Look No Gears! Multi-Gear Vs. Fixed Wheel Bicycles

By: | September 4th, 2014

We won’t make you tell your age. But if you’ve been around or a while, you may remember a time when, in about 1968, you may have seen and even owned a fixed wheel or fixed gear bicycle. Sounds absurd now with the proliferation of standard bikes that have up to 30 gears and more for custom bikes, 63 gears being the highest number I was able to find.

Riding Farther & Faster Requires Multiple Gears

The idea of gears is to allow riders to move over a variety of terrains, providing an optimal pedaling speed throughout, usually between 60 and 90 strokes per minute.

This range is advantageous to the biomechanical configuration and efficiency of human feet, knees and legs. If a rider is able to ride at a higher cadence or rate per stroke with less effort, it allows him to save energy and go farther. When going up the hill, a rider shifts to a lower gear, making it easier to pedal and keeping him within the optimum range of pedal strokes.

We have all felt pedaling up a steep slope results in the sudden feeling of inertia, our legs slowing and greater and greater effort required. When the number of pedal strokes per minute falls below 60, riders must shift to make it easier once again to petal.

When going down the hill, shifting into a higher gear will allow a rider to maintain the cadence of of between 60 and 80 strokes per minute. Shifting to a higher gear is preferable because the amount of resistance encountered when going down a hill falls dramatically. If we don’t shift, we have to pedal at more than 90 strokes per minute, which is nearly impossible.

For City Riding & Even Mountain Biking Fixed Wheel Bikes Are All the Rage

A refrain often heard is “don’t use a hammer to screw in a nail.”

This certainly applies to foregoing a multispeed bicycle when a fixed wheel bicycle will do. Simple is often better than complicated.

But single speed bicycles are not just for city folk; for those with good knees and a considerable amount of youth and vigor, single speed mountain bikes are a good alternative.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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