Equipment--Part Two of Fixed Gear 101
by Greg Goode
Start with a bike whose frame fits you well, not too large and not too small. It's best if it has rearward-facing horizontal dropouts--'track ends'. You find track ends on track bikes, singlespeed mountain bikes, and on 'street-fixed' bikes. Street-fixeds have become common over the last couple of years. They are affordable fixed-gear bikes that look like track racers, but have a heavier and more relaxed frame and drillings for a front and perhaps a rear brake. As of this writing (June 2002), street-fixed bikes are being made by Surly, Bianchi, KHS, Gunnar, Urban Cycles and Fuji, although not all of these are appropriate for offroad use.
To enable you to back-pedal hard without loosening the cog, you'll need a proper fixed-gear hub with a steel lockring.
You'll probably change your setup once you gain some basic skills. But the following suggestions should shorten your ramp-up time.
Clips and straps, not clipless pedals
These allow you to use the backs of the pedals for balancing drills while you're learning. I use double straps.
Shoes with flat rubber soles and no cleats
While you're learning, it's good if you can quickly slide into the clips and back out without sticking. I have found soccer shoes and skateboarding shoes ideal for this purpose. Don't use running or basketball shoes, as the sole is too knobby for quick entry and exit. They may also be too bulky to fit smoothly into the toeclips.
A back brake is optional, a front brake is mandatory--not just for safety, but also because it is required by law in most countries. If you live in an area where legislation allows you to ride brakeless, then the first step is a front-brake-only setup. I myself wanted to go brakeless, but I was cautious. I kept the front brake on for an entire year while I learned. Then I took it off and never used it again.
Choose a gear that's low enough to get you up the hills, but not so low that you lose control on the way down. Gearing is a personal matter, of course, but something in the high 60s or low 70s is usually considered a good choice to learn with. Here are some likely chainring/cog combinations on a 700c bike, with the resulting gear expressed in inches. 26" wheelers should check the sidebar for further pointers.
48x19 = 68.2"
48x18 = 72.0"
46x18 = 69.0"
46x17 = 73.1"
44x17 = 69.9"
44x16 = 74.3"