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New to cycling? - An overview of the different types of bicycles

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The type of cycle owned really does add to the overall experience of cycling. Having the “right” bike can make you motivated, passionate and wanting to get out there and ride your bike. Owning the “wrong” type of bicycle is likely to have the opposite effect and you will not enjoy riding it. There are many different types, models and manufacturers of cycles, so buying one can be quite confusing. The main types of cycle include;

Road racer

A road racer, as its name suggests is a cycle that is designed purely for road use. The road racer has a lightweight frame that is small, agile and built for speed. The handle bars are dropped, like the horns of a bull, allowing the cyclist to become aerodynamic and reduce wind drag. The riding position of a road racer is sporty, and many people consider this uncomfortable. The road racer does allow the rider to sit upright with the hands on the flat part of the handle bars, although this is still cramped compared to the riding position of other types of cycles. The road racer has thin and lightweight wheels that are loaded up with exceptionally thin, slick tyres. All these features of a road racer result in a very quick cycle. If you want to go long distances quickly and most effortlessly the road racer is the way to go.

The light weight construction of the road racer means it is quite vulnerable to damage and must be treated with care and looked after. A road racer should never be taken off road as this will end up in several punctures, if it doesn’t wreck the frame and components. The road racer is a sensitive cycle and the smallest bump or pot hole in the road may cause a component to move ever so slightly, which will affect the performance of the cycle. Because of this road racers require a lot of maintenance and looking after to keep them working as they should do. Don’t let the strict maintenance plan dissuade you from buying a road racer as there are plenty of useful manuals around and working on your cycle is all part and parcel of owning a cycle.

 Mountain bike

A mountain bike is primarily an off road cycle that is suitable for trails, fire roads, mud and dirt etc. etc. The frame of a mountain bike is thick, strong, durable making it ideal for the rigours of off road cycling. The mountain bike has strong, steel wheels that are loaded with thick and wide tyres which have a deep tread. The thickness of the tyres stops stones, rocks, thorns and other pieces of sharp debris from piercing the tyre and puncturing it. The deep tread of the tyres are ideal for riding through dirt, sand and mud.

The handle bars of the mountain bike are flat and wide, which makes it easier to control and very manoeuvrable. Most mountain bikes have front suspension, which makes riding over rough ground much smoother. The front suspension on more expensive brands of mountain bikes is fully adjustable for the ultimate in performance. Some mountain bikes offer full suspension, i.e. both front and rear, but this is really only suitable for extreme off road riding. Full suspension really requires a lot of energy so it is no good for distance riding. The riding position of the mountain bike is up right, which puts the rider in full control over rough off road terrain.

One of the biggest disadvantages of mountain bikes is that the sheer bulk, weight and size makes them slow, cumbersome and hard work when riding for any length of time. Compared to a road racer mountain bikes are exceptionally slow but this is to be expected. Mountain bikes can be used on road, however they are hard work so if road riding is your passion you would be best advised to stick to a more road orientated cycle.

Cyclo cross

At first glance a cyclo cross bike could be confused with a road racer. With a frame that is lighter than a mountain bike but heavier than a road racer, the cyclo cross is medium weight. A cyclo cross is designed for a specific type of race, i.e. a cross race, which contains both road and off road sections. The off road sections are not too extreme and usually consist of grassy tracks, shale lanes or fire roads. As a result of this type of terrain the frame of a cyclo cross has to be more durable than that of a road racer but it must also be as light weight as possible, hence why it is not as sturdy as that of a mountain bike.

The wheels of a cyclo cross are in between those of a road racer and a mountain bike. The wheels are strong enough to deal with the off road sections but still light weight. The wheels are combined with some lightly treaded tyres that are thicker than those of a road racer, but nowhere near as thick as those of a mountain bike.

Like the handle bars of a road racer the handle bars of a cyclo cross are dropped, however they are not as cramped as that of a road racer. The drop handle bars allow the cyclist to get down low and become aero dynamic on the road sections, but also allow more control over the off road sections.

If you like to ride on the road but also like the occasional light off road ride a cyclo cross is the ideal cycle to have. Similarly, if the roads you ride on are rough, bumpy and full of pot holes, and generally in a bad state a cyclo cross is ideal.

Hybrid

A hybrid cycle is a road cycle that is less extreme than the road racer. Compared to a mountain bike and a cyclo cross, a hybrid will have a light weight frame but compared to the road racer it will be heavy and cumbersome. A hybrid has a large frame which allows the use of luggage racks and panniers, making it an ideal cycle for the commuter or traveller.

The hybrid has light weight wheels loaded with very thin tyres, just like the racer, making it ideal for cycling long distances with as little effort as possible. Because of the wheels and tyres a hybrid cycle is not suitable for any off road riding, regardless of how light the terrain is.

The riding position of a hybrid is more of a “sit up and beg” style, which makes it comfortable and ideal over long distances or extended periods of cycling.

If you ride purely on the roads, have the need for panniers and luggage, like to ride in comfort and do not have the need to travel extremely fast a hybrid cycle may well be the best bike for you.

BMX

The BMX is a small cycle that was designed to perform stunts. The BMX is a popular children’s bike where it is not used for any distance riding. In the adult world, the BMX is left well alone. The frame of a BMX is so very small it cannot be ridden for any distance. The hard plastic seat of a BMX is exceptionally uncomfortable and the single gear makes it totally impractical for normal riding. Adults that purchase a BMX will use it solely for stunt riding, so unless this is your passion a BMX is not worth considering. 


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