At Critical Cycles, we’re passionate about fixed-gear bikes. Accordingly, we strive to educate our customers as much as possible about everything fixie-related. One common misconception about fixie bikes is that they’re the same as track bikes. While track bikes are also technically fixed-gear and offer many of the same riding benefits as a standard fixie, there are some key differences. For starters, track bikes are designed for racing on a velodrome, or bike track, while fixies are optimized for regular recreational and commuter bike use. Though both track bikes and fixies operate fixed, our fixies have a flip-flop hub with a freewheel, so riders can decide whether they want to ride fixed or single-speed. There are a number of structural differences in these two types of bikes that correspond to the intended use of each.
The most obvious difference between fixie bikes and track bikes is that track bikes are brakeless. On a bike track, everyone is moving in the same direction, so brakes are not needed. Interestingly, brakes are actually considered a safety hazard in velodrome bike racing. Without brakes, everyone stops at about the same rate; brakes add a dangerous variability. While you can remove the brakes from your Critical Cyles fixie, it’s definitely not recommended. It’s also important to note that removing the brakes alone doesn’t change a fixie into a track bike.
Track bikes are also engineered slightly differently in order to make them more aerodynamic and more efficient at hard sprinting. The fork blades are circular, rather than oval-shaped, which makes them more rigid against the heavy side loads that biking out-of-the-saddle puts on the fork blades in a race. The more upright angles of track bikes’ frames increase the maneuverability while maintaining stiffness. This stiffness means that track bikes are less capable than fixies of handling hazards like bumps, which are more often found on roads rather than tracks.
Track bikes have the tightest possible tire clearance, so your choice of tires on this bike is limited to the narrowest types available, whereas fixies can accommodate a much broader tire size. Track bikes are also not designed to be used outside of the controlled arena of a velodrome and, as such, can’t have the quick release wheels or fenders that fixies can. This can translate into trouble if you get a flat tire. It’s much more difficult to fix a flat if you can’t remove the wheel. Rough weather conditions are also a cause for concern, since fenders protect a bike’s rider from backsplash.
What to Ride
While you can technically ride a track bike on the road, it’s not what they were designed for. If you are debating between track bikes and fixie bikes, it’s important to know that a regular fixie is much safer for commuters and recreational cyclists. Track bikes are better left to professionals. If you’ve made up your mind about a fixed-gear, check out our fixies, available with both BMX handlebars as well as Pista handlebars.