In the road cycling community, there is one population that riders treat with reverence unlike any other: fixed-gear riders. Fixie riders have no brakes to speak of save for a hub without a freewheel. This means they can only stop by skidding their rear tire. Unfortunately, this can have bad consequences.
Watch as a couple of fixie rider’s tires explode descending a mountain road.
In this video, Kiana Gysin and her friends decided to tackle an 18% grade road descent on their fixies when disaster struck. The rider in front popped her tire right before Kiana followed suit.
Without pressure in her rear tire to provide braking grip, Kiana was forced to jam a foot into the frame like a BMX bike before bailing. Thankfully she was successful and ran it out.
Riding a fixie is universally considered crazy. Usually, fixie riders spend their time darting through gaps in traffic in dense cities. Some even risk their lives in Alleycat races through busy downtowns, where running lights and disobeying traffic laws is a common occurrence. See an illustration of the insanity in a POV from an Alleycat below.
Similarly, taking fixed-gear bikes down steep hills is considered crazy. When your only recourse for stopping is a skid, riding a hill that steep can and will wear through a tire eventually. Since putting brakes on a fixie is uncool, riders have no choice but to tough it out.
One thing that is important on a fixed-gear bike is monitoring the rear tire for wear. Eventually, they all will wear through, so for your safety it is important to stay up on them.
It is also important to avoid a gear ratio that is a multiple of four like a 48/12. When riding a ratio where one pedal stroke moves the wheel exactly a quarter turn, the bike will always skid on the same four places and wear far quicker.
At the end of the day, the safest thing to do is to put brakes on your bike even if they are only for emergencies.
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