5 ways riding a fixie will make you a better cyclist
There’s training and then there’s taking a radical approach to get radical results. Rather than train on the same bike and the same roads in the same spare hour that you always do, why not get fixed? Riding a ﬁxed gear will make you a stronger and better cyclist.
A few winters ago, I added a ﬁxie to my bike stable as a hassle-free commuting steed. People’s reaction to it ranged from concerned curiosity: “So how exactly do you stop?”, to almost aggressive dismissal of my sanity: “That’s just stupid, dangerous and irresponsible!” However, the more I rode it, the more I loved it.
I’m not going to get all pseudo-spiritual and harp on about the seamless connection of man and machine making for a meditative experience and transcending mere transportation. What I loved was the fact that it was ripping my legs to shreds every time I rode it. It gave me leg speed I’d only previously dreamed of and tapped power from muscles I’d never previously used on a bike.
I started doing 2-3 hour rides on it, seeking rolling hills and taking masochistic pleasure in the pain I was able to inﬂict on myself. Come the end of the winter, I was a transformed rider, smashing previous personal bests and riding mates off my wheel with ease.
So, how can going fixie transform you?
1. Fixed disciplines your cadence/pedal stroke
A smooth fast cadence is the most efﬁcient way to ride. On the ﬂat and slight downhills a ﬁxed forces you to spin your legs and develop the fast and even pedal stroke that the French refer to as ‘souplesse’.
On steeper descents your legs will learn to spin at super-high speeds, laying excellent foundations for developing the capacity for a truly great sprint — just look at Mark Cavendish’s average leg speed in any of his Tour de France stage wins.
2. Fixed addresses your top-end grunt
Hitting a rise, there’s no option to shift down so you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and power up the hill. Without the bailout of gears, every muscle involved in cycling will be recruited, strengthening not only your legs but also your backside, core and even upper body.
3. Fixed develops your speed and strength
Aside from developing physical strength, it’ll teach you that an amazing number of climbs can be dealt with in this way giving you higher average speeds and a devastating attacking option.
Some longer climbs on a ﬁxed do turn into full-on, out-of-the-saddle honks, but these will build pure cycling-speciﬁc strength in a way that no gym training can match.
4. Fixed puts you in a coast-free zone
Once you start riding a ﬁxed you’ll be amazed at how much time you used to spend free wheeling. Aside from the obvious downhills, coasting into your drive, rolling up to trafﬁc lights and catching a sneaky breather cresting climbs are all times when you are out riding but doing nothing.
With a ﬁxed you have to earn every kilometre, making it one of the most time-effective ways to train. When I ﬁrst got my ﬁxed I found an hour’s ride on it trashed me whereas the same ride on a geared bike would barely be a warm-up.
5. Fixed hones your riding skills
Riding a ﬁxed hones your riding instincts and anticipation skills. I found riding in London on the ﬁxed, my ‘near-miss count’ went down to almost zero as it made me more focused on my riding.
My ability to look ahead, assess the viability of gaps in trafﬁc and my balance all improved as I challenged myself to ride without having to dab down with my feet. I learned to trackstand which, apart from looking a picture of poise at trafﬁc lights, is a pretty useful skill to possess.
If you want to get fast, get ﬁxed.