Fixed-Gear Bike Workout
Photo Credit: AndyArmstrong/Flickr.com
If you live in an urban area, chances are you’ve seen quite a few young people (with jeans that are probably too tight) riding around on bicycles that look like an incomplete 1970s Schwinn hobby project cobbled together for emergency transportation only. Actually, they’re supposed to look like that.
These bikes aren’t new, though their popularity has exploded as of late. What you’re looking at is a fixed-gear bike, commonly known as a “fixie.” What sets these bikes apart from their more familiar cousins is that these are stripped down to the most basic of elements: wheels, pedals, handlebars, a seat, and a frame. That’s about it.
Popular with bike messengers for years, these zen-like modes of transportation hark back to the earliest bikes that were direct-pedal driven. One size fits all without any shifting or any coasting. If the wheels are moving, the pedals are moving.
It’s this latter fact that makes riding a fixie such a raw form of exercise. The popularity of fixies may have exploded lately due to hipsters wanting to accessorize their messenger bags, while the health benefits excuse this most recent hipster trend. Without brakes and without the ability to coast (or free wheel) ride a fixie isn’t exactly like riding a bike. The rider is directly connected to the road with only their body to manipulate speed and direction. So before you go out and get yourself a fixed-gear bike, make sure you’re in good physical condition by using some of these fixed-gear bike workouts.
This fixed-bike workout will help you slow the hell down — pure and simple. At the most there is only a front wheel brake, but more often than not your fixie is not going to have brakes at all. The latter format of a fixed-gear bike is the hippest and without question the most dangerous. In either case, the only braking power comes from your body slowing the machine down. This is done using your quads and calves, which is why squats are so important.
How to perform this fixed-gear bike workout: Stand completely straight with your feet pointed forward and hip-width apart. While keeping your torso straight, slowly bend your knees and begin to lower your hips as if you were sitting down on an invisible chair behind you. Don’t let your knees go beyond your toes, and do not bend lower than 90 degrees. If your hamstrings are tight, you might want to consider starting your squat routine with a Swiss ball, up against a wall. Roll down the wall with your back resting against the ball lightly. If you want to increase your strength, try adding weight to your squat with a barbell. Without weight, aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. With weights aim for 4 sets of 5-6 reps. Squats work out your quads, hamstrings and calves together, which is an ideal fixed-gear bike workout.
Without all the extra gears, climbing is achieved solely through brute force — or glute force, depending on how you look at it. Anyone who has ridden a normal bike knows that they begin to shift gears when the burning starts on the backside. Now, imagine having no mechanical cop-out for the burn. It is absolutely vital that your glutes be in tip-top, almost hip-hop dancer shape.
How to perform this fixed-gear bike workout: A simple two-step application will get the job done. While lying on one side, extend your arm out and rest your head on that arm. Lift your top leg so that it is roughly four to five inches off the floor — about hip level. Bend your lifted leg at the knee, and bring it back toward your body. Extend the lifted leg back to straight, and lower your leg down. Do eight reps slowly and in control. Keep your abs tight and crook your lower leg for balance. Make sure you don’t rock your hips forward and back when you move your lifted leg. The key is to keep your body solid with your core and only work your glutes — you’ll feel the burn when this fixed-gear bike workout is performed correctly.
More fixed-gear bike workout tips coming right up…
Page 2: Fixed-Gear Bike Exercises
When coasting on a bike is not an option, balance is more complicated. Keeping your body stationary and coasting is a hallmark of regaining balance when a wobble is getting out of hand on a bike. Imagine your legs constantly churning and it quickly becomes obvious the rider is more part of the machine than in control of the machine. The lower body becomes nearly irrelevant to balance, and upper-body core strength becomes paramount.
Without core strength there is no balance, especially in a climb or descent. The simple push-up is a time-honored workout that will hone your body into the perfect fixie cog.
How to perform this fixed-gear bike workout: Lie face down on the floor and place your palms down, slightly more than shoulder’s width apart. With your feet together, press up with your arms until just before your elbows are locked. Keep your body flat to obtain maximum results — don’t let your bum pop up, and if you feel your lower back hurting, you’re probably sagging. Keeping your body straight requires that your core muscles are working in addition to the obvious arm and chest benefits. Repeat in sets of 10 with rest periods between. Without a strong core there’s no point in riding a fixie.
Increased lung capacity is a necessity when riding a fixie. Again, with the legs always churning and the body being responsible for braking, each rider is going to expel more energy than riding a normal bike. Casual riders comment on the burning coming on much sooner. Swimming, or exercising in water, is a great fixed-gear bike workout because it creates additional resistance and produces more impressive results.
How to perform this fixed-gear bike workout: A simple overarm or crawl stroke is effective — remember to keep your legs kicking close together. The crawl stroke is just that, a crawl. Act as though you are crawling through the water, kicking furiously. Every third to fifth stroke, depending on your current lung capacity, take a breath. Turn your head to the opposite side of the arm that is cutting through the water. Repeat as necessary for a full-body cardio workout.
If it seems like these are basic exercises, they are. The whole point of riding a fixie is to be close to the road, to break it down to basics and be part of the machine. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some core fundamentals to ensure a good time. You don’t have to be the next star bike messenger darting in and out of traffic, but you do want to avoid being the next hood ornament.