Brakes and singlespeeds!

Open rant /

So this afternoon I saw three different dudes riding singlespeeds with a front brake only. What the hell is with that? The reason you run a front brake on a fixed gear is because a rear is effectively redundant given your control over the back wheel. But what the fuck on a singlespeed? Often the dudes seem like average riders on shonky old conversions, so I can’t expect they can stop the things very effectively.

The only reason I can see is the aesthetics, or likely a misunderstanding about why fixed riders only use a front brake, or perhaps so that people will think their bike is fixed and they just try not to coast when people are looking. The argument about riding fixed brakeless is a completely different issue – it involves so much more about rideability, or riding a real undrilled track bike. Those same factors don’t go to the singlespeed issue – unless you are riding a track frame with a freewheel and road fork.

[To continue the rant] Another thing that pisses me off is dudes riding fucking shoddy old conversions brakeless. I’m all for an experienced rider on a brakeless track bike with foot retention – but that is because I know they can stop it and I understand their reasons for doing it. But I hate seeing these dudes on shoddy old road conversions with shithouse wheelsets and cheap parts and who can’t ride for shit (and who often don’t have foot retention). It’s terrifying.

/ Close rant


have often wondered this myself.

Well I think it comes down to simple aesthetics. A lot of people are drawn to the minimalism of a single brake, fixed gear, but dont have the confidence/skill to ride fixed (yet).

I went through the same stage and I now ride fixed with a front brake.

People can ride whatever they want to ride. No matter how much it grinds your goat. (is that even a saying? if not, it should be.)

i have occasionally ridden with ss and only a front brake but it’s always been a temporary thing before returning to fixed.

first time was when i thought my hub was fucked and didn’t want to put the hub under too much strain.
second time was after i fucked my knee and still had to get to work.
could never be arsed putting the back brake back on when only a temporary situation.


I always thought a front brake only on either a fixed or freewheeled bike looked kinda dumb.
If you’re going to run one, you may as well throw the other one on.
But these front braked only single speed riders, especially the ghetto conversion ones are called fauxies.


Excuse a noob here… but I read a number of forums, one discussion was over just this – braking. Not specifically for SS or fixed.

It was a bit of a tangent from the thread topic, so wasnt discussed much… just with a few guys agreeing that the front brake should be doing more of the work, vs. the rear. (so if you follow that line of reasoning, you could say that relying on a front only brake is logical if the rear is superfluous / doing less work anyway… ya?)

to copy and paste:

"Calipers on the front only is all you need and is what most people had.

But having two means redundancy just in case the front brake fails.

And in case you are wondering, Yes you can brake just as well with front brake only. Your front brake should be doing 90% of the work even if you run with 2 brakes.

The truth is braking is normally limitted by rotation about the front wheel. ie the rider going over the handle bars.

In good conditions the braking % of the rear wheel approaches 0 as braking approaches the maximum braking condition. Thus at maximum braking your rear braking is actually doing pretty much nothing.

In emergency braking situations I use ONLY my front brakes and I’m certainly not the only one to do this. Many experienced riders do this. It is next to impossible for a person to divide concentration across 2 brakes effectively to avoid skidding. I’d prefer to focus on the brake that will actually stop me.

Of course if im on a slippery/bumpy surface then I’m on two brakes."

Maybe I needed it explained to me in more physics-y terms, as I am more inclined that way, but i wasnt sure whether to trust his claims or not…

So. Discuss :stuck_out_tongue: I havent done any more research after reading their post… soo…

i saw a brutal crustie with a ghetto conversion only running a front brake. it took the attention from his shaved head/9 dreads out the back of his head though. so, cloud, silver lining etc.

in my opinion regardless of how often you may or may not use it, if i had no other way of stopping apart from a front brake i’d feel slightly vulnerable. if the front brake fails for whatever reason (i’m aware chances for this are very slim) i’d want a back up. on a fixed gear you still have your legs to slow yourself.

