The words fixed gear and single speed are often used interchangeably in bicycle motocross(BMX) as they allude to one gear. So, which one describes BMX? Are BMX bikes fixed gear, or are they just single-speed?
The answer is the latter. BMX bikes are not fixed gear. Quite the contrary; they are single gear as they have a freewheel which allows coasting, which is the free-rolling when not pedaling. Fixed-gear bikes generally lack the freewheel, and as a result, they don’t allow coasting.
Overall, the freewheel of a BMX doesn’t just allow coasting, but it also means you don’t have complete control of the bike. So brakes are essential.
As for fixed gear bikes or fixies (which BMX bikes are not), the lack of the freewheel means the rear wheel stops when you turn. In consequence, brakes are not necessary. They are purely optional.
This guide will look at the differences between these two gear system and their similarities.
Let’s get started:
What Is a Fixed Gear Bike?
A fixed-gear bike or fixie is a bike with only one gear in its drivetrain, usually fixed onto the rear wheel. The bike lacks a freewheel mechanism as the cog is attached to the hub, which turns when the rear wheel moves.
The whole setup means you need to continue pedaling for the bike to move as you cannot coast (freely roll). The advantage of that is that brakes are not necessary. The bicycle slows down and eventually stops moving when you stop pedaling.
So, if you want the bike to stop, you need to stop pedaling and straighten your feet to the ground. The moment you touch your feet on the ground, the cycle stops.
Overall, fixies have fewer components as they lack shifters, cranksets, derailleurs, and in most cases, brakes.
What Is a Single Speed Bike?
As the name suggests, single-speed bikes only have a single (one) gear, which is similar to fixed-gear. The difference is that the bikes have a freewheel, the primary differentiator.
A freewheel allows coasting as the rear wheel will still turn even when you stop pedaling. For this reason, the bikes do come with brakes (especially hand brakes for most BMX single-speed bikes), as the cycle cannot stop when you stop pedaling.
Not only do we have single-gear BMX, but also single-gear track bikes and jump bikes.
Single Speed Vs Fixed Gear
Now that we know what fixed gears and single gears are, let’s break down their differences.
Below are the things that set the single-speed and the fixed gear bikes apart:
Single-speed bikes feature a braking system just like any other geared bike. That comes in handy when you want to slow down and bring the bike to a stop. Mostly, single-speed BMX bikes come with hand brakes that serve well.
Brakes are not necessary for fixies, as you can stop the bike using your feet and stop pedaling. So, if you want to bring the bike to a stop, you need to reduce the pedaling cadence and touch your feet on the ground.
It’s worth noting that some states and countries prohibit fixies without brakes. They include New York and the U.K.
Costing is the rolling of the rear wheel when not pedaling. Fixed gears lack a freewheel which means that you cannot coast. You need to continually pedal to keep the bike moving. That is a bad thing, especially if you have a bad knee.
On the other hand, single-speed bikes allow coasting due to the presence of the freewheel. The freewheel enables the rear wheel to continue rolling when you stop to pedal.
Fixies lack brakes, which means you will have complete bike control. You will also need to pedal continually for the bike to keep moving, which could be tiring.
Stopping the cycle is also not easy due to the lack of brakes. So a fixie is not beginner-friendly.
On the contrary, single-speed bikes usually come with hand brakes that give you the maximum stopping power, just like any other geared bike.
A fixie lacks a freewheel, so you cannot coast with it. So, you need to continue pedaling for the bike to move.
If you get tired and fail to pedal, the bike will slow down.
In contrast, a single-speed allows coasting, which means you don’t necessarily have to pedal all the time. That saves you energy, enabling you to go faster when you decide to pedal.
Since fixed gears lack a freewheel, you use more energy to pedal. As seen earlier, you need to keep pedaling for the bike to move. That means you use more energy riding a fixie, which is advantageous for people who want a full-body workout.
In contrast, single-speed bikes allow coasting, so the bike will move freely without much pedaling. Thus, you don’t use as much energy as riding a fixie, and it doesn’t promote a full-body workout.
