In the world of fixed gear bikes, there is an ongoing debate whether to have brakes or ride brakeless. Most long time fixies say only posers or trend-riders go with brakes because they have no idea how to ride or control their bike. On the other hand, if you are new to the sport, having the ability to stop quickly will cut down on accidents and avoid potential hazards that only seasoned “fixies” can maneuver through.
Part of the problem of going brakeless is most people learned to ride a free-wheel bike which requires a brake as there is no possible way to stop easily. It has been ingrained into your psyche that a bicycle must have a brake. However, if you recall the bike you first learned to ride (possibly a tricycle) then you already know how to control a fixed gear mechanism. I know, it sounds really simplistic and silly, but think about it for a moment.
Now, if you are just converting to a fixed gear bike, you definitely need a brake – for your safety and those you share the road with. Yes, it’s a crutch, but a necessary one unless you want to end up on top of someone’s car or squished flat on the road. In fact, you should practice riding your “fixie” on a huge open parking lot where the chance of hitting a car or going off the road is mute. Practice making turns while pedaling, stopping with and without the brake, signaling turns, and emergency stops. It is important to protect yourself with riding experience prior to venturing out into the unknown world of streets and roads where cars pop out of nowhere and animals love to jump out in front of you.
Once you are ready for the open road, keep that brake on your fixed gear bike. I know it means looking like an amateur, but guess what? You are an amateur and need the security of the brake for a while. Once you feel comfortable with your fixed gear riding abilities and have practiced long and hard stopping without applying your brakes, you can choose to remove your brakes and enter into the realm of hard-core fixie!
The answer to Brake vs. Brakeless is simple – yes to having a brake if you are a newbie to fixed gear riding; yes to going brakeless when your abilities and confidence merit the advancement in your riding.
by Holy McBain via fixedbicyclegear.com