Professional reviewers haven't caught on to the single-speed road bike category yet. Still, these stripped-down road bikes are a top choice for commuters who don't have far to go and don't encounter hilly terrain; they're simple and easy to maintain without worrying about cables or derailleur issues.
While many single-speed models come as fixed-gear bikes, the most popular among new riders have flip-flop rear hubs that allow you to switch between a fixed gear, where the pedals are always moving in conjunction with the rear wheel, and a freewheel that allows you to coast when not pedaling. Keep in mind that these bikes were originally designed for track-racing where brakes are an option. Even with their move into the urban commuting market, many have only a single front or rear hand brake, if any.
Many single-gear "fixie" riders are diehard fans because the bikes have unlimited potential for customization and modification. Many owners begin with a less expensive model like those we cover and upgrade gradually with lighter wheels, better tires and more comfortable seats.
The steel-framed Critical Cycles Single Speed Road Bike (*Est. $200) gets our nod for receiving extremely positive customer feedback at a variety of websites, including Amazon.com where it's consistently the No. 2 seller behind the Takara Kabuto Single Speed Road Bike (*Est. $200). Besides Amazon.com, this highly rated bike can be ordered directly only from Critical Cycles. The company says without middlemen dealerships, it can keep the price of the bike low even though it has much better individual components than on any bike in this price range. Customers also rave about the choice of 10 color combinations.
While the steel-framed Takara Kabutois a top seller and our second choice in this category, customers report problems with the brakes and stock inner tubes. However, BestRoadBikeReviews.org says its basic components are sound and consumers find the bike a good start for future upgrades. Other reviewers agree that the bike excels on flat terrain.