The advantage is that the workouts are more lenient, thus suitable for the elderly.
Table Summary of Single Speed Vs Fixed Gear
|Braking||Brakes are not necessary (may be present or not)||Brakes are necessary|
|Coasting ability||It does not allow coasting||Allows coasting|
|Bike control||You enjoy full bike control||You don’t have complete bike control|
|Speed||Not as fast as single-speed||Faster than fixie|
|Body Workouts||Allows full-body workout||Less body workout as it allows coasting|
Similarities Between a Fixed Gear and A Single Speed Bike
Though the two have a few things that set them apart, they also have the following in common:
Both bikes are lightweight, and that’s because the two come with fewer components, unlike the regular bikes. A lighter bike will require less power to move and is generally portable.
Reduced parts in these bikes mean that you will require less maintenance to keep them in operation.
Lack of some parts also means that there will be minimal wear and tear, which means that you are likely to spend less on maintenance and repairs.
Many times, you only need to lubricate them and maintain the tire pressure, and you are good to go.
- Fun to Ride
Do you often wonder why single-speed and fixed gear bikes are always popular? Well, it’s because riding them is fun. They allow you to feel as much closer to the ground as possible, which every rider dreams of.
In Summary: Are BMX Bikes Fixed Gear or Single Speed?
Judging by the differences between fixed gears and single speed, there is no doubt that BMX bikes are single-speed. We can conclude that they are single-speed because they have a freewheel that promotes coasting and necessitates brakes.
Additionally, the freewheel promotes fast-rolling, making BMX bikes faster gear counterparts.
While BMX bikes are usually single-speed, custom options often come with fixed gears. So, it’s possible to get a fixed-gear BMX if you request it from a given manufacturer.
Single Speed Vs Fixed Gear Bikes: Which One Suits Your Needs
You have to look at three primary factors when buying a bike. They include the terrain you want to ride in, preferred riding style, and budget.
However, if you are looking for a bike that you can have complete control over, one that you can work out with and burn some calories, you should go for a fixie.
One fixie that fits the description is the 6KU Track Fixed Gear Bicycle (Check on Amazon).
This bike is one of Amazon’s best sellers for a reason. It is a budget option and comes in several frame sizes to suit riders of different heights.
But if your ideal bike is a bike you can commute with comfortably, one that doesn’t get you overworked as you don’t need to pedal all the time, and comes to a stop seamlessly, then you won’t go wrong with a single-speed bike.
FAQs on BMX Bikes and Fixed Gear
Are BMX Bikes Fixed Gears?
No! BMX bikes are not fixed gears. This is because of the presence of the freewheel that enables the bike to coast when not pedaling. That said, BMX bikes are single-speed.
Do BMX Bikes Have Gears?
Yes! BMX bikes have a single gear and thus the term single speed. However, you should note that they only have one gear, so there is no shifting.
But fortunately, the single gear in BMX bikes is enough to give you the utmost speed, especially on shorter rides.
Are BMX Bikes Hard to Ride?
No! You can ride a BMX bike just like any other regular bike. However, the only problem would be riding a BMX for long hours or at high speed as this bike does not allow shifting gears.
Why Are Fixed Gear Bikes Popular?
Fixed gear bikes are popular for a reason. For starters, they require minimal or no maintenance as they have fewer moving parts. Second, they are the best option for the budget buyer as they are cheaper than other bikes.
Can I Ride a Single Speed Bike Uphill?
It’s a challenging task riding a single-speed bike uphill. It will require much effort, which could be tiring as well. Again, a single-speed bike comes with one gear. You will need to shift gears when riding uphill. Thus, these bikes are better suited on flatter roads.
In Conclusion, Are BMX Bikes Fixed Gear?
Above is a well-detailed guide and the reason embarking that BMX bikes are single speed and not fixed gear. The single gear allows you to coast, and thus you feel more comfortable when riding this bike than their counterparts.