The dangers of a fixed wheel

Discussion in 'UK and Europe' started by Tim Woodall, May 13, 2003.

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  1. Tim Woodall

    Tim Woodall Guest

    Sunday I went out with the CTC for a nice gentle ride and took the oportunity to take my new fixer
    for its first serious ride.

    Changing the pedals so I can use my normal LOOK cleats rather than toe-straps helped enormously with
    starting which has been the main reason I have been nervous taking it out on the road.

    The first steep downhill was an experience. I was probably only doing about 30mph[1] but suddenly
    realised that I was slighly out of control. My feet would go around fast enough but there was no way
    I could slow down using them and I needed to brake. Unfortunately, my automatic instinct when things
    start going wrong is to stop pedalling. Fortunately, possibly partly because I have the saddle about
    half an inch below where it ought to be after other comments here, I suffered nothing more than a
    slighly uncomfortable sensation as I bounced up and down on the saddle a couple of times before I
    got my legs spinning again. With gentle braking I managed to keep things vaguely under control until
    the bottom of the hill where I got back to a much more comfortable speed.

    Then I met up with the CTC group and we set off on a much more sedate ride. This was thoroughly
    enjoyable and I started getting the hang of controlling the speed with the pedals. On a few of the
    steeper hills I did occasionally have to resort to the front brake as I lacked the technique (or
    strength?) to keep the speed down using just the pedals but I didn't have any more scarey moments.

    I had one longish, steepish hill to climb. I knew I had to just go at it and haul my way to the top.
    At the top I was plesantly surprised how painless it had really been although the double incentive
    of not being able to change down and knowing that there is no way I could get going again if I
    stopped and so having to walk up the hill in LOOKs made sure there was no way I was going to give up
    unless I physically couldn't continue :)

    Monday I didn't ride at all but my thighs certainly knew they had had a hard day (I suspect I did
    about 60 miles at a very lesurely pace but it felt like a 100mile hard ride) which I think is
    partially at least due to the effort of slowing the bike on downhills.

    Today I was back on the windcheetah on the way to work. First couple of junctions were no problem -
    must brake and stop type of affairs. Then came a fastish bit approaching a roundabout. Me 25mph, car
    starts coming around, me just starts pedalling a bit slower ..... hmmm, I'm going to hit that car.
    HOW DO I SLOW DOWN. Grab for the brake. I doubt that the car even noticed my minor panic as I had
    plenty of room and time although I ended up losing most of my speed rather than just 5 mph or so. I
    was amazed how quickly the control of the speed just through the pedals would become ingrained.

    After another respectable ride I will probably consider the fixed wheel for my commute occasionally
    although I will have to modify my journey slightly as I have a difficult hill and roundabout
    combination that I would need a lot more confidence with starting before I would risk.

    For those who are thinking of trying a fixed wheel, I can strongly recommend it. But, at the
    beginning at least, make sure you have good brakes and keep your speed down when going downhill :)

    Regards,

    Tim

    [1] No speedo on the bike (yet)

    --
    God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.

    http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
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  2. Ragos

    Ragos Guest

    Hi,

    Not really sure I understand your post fully. When you say fixed wheel, do you mean non
    quick release?

    Are they faster?

    Thanks,

    Gary.

