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Introduction to Types of Bicycles

Almost any bicycle will work for your commuting needs. People travel to work on mountain bicycles, road bicycles, hybrids, fixed gears, recumbents, folding bicycles, and even fat-tired cruisers. However, for most commuters, three bicycle types seem most popular: mountain bicycles, road bicycles, or hybrids (often called commuter, city, or comfort bicycles).

Enter a bicycle shop and you mike quickly become overwhelmed. There is a broad range of bicycle options, designed for all kinds of riding and prized as all levels. Having a basic understanding of bicycle types will make it easier to determine the bicycle that will work best for your daily use.

Mountain Bikes

Full Suspension Mountain Bicycle
Full Suspension Mountain Bicycle

Today the mountain bicycle is the most popular types of bicycle sold in America, and the most common bicycle used by commuters. Many riders have found all-terrain bicycles, ATBs, quite useful on-road as well - some road riders even prefer them to road bicycles. This is because mountain bicycles tend to be more comfortable than racing bicycles. Also, they are better able to handle roads that are not well paved or that have obstructions. Finally, the mountain bicycle rider's upright position is good for seeing and being seen in traffic. Sure, mountain bicycles are neither as fast or aerodynamic on the street as road bicycles - and they're not as well equipped or as comfortable on long rides as a touring bicycle - but for many riders, the mountain bicycle is the best choice for all-around riding.

Mountain Bicycle in Habitat
Mountain Bicycle in Habitat

Mountain bicycles are designed to keep the rider in control on rough and uneven terrain such as rocks, dirt, and twigs; they're also made to climb hills and withstand jumps. The best ATBs balance strength with comfort and light weight. Frames have a sturdier geometry, tending to be thicker and more compact than road bicycles. Shorter chain stays and a steeper seat angle put the rider's weight over the back wheel for traction and control, while a steeper head angle and large fork rake make for better handling and suspension. Some mountain bicycles have actual spring shocks for improved suspension.

Cannondale Mountain Bicycle
Cannondale Mountain Bicycle

Road Bicycles

Fast Road Bike
Fast Road Bike

Road bicycles are known by different names, most of which are not entirely accurate. Non-riders often call road bicycles ten speeds, though today's road bicycles may have up to thirty speeds. Then, of course, there are the old fashioned roadsters that have only one or three gears.

Typical Road Bike
Typical Road Bike

Road bicycles are also inaccurately labeled as racing bicycles because their drop handlebar design resemble bicycles used for racing. While it's true that most racing bicycles are road bicycles, some are not meant for the road. And not all road bicycles are good for racing. Sports bicycles, for instance, look like racing bicycles but are not made for competition.

Fast Road Bike
Another Fast Road Bike

What all road bicycles have in common is that they are drop-handlebar derailleur bicycles designed for paved surfaces only. Road bicycles also have large wheel and thin tires (how thin depends on the types of road bicycle), and they tend to be more lightweight than other bicycles (twenty-four pounds or less). Beyond these common characteristics, though, road bicycles for fast or long-distance commuting, racing, touring, staying in shape, or simply having fun.

Hybrid Bicycles

Hybrid bicycles (often known as city bicycles, commuters, or comfort bicycles) they offer a mix of features between mountain bicycles and road bicycles have become extremely popular in recent years. With less bulky tires and a thinner frame, they are faster and more aerodynamic on roads than mountain bicycles. And with a triple chain-ring, upright handlebars, and sturdy frame, hybrids can also take on mountains. Note, though, that the hybrid is neither as well suited to the road as road bicycles, nor as fit for off-road riding as a mountain bicycle. But for a compromise that offers more versatility, hybrids can't be beat. They are particularly appealing to bicycle commuters.

