Penny Farthing

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of bicycles and what their individual specialties are? To someone who has never ridden different types of bikes they may all look the same. The reality is that the bikes used in road racing are great for what they do, but they are not mountain bikes. Mountain bikes make terrible road racing bikes. Then there are beach cruisers and touring bikes with very different abilities from the others.

Most of us cannot justify having three or four different bikes for different purposes. We would like to choose one bike to do everything we need. But how do you know which bike is for you? Read through the descriptions of the different types of bicycles to determine which is best for your needs.

Road Bike

The type of bike that is used in the popular bike race Le Tour de France are road racing bikes. You don't have to be doing a multi-week stage race to benefit from a road bike. Road bikes are the fastest type of bike. These have the rider leaning forward allowing him a good power position while cutting down on wind resistance. Road bikes have the narrowest tires of the different bicycle types which help eliminate friction on the road.

Road bikes are good for commuting to and from work. Any time you have nothing to carry but yourself is a great time to have a road bike. The biggest advantages of a road bike include fast speed and lack of rolling resistance. For exercise purposes, a road bike is your best choice.

Road bikes have disadvantages though. Because you lean over to ride, carrying a backpack or messenger bag becomes cumbersome. With the narrower tires, the rider has to be more careful when cornering since there is not as much surface contact between the tires and the road. You are able to crash riding any type of bike, but with a road bike a crash is likely to be at a higher speed.

Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes don't have to be ridden on a mountain to be enjoyed. If you could only choose one bike and never planned to do anything specific with your riding, except maybe mountain biking, then this type of bike may be the best choice. These bikes usually have strong frames designed for the ruggedness of downhill mountain biking. They have wider tires which provide good traction with the road surface, but also have more rolling resistance.

As a commuter, mountain bikes are a fair choice. It is easier to carry a backpack because of the more upright riding position. Mountain bikes have lower gears than a road bike. This means that they won't go as fast as a road bike, but are super easy to pedal when climbing a hill or mountain.

If you are interested in bicycle touring, a mountain bike with narrower wheels a better choice than a road bike. It is easier to put a rack on a mountain bike that will hold your gear as you travel. Yet there is an even better choice for bike touring-the touring bike.

Beach Cruiser

You don't have to live near the ocean to ride a beach cruiser. This type of bike has the rider sitting much more upright with no forward lean. Typically they are a single speed bike, though some may have a few gears. If you are more interested in comfort than you are speed or flexibility, then this is the bike for you.

Beach cruisers are popular around the world as a simple bike that will get you from one side of town to the other. You won't get there fast, but because of the simplicity of construction and lack of gears, you are more likely to get there without any problems.

Did I mention comfortable? Beach cruisers usually have "balloon tires." These are large and soft. They are like driving a luxury car. They won't be the fastest ride because of the very high rolling resistance, but you won't care because you aren't in a hurry to get off the beast.

Beach cruisers make a good commuter bike if you are not in a hurry. Because you sit upright it is easy to carry a backpack. The nature of the bike tends to make you want to slow down which will help you be less sweaty by the time you get to where you are going.

Touring Bike

As the name implies, a touring bike is specifically made for long distance touring. While a mountain bike has a strong frame, a touring bike often will have a stronger one. Touring bikes are made with the thought that it will be carrying a lot of weight. The wheels will have more spokes and/or thicker spokes than an average bike.

A touring bike has wider tires than a road bike, but narrower than a mountain bike. This gives more stability and control than a road bike's tires, yet strikes a good compromise with lowered rolling resistance. Touring bikes are usually geared more like a mountain bike than a road bike. This helps you pull the hills while loaded down with your touring equipment.

You don't sit up as straight on a touring bike as you do a beach cruiser, but you are more upright than a road bike. Since a touring bike is made to have racks and saddle bags (panniers) there is really not a need to carry a backpack or messenger bag when using this bike as it is intended.

A touring bike is an excellent commuter bike, especially when you need to carry a few items with you. Panniers and racks come in all shapes and sizes to carry most of the items one would need when getting around town.

Which Type of Bike is for You?

The choice of which bike is best for you can be made from the information above. It would be hard to say that there is any one bike that is best in all situations. Probably the two most versatile types would be the mountain bike and the touring bike.

A good bike is a beautiful thing to ride. Beware of department store bikes that entice you with a cheaper price. These were assembled in a factory and sold with no adjustments made before the sale. A department store bike usually can be made to work well, though they are heavier and come with very few features, like upgradeable components and fenders. Taking the time to look around in different bike shops and getting personal attention from a store employee is time well spent.

When you are in the bike shop you will see variations on these broad bicycle categories. There are other types of bikes that were not even mentioned above. There are recumbent bikes, BMX and fixed gear bikes.

Don't be afraid to buy last year's model if you find one you like. The changes from one year to the next is often cosmetic (though not always). You might also be very satisfied by purchasing a used bike to ride while you figure out the type of riding you would do most.

What type of bike do you ride? What kind of bike, or bikes, would you choose if given the option to get any bike available? Sign up for Info Barrel and leave a comment below. Or write an article and tell us all about it.