    "Tim Woodall" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Sunday I went out with the CTC for a nice gentle ride and took the
    oportunity
    > to take my new fixer for its first serious ride.
    >
    > Changing the pedals so I can use my normal LOOK cleats rather than
    toe-straps
    > helped enormously with starting which has been the main reason I have been nervous taking it out
    > on the road.
    >
    > The first steep downhill was an experience. I was probably only doing about 30mph[1] but suddenly
    > realised that I was slighly out of control. My feet would go around fast enough but there was no
    > way I could slow down using them and I needed to brake. Unfortunately, my automatic instinct
    when
    > things start going wrong is to stop pedalling. Fortunately, possibly
    partly
    > because I have the saddle about half an inch below where it ought to be after other comments here,
    > I suffered nothing more than a slighly uncomfortable sensation as I bounced up and down on the
    > saddle a couple of times before I got my legs spinning again. With gentle braking I managed to
    > keep things vaguely under control until the bottom of the hill where I got back to a much more
    > comfortable speed.
    >
    > Then I met up with the CTC group and we set off on a much more sedate
    ride.
    > This was thoroughly enjoyable and I started getting the hang of
    controlling
    > the speed with the pedals. On a few of the steeper hills I did
    occasionally
    > have to resort to the front brake as I lacked the technique (or strength?) to keep the speed down
    > using just the pedals but I didn't have any more scarey moments.
    >
    > I had one longish, steepish hill to climb. I knew I had to just go at it and haul my way to the
    > top. At the top I was plesantly surprised how painless it had really been although the double
    > incentive of not being able to change down and knowing that there is no way I could get going
    > again if I stopped and so having to walk up the hill in LOOKs made sure there was no way I was
    > going to give up unless I physically couldn't continue :)
    >
    > Monday I didn't ride at all but my thighs certainly knew they had had a hard day (I suspect I did
    > about 60 miles at a very lesurely pace but it felt like a 100mile hard ride) which I think is
    > partially at least due to the effort of slowing the bike on downhills.
    >
    > Today I was back on the windcheetah on the way to work. First couple of junctions were no problem
    > - must brake and stop type of affairs. Then came a fastish bit approaching a roundabout. Me 25mph,
    > car starts coming around, me just starts pedalling a bit slower ..... hmmm, I'm going to hit that
    > car. HOW DO I SLOW DOWN. Grab for the brake. I doubt that the car even noticed my minor panic as I
    > had plenty of room and time although I ended up losing most of my speed rather than just 5 mph or
    > so. I was amazed how quickly the control of the speed just through the pedals would become
    > ingrained.
    >
    > After another respectable ride I will probably consider the fixed wheel for my commute
    > occasionally although I will have to modify my journey slightly as I have a difficult hill and
    > roundabout combination that I
    would
    > need a lot more confidence with starting before I would risk.
    >
    > For those who are thinking of trying a fixed wheel, I can strongly recommend it. But, at the
    > beginning at least, make sure you have good brakes and keep your speed down when going
    > downhill :)
    >
    > Regards,
    >
    > Tim
    >
    > [1] No speedo on the bike (yet)
    >
    > --
    > God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.
    >
    > http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
  3. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Tim Woodall wrote:
    > Fortunately, possibly partly because I have the saddle about half an inch below where it ought to
    > be after other comments here, I suffered nothing more than a slighly uncomfortable sensation as I
    > bounced up and down on the saddle a couple of times before I got my legs spinning again.

    Heheheh, first time I ever rode fixed wheel, similar problem, going downhill, strapped in and trying
    pedal braking, but my left hand crank snapped, so my right leg suddenly became a piston .. and I was
    a passenger on the top of it ..

    Now *that* was an uncomfortable situation .. ;)

    --

    Completed 1662 Seti work units in 12668 hours http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/
     
  4. Tim Woodall

    Tim Woodall Guest

    On Tue, 13 May 2003 12:47:44 GMT, RAGOS <[email protected]> wrote:
    > Hi,
    >
    > Not really sure I understand your post fully. When you say fixed wheel, do you mean non quick
    > release?
    >
    Well it is non quick release but it really means that there are no gears and no freewheel so you
    can't stop pedalling (unless you stop) which is why going downhill can be an interesting experience.

    > Are they faster?
    >
    AIUI, (almost?) all track races are done with fixed wheels.

    But for general road use I can't believe that they could be faster than the same rider with an
    appropriate selection of gears.

    Regards,

    Tim.

    --
    God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.

    http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
  5. Gary Whittle

    Gary Whittle Guest

    > Well it is non quick release but it really means that there are no gears and no freewheel so you
    > can't stop pedalling (unless you stop) which is
    why
    > going downhill can be an interesting experience.

    Wow - thats sounds, erm...interesting :) I like to Freewheel I think. You must be a lot fitter to
    cyclie like this I suppose...the hills must be difficult.

    Thanks,

    Gary.
     
  6. Peter Clinch

    Peter Clinch Guest

    Tim Woodall wrote:

    > AIUI, (almost?) all track races are done with fixed wheels.

