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Fixed wheel in winter, smooth in summer..?

02 February 2015

In the good old days most racing cyclists would ride a fixed-wheel bike for road training throughout the winter. They were certain that riding fixed in the off-season was ideal preparation for racing once Spring arrived. Mark Wyer looks at how it can be good for today’s youth riders too.

If your child is aged 13+ then there’s a good chance they will want to do some longer training rides in the winter months to build up their base fitness – perhaps taking part in club rides or with friends. If so, you may be considering a winter training bike and perhaps looking at a fixed-wheel option. {Ed. a bike with a single gear ratio and no freewheel mechanism – i.e. like a track bike. The rider turns the pedals 100% of the time that the bike is moving}

Fixed-wheel winter training can be an excellent way to develop good pedalling skills and a fast cadence. Of course, it also means owning another bike rather than using the summer race bike as a winter trainer too. If money and storage aren’t problems there can still be some disadvantages. The rider will find riding a fixed-wheel bike more tiring at first so this will take some time to get used to, requiring shorter training rides. Let’s make a more detailed comparison to enable you to decide if it’s worth making the switch:-

Advantages

  • A simpler and lighter bike that’s easier to maintain and keep clean.
  • Riding a fixed wheel helps to develop a smoother pedalling style.
  • It avoids pushing a big gear and develops the ability to spin quickly.
  • It can be easier to ride “on a wheel” in a group because there is more control over the bike’s speed through the pedals. That is, you can ease up by slowing your pedalling rather than touching your brakes.

Disadvantages

  • The rider needs to understand how to undo track nuts and refit the back wheel in the event of a puncture (and must carry the appropriate spanner).
  • It can be difficult to choose the right gear in a hilly area – not too high for climbing, and not too low for descending.
  • It can be difficult riding in a group on a fixed gear if the others are on freewheels, especially if the rider is inexperienced. Being able to keep up on a descent can be a problem, especially if using a low gear.

Too much hassle?

If you have decided that a fixed-gear bike is too much hassle then your child can replicate some of the training benefits:-

  • Make sure the gears fitted to their winter bike are no higher than the maximum for their age category.
  • Get them to build a low-gear, fast-pedalling section into their rides. This can be a great way to warm up in cold weather. They should concentrate on spinning as quickly as possible in a lower gear than normal. They will need to focus on not bouncing in the saddle, and should try to turn the pedals in smooth circles. Just start with ten minutes and gradually increase the time done over the following rides.

And if you don’t have enough space or money for a winter bike then it’s worth purchasing a set of training wheels for winter riding, saving the best wheels for racing.

These days sets of mudguards can be purchased even for racing frames without much wheel clearance. That helps avoid the bike (and the rider!) getting too dirty in bad weather on winter roads.

Your child should get used to cleaning their bike after every ride. However, it will probably still need stripping down for a thorough clean and rebuild before a summer season of racing.

Mark Wyer has worked in Cycle Coaching and Development for over 15 years. He currently works for British Cycling as a Go-Ride Coach in the Eastern Region and is a Level 3 Road and Time Trial Coach as well as holding various Level 2 awards. He is also a Regional Cyclo-Cross Commissaire, judges at races and regularly organises cycling events.

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1 response to:

Fixed wheel in winter, smooth in summer..?

  1. Alfie
    April 9, 2015

    I would love this but too much hassle were i live in the lake district

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