If you seek cycling in its purest form, look no further than the fixed-gear bike. No gears, no freewheeling, and (sometimes) no brakes — just rider and bicycle completely synced. Pedal forward, the bike goes forward; pedal backward, the bike goes backward. This simple design dates back to the late 19th century but continues to enjoy a cult following in the bike world — and even pop culture, occasionally (we're looking at you, Premium Rush). Indeed, the humble fixed gear remains a vital part of urban cycling, with track bike meccas like San Francisco and New York pushing the envelope and getting more and more riders on fixies.
While a fixed-gear isn't the most common bike around, if you know what to look for — namely, a single cog in the back and endless pedaling — you'll start to see them everywhere. You can catch athletes riding fixies on the track in the Summer Olympics, racing laps around a banked oval at speeds rarely seen on two wheels. You'll see messenger bag-toting couriers marauding through city streets, weaving in and out of traffic to deliver parcels on time. There are clandestine alley cat races, sanctioned criteriums, off-road tracklocross races, skid competitions and trick contests all over the world that keep the fixie community thriving. Just look up the Red Hook Crit or Mission Crit or Tracklocross Nationals to see some of the craziest people on bikes doing their thing, and doing it fast.
But fixed-gear bicycles aren't just for Olympic athletes, pro cyclists and psycho bike messengers. A fixie leaves no movement wasted — all of the power pressed to the pedals is transferred directly to the wheels. Thanks to this efficiency, fixies make for an exciting commuter or even a quad-burning training alternative to a normal road bike. Once you get the hang of it, they're just plain fun. Of course, everyone is different and so is every fixed gear. Just like with bikes in other categories, it is important to determine what style of ride you're looking for and what price point you want before buying. That's what we're here for — and here are the best fixies you can buy.
Best Overall Fixed Gear Bike
State has made its name with good-looking, durable builds and some of the coolest collabs in the industry, including The Notorious B.I.G. and The Grateful Dead. When buying a State, you can spend a lot or a little, but when it comes to all-around excellence at a great price, look to the 4130 to meet your fixed-gear needs. It owes its name to the double-butted 4130 Chromoly steel used in the frame and takes its cues from race bikes without being overly aggressive.
The latest edition features internal cable routing and minimal branding for a clean, streamlined look, but what sets this bike, and many State bikes, apart is the ability to customize. You can fine-tune a number of components — including the handlebars, pedals and saddle — before you even order. Doing so ensures the bike is exactly how you want it right out of the box, saving you the headache of constant upgrading — though you'll probably want to anyway.
Best Upgrade Fixed Gear Bike
Minneapolis-based All-City is one of the most fun bike brands around. It's not uncommon to see #partybrand tagged on Instagram posts with an All-City in the frame. This mentality reflects the brand's dedication to having a good time and making sure everyone feels worthy of a ride, no matter who they are and how they identify. But just because its people like to party does not mean they don't understand quality — they make some of the best production steel frames you can buy.
One standout is the Big Block, the brand's street-focused fixie. Its geometry is a little more relaxed than what you'd find on a track bike, making it more comfortable for long rides and more versatile for day-to-day use. Thanks to its hardy frame, you can feel comfortable adding a rack to the front or the back and drape any number of bags on the handlebars, under the top tube or under the saddle. It comes with a reliable Cane Creek 40 headset and features All-City's excellent crankset, which is often used by cyclists who build up their own fixies from scratch.
Best Value Fixed Gear Bike
This shockingly affordable option takes its looks from the track and the street. The biggest difference from the other bikes here is that this one is made from aluminum as opposed to steel. This material not only saves weight — the 6KU weighs in at 18 to 22 pounds, depending on size — but it also allows for the frame shape to be more aggressive and sleek looking without necessarily being painful to ride.
This bike definitely takes things up a notch look-wise, too. The deep-walled wheels bring the bikes of the track to mind, but they aren't so deep that you'll be blowing in the wind. (Pro tip: when buying spare inner tubes, make sure to get extra-long valves.) The riser handlebars are also fitted with comfy Oury grips, which bring a retro vibe while still being incredibly modern and functional.
Best Belt Drive Fixed Gear Bike
The Ace of Spades does something few fixies can: take the guesswork out of chain tension. See, chains stretch over time, causing a sag in tension and forcing you to fiddle with the wheel position from time to time; if it's too loose, you lose that smooth power transfer that makes fixies so fast and fun. But instead of a chain, this bike boasts something you'll find on every Priority bike: a Gates Carbon Drive belt. It will never stretch (or rust, or break, or need lube) so you always have perfect tension and maximum energy return with every pedal stroke.
Another thing we love about the Ace is just how damn good it looks. Black almost always suits a steel frame and the white dip on the fork and seat and chainstays adds a nice touch. The 22-pound alloy/carbon fiber machine is also ready for a rack and panniers, which is not common with fixed gear bikes but an excellent upgrade whether you're commuting or toting a picnic to the park. Note: you do need one more component — a 20t CDX Fixed Gear Sprocket ($80) — to ride this bike fixed, but in our experience it's totally worth it.
Most Stylish Fixed Gear Bike
If you've been out riding around, odds are pretty high you've seen an SE Lager or two in your time. This bike is quite popular and not just because it is affordable. Historically a standout BMX brand, SE values undeniable style, and the Lager is no exception. The two colorways (black frame, blue wheels and blue frame, yellow wheels) manage to not look cheap, which tends to happen when a brand throws too much color on a bike.
Finish it off with some alloy cranks and brakes, a flip-flop hub and Freedom ThickSlick tires, and you've got a beautiful bike that rides like a dream. The complete Hi-Ten steel build comes in at 26 pounds, which isn't light, but when you're riding a fixie, weight doesn't matter too much. The Lager is also weather-ready; it has fender mounts that will come in handy when things get wet.
Most Colorful Fixed Gear Bike
If you want a wallet-friendly fixie that still looks great and rides easy, check out the Retrospec Harper. Made for cruising and commuting through the city, the Harper is as simple and low-maintenance as a fixie can get, but that doesn't mean it is boring. The geometry is solid, and Retrospec eschews gaudy branding for an understated typeface that looks sharp on the steel tubing. Where the personality really comes through is in the colors, as there are nearly a dozen options.
Like many of the bikes here — but unlike a number of more focused fixies — the Harper comes with a flip-flop hub. There are two cogs in the back, one fixed and one freewheel, so you can choose between riding fixed or single-speed by just flipping the back wheel around. Switching out of fixed-gear mode can be a welcome respite for your legs and your mind, and it's handy if a fixie-averse friend needs to borrow your ride.
Best Tracklocross Frame
In Northern California, and all over the world, a select group of fixie enthusiasts prep their bikes for a cyclocross race like no other — Tracklocross. This kind of racing — which involves putting wide tires on a track bike and taking it off road — inspired our final pick here. This recommendation is different than the others because it is solely a frame, but for the more serious fixed gear rider, that makes it an exciting opportunity to build a bike that is 100 percent unique to you.
The SO-EZ from Sacramento-based Squid Bikes is one of the funkiest frames you can buy. It's like a cyclocross course and a velodrome got together and made the perfect bike to conquer them both (but mostly the former). Loaded with Squid's love for fixie culture and cyclocross racing, this frame is designed to be ridden fixed, and only fixed, but with big, knobby cyclocross tires that can go off-road. Even cooler? For an extra $136 you can choose between a number of styles and colors to have the frame and fork custom painted. This makes any SO-EZ a 1 of 1, the only of its kind.