a climb, hammer the hell out of the climb. If you have a head wind, gutter the peloton so that he can't draft. The more you do this the more his fixed gear will become a liability, and the less reserves he will have left for the fabled "Chicken Run."

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+1 for pointing out "timed efforts" – BSO rider Apr 2 at 18:35
    
Best answer so far, but no one has been specifics about fixie nirvana! Type of frame (weight), wheels, gears, etc? – FandangoAus Apr 5 at 5:47

Disclaimer: I am a fixie hater. I'll try to answer this as if I was impartial.

Proper road bikes (Including the Moulton) are the machines for speed, and always have been (unless you're on a velodrome).

Looking at it through a speed lens, a fixie has a slight weight, aero, and drivetrain efficiency advantage over a road bike, but this usually doesn't come anywhere close to offsetting the disadvantages...

It does not have the top end speed and can't accelerate like a road bike because of the gearing. It is horribly inefficient at climbing. If you're hardcore and you ride with no brakes, you have to ride more conservatively because of your poor stopping ability.

On long rides, you will find yourself tiring sooner because you won't be able to ride at your optimal cadence.

The guy on the orange fixie has good legs. He would have been just as fast (if not faster) on a road bike.

Whatever you do, don't "sell all your bikes for THE ONE fixie".

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"It does not have the top end speed ..." - that depends upon the gearing. If the rider figured in advance he needed 55 kph to blow everyone away on Chicken run and chose the fixed gearing accordingly - viola! He was probably a detail nut so he minimized the air resistance with a fixie and was mentally primed to do what he did. – Craig Hicks Mar 24 at 8:38
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The guy on the orange fixie has good legs. He would have been just as fast (if not faster) on a road bike. basically, this. The guy just was better that day, period. – stijn Mar 24 at 9:04
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You say that fixie has only weight and aero advantage, but this in not quite true. Derailleur systems reduce efficiency to the tune of several watts, hence why aftermarket parts are available with ceramic bearings and oversized jockey wheels – Andy P Apr 6 at 14:50
    
@AndyP Thanks, I added that – BSO rider Apr 6 at 23:34

Who rides fixes? Roadies who have got bored with always being out the front? Maybe its someone wanting to make a statement to the "Freds" (look it up) in the group

I once did a 160km ride where some guy on a MTB (with nobbiles, back in the mid 1990's steel, 26" etc) arrived home 00:04:35 behind the leading pack (About 4:10 hours). Some argued the only reason the leading pack made the effort to break away from him was because they could not stand the drone from the tires. How he did it is as much a mystery to me as why. At the time, single speeds and fixies were starting to show up, but it was a hilly circuit with some very steep climbs, so fixies could never keep up)

The reason he is out front in your case is simple - he is a stronger rider than everyone else, and even with a handicap, he is still stronger.

So the question is not why the fixie is out front, its why the guy(s) on the fixie is out front.

Edit: In response to the comment that correctly pointed out I did not answer the question:

The right fixie bike for bunch rides, for the op, so he can remain out front and keep up with 'that one guy', is one with an electric motor.

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Actually, the question isn't, as you've stated, why is the fixed gear out front. The question is, quite literally, what setup is required. – jqning Mar 29 at 1:22
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@jqning: I have edited my answer to reflect your valid concerns as to its quality. – mattnz Mar 30 at 0:30
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I don't LOL much. But I LOLed. – jqning Mar 30 at 0:52
    
Yeah I also LOL'd. A motor?! Are you serious? – FandangoAus Apr 26 at 1:24

I agree totally with comments and answers given here, but you forgot the most important thing: LEGS.

I guess the 55km/h guy is also comfortable with a bike with some more kg and even with a no so wrong gear setup.

