Fixed Gear Dangers

Yesterday, as I rode down Pine Street in the rain, bouncing along at 20-25 MPH, my chain slipped off the chainring. All it took was a mixture of a little deferred maintenance, a chain drawing near the end of its useful life and the sorry condition of Seattle’s pavement following our January snows.

And it was no big deal. I braked, pulled onto the sidewalk, put the chain back and on and was on my way.

But if I’d been a slave to fixie fashion? Without brakes, I would have been absolutely screwed. The only way to stop a brakeless, chainless fixed gear bike going downhill is to lay it down or run into something. Chain derailment may be less common occurrence when riding fixed or single speed than it is with a geared bike, but it can easily happen.

3 thoughts on “Fixed Gear Dangers”

  1. I’ve had some close calls on my fixed gear, but none that having brakes would have changed. But, I deal with almost zero hills in this city and none on my regular commute. I think if I lived in a town as hilly as Seattle, brakes would have to get slapped on.

  2. Actually it’s very simple to stop a brakeless bike if the chain brakes. You simply put the side of your shoe on the seat stay and push the sole down against the real wheel. You can very accurately control braking speed this way, from a mild reduction in speed to a full emergency stop to avoid an obstacle.

    It won’t damage your shoes (except very soft soles like sperry topsiders) if you save it for emergencies and don’t use it for every stop. It takes a little practice to feel comfortable doing this, but once you have it down, it’s quick, efficient and automatic.

Leave a Reply