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OUGD505 - Studio Brief 1 - Study Task 1 - Research + Research Boards

An introduction to fixed gear cycling:

The subject I have chosen to investigate is Fixed Gear Bicycles. I have decided to research this theme because of my newly found interest in the design, build and culture of these traditional bikes. Since moving into Leeds I have seen so many variations of this kind of bicycle and slowly but surely grown a passion to understand every aspect of them, have one, build my own, and in general, develop a healthy interest in something that isn't graphic design.


A fixed-gear bicycle (or fixed-wheel bicycle, commonly known as a fixie) is a bicycle that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism. The freewheel was developed early in the history of bicycle design but the fixed-gear bicycle remained the standard track racing design. More recently the "fixie" has become a popular alternative among mainly urban cyclists, offering the advantages of simplicity compared with the standard multi-geared bicycle.

Most bicycles incorporate a freewheel to allow the pedals to remain stationary while the bicycle is in motion, so that the rider can coast, i.e., ride without pedalling using the forward or downhill energy of the bike and rider. A fixed-gear drivetrain has the drive sprocket (or cog) threaded or bolted directly to the hub of the back wheel, so that the rider cannot stop pedalling. When the rear wheel turns, the pedals turn in the same direction. This allows a cyclist to apply a braking force with the legs and bodyweight, by resisting the rotation of the cranks. It also makes it possible to ride backwards although learning to do so is much more difficult than riding forward. 

As a general rule, fixed-gear bicycles are single-speed. A derailleur cannot be fitted because the chain cannot have any slack, but hub gearing can, for example a Sturmey-Archer fixed-gear 3-speed hub, in which case is a fixed-gear multi-speed arrangement. Most fixed-gear bicycles only have a front brake, and some have no brakes at all.


The track bicycle is a form of fixed-gear bicycle used for track cycling in a velodrome. But since a fixed-gear bicycle is just a bicycle without a freewheel, a fixed-gear bicycle can be almost any type of bicycle.
In urban North America and similar areas in other English-speaking cities, fixed-gear bicycles have achieved significant popularity, with the rise of discernible regional aesthetic preferences for finish and design details. Some road racing and club cyclists used a fixed-gear bicycle for training during the winter months, generally using a relatively low gear ratio, believed to help develop a good pedalling style. 
In the UK until the 1950s it was common for riders to use fixed-gear bicycles for time trials. The 1959 British 25 mile time trial championship was won by Alf Engers with a competition record of 55 minutes 11 seconds, riding an 84 inch fixed-gear bicycle. The fixed-gear was also commonly used, and continues to be used in the end of season hill climb races in the autumn. A typical club men's fixed-gear machine would have been a "road/path" or "road/track" cycle. In the era when most riders only had one cycle, the same bike when stripped down and fitted with racing wheels was used for road time trials and track racing, and when fitted with mudguards (fenders) and a bag, it was used for club runs, touring and winter training. By the 1960s, multi-gear derailleurs had become the norm and riding fixed-gear on the road declined over the next few decades. Recent years have seen renewed interest and increased popularity of fixed-gear cycling.
Dedicated fixed-gear road bicycles are being produced in greater numbers by established bicycle manufacturers. They are generally low in price and characterized by relaxed road geometry, as opposed to the steep geometry of track bicycles.
Fixed-gear bicycles are also used in cycle ball, bike polo and artistic cycling. Bike messengers frequently use fixies due to their durability, low maintenance, simplicity and ease.
A fixed-gear bicycle is particularly well suited for track stands, a manoeuvre in which the bicycle can be held stationary, balanced upright with the rider's feet on the pedals.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

One of the perceived main attractions of a fixed gear bicycle is low weight. Without the added parts required for a fully geared drive train—derailleurs, shifters, cables, cable carriers, multiple chain rings, freewheel hub, brazed-on mounting lugs—a fixed gear bicycle weighs less than its geared equivalent. The chain itself is subject to less sideways force and will not wear out as fast as on a derailleur system. Also, a fixed gear drivetrain is more mechanically efficient than any other bicycle drivetrain, with the most direct power transfer from rider to the wheels. Thus, a fixed gear requires less energy in any given gear to move than a geared bike in the same gear.
In slippery conditions some riders prefer to ride fixed because they believe the transmission provides increased feedback on back tire grip. However, there is also an increased risk of loss of control in such conditions. Especially when taking into account the large number of riders who ride brakeless, which entails the rider to braking by stopping the motion of the pedals in mid-rotation, causing the rear wheel to lock in place, allowing the bicycle to skid and slow down from kinetic friction.
Descending any significant gradient is more difficult as the rider must spin the cranks at high speed (sometimes at 170 rpm or more), or use the brakes to slow down. Some consider that the enforced fast spin when descending increases suppleness or flexibility, which is said to improve pedalling performance on any type of bicycle; however the performance boost is negligible compared to the benefits of riding a free wheel.
Riding fixed is considered by some to encourage a more effective pedaling style, which it is claimed translates into greater efficiency and power when used on a bicycle fitted with a freewheel. It allows for the rider to engage in and practice proper cadence, which is the balanced and rhythmic flow of pedaling, enhancing performance for both cyclist and bicycle.
When first riding a fixed gear, a cyclist used to a freewheel may try to freewheel, or coast, particularly when approaching corners or obstacles. Since coasting is not possible this can lead to a "kick" to the trailing leg, and even to loss of control of the bicycle. Riding at high speed around corners can be difficult on a fixed-gear bicycle, as the pedals can strike the road, resulting in loss of control.