    HPVs tend to use gears as being recumbents more often than not you can't get them to speed by
    standing on the pedals. Also the case that the terminal velocity (and thus top gear) will be rather
    higher than a typical upright track machine.

    http://www.kingcycle.co.uk/hpvs/Hachi2.html shows the Kingcycle Hachi, which I assume is the machine
    Rob English took the national pursuit squad to the cleaners on recently at a velodrome. Note the
    gear block just in front of the handlebars

    http://www.kingcycle.co.uk/hpvs/Mango5.html notes of the fully faired Mango "I was happily spinning
    round at 27mph, still in first gear"...

    > But for general road use I can't believe that they could be faster than the same rider with an
    > appropriate selection of gears.

    Since a fixer has less weight, a cleaner chainline and no transmission losses in the freewheel setup
    it is an intrinsically more efficient system than a set of gears though of course your one gear must
    be right for all the circumstances you encounter. That's entirely possible for someone used to a
    good variety of cadences living somewhere reasonably flat: as with a track bike it's a bit of a
    heave getting going, but once you have speed needn't vary too much. Not really the case over a
    varied course though, which is why road machinery generally has gears.

    Pete.
    --
    Peter Clinch University of Dundee Tel 44 1382 660111 ext. 33637 Medical Physics, Ninewells Hospital
    Fax 44 1382 640177 Dundee DD1 9SY Scotland UK net [email protected]
    http://www.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/
     
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    "Peter Clinch" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > Tim Woodall wrote:
    >
    > > AIUI, (almost?) all track races are done with fixed wheels.
    >
    > HPVs tend to use gears as being recumbents more often than not you can't get them to speed by
    > standing on the pedals. Also the case that the terminal velocity (and thus top gear) will be
    > rather higher than a typical upright track machine.

    Is there a safety issue too? With fixed wheel and no brakes you can't do sudden deceleration so
    being in a pack should be more predictable?

    (would love to take the tandem on a track though...)

    cheers, clive
     
  8. Peter Clinch

    Peter Clinch Guest

    Clive George wrote:

    > Is there a safety issue too? With fixed wheel and no brakes you can't do sudden deceleration so
    > being in a pack should be more predictable?

    Track experience is zero and race not much more, so I'm guessing, but my guess is that's a positive
    side effect rather than a design goal. Why bother with brakes when you don't need to slow down?

    Pete.
    --
    Peter Clinch University of Dundee Tel 44 1382 660111 ext. 33637 Medical Physics, Ninewells Hospital
    Fax 44 1382 640177 Dundee DD1 9SY Scotland UK net [email protected]
    http://www.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/
     
  9. Peter Clinch wrote:

    > HPVs tend to use gears as being recumbents more often than not you can't get them to speed by
    > standing on the pedals. Also the case that the terminal velocity (and thus top gear) will be
    > rather higher than a typical upright track machine.

    Terminal velocity on a tight velodrome is probably not much higher for a streamliner than for a
    track sprinter, though, as it gets difficult to hold the thing down once they start to get up around
    45-50 mph.

    > http://www.kingcycle.co.uk/hpvs/Hachi2.html shows the Kingcycle Hachi, which I assume is the
    > machine Rob English took the national pursuit squad to the cleaners on recently at a velodrome.

    It is indeed.

    > http://www.kingcycle.co.uk/hpvs/Mango5.html notes of the fully faired Mango "I was happily
    > spinning round at 27mph, still in first gear"...

    They probably lowered the gearing post-Battle Mountain; the Mango was initially set up with a bottom
    gear of something like 140". In spite of which it reached 50 mph impressively quickly...

    > Since a fixer has less weight, a cleaner chainline and no transmission losses in the freewheel
    > setup it is an intrinsically more efficient system than a set of gears though of course your one
    > gear must be right for all the circumstances you encounter. That's entirely possible for someone
    > used to a good variety of cadences living somewhere reasonably flat: as with a track bike it's a
    > bit of a heave getting going, but once you have speed needn't vary too much. Not really the case
    > over a varied course though, which is why road machinery generally has gears.

    A fair few London couriers use fixers due to the light weight and reliability-through-simplicity;
    central London lacks much in the way of hills. I, however, am an idle sod, and like gears. Lots
    of gears...

    Clive George:

    > Is there a safety issue too? With fixed wheel and no brakes you can't do sudden deceleration so
    > being in a pack should be more predictable?

    Yes. Plus it's simple to control your speed very precisely with a fixed, which is a Good Thing when
    charging around in a bunch on a tight track, or trying to maintain station in a team pursuit.