I mean no offense but I would bet that this guy does more km per year than you, in this way you can sell, buy as many bikes as you want that you will see always this guy passing-by like a thunder :)

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This seems like a comment rather than an answer. If you're not adding anything new, just upvote other answers. – Móż Mar 25 at 10:52
    
Welcome to Bicycles SE. This answer doesn't seem to add anything new to the discussion. The two top voted answers have both mentioned that the strength of the rider is the the key, not the bike (s)he rides. Please only post a new answer if your answer covers something not already mentioned. – jimirings Mar 26 at 0:37
    
Sorry but when I posted my answer (yes, LEGS) there was no mention at all on the other proposed answers. – juagicre Mar 26 at 11:17

Engineer and fixed gear rider here, hello. My top speed on flat on fixed is 1 km/h less than on geared bike with similar wheels, and I'd explain that with my geared bike having lower handlebars.

On level ground, a single speed bike, fixed or not, does not have any performance penalty compared to a geared bike. On the contrary, singlespeed has slightly less losses in transmission and a very slight aerodynamic advantage. The ability to adjust for exact cadence does not have any benefits either, because the actual pedaling power curve is fairly wide.

The main benefit of fixed gear is training. The fixed gear forces you to both push hard on climbs and spin fast on descents, and combining these two skills on flat ground equals high speed (at least until you run out of breath). You can do the same exercises on a geared bike, but that requires some conscious effort, and most of riders seem to concentrate on keeping constant power and cadence.

The problem with fixed gear on group rides are climbs and descents. A gear that is fine for group ride speeds on level ground means that you can't descend as fast as people with freewheel and gears, and have to climb at full power. The latter is a problem, because people think it as a challenge when actually you just need to climb fast to maintain even some cadence.

Edit: Since you have to ask for a specific gear ratio on internet, my answer is 49/16. If you have access to a geared bike, you can simply try different gears until you find one that suits you.

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My £1500 bike was stolen about 3 years ago, and since this was the 3rd or 4th bike to get nicked in London (during the day!), I decided having an expensive bike was simply not fun any more, and instead bought a cheap and cheerful £400 fixie. Surprisingly, I am significantly faster on the fixie, and there are a few reasons why:

  1. The fixie weights practically nothing. I have 1 break and 1 gear, and everything else is light aluminium, so it really is noticeably lighter. Going up stairs or walking for whatever reason with the bike on your shoulder becomes practical.

  2. Something you wont hear from a lot of deluxe road-bike cyclists, including myself a few years ago, but the fixie is a more efficient bike, provided your terrain is consistent. People with gears really hate this, because the whole point of gears is to be more efficient, but the reality is that geared bikes never get optimal chain tension. The chain tensioner will try and keep the chain tension "in the zone", but of course that is never going to be as consistent or as high as the tension on a single-gear bike. Of all the factors that have an effect on the muscle-to-miles ratio, the chain tension is one of the most significant, and one of the most overlooked.

  3. The big one - if you pop foot retention clips/straps onto your peddles, you can pull up as well as push down, increasing efficiency enormously by utilizing other leg muscles. You can do that on a geared bike too, but the change in foot pressure when you transition from pressing down to pulling up is a lot more efficient on a fixed gear bike, again because of chain tension. There is no slack that goes clunk if you time it wrong, so you never feel like your legs are fighting each other. Riding a fixed gear with foot retention is so much more enjoyable than a geared bike with foot retention, and of course on both bicycles it makes a huge difference.

  4. Your body becomes better. Simple as that. When i bought my fixie it was sold as a "training bike", which I found bizarre at the time. But the truth is that on a geared bike, use of your gears smoothens out the workload over time for you. You push in the same amount of energy, and your legs cycle around at the same frequency, but the slope/gears decide how fast you travel. On a fixed gear you don't have that at all - up hill requires you to put in more energy than usual. Down hill also takes more energy because you have to keep your legs spinning even though you're accelerating under gravity. The result of all this inefficiency, for the 3 years i've had the bike, is muscles which explode off traffic lights because they are so used to having to compensate for "peaky" in workload. The net-net of that is your legs, the engine as others put it, get bigger. Traffic lights feel a lot like leg-press when you have 1 gear. But the flip-side of this inefficiency on slopes is that you are more efficient on flat terrain. A geared bike is never in exactly the right gear for the terrain, and it takes years for the cyclist to learn when to drive it harder ever so subtly to get into that sweet spot of efficiency. On a fixed gear, that's really the name of the game. You're always having to find that sweet spot, and the road talks back to you through the subtle and erratic motions of the pedals. Truly, unless you have cycled a fixed gear as your main bike for a month, I won't be able to articulate to you what this feels like...

