opinions on track bike wanted

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15 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

"What am I looking out for?
Is geometry the same as a road bike?
Can I put a brake on without losing style points? I'll take it off once I'm used to it. (I promise)
Clipless pedals or toe straps?
What gear ratio should I get? And ""Why"".

I'd use it for winter training and maybe Kissena Velodrome races next year.

Thanks, in advance.

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
No Brakes?

"If you're going to ride it on the road, you'd be crazy to not have at least a front brake. And what's this ""style points"" nonsense? Do you read Bicycling Magazine?


Anonymous's picture
laughingstock (not verified)

Geometry is not the same as a road bike. Track bike angles are steeper and agressive. My suggestion is one size smaller, no more, then your current road frame size. By all means put a front brake on. I would never ride through the streets of Manhattan without one. Be safe, not stupid.

As far as taking off the brake for velodrome racing, if you use a stem where the front opens, either a quill stem or an aheadset version, you can use two sets of bars - one with brake levers for training, one without for racing. It makes it easy to swap.

Clipless or toe straps is your personal preference. Use your current pedal setup. Makes it easier to get used to. Give yourself some time as well to get used to riding one.

I would also recommend a 42/17-18 gear ratio to start. Can always make it bigger. This gearing allows you get to climb most any hill around here - Walnut, State Line, Central Park, etc..

Anonymous's picture
Mordecai Silver (not verified)
Track bikes & fixed gear


Kissena Cycling Club is having a meeting tonight, and they will be discussing this subject. From http://www.kissena.info/:
""Wed, Nov 12 7:30pm
Winter Training and Fixed Gears
These are two separate subjects but can work together. The Winter Training portion of the meeting will be essentially a Q & A session. You bring the questions,our coaches will supply answers.

The Fixed Gear portion will be on how to adapt or build a fix, what gears to ride, when and where to ride it, and how it can be incorporated into your training.

Place: Park Slope United Methodist Church in Brooklyn.
Methodist Church is on 6th avenue and 8th street in Park Slope. Enter through the garden gate on 6th Avenue, then down the stairs.""

As to your questions: A fixed-gear can be either 1) a true track bike, meant for racing in a velodrome, with no provision for brakes, 2) a road/track bike, a kind that was very common in England, where fixed-gears were often used for road time trials, or 3) a road bike, preferably one with horizontal dropouts, converted to fixed gear. The true track bike has steep angles and is built for speed and acceleration, not comfort. Nevertheless, some people do ride track bikes on the road (including me). See Sheldon Brown's article on fixed-gears and track bikes.

You really only need a front brake on a fixed-gear, because you can slow down with your legs. There are many messengers who ride without any brakes, but on the streets of Manhattan this is foolhardy and inefficient for the average person. Even if you have the skills to come to a sudden stop by skidding, this practice is said to be bad for the knees.

If you are using clipless pedals, ones with two-sided entry are a good idea to start with, because you can't coast while you are getting your second shoe clipped in, and you don't want to chase the pedal around and around.

Gearing is an individual choice. You don't want to be overgeared, but if you are undergeared you will find yourself flailing at the pedals on downhills. For me, a 72-inch gear (49x18) is the best for all kinds of terrain. That includes rolling hills and stiff (but not very long) climbs, as on River Road.

If you'd like to see pictures of many different fixed-gears, look at the Fixed-Gear Gallery.


Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
One brake or two?

"I used to believe that stuff about needing only one brake, that your legs would slow you down enough that having just a front brake was sufficient. Then I had a crash that might have been avoided if I had two brakes, and the truth of the matter is that unless you've mastered the skill of hopping the bike to lock up the rear wheel you simply can't stop as quickly with only one brake. Besides that, you become accustomed to relaxing your legs while they're spinning around in circles, ""coasting,"" as it were, which does you no good in a panic stop situation. That's reason #1.

Reason #2 - if you decide to use a flip-flop hub with a single-speed freewheel on one side you'll definitely need two brakes.

If you take a look at the fixed gear gallery you'll see one brake, two brakes, and no brakes. It's your skin, you decide. Crashing sucks."

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
Panic Stops: One brake or two?

"""I used to believe that stuff about needing only one brake, that your legs would slow you down enough that having just a front brake was sufficient. Then I had a crash that might have been avoided if I had two brakes...""

I have to respectfully disagree with the above. On a clean, dry road, the fastest way to stop is to use the front brake only.

Read Sheldon Brown's article on this subject at:



Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
"Key words - ""might have been avoided"""

On that particular day, in that particular situation, if I had two brakes and had been able to lock the rear wheel and skid I *might* have avoided that crash. Then again, maybe not. Out of force of habit I feathered the right lever (connected to the front brake) to avoid skidding, and pulled the dead left lever (used only as a hand rest) all the way to the bar.

We'll have to disagree on this one.

Anonymous's picture
bill (not verified)

>> Out of force of habit I feathered the right lever (connected to the front brake) to avoid skidding, and pulled the dead left lever (used only as a hand rest) all the way to the bar<<

Don't mean to be a smartass Evan, but if you had left the front brake where you're used to it and put the dummy on the right you also might have avoided the crash.

The physics of the matter are that front brakes provide the most stopping force.

