Monday, May 23, 2011

Bicycle Types - The Three Major Categories

 Depending on the type of riding you prefer there is a bicycle specially designed for that style. It can be said that there is not one bike that can do it all. Try taking a road bike down a mountain trail and you will not like the results. And although a downhill bike can certainly follow the trail of a road bike, it will not do so very effectively.

There are three major categories of bicycles, road, mountain, and hybrid. Each of these categories will have sub categories further defining a specialized role. And even then these sub categories can be broken down into different types as well. A good example of this would be a mountain bike in the all mountain sub category falling into one of two different types, full suspension or hard tail.

Road bikes are the easiest type of bicycle to explain. They are meant primarily for riding on hard paved surfaces. The frames are very lightweight and stiff. A stiff frame equates to a very responsive ride without the soft feel that you would feel in other types of frames. There will not be any suspension on a road bike. The tire will be very narrow and pumped to a high pressure of over 100psi.

The dropped handlebars put the rider into a riding position that is extremely effective in transferring the rider's energy through the drive train to the road. All of the characteristics of the road bike are for this reason, to transfer energy effectively. For example a suspension system would dampen some of that energy reducing the effectiveness.

Mountain bikes are much more complex to describe due to the many different types. Mountain bikes, often referred to as MTB's, will have several categories and sub categories. In general however MTB's share many common features.

MTB's will have large diameter frames for durability. Most frames today are made of aluminum for light weight. Carbon frames are available on more expensive bikes. The tires will be wide, in some instances over 2 inches, with a low air pressure of about 40psi.

The geometry of an MTB varies given the style of riding it was designed for, but like the road bike the geometry will be designed for efficiency in mind given the bikes purpose. A downhill racer will be much different than a cross country model. Almost every type of MTB will have some form of suspension which will vary again due to the particular style of riding the bike is meant for.

The hybrid category is best described as a cross between a road bike and an MTB. Designed for general purpose all around riding it can perform well in both on road and off road conditions. But there has to be some compensation therefore the hybrid will not equal the performance levels of a road bike or an MTB.

Similar in geometry to an MTB the hybrid puts the rider in an upright position. It will have thinner tires than an MTB, more similar to those of a road bike for better performance on paved surfaces. But for off road use the tires will be wider than those of a road bike. These features are what give the hybrid a wide range of riding situations but with some performance limitations. For an aspiring cyclist a hybrid can be a wise choice for general all purpose riding.

It is not uncommon for an avid cyclist to own more than one bike, different bikes for different rides. In some European countries it is normal for people to have four or five bicycles. In the U.S. two to three bikes is common among serious riders. Given the fact that no one bike can do it all, then perhaps if you can afford to do so owning more than one bike is a wise decision.

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