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Your technical explanations are quite simply wrong. Chain tensioner doesn't affect the efficency of the pull which is all that matters. "Wrong timing" is much worse on a fixie since you not only lose power but you probably actually are braking. – David Triebe Mar 24 at 20:09
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Being faster on a fixie is still quite reasonable. First of all it requires a good round pedaling technique which will also benefit you when you switch back to a geared bike and being forced to driving a high gear will also make you go faster - just as hardening up and staying on the big ring will make you go faster (depending on the terrain, duration and the size your guns). – David Triebe Mar 24 at 20:15
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@DavidRicherby with mid range parts, somewhere around a kilogram, with entry level parts more. – ojs Mar 25 at 10:15
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@J.J Sounds pretty much like a mental effect as it doesn't make much sense from an engineering point of view. But as you probably know mental effects often are the most important effects, just like a spotless bike makes one go faster and further than one with even a hint of dust on it. But me the key factor is that riding a fixie makes you an overall stronger and better rider and I'd suggest that you'd be faster if you'd switch back to a normal road bike too. – David Triebe Mar 25 at 12:38
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@DavidTriebe I suspect the real effect is that because you get much more accurate feedback on your pedalling due to the wheel's momentum driving the chain, it's easier to learn and maintain good timing. This can easily feel like you're getting more effect from pulling up, but in reality you're just doing a better job of correctly unweighting the pedal on the upstroke. – Useless Apr 7 at 14:26

For the OP, it's all about gear ratio cog and gear. Getting the largest cog you can to "push through" from a stop will give you the max speed once you ramp-up. Eventually your muscles will get stronger and you'll go from 0-60 way before the pack. It's just when you max-out will they catch-up.

I agree with J.J on all the points. I've ridden fixie/single-speed for commuting to work for the past 10 years. I often blow past fully geared bikes in my way and rarely run into someone riding an expensive stead that can break away from the light or after an obstacle as fast as I can.

From the commute perspective, a single-gear bike has fewer components to break down. I did switch from fixie to single-speed (thankfully I just need to flip my rear wheel to the other side), because I found there was little point in having my legs pedal when I was cruising; I still got the advantage of the single tension feel. I'd add that it's tough on your knees - or at least mine. I've noticed some pain in and around my knee caps after I ride a single-speed, precisely because of the strict chain tension. I've recently thought of converting the bike to a geared back in the rear and keep the single cog in the front (which is brilliant; I've done it on my mt. bike), especially since I started adding my son to the bike and when I hit hills it's brutal on the knees.

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Most things are better on a single speed (except touring) Yes equip yourself with a fixie or in my case technically a single speed for the following reasons.

1 Chain tension is consistent (and your muscles adapt ) less energy is wasted changing gears.

2 Low maintainance costs and longer component life with good quality stainless steel larger componentry.

And to answer your question as to gear ratios and equipment to make the 50k ride easily possible.

My set up: Surly steamroller 56" frame. Phil Woods hubs. Chris King top bearing, White industries rear cog 18 tooth blue , Surly front chain ring Sram rival pedal arm 130mm by 47 tooth. Tyres 700c by 25mm Conti gatorskins at 100psi. I ride with cleats and two brakes attached to bell lap racing handle bars. Wind is my enemy and mountains are my friends.

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I have single speed/fixie (flip-flop) bike and it's orange too! I put on some good tires, bullhorns and new brakes, because I love my life, and I can tell you it's the fastest bike for town. No worries about bumpers, holes in the road, rain, gears and maintenance. I went once some 50km out of town it was hell soon as I reached first hill but it was fun...and I did 50km/h on fixie too...you just need to practice, have strong legs and be dumb! ;)

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"be dumb", a truly profound piece of wisdom – BSO rider Mar 30 at 0:58

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