It’s really not fair to compare road bikes with fixed-gear bicycles. The differences are obvious and you could almost say one is better than the other, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s anyone’s take on which one they prefer, and it holds true, based on how popular fixed gear bikes and road bikes have become.
But let’s say you’ve been living under a rock for quite some time. What do you think is the difference between the two? You probably have an idea on what a road bike is, but you’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of a fixed-gear bike before in your life and how different it is from standard bicycles.
Here is where we take a look at the difference between the two types of bicycles, starting from how easy they are to ride. Maybe you’ll get to decide what’s best for you in the end.
1. Learning Curve
Not many of us are familiar with how fixed-gear bikes work, but let’s just say that it will take some getting used to as the learning curve with these types of bicycles can be steep for many riders, as you will find out in further comparisons. It’s frankly not the easiest to get to, as you have to unlearn what you know about controlling standard freewheel bicycles. Regardless, it can be a fun and fulfilling experience once you gain control of a fixed-gear bike well.
On the other hand, you can get on a road bike right away, although it will require the right know-how on how to handle its intricacies such as changing the gear and optimizing the speed. Regardless, if you already know how to ride any freewheel types of bicycles, then the next step in doing so may be to ride with a road bike and take on a myriad of roads and trails.
2. Moving with a Fixed-Gear Bike vs a Road Bike
The first thing one will know about a fixed-gear bicycle is that it’s not like a freewheel bike. This means that coming to a stop with the pedal or pedaling backward will automatically halt the bicycle. For many, it’s the novelty of this system that gets them into the fixed-gear types of bicycles, but for others, it’s the sheer simplicity. In the long run, moving with a fixed-gear bike will take some getting used to, especially since we’re all accustomed to using standard freewheel bikes.
Road bikes, as many of us may already know, are essentially standard freewheel bikes that function well on the road. They’re build for speed and for efficiency on even and mostly flat terrain and they’re made for comfort in races or for long distances. It’s fairly standard to control a road bike, so it won’t be much of a problem riding a road bike, even with little practice. That said, being very good on a road bike will take a whole lot of time.
3. Stopping with a Fixed-Gear Bike vs a Road Bike
The two types of bicycles also differ greatly in this regard. A lot of fixed-gear bikes out there don’t have built-in hand breaks. For fixed-gears like these, the inability to coast can be put to good use. Back-pedaling on the bike will allow for advance stops that will simulate braking in normal circumstances. For fixed-gear bikes with handbrakes however, braking abruptly might be catastrophic, so there should always be a good blend of the handbrakes and the pedal.
Then, we have road bikes, which you can simply halt by pressing on the brakes. Slowing down without pressing the brakes won’t be much of a problem with road bikes as well, since the rider can simply coast with the pedal. This makes quick turns and advanced stops easier. That’s why road bikes, regardless of their purpose, are far easier to control than fixed-gear types of bicycles.
4. Bike Safety
With both types of bicycles, it’s always a good idea to practice the usual safety precautions. It’s always best to wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and the appropriate footwear and clothing before taking it to the streets. It can be argued that their safety concerns are different, however.
For instance, a fixed-gear bike will require you to be slower on corners, not allowing for sharp turns that could cause you to lose your balance and skid across the road. It also requires that you have more presence of mind, as novices could get confused on how to brake and stop properly, which may send them flying over the handlebars.
Although one could argue that road types of bicycles are easier to control since it’s something we’ve all been accustomed to, it is not without safety concerns. Road bikes are optimized for acceleration on specific terrain, and the speed it produces may cause panic among beginners. They may not be able to control the bike properly, causing accidents that could well be fatal.
Just remember that you ought to start riding fixed-gear bicycles on easy terrain without a lot of sharp curves and with minimal traffic, just as you should start riding a road bike on relatively empty roads where you can breeze past the route you’re taking, wherever you want to go.
In general, the difference between the two types of bicycles is fairly stark. Fixed-gear bicycles are just that—their gears are fixed, which means you can’t coast with them and you have to pedal continuously. If you backpedal, you either stop or slow down. For many, riding a fixed-gear bicycle is cycling at its most archaic, and it can be a lot of fun, as proven by its popularity among enthusiasts.
Road bikes are very much preferred by many as well, especially cyclists who compete in races (as required) and those who want to do long-distance biking trips, knowing full well they can cover a good amount of distance at a certain span of time with a road bike.
One is not better than the other, since other than being bikes, they’re different in a lot of ways. If you’re looking for which one to get, then remember to choose which of the types of bicycles you’ll have the most fun with.