    Dave Larrington - http://legslarry.crosswinds.net/
    ===========================================================
    Editor - British Human Power Club Newsletter
    http://www.bhpc.org.uk/
    ===========================================================
     
  10. Tim Woodall wrote: <snip>
    > The first steep downhill was an experience. I was probably only doing about 30mph[1] but suddenly
    > realised that I was slighly out of control. My feet would go around fast enough but there was no
    > way I could slow down using them and I needed to brake. Unfortunately, my automatic instinct when
    > things start going wrong is to stop pedalling. Fortunately, possibly partly because I have the
    > saddle about half an inch below where it ought to be after other comments here, I suffered nothing
    > more than a slighly uncomfortable sensation as I bounced up and down on the saddle a couple of
    > times before I got my legs spinning again. With gentle braking I managed to keep things vaguely
    > under control until the bottom of the hill where I got back to a much more comfortable speed.
    <snip>

    I think this must be a fairly common thing to do, I had a speedo on when this first happened to me
    and I hit 35mph on a 42x16 when I thought jeez this is fast and promptly forgot to keep peddaling, I
    then promptly shatmeself(tm) as I had my moment and rode the rest of the way home with out the need
    for lights, I was as white as a sheet! :)

    It dosnt happen often though and I cant remember the last time it happened to me so you'll soon get
    good at remembering to pedal and saying things like "gears are for sissies!" and opening beer
    bottles with your teeth.

    Daniel.
     
  11. Tim Woodall

    Tim Woodall Guest

    On Tue, 13 May 2003 16:55:54 +0000 (UTC), Alex Graham <[email protected]> wrote:
    > What gear are you using? Mines about 67" and I havent ventured anywhere properly hilly yet as I
    > might come a cropper :)
    >
    It's 42x16 on a 700C wheel which, I think is about 70"

    Regards,

    Tim.

    --
    God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.

    http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
  12. Alex Graham

    Alex Graham Guest

    Tim Woodall wrote:

    > It's 42x16 on a 700C wheel which, I think is about 70"

    Yeah, just over 69" according to my slide rule. Wheel size does vary slightly though.

    I originally had 52x20 (70") but couldnt get enough chain tension so had no choice but to put a 21
    sprocket on to give a bit more adjustment.

    Yes, ive only been at about 35mph max on it and its erm interesting, but fun!

    --

    -Alex

    ----------------------------------
    [email protected]

    http://alexpg.ath.cx:3353/cycling.php http://www.westerleycycling.org.uk
    ----------------------------------
     
  13. > "Peter Clinch" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > > Tim Woodall wrote:
    > >
    > > > AIUI, (almost?) all track races are done with fixed wheels.
    > >
    > > HPVs tend to use gears as being recumbents more often than not you can't get them to speed by
    > > standing on the pedals. Also the case that the terminal velocity (and thus top gear) will be
    > > rather higher than a typical upright track machine.
    >
    > Is there a safety issue too? With fixed wheel and no brakes you can't do sudden deceleration so
    > being in a pack should be more predictable?
    >
    > (would love to take the tandem on a track though...)
    >
    > cheers, clive

    Legally you are required to have two independently controlled braking mechanisms. On a fixed wheel
    bike, the rear wheel constitutes one, with front wheel brake the other. You would be foolish indeed
    to rely solely upon the fixed wheel to control your speed. The original poster doesn't say whether
    he had brakes fitted.

    I use front and rear caliper brakes on my fixie.

    Robert

    Robert
     
  14. Tim Woodall

    Tim Woodall Guest

    On 13 May 2003 12:09:58 -0700, Robert Saunders <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > Legally you are required to have two independently controlled braking mechanisms. On a fixed wheel
    > bike, the rear wheel constitutes one, with front wheel brake the other. You would be foolish
    > indeed to rely solely upon the fixed wheel to control your speed. The original poster doesn't say
    > whether he had brakes fitted.
    >
    > I use front and rear caliper brakes on my fixie.
    >
    I have both front and rear brakes. And, indeed, I did say I had to use them on a few downhills.

    However, I would expect that, with practice, you could probably manage without using the brakes on
    all but the very steepest hills (or in an emergency)

    OTOH, AIUI (but I've never ridden on a track) some tracks require competitors NOT to have
    brakes at all.

