April 25, 2012

Single speed bikes versus multi-speed bikes - Part 1

Growing up, a lot of people probably get most accustomed to single speed bikes with coaster brakes. And when you're young it works great. These bikes are geared lower so that you don't have to struggle to get going but as a result you don't have a high maximum speed. But that's ok! You're a kid! What else do you have to do? Then when you need to brake you just flip back the pedals and you're braking.

Multi-speed bikes are what you see a lot of adults riding. Just like a car, it can be more efficient and less stressful if you have different gears. These bikes usually lose the coaster brakes for what can be a variety of types but you will most likely have a brake mounted on the front wheel and back wheel. The front brake makes a big difference because most weight "goes" forward while braking so the front brake gives you the fastest stopping time. I only use the front brake since it's really the brawn behind stopping.

Single-speed and sometimes fixed-gear bikes are what you see hipsters bike with. These bikes are upgrades from kid bikes because they can have brakes on the front and/or back and the gear set is slightly higher so that you can go faster. The down side is that when you stop on a single speed, getting momentum again is a bit of a pain. You'll probably have to get out of your saddle/stand up to get going. (Remember to obey traffic laws and stop you scofflaws who run red lights!)

What are fixed-gear bikes? Most single-speed bikes will have a freewheel which allows a biker to coast while going downhills or just taking a break. Fixed-gear bikes don't have a freewheel which means that if the wheels are moving the cyclist needs to be peddling. Some fixed gear cyclists use this as a means to brake. If you push against the peddles as they're turning, you'll slow down. Others will jam on the peddles which will result in a skid. If you see a hipster without brakes on their bike, they probably have a fixed-gear bike.

Next week I'll discuss my experience with single speed and multi-speed bikes.

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