January 26, 2014 by Jutta
Having had a bit of a debate with a few mates of mine about the use of brakes, thought I’d extend my thoughts here also..
I know it is part and parcel of the whole fixie get up to not have brakes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for no brakes in a skate park/park setting where you’re doing tricks or competing, I get that – it adds to the minimalist look, its aesthetically pleasing to the eye, its doesn’t get in the way, you feel totally in control… I’m into ALL that, but on a busy city road in London – traveling to and from work through chaotic rush hour, you’re pretty much asking for it (if you’re not skilled).
Conversely, I feel that resisting/pushing back on pedal to grind to a halt on rear wheel, WITH the added front brake, probably won’t affect your tyre as much as skidding to halt would, and of course, more importantly, it is much safer. Although, there are those properly skilled at stopping without brakes – I’ve seen quite a few riders out there do it cleanly.
More than anything, what get’s me is the skidding. While it can be impressive, those crazy/frenetic side to side skids that eat up an entire lane isn’t safe on a congested road. Unless of course, you like the idea of sliding under or into a double decker bus, then knock yourself out. This action could also damage the dropouts and chainstay’s, which in turn affects the hub.. Woooo! We ain’t all money swines.. And again, it isn’t safe if commuting through London, riding at high speed – just my op.
If you’re hell bent on skidding, then try keep the whipping side to side to a minimum – get a good quality chainstay/lock ring (preferably steel) and tighten them up real good.
For those purchasing a fixed gear road bike (commuting) for the first time, please DO get a front brake. It’s great and a necessity, not to mention you can go to court if found without at least 1. It can be used hand in hand with resisting on pedals, which should be less stressful on tyres, and safer. Or if you’re daunted by the idea, you can use the front brake on it’s own, bearing in mind you’re not speeding then suddenly braking, which can throw you off your bike.
The disadvantage of using only the front brake? it’s really not the “fixie way”, you may as well get your bog standard bike with two brakes and save yourself the jitters. To ride these bikes, a no fear attitude is key! Sole use of the brake can also wear the brake pads real fast – luckily they don’t don’t cost too much to replace.
Furthermore, for those newbies looking to go without brakes, who think “eww brakes make it look urrrrrgly” … IMO, I don’t think it does. There are lot’s of riders all over London donning the one front brake, and they look neat. It’s just one inconspicuous brake, nicely positioned between the handle bars – barely noticeable, and the brake cable isn’t an eye sore (check my photo below). It doesn’t ruin the zen/minimalist look. The bike still looks “cool”. Your street cred won’t go down the drain by adding a brake. Nothing wrong with wanting to live another day.
Lastly, on the issue of fixie’s messing up your knee’s… You’d have more chance of botching them walking up a flight of stairs or running. So, no you won’t become a cripple. ;D
One of my noble steeds..
Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions..if you want..