9 Types of Bicycles: A Perfect Pick for Every Pedaler
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Not long ago there were only a couple of types of bikes: road bikes and mountain bikes. And then things changed dramatically and there are, depending on how you classify them, almost a dozen types to choose from.
Road bikes are very common that many people use simple to get from point A to point B, but they are also used for racing whether professional or recreational. Road bikes can be made from several types of material with aluminum and carbon fiber being the most popular. In their early years, constructing a road bike that was light was a huge undertaking. However, a good quality carbon fibre bike can now be made so light that it doesn't qualify for professional races forcing many riders to add extra weight for competitions.
Road bikes are comfortable enough for long rides, but also offer an aerodynamic position for the rider so as to reduce wind resistance. They have tires that are usually 700 X 23, which are are low resistance allowing for fast rides. Depending on the type of rims used a rider can also choose to install tubeless tires which will offer an even faster ride. A road bike will have the typical drop bars which allow the rider to always have their hands near the brakes. Most road bikes now also have the brake and gear levers combined into one allowing the rider to shift using the same lever and without having to take their hands off the handlebars.
As the name implies, mountain bikes are designed to go off-road. They have thicker tires, stronger wheels, and require the rider be more upright than bikes designed for speed. They also have straight handlebars. They almost always have front shocks and may also have rear shocks. When they have both front and back suspension they are referred to as full suspension. Those with front shocks only are referred to as hard-tails.
There is a large variety of mountain bikes available. Some are designed for downhill racing, others for uphill, and others for a combination. The shocks allow for the wheels to stay in contact with the ground as much as possible and, therefore, increase traction. You will also notice a larger clearance from the ground to the drive chain which is necessary since the rider will be going over objects. Most mountain bikes now come with disc brakes, either hydraulic- or cable-based. Usually the frame will not be made of carbon fibre because of its brittleness under severe stress. Many casual riders prefer mountain bikes simply because of their comfort from shocks.
These bikes are closely related to road bikes. However, there is one important differences to note: they are designed to significantly reduce wind resistance. This is accomplished by having a more vertical seat tube which allows the rider to lean forward more without changing the angle of the hip. Also, aerobars are used so a rider can rest his or her elbows and be lower on the bike. To further improve things, many aerobar styles can accommodate gear levers at the ends so a rider can change gears without having to change position. However, the brakes are still located on the handle bars. Triathlon bikes are not comfortable enough to ride over long distances particularly for the average recreational rider.
Note: Triathlon bikes are not permitted in road bike races because in road races drafting is allowed, and not having the hands on the brakes can easily result in a crash. Whereas in triathlons riders have a greater distance between them and are less likely to need to brake suddenly.
Hybrid Bikes a.k.a. City Bikes
A hybrid bike sits between a road bike and a mountain bike. They are usually designed for the weekend casual rider. They usually have straight handle bars, thicker and knobbier tires, stronger wheels, and are more comfortable. They also have ‘easier' gears, almost always 3 chain rings at the front, and large rings on the back. The new term for hybrids is city bikes.
Designed to be comfortable over long distances; touring bikes usually look like road bikes but they are a bit more upright. They may also have slightly wider handlebars; gear levers at the end of the drop bars; a more comfortable seat; possibly thicker tires; the wheels will have more spokes for added strength to cope with the weight of luggage; and they usually also support proper pannier and bike racks. Be aware that touring bikes are slower than road bikes, but they have ‘easier' gears.
These are road bikes that have been modified for off-road riding. They will have thicker and knobbier tires, a triple gearing system as opposed to a compact (often used on road and triathlon bikes), and usually disc brakes, either hydraulic or cable. Usually the frame will not be made of carbon fiber because of its brittleness under severe stress. They do not have shocks.
Single Gear Bikes
Once used for track racing only, single gear bikes then became popular with bike couriers. Over the years they have grown in popularity with every day riders. There are two categories: fixed gear often referred to as a fixie and freewheel.
Fixed gear implies that you cannot coast, your feet must always be moving. If you try to stop pedaling the bike will slow down. In fact, hard core fixed gear riders will avoid having wheel brakes and only use this system to brake. However, most places have laws that forbid bikes from being ridden unless they have both front and back wheel brakes.
Freewheel single gear bikes are only slightly different in that they can coast. That is, there is no braking system from the pedals or cassette. Braking is done the traditional way. The attraction of these bikes is their simplicity i.e. there is very little to maintain and clean. Most people would argue that they are harder to ride, but if you find the right gear ratio for where you ride they can be quite enjoyable. Plus, there is no rear derailleur and no jockeys for the chain to wrap around, less chain material, and the chain is always aligned, which results in more force from your legs going straight into moving the bike.
Recumbent bikes are, arguably, the most comfortable because you are literally sitting on a regular chair with no legs. Your legs are in front of you and the handles are down by the sides of your hips or just in front of you. The main drawback with recumbent bikes is visibility due to their low profile. Because they are lower to the ground most riders will install flags at the back to make themselves more visible. As long as you are on a flat surface you should be able to achieve a good speed, but going up hill can be problematic as you cannot use your body weight to increase leg power. However, these bikes do have regular gears which can help when climbing. Sometimes these bikes come with 2 front wheels instead of just one for added stability.
Tandem bikes are designed to carry 2 adults with one rider in the front and one at the back. There are two sets of pedals both of which add power to the drive train. The wheels need to be stronger with more spokes and the chain mechanisms are more complicated. Only the front rider has controls, which means the rear gear cable and the rear brake cable will need to be longer than usual. The main drawback for these bikes is the second rider has no control and a poor view.
There are some more specialty bikes not mentioned here such as unicycles and tricycles, but I'll leave those for another day.