There are many forms of competition using a fixed gear bike, most of the competitions being track races. Bike messengers and other urban riders may ride fixed gear bicycles in alleycat races, including New York City's famous fixed-gear-only race Monstertrack alley cat and Leeds own LSF races.
There are also events based on messenger racing, such as Mixpression, which has been held nine times in Tokyo. Trick demonstrations have been held since the late 1800s in the US and Europe; while they continued into a competitive form in Europe (Artistic Cycling), subsequent to the recent widespread popularity and advancement of fixed gear bikes, trick competitions have also now established themselves at venues in the US and Asia. European competitions include solo and team balletic movements on a controlled, flat surface; US and Asian competitions often include "park" and "flatland" styles and venues, a la BMX. Other competitions include games of "foot down" and bike polo.
In 2006, Adventures for the Cure made a documentary film on riding across the United States on fixed gears; they repeated this feat as a 4-man team at the 2008 Race Across America.
Fixed gear riders sharing the specific philosophy are also seen at the Single Speed World Championships.

Here I have attached a video of The North Race Halleycat, an alley-cat race held in Leeds on Halloween where the competitors have to dress in black and paint skulls on their faces (You may spot our very own digital print specialist James who is a very active member of the Leeds Fixed Gear community, LSF.)


Maintaining a fixed gear is relatively easy because it has fewer parts than a geared bicycle. The sprocket should be checked regularly to make sure there is no damage to any teeth and that no object is grinding it as it turns with the rear wheel. The chainring should be checked similarly for any damage. There is an advantage to selecting a number of chainring teeth that is not a round multiple of the number of sprocket teeth (e.g. 3) because this avoids coincidence of the same chainring and sprocket teeth, and tyre contact patch, on each of the rider's power strokes. For riders who perform brakeless skid-stops, it is best to select prime-numbered chainrings (e.g. 41, 43 or 47 teeth) to guarantee that rear tyre wear is spread evenly.
It is imperative (for road riding, at least) that the chain is sufficiently tight that it is impossible for it to derail from either the chainring or sprocket. This generally equates to "no visible slack". A derailed chain can cause a variety of undesirable consequences, such as a locked rear wheel or, worst of all, destruction of the frame if the chain becomes caught around the crank arm and pulls the rear triangle forwards. On a fixed-gear bicycle without hand brakes, even a relatively benign derailment means a total loss of braking ability. Tensioning aside, a chain is significantly less likely to derail if the chainline is accurate and the chain is a traditional "full bushing" type with limited lateral flexibility. Because the difference between a tight and a slack chain equates to only very minor elongation of the links, chain tension should be visually checked at least weekly, especially if the bicycle is ridden in wet or dirty conditions.
As with any other bicycle, the chain should be checked making sure the master link is securely latched. The chain can be lubricated monthly for smooth riding. Also, as needed, the brakes should be tightened as they wear and tire condition observed for possible puncture locations. Air pressure in the tires, tire alignment, brake handle placement, and rust should be monitored on a daily basis because they can change very easily during a jarring ride.

[All above from wikipedia and cross-referenced with own knowledge/other sources to make sure of it's truth]

My own first hand experience of fixed gear cycling is novice, however I aim to improve that drastically throughout this brief.

On 24/09/2013 I bought my first fixed gear bicycle for £120.00

This is a Peugeot Tour 10 frame with modifications including a Kona Wheel-set and Truvativ Isoflow Crankset, the rest of the build was unknown.

Being my first bike I got overly excited and wanted to improve/customise it further to my own wants. The first thing I wanted to change was he handlebars as they were very wide and not very suitable for riding in Leeds traffic.

The way the headset worked on this bike meant I needed to change the stem if I wanted any modern handlebars, for this reason I bought a quill stem adaptor, a new A-head stem and then the new handlebars which were Profile Airwing OS handlebars.

The next thing I needed to change was the tires as the ones that were already installed had worn away quite a lot. After some research I discovered the best back tire would be a Gator-hardshell as they are more durable and would allow me to skid stop without screwing up the tire too much. And the front tyre would be a Grand Prix 4000s because of it's handling advantages.

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