In the beginning, all bikes were fixed gear bikes. Imagine a penny farthing or a kids tricycle; the pedals are directly connected to the front wheel. So if the wheel is turning, the pedals are turning. You can’t freewheel or coast, meaning when the pedals are turning, you’re legs are turning too.
On a modern fixed gear bike, the pedals are separated from the wheel but connected by the chain. At the pedals, there is a big sprocket called a chainring, the chain goes around that and around a similar, smaller sprocket on the rear wheel. This smaller sprocket on the rear wheel is fixed to the wheel and can’t turn without the wheel turning. There’s no ‘freewheel’ in the system.
So just like the penny-farthing or the tricycle, if your wheels are turning your pedals are too. That’s a fixed gear.
Fixed gears are harder to ride as you must constantly keep pedalling, no laziness with one of these. This is fine on a competitive track and there are advantages to riding a fixed gear, but generally, it’s better to get comfortable on a single-speed bike with a flip-flop hub when riding on the road. before trying to ride a fixed gear later.
A ‘flip-flop’ wheel is a kind of wheel that has a fixed gear sprocket on one side and a freewheel on the other. If you install the wheel one way, your bike will be a fixed gear. Take the wheel out, flip it around and reinstall it and it’ll be a single-speed. Our Pedal Messenger can be used as a single-speed or fixie, with all coming with a flip-flop wheel.
A single-speed is similar to a fixie but the rear sprocket can spin backwards on the wheel and it can stop spinning while the wheel keeps spinning. This is because the sprocket is attached to a ‘freewheel’. When you coast along without pedalling, it’s the freewheel you can hear making that lovely clicking sound. So you’ve got one gear and you can coast without the pedals turning – that’s a single-speed.
In general, single-speed bikes and fixed gear bikes are the easiest to maintain as they have the fewest parts, so they make great basic commuters and cruising bikes. Singlespeeds are much easier to ride and are great for new riders as there are no gears to worry about, so it’s as simple as hop on and pedal.
As our Pedal Messenger comes with the option for both, why not try out both ways and see what works best for you. Just flip the backwheel and off you go!