Are BMX Bikes Fixed Gear or Single Speed? (Explained!)

BMX bikes are a popular choice amongst kids and also adventurous adults who want to feel nimble and fast. When using a bike, however, you might want to figure out what kind of gear it is packing so you know how to work with it. Keeping this in mind,

Are BMX bikes fixed gear or single speed?

Fixed gear, also known as fixies are bikes is almost like a single-speed bike but with a fixed cog in the back, whereas a single speed is a bike with one gear in the front and one freewheel gear in the back. By that definition, unless it is a niche model, most BMX bikes are of the single-speed kind.

It is widely believed that most, if not all BMX bikes are single speed since the rider rolls forward without pedaling, meaning their hubs are coasting- which alludes to their freewheel, single-speed kind.

Are BMX bikes fixed gear?

Unless it is custom-made or from a niche corner of the internet, BMX bikes are not fixed gear bikes. The reason being, BMX bikes need control to perform the stunts or tricks the rider intended, which fixed gear bikes cannot provide due to the lack of breaks and gear. 

It is understandable why one would assume BMX bikes to be fixed gear, they are both lightweight, they pick up speed fairly well, and have a similar look. However, when noticing the details, it is rather clear how BMX bikes do not fall in the fixies category.

What is a fixed gear bike?

Fixed gear bikes are also known as fixies which are the kinds of bicycles that have one gear drivetrains that are fixed to their rear wheel. This means the rider cannot coast and has to, nay, must pedal whenever the bike is moving.

Fixies are known as one of the simplest bikes out there since they do not have derailleurs, cranksets (let it be double or triple), or shifters. Some of them also do not have brakes. However, in the UK it is illegal to ride a fixed gear bike without a break. 

The cog of the bike is fixed to its hub, so when the rear wheel turns, it turns. Which makes the pedals of the bike turn which is basically how the bike works. In other words, this is a bicycle with a drivetrain that has no freewheel mechanism.

Fixies are a popular alternative for urban cyclists for the simplicity it provides. Many believe it allows you to feel one with the bike and the road as a single unit with complete control.

Are BMX bikes single speed?

It is a popular belief that most, if not all, BMX bikes are made in the single-speed format. This means the bike has one gear ratio with basically no derailleur hangers or shifters. BMX bikes have a single gear ratio, thus making it a quintessential single speeder. 

While there are minute differences between fixed gear and single speed bikes, when we look at the specifics, it becomes apparent why BMX bikes are one of the popular single speed bicycles around.

What is a single-speed bike?

As mentioned, single-speed bikes are called as such for they have a single gear ratio- meaning there are no derailleur or hub gears that can vary the gear ratio of the bike. Other than the aforementioned BMX, track bikes, fixed road bikes, mountain bikes, and even jump bikes fall under this category.

Mechanically, the difference between fixies and single speed is in the way the single cog is connected to the rest of the drivetrain. Here, the freewheels are fitted with a cog that can rotate freely in one way but gets locked up in the other.

This translates to the cog turning the rear wheel when pedals are pumped but can freewheel when it starts to turn faster than the cog, kind of like a geared bicycle.

Fixed gear vs Single speed bikes: which one is better for you?

Now that we have discussed the two different types of bikes in this article, you might want to decide to go for one. As mentioned earlier, the mechanical difference is not that noticeable unless you know what you are going for.

Keeping this in mind, it means when going for one or the other- it all depends on the budget, the path you want to take, and your riding style.

If you want to go for a Fixed gear bike, these are the things you should be on the lookout for,

Speed

Fixies offer more speed than their single-speed counterparts, which means they are generally faster as well.

Control

Fixed bikes require, or rather demand that the rider stays in control of the bike, the speed, and even the brake itself, which means the user regulates everything. This translates into the rider feeling like they are an extension of the bike itself and vice versa.

Fun and interactive

This is an unusual point, but it has been reported time and time again that fixies are just fun to ride, plain and simple. The reason why people keep going back to it, why it has a growing fanbase is because this bike feels interactive, the road feels closer to you and even a part of you.

The disadvantages for fixed gear bikes include the lack of gear means people cant coast or it takes time to get used to it and is a bad choice for those out of shape or with bad knees.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a single-speed bike, consider the following factors

Budget

Single-speed bikes have, as the name suggests, a single gear operating on a pretty simple mechanism, which makes it cheaper than geared bikes.

The lack of parts means there is also a lack of wear and tear, which would mean you are spending less on repairs and replacements as well.

Maintenance

The same reason why these bikes are cheaper also results in it having minimal maintenance as well. They require less effort to keep them operating, needing slight lubrication here and there periodically.

Exercise

The lack of gears in this case means you have to use your body as gas and force. This ultimately means you get to physically exert yourself more, meaning you are working out more efficiently with these bikes.

The disadvantages of Single speed bikes include being limited in what they can offer to do, inefficient pedaling which makes it tougher on rough or uneven terrains. High speed is also very limited for single-speed bikes.

While both bikes have their advantages and disadvantages, it can be noted they are both excellent choices in their fields. Single-speed might feel more comfortable, but fixies feel more adrenaline-based, more “one of a kind”. 

They are both lightweights, aesthetically pleasing, and user-oriented bikes that ultimately reflect on the rider’s preference and style.

How do I know if my bike is single speed?

While fixies and single-speed bicycles feel very similar by having a single front chainring and essentially having one gear, there are ways you can figure out if your bike is single speed.

The easiest way to know is to google the make and model of your bike, websites should have your answer.

But let’s say it is a custom nameless bike, what do you do then?

It is rather simple, really- you look at the fit. Single-speed bikes are fitted with a freewheel, which means if you stop pedaling, the back wheel will turn but the pedal arms (cranks) will not. 

Single-speed bikes also let you coast which fixed gear bikes do not. The dropout on the rear wheel is usually horizontal and faces rearwards. The wheels are also usually reversible.

If your bike has these qualities whilst also made of carbon fiber, steel, titanium, or aluminum, chances are your bike is a single speed.

Do single-speed bikes have gears?

Single-speed bikes, as the name suggests as a single gear. So single-speed bikes have a gear, not multiples meaning you cannot shift gears on this bike type.

As mentioned earlier, these bikes do not have additional gear that can change the ratio by running on the freewheel mechanism.

Can single-speed bikes go up hills?

Single-speed bikes are known to be difficult to ride up on hills. The ratio means it is restrictive on certain terrains or road types so it requires more effort.

Some people believe riding uphill on these bikes is more of a mental challenge rather than a mental challenge where you should use the momentum when approaching a hill.

The lack of gears makes you feel limited in options when going uphill, but when going downhill you can coast so maybe that would make it worth it for single-speed bike peddlers.

Are fixies faster than road bikes?

Road bikes use their gears to keep the pedaling efficient and so you can move faster. However, Fixies are pretty fast themselves but it depends on what terrain or trail you are on. 

Road bikes have a more average speed consistently on different lands and so is faster overall.

Why are fixies so popular?

As we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of fixed gear bikes, it is rather understandable why despite certain issues they are still a popular choice amongst the biking community.

To start with, fixies are simple yet stylish, you can learn its usage at your own pace so it feels more personal while staying compact and lightweight.

As mentioned earlier, the lack of gear means you have to be in control and exert yourself more, which makes it an easy way to stay fit and healthy as well.

The fixies are also surprisingly quiet so they make for calm rides, which is perfect for countryside riding and soothing dates. It being low maintenance helps as well.

Now that we know why single speed and fixed gear bikes have their cult following, it is understandable how people might find them charming enough to make it their daily or favorite bikes. In the end, it all matters on their love of biking and user preference. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

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