The place for fixies and other rides without gears
I'm trying to work out my build for my second fixie/single speed conversion, and if i go fixed I will be contemplating only using a front brake (plus the fixed drive chain as a "brake").
The reason i am considering this is purely for aesthetic reasons. I love the minimalist look. Even on my first build i modified the rear brake line to run through the top tube, which i think made a nice clean look, but i would still prefer not to have a rear caliper brake and extra brake lever if i can get a way with it.
I won't be using the bike for any hardcore riding (any 'faster' riding will be done on closed of bike trails or the local criterium), so i was wondering if this would be a stupid move (in terms of it being dangerous) or if it's not as unpractical as it first may seem. I've seen lots of fixies with just front brakes on this forum, and plenty of others with no caliper brakes at all! I can't imagine at all not have at least one caliper brake though.
Has any one gone back to two caliper brakes after just having one?
I have to use hands and feet to count the number of cable snaps I've had over the years. Some of them totally out of the blue and unexpected. I'd hate to have that happen to my only brake!
nayfen - Apart from the sarcastic comment which is not applicable to me, I don't ride in traffic, in rain or in hilly areas. What is your actual personal experience relating to the matter?
thomashouseman - I can honestly say i would never have thought brake cable snaps to be a concern.
I appreciate the safety warnings, but the number of people that seem to ride within only a fixed drive chain and/or a single front brake made me question the practicality. When i rode motorbikes i found that i could almost ride without using the rear brake, and that involves higher speeds and more weight. (I realise they are different but still similar in principal)
Oxford - I appreciate hearing your first hand experience. May i ask as to your reason for only using one brake?
From the sounds of it i think i will be leaning towards two caliper brakes. I'd like to hear more first hand experience still, if only for interest sake.
There is always the possibility of a brake failure (snapped cable), and of course another issue is wet weather handling. In wet weather it is generally better to make greater use of the rear brake to check your speed. In my own cycling, I have developed the practice of using the rear brake first to begin to control my speed and the front brake to bring myself to a complete stop.
I've ridden around on a fixie with only the front brake in Canberra (not a bad experience actually!) but it isn't something that I would feel comfortable doing around Sydney.
I run one front brake on my fixed bike - I don't ride it anywhere near as fast as I do the other bikes with gears except uphill. I think it's OK but this town is pretty quiet.
So we get the leaders we deserve and we elect, we get the companies and the products that we ask for, right? And we have to ask for different things. – Paul Gilding
but really, that's rubbish. We get none of it because the choices are illusory.
I commute and do fast rides (including group rides) on fixed gear with front caliper brake. No rear = no mounting point + the bike is a minimalist machine. The brake works well, I'm confident in it and I know the limitations of the bike. I've skipped the rear wheel up under hard braking (slipstreaming a bus ) a couple of times. Oh, and I've never broken a brake cable in many many years of cycling, that I can recall. YMMV
I rode down a medium sized hill. car reversed out driveway. with the road still damp from rain I didn't have enough stopping power to make complete stop.
As mentioned brake cables snap but with regular maintainance this would be very rare. with your described riding habits (no hills, traffic or rain) give it a go you can always put a rear brake on later.
I'm in the one is enough camp.
Rode a fixie when I was a young fella with no brakes at all and had no issues with it, never had a stack on the road due to lack of braking. (fell off doin wheelies and jumps a few times )
I made up a fixie a little while back to see if I liked it and I did, so I made up a better one and it only has the front brake and I find this enough even when I flip the hub over to freewheel.
I use a lot of rear brake on my motorbikes but that's not for stopping it's for trailbraking and controlling the power and tucking it in a bit tighter in a corner, don't have as much power on the fixie as my GSXR1000 has ..
I have to agree with Stevo here. I was riding mine as S/S for ages and tended to ride the rear brake a bit too much, when really it is the front that should do a majority of the stopping. Since changing over to fixed, I only ever use the front brake. The rear is still on because I haven't been arsed removing it, but that day will come soon enough!
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Great to hear somebody else knows what the rear brake does on a motorbike, so many have no idea.
Around the hilly parts of Sydney where I'm mixing it with traffic, I'd definitely want two brakes. Rear only brakes break traction too easily, even if you drop your bum back down behind the seat mountain bike-style.... and trying to do that on a fixie would be a challenge! Front only presents a washout or OTB risk in emergency situations. I'm thinking of the guy recently killed when he did an OTB in front of a bus. can't recall if that was Brisvegas or Siddenee.
You might be planning only to ride it on clsoed circuits or low traffic, flat routes, but unless you plan on taking it by car everywhere you may find you are straying outside your intended low risk usage environments quite frequently. For those times, I'd recommend the second brake.
When all else fails, persistence prevails -- Lew Hollander
True, but what other option do you have in an emergency? All you can do is stand the bike up (if cornering) and modulate the front brake as best you can for the conditions you have on the road. It's one of those times when performance trade-offs for faster roll, lighter components and/or aero riding position come into question. I think most road bikes are too much go and not enough stop. I also think too many cyclist ride at a speed beyond their and/or their bike's braking ability (including me sometimes ).
I've seen too many customers that don't even use a front brake in the motorbike industry... could tell some hair raising stories of how inept people are but that's for another time on another forum...
