Safety Measures--Part One of Fixed Gear 101
by Greg Goode
Always wear a helmet. I always do, even though my Campagnolo cycling cap looks much cooler. Some of my best bike buddies never wear helmets. But then, I also have two friends whose lives were saved by wearing helmets. Another bike buddy would always say before the rides he'd lead: "Wear your helmet, but don't use it!"
If you have enough bike shops to choose from, find a shop where they are knowledgeable and comfortable about fixed-gear bikes. If you are not a mechanic, then have a mechanic check your bike out and sign off on it before you start.
Make sure that the rear hub has been made as back-pedal-safe as possible. On a fixed-gear hub, a strong steel lockring is a must.
Make sure that your chain is strong, because your chain is essential to both your drive-train and your ability to stop. There are strong track chains by Izumi and HKK, and strong BMX chains by KMC. Your chain isn't the place to skimp on dollars or save weight!
Choose a safe place to practice these techniques! Places like parks or empty parking lots are great. When in doubt, follow the roller-bladers and skateboarders who wear the baggy pants. They know the best spots.
Look farther down the road than you would with a freewheel bike. Especially when riding brakeless, your stopping distance is longer. Use peripheral vision and train your mind to be receptive to what's out to the sides, up to 180-200 degrees. You'll also be able to develop a sense for what's behind you, guided partly by sound, partly by intuition.
Warm up and stretch before your rides, and before trying any of the techniques, especially if they require new muscle movements. This is to maximize your skill as well as to help prevent injury. I have had injuries merely from not being flexible enough. Stretching yields greater flexibility, and warming up makes it easier to stretch.