Some time ago I wrote about a bike that I had built up with the intention of having a go at riding fixed gear, (see: http://www.peakdistrictcycling.co.uk/starting-scratch/). Well I did flip the flop eventually, and have a go at riding fixed gear, this post is what I discovered about riding fixed wheel in the Peak District.
It is a lot of fun, and a completely different experience to riding a bike with gearing. I recommend if you have an interest in cycling it is well worth ‘having a go’. With that in mind if you do want to experience riding fixed gear go somewhere very quiet the first time you attempt it, a place where you will not come to any harm having a wobble, or coming to a slow stop.
It took me a couple of attempts to get going properly, but I soon got used to this. What did take longer to get used to was stopping, it was a very strange experience to come to a stop with the pedals still rotating, my natural instinct was to stop pedalling and use the brakes to come to a halt. When you are stopping, try to get the pedals in the correct position for setting off again if possible, otherwise you are fiddling around to get them into the correct position to get going again.
It is non-stop, there is no rest time, even as you roll down the hills, you have to keep pedalling, so it is good for fitness, but there is no get out if you are in need of a break other than stopping.
Going around corners requires a lot more concentration at first and it is slower. You cannot just turn the pedals to the appropriate position and lean into the corner like you can on a freewheel equipped bicycle, or you risk clipping the ground with your pedal.
You do feel more connected to the bike riding fixed gear, more so than with gears, as you seem to get back every effort you put in to it, which is a rewarding feeling.
I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five.
Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer?
We are getting soft…As for me, give me a fixed gear!
-Henri Desgrange, L’Équipe article of 1902
Although I did enjoy the experience of riding fixed gear, I am not in agreement with Henri Desgrange, (see quote above) regarding the use of gears. Maybe I am ‘soft’, but I am simply not strong enough to ride fixed wheel in the Peak District, other than on the flat railway trails, I need gears to get me up the hills, and also give me a a chance to rest and take a break now and again, or provide an easy option if I am tired, or the Peak District has greeted me with a howling headwind!