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I've been riding a single speed to work on a daily basis for about 3 years. I want to learn to ride a fixie.

I have a flip-flop, so my fixie ratio is 48/19. I've installed straps (hold fast).

My first short ride near home was disappointing. I was riding very slowly. I found it very hard to stop and get my feet out of the straps. I fell over to the side several times at almost zero speed.

Obviously, I'm doing something wrong.

I have many questions: What is the correct way to fall off the bicycle? Should I start the ride without straps? Should I learn bunny hop and if so, when? Do I need to learn track stand and if so, when?

Is there any step by step guide for people who want to enter a fixie world?

  • 1
    Using a bike with no brakes on public roads may be illegal, depending on where you live. – Hobbes May 21 at 14:06
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    @Hobbes it's also dangerous and downright stupid. The OP didn't say they're going brakeless, though. – Lasooch May 21 at 14:12
  • Isn't not having brakes the whole point of a fixie? – Hobbes May 21 at 14:21
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    Don't ask me, I personally don't see the point of a fixie at all ;) – Lasooch May 21 at 14:21
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    @Hobbes: not always – whatsisname May 21 at 19:35
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I’ve been riding mostly fixed gear for, oh, maybe ten years now. I use bmx pedals with straps.

Straps

You really ought to practice getting in and out of them until it becomes second nature. Having problems getting clipped in or getting your foot through the strap means you won’t have a rear brake (not ideal). Having problems getting out means you end up falling when stopping (as you noticed). That could be potentially quite dangerous. Do NOT use any kind of foot fastening system that you need to use your hands to get strapped into or out of! That might be fine on an indoor track, but is a phenomenally bad idea for road riding.

If you find your foot getting stuck when pulling it out of the straps, it might be that your straps are too tight or you’re wearing the wrong kind of shoe. When using straps, the best kind of shoe is—in my opinion—canvas shoes with relatively thin soles and without too much pattern, such as Converse. Modern running shoes tend to have quite bulky, grippy soles which means you can get stuck. Classic leather shoes tend to be wide in front and narrow in the middle which means it can be a bit of a struggle to get into the strap. Boots are just a bad idea for cycling, full stop.

Try practicing when leaning against something you can hold onto, like a lamp post or a railing; or on ground where falling down doesn’t hurt so much, such as grass.

Stopping

This is simple: use your front brake. I know the cool kids on their fixies ride brakeless, but honestly, it’s just a bit stupid (or at least reckless). I don’t care how good anyone think they are at stopping their brakeless fixie: the fact of the matter is that the front wheel has much better stopping power than the rear. On a road bikes with front and rear brakes, you still mostly use the front one. Braking at speed adds significant downward force on the front wheel. More downward force means greater braking potential before skidding. On a grippy surfacy (dry road) with decent tyres, your front wheel simply will not skid. Even on my gravel bike with very grippy 35 mm tyres, it doesn’t take a lot of braking power to lock up the rear wheel. If you brake hard enough to lock the front wheel, however, you don’t skid—you go over the handlebars. While not ideal, it’s leagues better than going full tilt into a little old lady crossing the road because your rear-brake-only bike just skids.

Resisting the forward motion of the drivetrain is great for keeping your balance and controlling your movements at low speeds. When weaving between pedestrians or between lines of cars stuck in traffic, a fixie is terrific. When stopping at a red light, a fixie makes it easier to stay on your pedals (track standing), which means you get a quicker start when the light goes green. But for stopping at high speed, your front brake is your best friend.

Beware of pedal strike

One thing you need to get a feeling for is cornering. Because the pedals keep spinning even as you lean into the curve, you risk striking the road with your pedal. The faster you go and the tighter the turn, the more you lean over. Striking the ground that way can easily knock you off your balance. Also be wary of other potential obstacles. A few years ago, I hit the side of the pavement with my pedal. The force was enough to lift the rear wheel maybe half a metre off the ground. I rolled maybe 10–15 metres on my front wheel, at around 45 km/h, surrounded by taxis. It was terrifying. Don’t do that.

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    Your personal story of pedal strike is interesting - I guess you were riding straight at the time and managed to clip a kerb? In my experience, pedal strike while cornering always leads to a highside (where a left turn leaves you falling to your right, and the bike coming after you on the road) or a lowside (a plain slide where you fall to the side you were leaning to, with the bike ahead of you on the road.) – Criggie May 21 at 9:54
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    I was riding really close to the kerb. Too close, evidentely. I’ve done a few strikes on the ground while cornering but nothing too bad. – Simon Lundberg May 21 at 9:56
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I commute on a fixie sometimes. I'm not interested in fancy specialist skills, and am totally happy having brakes on my bike, so for me fixie skills come down to two things above and beyond "regular" cycling skills:

  1. Remember to keep pedalling!

    It took 2 or 3 rides for this become second-nature. You'll probably have a couple of occasions where you try to stop for a rest, or try to stand up with your legs braced in a sort of triangle, and experience hopefully no more than a brief unexpected skid... and then you'll quickly learn you can't do that

  2. Loading/freeing your feet (on at least one of them) on the move.

    When pushing off and then coming to a stop. It's basically the same problem as freeing your foot on a free-wheeled bike, you just have to learn to do it while you're still rotating. Which really means you want a hands-free pedal system - i.e. clipless.

    As it happens I think I've become a more confident clipless user on a free-wheel bike now as a result of going through all that. I do happily track stand sometimes now, but it's not something a learned to do specifically, just a by-product of being more comfortable with the pedal-foot relationship.

I'll mention an unofficial 3rd skill which I took a while to get to grips with - breaking wind while you're still rotating your pedals. At first it just feels rather, er, dangerous, and for me it felt like I was just ceding a little too much fine control over things if trying to work, um, the necessary muscles, while still working other nearby muscles by moving my legs up down and around at the same time. But it all worked out fine in the end..

  • The bit about breaking wind while still rotating the pedals was hilarious! – rclocher3 May 23 at 22:54
5

As a fixie novice myself I'd suggest getting, and getting familiar with, clipless pedals and the shoes to match. Straps are only really an option if you can stop strapped in and lean on something while you undo them, as at the track. I deliberately ignore track stands at this stage. They are a very useful technique in stop-start conditions, though they confuse car drivers especially if poorly done. A lack of reliable track stands means I wouldn't consider urban fixie riding.

I suspect you don't mean bunny hopping but skip stopping. On road (with a front brake, which you should have) you can slow steadily but quickly without skidding the back wheel. If you're riding at a track you should slow down gradually and smoothly. Actual bunny hopping, as in leaving the ground, is a nice but not essential skill in road riding with a freewheel; riding fixed it's harder and less useful as you have be spinning correctly when you land. I've never seen anyone do it except to show off, and that at near zero speed.

  • Not sure about the specific straps OP uses, but I use "Power Grips" (basically just a diagonal strap that goes across the pedal), and I think they'd be fine on a fixie. You don't have to undo them with your hands, you just twist your foot slightly and it comes out. I have mine fairly loose, for a fixie you might want them a bit tighter to be nice and sure you're not going to slip off on a downhill. – Marius May 22 at 2:14
  • @Marius, if they're not too tight and work well with the shoes – Chris H May 22 at 5:56

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