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When using a bike on a road in the UK, is it ever legal not to have separate brakes on the front and back wheels?

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Yes. A fixed wheel does not need two, it needs only one (on the non-fixed, presumably the front, wheel).

Two separate and independent bracking systems, one per wheel, are required, but as the CTC say

Apart from saying that a brake that acts directly on a pneumatic tyre shall not be deemed to be in efficient working order, these regulations do not define how the brakes are operated (by hands, feet or maybe even the teeth?) or how they work. A lot of words are nevertheless devoted to wheels that cannot rotate independently of the pedals (i.e. no freewheel), the effect of which is that a fixed wheel drive counts as a braking system – on that wheel or wheels.

Note also that, when sold, European regulations dictate that it should be left-hand rear, right-hand front.

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    So the answer is, in fact, no - given that the fixie is acting as a brake? – Murph Nov 7 '10 at 14:38
  • If you think that in normal terminology a wheel is a brake, then no. But while legally a fixed's mechanism is considered to be a braking system, to most users of the language it wouldn't generally fall under what a normal reading of the original question would mean as a brake, i.e. a system of levers, cables and pads. – Unsliced Nov 8 '10 at 9:28
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    We're arguing semantics - but the problem I have is that the answer is misleading in that its only legal because the back wheel is (in effect) a brake. So the answer is still no. Doesn't really matter that its not a brake in the sense of something that has cables and levers and pads (a back pedal brake would also not be a "brake" if we take that definition). Yes, you explain why but I still disagree with the answer starting "Yes" when in fact the answer is No, but the definition of "brake" means that a fixie only needs one rim brake (or similar) – Murph Nov 9 '10 at 11:51
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Not too sure on the legal standing on actually using the bike on the road - I think it extends to retailers legally having to sell bikes with brakes, and a bell too I seem to remember.

  • and reflectors on pedals! – Aidan Nov 12 '10 at 22:26

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