Fixed gear mountain bikes

Photo by Leif Borgeson,

Here’s something you don’t see every day at your local mountain bike trailhead: a fixed gear mountain bike. Not to be confused with a singlespeed mountain bike, a fixed gear bike has just one gear but unlike traditional singlespeed bikes it lacks a freewheel hub. This means there’s no coasting on a fixed gear bike – if the bike is moving, you’re pedaling which can get a little tricky out on the trail (watch the embeded video below to see what I mean).

Joe rides fixie through rocky trail section from ricky d on Vimeo.

I’ve been doing a little research on fixed gear mountain bikes and not surprisingly there aren’t many folks out there rocking the fixie on the mountain bike trail. Fixed gear bikes are becoming more popular with the on-road commuting set but even learning to ride a fixie on the road can take weeks. The singlespeed sage himself, Sheldon Brown, had this to say about fixed gear mountain bikes:

Fixed gear is not ideal for all circumstances, however. A fixed gear is not well suited for seriously hilly terrain, and, more importantly, is not good for technical mountain biking. A mountain biker in difficult terrain must be able to control when each pedal is down, to avoid striking a pedal on rocks, logs or other obstructions. Similarly, jumping over obstacles is much more difficult on a fixed gear. If your single gear is low enough for off-road climbing, it will be too low to spin on the descents.

That being said, Sheldon inspired quite a few riders to build up their own fixed gear mountain bikes using the detailed instructions available on his website (including this guy and this guy).

So why would anyone ever want to build up and ride a fixed-gear mountain bike on the trail? Fans of the fixie will tell you the riding experience is more pure and the feeling of a connection with the bike is unmatched. There’s a ton of experimentation happening in the MTB world these days with new wheel sizes (29er, 650b), unusual gearing choices (single speed, 1×9), and retro tech (coaster brakes, rigid forks) so it’s really no surprise that some are attempting to bring the fixed gear to mountain biking. To me this is a really exciting time and I’m stoked to see which MTB innovations (or retrovations, if that’s a word) end up sticking in the long term.

If you’ve got a fixed gear mountain bike we’d love to hear about it – send us pics or post a comment!

Via CycleSnack.