Riding fixed gear in London

So I’ve been riding fixed gear in London for two solid weeks. What can I say; it has definitely been a very interesting experience.

I’ve been “kicked” by the pedals a fair few times (about 6 or 7). I soon learned my lesson – just keep spinning those pedals!

The first week of the commute had its horrible moments. Not only was I a bit unsure of how to handle the fixed gear bike, but the gearing that was provided on the built pompino was altogether too high, Perhaps not for some people out there, but I’m willing to bet it was too high for most people.I will discuss the gearing again further down, but for now let me just say that riding fixed gear is very interesting indeed.

In short – riding the bicycle feels like a lot of fun on fixed gear, It brought back those feelings I had when I learned to ride a bike for the first time as a child. There is a cetain purity to fixie riding. At first I thought to myself – I can’t coast over rough road, I can’t coast as I turn, I can’t change gear, etc. However, as nice as coasting and changing gear is, after a little while riding fixed, when you start to forget about coasting and changing gear, the part of the brain that used to think about those things all of a sudden is freed up to think about other things, or not at all. It’s nice not to faff around trying to decide anything to do with your pedalling, you just have to keep pedalling and that’s all there is to it! The rides have become somewhat more serene. Now, I can imagine that this sounds like a load of tosh – really the only thing to do is to try riding fixed for yourself. Doing it for 5 minutes doesn’t count as trying, it takes around 2 weeks or so to acclimatize.

Back to the gearing; the chainring originally was 48 teeth whilst the sprocket that was provided was 16 tooth. Coupled with the 170mm cranks and 700C wheels, this gave a gearing of 81 gear inches (or 6.1 gain ratio). This gearing is commonly used on velodromes as a warm up gear, so no good for the road at all really.

Sure enough, I ordered a 20 tooth sprocket and a KMC Inox track chain from velosolo. This arrived and I mounted it, and things have improved greatly! I’ve been riding in this new gear (65 gear inches, or 4.8 gain ratio) and my knees haven’t felt anywhere near as strained as before, my average speed went up and overall I feel much more confident on the bike. If anything, the gear is ever so slightly low, but all that means is that I can adjust to an increased cadence for a while – and there’s always the option of going for a 19 tooth sprocket in a few weeks.

This is what the mounted sprocket looks like:

Cromoly track sprocket Andel

20 tooth Andel Cromoly steel track sprocket.

And this is the drivetrain in all its glory:

Stronlight 48T Andel 20T drivetrain

KMC Inox stainless steel chain. 48T Stronlight chainring. 20T Andel cromo sprocket

As you can see, the sprocket is actually larger than the flange of the hub, which is hilarious and (to me) aesthetically pleasing at the same time. The KMC Inox chain feels really very sturdy and I am very happy I picked it. As a graduate engineer – stainless steel makes me hot under the collar so it was a natural choice really!

All in all, my drivetrain feels very solid, both due to being fixed, having easy gearing as well as being adjusted and tightened correctly. How to adjust the chain tension and rear wheel position took a surprisingly short time to learn and feels very intuitive.