So you’ve been riding a single-speed bike for a while and have heard how fixies give you more control of your bike, or you just want to try something new, and now you’re interested in converting your bike to be a fixie.
Riding a fixed-gear bike is no walk in the park. Learning how to effectively (and safely) ride a fixed-gear bike can take from a few hours to a lifetime. There’s always a new trick to try when it comes to fixed gears.
If you’re still new to bikes, these terms might confuse you. Let’s look at a brief rundown of single-speed and fixed-gear bikes to bring you up to speed.
What We Will Cover
What Is a Fixie? Fixed Gear Bike vs Single Speed
A fixed gear bike has a fixed cog fastened with a lock ring on the rear axle hub. Both pedals are connected to the same axle so as the rear wheel spins, the cranks also spin. In other words, you need to pedal as long as your bike is rolling, and you can’t stop pedaling to coast.
One advantage fixies have over single-speed bikes is how connected they make you feel to the road. When riding a fixie, you can do several tricks like track stands and spins – things you can’t really do on a single-speed bike. They’re also very popular as track bikes because you have so much more control over the exact speed and movement of the bike.
A single speed bike, on the other hand, has a freewheel on the rear hub, so if you’re riding downhill or trying to turn a corner, you can stop pedaling and let the rear wheel do the job as you coast.
Many riders prefer single-speed bikes because you can coast on fast and long descents so you can moderate your speed and avoid road hazards. If you’re a beginner rider, a single-speed is better to start with (and often times is even better to start with than a multi-speed bike because they’re so much simpler and easier to maintain).
Both fixed gear and single-speed bikes have one gear so they’re more similar than you think, and it all really comes down to how you prefer to control the bike while riding.
Is It Possible To Convert a Single-Speed Bike to a Fixie?
Yes, and you’ll learn how to do that in a bit.
It’s a relatively simple project if you have the right tools, and most folks can pull it off in an afternoon without having to take your bike to a bike shop.
What Is a Flip-Flop Hub?
A flip-flop hub has a freewheel on one side and a fixed gear cog on the other. So if you want a taste of both single-speed and fixed-gear riding, and your bike doesn’t have a flip-flop hub, you should consider getting one.
Flip-flop hubs are mostly found on BMX bikes but aren’t too common on road bikes. They make it easy for you to convert a single-gear bike to a fixie.
How Do I Change My Single Speed to a Fixed Gear?
Below are some easy steps that’ll help you change your single speed to a fixed gear if you have a flip-flop hub.
Step 1: Flip Your Bike Over
Before you do anything, turn your bike over with the seat and handlebars on the ground. This will make it easier for you to add and remove parts.
Turning your bike over also prevents it from falling and causing any accidents.
Step 2: Loosen the Chain Tensioner and Axle Nuts
The chain tensioner on a bicycle keeps your chain tight and aligned. As a result, it keeps your chain in place and tires rigid. It also prevents your rear wheel from sliding forward.
As the name implies, axle nuts keep your wheel secured to the axle. They prevent your wheel from falling off when rotating and aid movement.
Step 3: Remove the Chain From Freewheel
After you’ve loosened the nuts on both sides of the wheel, the next step is to remove the chain from the freewheel. To do this, slide the wheel forward and gently lift the chain out of the sprocket. You don’t need to remove the chain completely, just ensure it doesn’t get in the way.
Step 4: Pull Wheel Out of the Vertical Dropouts
There are two small notches in the rear of your bike that contain the hub, those are the dropouts.
After you’ve removed the chain, pull the wheel out of the dropout, it should come out easily if you’ve loosened all the necessary bolts. Then flip the wheel 180° to the fixed gear side.
Step 5: Tighten the Fixed Gear Cog
A fixed gear cog is basically a sprocket to hold the chain. Hubs that support fixed gear cogs have two threads with different diameters. The first is for the cog, while the second is for the lockring.
Mount the cog by hand and turn it clockwise until you reach the end of the first thread. You can use a chain whip to make the fixed gear cog tighter.
The next step is to fit in your lockring – a lock nut used to hold your hub components in place so they won’t become loose during rotation.
Using a wrench/hook spanner, turn the lockring counterclockwise until you get to the end of the thread.
Step 6: Remove Chain Tensioner From Freewheel Side and Install It on the Fixed Gear Side
Remove the chain tensioner you loosened in step two and mount it on the fixed gear side. Note that the rear tire is still out of the dropout.
Step 7: Slide Wheel Into Dropout
Now you’re done with all the components on the wheel, and the next step is to put your wheel back into your dropouts and roll your bike chain onto the fixed gear cog. Push your wheel into the dropouts to accommodate the chain and pull it back out to make the system rigid.
Step 8: Tighten Tensioner
The last step is to tighten your chain tensioner with a wrench. Don’t forget the axle nuts you loosened before.
Do Single Speed and Fixed Gear Bikes Both Have Brakes?
Single-speed bikes generally have two handlebar brakes, one for the front and one for the rear. Although fixies used on velodromes – a cycle racing track–have no brakes, fixies used on the road typically have at least one brake.
Freewheel vs Coaster Brake
Coaster brakes allow you to stop by pedaling backward. Bikes with coaster brakes can often coast, but you can’t backpedal without the brakes being applied.
A freewheel brake lets you backpedal and gives you more control of your pedal.
Single-speed bikes let you coast – continue moving without pedaling – but fixies can’t. However, with fixies, you have more control of your bike and pedal.
If you want to be able to easily alternate between a single-speed and fixie, get a flip-flop hub. And if you already have a flip-flop hub, follow the steps above to convert your single-speed to a fixed-gear bike.