but see previous post, i have ridden ss without a rear brake. if i was to ride only ss i’d reinstall the rear brake.

how else would i do skidzzzzzz?? :smiley:

I know on motorbikes your front brake is your best, but I’m guessing the extra weight in the machine pushes down into the front wheel. I presumed bicycles might not be te same because of the lack of weight on them???

i don’t know anything about physics but i used to ride a cbr600 a few years back and know that braking on a motorbike feels much the same as a bicycle, albeit usually at a much slower speed. you pull the lever, the forward momentum all moves towards the front wheel and the weight of that momentum flattens out the contact patch of the tyre between the tyre and road.

i think the issue isn’t as much about the weight of the particular bike as it is the proportion/percentage of weight (however much it may be) going forward onto the front of the bike.

but like i said, i’m not too sure about the physics side of things, i’ve just read a few articles in motorbike mags about effective braking techniques and assume it would transfer to a bicycle in much the same way.

if i’m wrong, feel free to correct/further explain my theory.

diddy… I agree.

A couple of emergency braking scenarios… without going into the physics of braking forces etc. usually in an emergency people just yank the brakes.

Front brake on a fixed gear + legs to assist in braking rear wheel due to foot retention = stopping

Front brake on a fixed gear + legs of no use in braking rear wheel due to lack of foot retention = going over the bars
Front brake on a singlespeed + legs of no use in braking due to freewheel = going over the bars

I know which I would choose regardless of how hipster it looks. And, I have a “shoddy old road conversion with shithouse wheelset and cheap parts” but at least I run a front brake. :slight_smile:

on my ss street bike a 26" mtn bike i only ran a front brake it was a 7" hydo disc.
and on my xc race bike i run a 7"on the front and 6" on the rear and i will go through 2sets of pads in the front to one set in the rear about the same in all my bikes

rear brake = skidding into corners and skidz in general
front brake = stopping and racing single track and every thing else

How is running a rear brake only (brakeless fixed/coaster hub) better than running a ss with a front brake only?

if i was riding SS i would definitely have a rear brake, just in case. but i have to wonder, has anyone ever actually had a brake fail on them when they needed it? i’ve never heard of it hapenning before…

incidentally i spotted a guy on sydney rd last week riding a brakeless SS, also with no foot retention and what appeared to be leather-soled dress shoes. hmmm.

When you lock it up, you don’t go over the bars?

Also, the discussion is about road bikes in traffic, not mtb’s on singletrack.

Or stop that quickly.

I had an old 10 speed roadie that I was part way through restoration, but ridable. During one ride the little lever that allows you to move the pads apart to remove the wheel decided to shift into the more open position. I had a rear brake but it wasn’t stopping me very fast as i headed toward the Brisbane River. Got the bike onto some grass and managed to get it to slow down enough to avoid a dip. Probably my fault for bad maintenance / riding it before it was fully restored, but still, it was a case of front brake failure.

As for honking on the front brake and going over the handlebars, I’ve found mountain biking a great way to learn to throw your 4rse backwards to counteract the desire of the bike to throw you over the handlebars. I now found myself doing it subconsciously when braking on any of my bikes that hard.

This is fine and understandable if you’re running a flip-flop, and ordinarily ride fixed. But, for example, my GFs singlespeed also sports a very unused fixed cog and she runs two brakes – so if you ordinarily ride SS then it’s not the same.

Yes a skilled rider will be able to stop effectively with only a front. I guess my concern is for those who obviously aren’t skilled and seem to think it is all you need. And, in any case, you never see our top road cyclists running only a front brake.

Yeah, well I guess my goat-grinding criteria comes from aesthetic reasons for doing something over genuine ride-ability and enjoyment reasons (cf brakeless track bike argument). I suppose this goes back to a deeper anxiety I have about fixed gears as fashionable vs fixed gears as lots of fun.

Ha! great