Your front brake has about 70% of your braking capacity... a rear is used either for control or for people who shouldn't be riding in the first place... (that might throw the cat amongst the pigeons.. )
Well, you better tell the BMX racers then.
This subject has been covered well before here.
For sure, my friend, I understand where you are coming from, and agree.
What I'm trying to convey is that front and rear brakes together pull you up very much more quickly than 1 only, or 1 plus legs on a fixie. Having a front brake only my concern is hitting it too hard because it's really all you've got.
Oh, yes. Without a doubt. That's why I like my hydro discs, but even they have their limitations so I'm looking several cars ahead and try to always position myself with an escape route.
When all else fails, persistence prevails -- Lew Hollander
As you know, I've gone down from grabbing too much front brake on a wet driveway.
I think I see your point. Sure, if road/path conditions are ugly, wet and/or slimy then I'd likely cautiously go for both brakes or maybe just the rear in a corner. If I didn't have that rear brake then I may be in trouble. I also believe that two brakes are better than one to control speed while signaling (which is obviously not a problem with a fixie).
My point is that maximum braking power is only available when the back wheel is just leaving the ground, if that much traction is available (which is likely on the road).
As an example; I was riding along a bit of a downhill at about 30 - 40 Km/h yesterday. Came to a back street round-about which is usually empty to find a car entering (the dangers of complacency ). Didn't have enough time to even shift my weight back as I grabbed the front brake. The back wheel came up. Modulated the back wheel down again and cleared the car easily, which kept going on its merry way. If I had grabbed both brakes, all I would have achieved in that case is to flat spot a rear tyre and make it more likely to skew my tail off-line.
Yes it was dry yesterday, but I probably would have done the same in the wet. Just more cautiously with the initial lever grab and maybe covering the rear brake just in case...
I've only got a front brake at the moment on my Ninja as the rear brake I haven't installed properly yet. It rides perfectly fine without it, just riding around the local streets at slow-medium speeds. I rarely need to use the brake anyway as I slow down by using backward force on the cranks (not skids, just slowing the cadence down). However on some slopes it is good to have the front brake to help slow me down if my legs are getting tired.
I'll be fixing the rear brake tomorrow, as it's my first free day for a while. I'll barely need it, but I don't want to get caught out with a cable snap and only one brake. Better safe than sorry.
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I rode my SS with only a front brake. I took it off when I went to flat bars and fixed and only fitted a front brake because I only had one lever. When I went back to SS I just left it with one brake.
I used it to ride to work which is all quite roads and no stop signs or traffic lights so it was never a problem. Only one hill that I get to about 55km/h on but it has no roads or driveways leading onto it.
Its back to fixed now and if I don't sell it it will stay with one brake.
buy a good brand front brake and a good leaver, i bought a cheap set of eBay for $40 including Us, leavers and cabels, the rear brake is a write off anyways, so no i have to put trust into this proven un trust worthy front brake! But a new ones on the way and then ill only run a front brake!
I just got a bike fixed with front brake only. I think its fine as long as you don't jam it on, and you can use your legs to resist as well.
If i was going with a single speed setup i would get front and rear brakes as you are likely to pick up more speed down hills etc.
The front brake is for stopping and the rear just helps brushing off some speed.
Wouldn't mind upgrading to a road bike quality front brake when these wear out.
I rode 9 months of last year on a fixed/free bike with only the front brake. I am in Canberra so it is a little easier to get away with. Originally, I only had the front as it was a 27" conversion and only the front brake had enough reach. I now run both front and back after I had two not-so-good experiences. The first involved our local handy council mowing guys leaving mounds of grass all over the bike tracks. If I even looked the wrong way at these my front wheel would skid and I'd almost lose it. Granted my skills aren't the best, but I'm no nuff-nuff either. So, I changed my route until the grass was gone. Then I started riding Black Mountain every week. Well, I always wondered how hot my front rim was getting after the descent as I tended to periodically wash off speed on the way down. One day I reached down and put a finger against the side ofe the rim. A string of profanities and a burnt - as in the skin was white for a week - finger made me reconsider very seriously only having one brake. I couldn't believe that that much heat was in the rim. More to the point how could I have not blown the tyre off? So, next week I did not brake at all except at the very end to stop. **SIGH**, finger was only white for three days this time...
So now I run front and back and am shortly moving over to drums front and back. The heat in that rim just scared me way too much, wouldn't want to fall and dirty up my nice frilly skirts now would I?
It's obvious that having two brakes is safer than having one. I used to ride a single speed with just one front brake for many years as a courier. I rode a single speed and one brake to keep maintenance and repair costs down - simple was best for me then. Going fixed saved me a few dollars every few months on replacing freewheels where the bearings had died.
Now as I'm older and want to be safer, I would not feel too comfortable with just a front brake on a bike with a free wheel (in case cable snaps or other brake failure). However, on the fixed gear I feel that you can obtain great speed control with the back wheel, teamed up with the front brake... all is good. It would be catastrophic if a cable snapped and I lost my chain at the same time, unlikely I'd hope.
Yes, just one brake can be dangerous, but you also need to be able to ride what you have, in the weather/road conditions within you own riding ability.
Sorry for the rant, hope that helps.
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