    Regards,

    Tim.

    --
    God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.

    http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
  15. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    "Robert Saunders" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...

    news:<[email protected]>...
    > > "Peter Clinch" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > > > Tim Woodall wrote:
    > > >
    > > > > AIUI, (almost?) all track races are done with fixed wheels.
    > > >
    > > > HPVs tend to use gears as being recumbents more often than not you
    can't
    > > > get them to speed by standing on the pedals. Also the case that the terminal velocity (and
    > > > thus top gear) will be rather higher than a typical upright track machine.
    > >
    > > Is there a safety issue too? With fixed wheel and no brakes you can't do sudden deceleration so
    > > being in a pack should be more predictable?
    > >
    > > (would love to take the tandem on a track though...)
    > >
    > > cheers, clive
    >
    >
    > Legally you are required to have two independently controlled braking mechanisms. On a fixed wheel
    > bike, the rear wheel constitutes one, with front wheel brake the other. You would be foolish
    > indeed to rely solely upon the fixed wheel to control your speed. The original poster doesn't say
    > whether he had brakes fitted.

    Indeed this is true for the road. But we were talking about on the track, where the opposite
    is the norm.

    cheers, clive
     
  16. Alex Graham

    Alex Graham Guest

    Robert Saunders wrote:

    > I use front and rear caliper brakes on my fixie.

    Thing is if you have brake levers with hoods, you will want two for comfort when riding. As a rear
    brake is hardly very heavy you may as well have one.

    Those nutcases in NYC zoom around on brakeless fixies though. Or so I've heard.

    --

    -Alex

    ----------------------------------
    [email protected]

    http://alexpg.ath.cx:3353/cycling.php http://www.westerleycycling.org.uk
    ----------------------------------
     
  17. John B

    John B Guest

    Tim Woodall wrote:

    >
    > OTOH, AIUI (but I've never ridden on a track) some tracks require competitors NOT to have
    > brakes at all.

    Under racing rules the _only brake_ permitted in track racing is the fixed wheel.

    When I used to race I rode to the track with a filed down brake on the front wheel, with a short
    cable to a clamped lever, both of which had to be taken off before competing.

    I remember once being thown off Reading's Palmer Park track one afternoon when I ventured onto the
    track on my road bike. Jobsworth Park Keeper knew the 'Rules'.

    Nowadays some racing is done on tracks on road bikes such as the evening league roadman series at
    Portsmouth but fixed and free are _never_ mixed.

    John B
     
  18. Tim Woodall

    Tim Woodall Guest

    On Tue, 13 May 2003 19:47:34 +0000 (UTC), Alex Graham <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > Those nutcases in NYC zoom around on brakeless fixies though. Or so I've heard.
    >
    That probably isn't true. I've just found http://www.rightofway.org/research/cyclists.pdf which
    rebuts the NYPD claim that 75% of cyclists fatalities are cyclists error.

    I suspect that this "zooming around on brakeless fixies" is another of the cycling myths
    of the city.

    Regards,

    Tim.

    --
    God said, "div D = rho, div B = 0, curl E = - @B/@t, curl H = J + @D/@t," and there was light.

    http://tjw.hn.org/ http://www.locofungus.btinternet.co.uk/
     
  19. Daniel Parry

    Daniel Parry Guest

    In article <[email protected]>, Alex Graham wrote:
    > Those nutcases in NYC zoom around on brakeless fixies though. Or so I've heard.

    No they're not[0] and yes they do, e.g:

    http://www.oldskooltrack.com/

    cheers

    daniel

    [] Well, ok maybe some of them are (nutcases) ^_-
     
  20. Daniel Parry

    Daniel Parry Guest

    In article <[email protected]>, Tim Woodall wrote:
    > That probably isn't true. I've just found http://www.rightofway.org/research/cyclists.pdf which
    > rebuts the NYPD claim that 75% of cyclists fatalities are cyclists error.

    It would also appear from http://www.ahalenia.com/memorial/ that, sadly, there are more dangerous
    places to cycle than NYC[0].

    > I suspect that this "zooming around on brakeless fixies" is another of the cycling myths of
    > the city.

    Not a myth. There are people "zooming" around NYC on brakeless fixed. The myth is that they are
    _all_ reckless.

    regards,

    daniel

    [] San Fransisco
     
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