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
one brake; dominant hand

Isn't that what Sheldon suggests?

Anonymous's picture
bill (not verified)

"That seems right. I think it's just a matter of preference - which one you're used to using more. In a panic stop, I'm not sure which hand I'd clench first. Hopefully the one with the actual brake!

BTW, I think Sheldon takes off the lever on the dummy hood. That might help avert another instantaneous misjudgement since you'd get used to it.

When I was 13 I rode a friend's mini bike that had no brakes. As I made the > 90 degree turn into his driveway I realized I was going to fast. My ""panic"" reaction was to slide towards the back on the seat causing my hand to slide back on the top of throttle.

My friends watched in amazement as I accelerated full speed into a tree. The resulting concussion wasn't one of my worst...

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
Can't skid a front wheel

"""Out of force of habit I feathered the right lever (connected to the front brake) to avoid skidding...""

If the road is dry, it's impossible to skid the front wheel in a straight-ahead stop. When braking hard (using either or both brakes), weight shifts forward. At the point of maximum braking, there is ZERO weight on the rear wheel. At that point, the rear wheel can not produce any braking force and it will lock up if the rear brake is applied. That's what happened to Beloki in the TdF.

The rear brake is useful when traction is poor (e.g., wet or sandy road), or as a backup when a front brake cable fails. It can also be used to indicate when maximum braking has been reached (i.e., when the rear wheel begins to drift).

Learning to use the front brake properly BEFORE you encounter a panic situation, can be very beneficial to your health!

John Forester (of Effective Cycling fame) has an good article on front brake usage at:



Anonymous's picture
Jay (not verified)
My 2c

"I've had a fixed gear for about two months now and I have enjoyed it immensely. It is a very different experience than riding a geared bike. Concentration is ""on"" at all times. In fact, I didn't ride my roadie for nearly 4 weeks after getting the fix. It has definitely make me a stronger and better cyclist.

I use a De Bernardi track frame, 2cm smaller than my roadie (58 vs 60) and use a 42x15 gear, which I find is just about perfect for city and Central Park riding. Good for spinning and not too tough on the CP hills.

I don't have brakes on the bike, which may be ""foolhardy"", but (I like to think) further sharpens my awareness when on the bike. On the city streets I ride in a very deliberate manner and in control, and wind it up only on the bike path and in the park. I haven't found a brake necessary, though I can say I would have used it more than once.

I use my eggbeaters rather than cages for my pedals. I bought cages and found that I am much more proficient with what I am used to than that which I am not. Entry/exit/control is much better with clipless pedals than cages, at least for me.

By all means go fixed. It is great fun and will improve your road fitness and technique.

Another great site: http://www.oldskooltrack.com/


Anonymous's picture
Sal (not verified)
Additional Fixie Resources


Here are some additional fixie internet resources: lists.davintech.ca (fixed gear mailinglist); www.oldskooltrack.com (web site/club devoted to track bikes in new york city, the founder, Greg Goode, is extremely knowledgable about fixed gear); and www.63xc.com (another web site devoted to fixed gear).

There are also a couple of bike shops in the city that are knowledgeable about fixed gears: Larry & Jeff's on 87/88 st and 2nd ave; ANEWGEN on 56st and 9th ave; and Bike Works (lower east side).

For starters I personally recomend a front brake, pedals with clips (cages and straps), and a front chainring to rear cog ratio in the range of about 2.6x (e.g., 48x18, 42x16). And yeah its more legitimate to ride without a brake, but the guys that do it are really strong riders that can stop with their legs (even going downhill).

I do have one warning: once you start riding fix, you may never want to ride your geared bike again. Its a great experience. Hope this helps and best of luck.


Anonymous's picture
Tim Casey (not verified)
Thanks to everyone

Holy Cow!! What a great response. Now I'm a little more inspired and a lot more informed.

Thanks so much.


Anonymous's picture
ScottD (not verified)
smart fix

I should have guessed that the fixie converts would have some of the most intelligent and passionate responses out there. My own fixed started in an attempt to build a sub-$200 machine for NYC streets but after 3+ years, I wouldn’t dare part with it! After riding fixed for a while, the bike becomes uniquely yours.

Anonymous's picture
Doug Kalb (not verified)
...some great information here

There's some really good information here for you to start with in making your decisions but, ultimately, it comes down to what you're comfortable with.

I've been using a fixed gear for a while & love it; it's an entirely exhilerating ride. However, for me, it's not about to replace my road bike but the enjoyment I get & the improvement from the training make it worthwhile.

ANEWGEN has many track/fixed gear bikes in the store & the guys there seem to really know track stuff. Two of the shop owners are currently building up fixed gears for their own use & they carry at least 4 lines of track/fixed gear bikes! I was at Larry & Jeff's earlier this week & didn't see any track/fixed gear bikes there.

Gearing is subjective, based upon your strength & what kind of riding you plan on using it for but there are some good guidelines here. As for brakes, I opted for safety. Regarding cages vs. clipless, I opted for clipless since in the case of most accidents, your body & feet will be trust forward, into the cages!

As for single speed, overall, it seems it has become more popular since it's now spilled over into single speed mountain bikes as well.

Go to a shop that has stuff to show you & that's well informed on fixed.


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