Fixies are ridden by urban bicycle couriers (also known as bicycle messengers) around the world. They are generally found in the central business districts of large cities where getting around on a bicycle is faster than any other means of transportation because they don’t get stuck in traffic or need to find parking. Riding in traffic and under pressure all day, every day these men and women are some of the strongest and fittest cyclists you can find. They work their bikes very hard and if they had to ride bikes made of stuff like aluminum they would likely break them. The fixies these riders use have steel track frames modified with different wheels for street use. Because fixies don’t have gears and some don’t have brakes either, they’re very simple machines- meaning there is very little to go wrong with them.
Some couriers and other fixie fans buy and sell frames and make up their bikes the way they want them, but most riders keep things pretty simple. People who love these bikes like to heighten their simple appearance by removing everything that isn’t essential, giving them a stark, clean look. Some couriers go a little too far in their quest for lightweight simple machines and even remove the brakes.
Except for this small niche of riders (bicycle couriers), responsible owners of fixed gear bikes should have them outfitted with both front and rear brakes at least until they learn to skid stop, at which point they should still keep at least a front brake. There is no excuse for putting yourself and the public at risk just to be “cool”.