Choosing the Right Bike

The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright, or safety bicycle, has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. But many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling. Bicycles can be categorized in different ways: such as by function, by number of riders, by general construction, by gearing or by means of propulsion. The more common types include utility bicycles, mountain bicycles, racing bicycles, touring bicycles,hybrid bicycles, cruiser bicycles, and BMX Bikes. Less common are tandems, lowriders, tall bikes, fixed gear,folding models, amphibious bicycles and recumbents. Unicycles, tricycles and quadracycles are not strictly bicycles, as they have respectively one, three and four wheels, but are often referred to informally as “bikes”

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Road Bikes

Specialized Racing Bike in White

These bikes have a fine frame, thin tires, a short wheelbase and drop or flat handlebars. They are light and designed for speed but not as strong structurally as a mountain bike. They won’t stand up to any off road work and are only meant for use on superior surfaces like paved streets. If you have plans to enter triathlons, charity rides or commute to work over tarmac these are ideal. Road bikes come in various sizes for all sizes of riders. Chatting with your local bike shop and using a frame sizing chart or bike size calculator will help you figure out what size road bike to get.

Touring Bikes

A tricross Bike

Touring bikes are good for long distances and for carrying cargo. They have a bigger frame triangle and are structurally stronger than road bikes. They still have the drop handlebars and more gears than a simple road bike. The lower gears are particularly useful when you’re trying to move a load up hills. Touring bikes use the same frame sizing as road bikes.

Mountain Bikes and BMX Bikes

A black mountain Bike

A mountain bike or mountain bicycle (abbreviated MTB) is a bicycle created for off-road cycling. This activity includes traversing of rocks and washouts, and steep declines, on dirt trails, logging roads, and other unpaved environments—activities usually called mountain biking. These bicycles need to be able to withstand the stresses of off-road use with obstacles such as logs and rocks.

Wheels used on mountain bikes usually use wide, knobby tires for good traction on uneven terrain and shock absorption. Since the mid-1990s, front wheel suspension has become the norm and since the late 1990s, full front and rear suspension has become increasingly common. Some mountain bikes are also fitted with bar ends on the handlebars to give extra leverage for hill-climbing.

Mountain bikes are generally top sellers for most bike shops because they are comfortable for cyclists to sit on, cheaper than road bikes and have a certain amount of status appeal of the extreme variety – attractive even if that’s not what you’re planning to use them for. In fact most mountain bikes are rarely used for what they are designed for. The wide tires and suspension absorb shock, making for a more stable ride and a bike that can handle rugged terrain without falling apart. While they are not as fast as road bikes they do have a wider range of gears suitable for climbing. If you plan to do more on road riding than off, or a combination, you can put on slick tires that are better suited to asphalt or bitumen. Mountain bikes are also very good as touring bikes although you can’t pack gear around the suspension so it can limit what or how you carry gear. Do be aware also that if you are not using the mountain bike intentionally for what it was designed you are really paying for unnecessary features.

Hybrids and Comfort Bicycles

A Black Mongoose Crossway Cycle

Think of a cross between a road and a mountain bike and you basically have your hybrid. Hybrids also combine the best features of both bikes. They make for very good riding on shorter paved rides. They have slimmer frames than mountain bikes and narrower tires but slightly raised handlebars for a comfortable upright position. They do perform better on road and are generally used for leisure or commuting.

They are generally a little more comfortable and stable than road bikes but not as fast and don’t have as high a gear range as a mountain bike. Hybrids and comfort bikes use either road bike sizing or mountain bike sizing, depending on the manufacturer and style of bike.

Cruisers

Blue ladies beach cruiser bike

These old style bikes are the easy ride of the bike world. They are commonly used for shopping, going to the beach or a general amble. They have wide tires and seats and usually just one gear, which means they are best used on flat terrain. They also have upright handlebars that enable a good viewing position of the world around you.

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