Hybrid Bike
Hybrid Bicycle Designed for Local Errands

Hybrid bicycles are essentially modified mountain bicycles. As mountain bicycles become more popular and people began to use them for street riding, attempts were made to iron out the mountain bicycle's shortcomings on the road. While the city retains the mountain bicycle's heavy-duty design and upright positioning, other characteristics have been changed to better suit the needs of city riders. For instance, fenders and chain-guards are often added to protect the clothes of commuters. And to make riders more upright and visible in traffic, hybrid bicycle handlebars are raised slightly higher than they would normally be on mountain bicycles.

Touring Bicycles

Designed to carry loads over long distances, touring bicycles are often a great choice for commuters who ride longer distances. Touring bicycles can often be identified by how they are equipped. They have mounts, or eyelets, used to attach baggage (called panniers), extra water bottles, or fenders, around the spray of wet, muddy roads. Thicker tires and heavier tubes protect the wheels and provide greater comfort through added suspension. Additional suspension comes from a longer wheelbase - the result of longer chain stays, a sloping fork rake, and a shallow head-tube angle (71-72 degrees).

Touring Bicycle
Typical Touring Bicycle

Without touring equipment such as racks and panniers loaded on, a touring bicycle would look a lot like a road bicycle. Drop handlebars are necessary on tourers to allow riders a variety of positions on long trips. (upright position is better for visibility in traffic, while the drop position is better for speed and allows position changes to prevent stiffness). And a triple chain-wheel makes for a wide range of gears, particularly very low gear, that allow easy pedalling on hills even when the bicycle is weighed down by bags and equipment. In exchange for greater comfort, strength, and pedalling ease, the touring bicycle has less speed and agility than a racer and usually weighs a bit more.

Touring Bicycle
Touring Bicycles Enduring the Rigours of Outdoors

Specific touring bicycles are designed to accommodate the different kinds of touring; from short rides to camping trips to cross country treks. Basic touring bicycles are made for short trips where less equipment and baggage is needed, while long-distance bicycles are better able to carry heavy loads in panniers and racks. Riders who plan to do any long-distance touring or bicycle camping should opt for the latter because even though it will weigh more and be more rigid, a heavy duty tourer allows the best range of possibilities for touring.

Touring Bicycle
Another Typical Touring Bicycle

Strictly speaking, any bicycle can be used to tour. But as any experienced bicycle tourist can attest, if you are going to put a bicycle through the rigours of long rides and heavy loads, you'll need a bicycle designed to handle the special needs of long-distance road riding. Good touring bicycles are designed to be comfortable, sturdy, and reliable. They should be strong enough to carry loads many time their own weights and efficient enough to handle the hills of country roads.

Cruiser Bicycles

For three decades in the mid-twentieth century, Schwinn was synonymous with bicycle in the mind of Americans. With comfortable, cushy wide tires, many with whitewalls, an upright seating position, long swept-back handlebars, maybe a spring front fork, plenty of chrome, and always a sturdy curvy frame, the cruiser is a classic. The cruiser was really popular in beach communities, and many associate the cruiser with surfing and sunshine, enhancing its cool factor.

Cruiser Bicycle
Typical Cruiser Bicycle

Today, many bicycle makers sell cruiser bicycles, which are popular among styles-conscious bicycle commuters who travel short distances. Cruisers are heavy, and they are all about comfort and style. The classic cruiser is a single speed, but today many cruisers come with multiple speeds. if your commute is short on flat terrain and you're less interested in speed, a cruiser might be the right commuter bicycle for you.

Folding Bicycles

Folding bicycles are popular with many commuters who combine transit and bicycling to make their trip; they arrive at the bus stop or train station, fold the bicycle, and board. Folders are also for commuters who lack secure bicycle parking at their workplace. They simply fold it and store in inside.

Folding Bicycle
Folding Bike in Transit Position

The main benefit of a folding bicycle is its ease of transport. Commuters can simply bring their folded bicycles into the office and store them in a closet. Folders are also very convenient on planes, where checking a full-size bicycle can be expensive. Some are even small enough to fit in suitcases.

Electric Folding Bicycle
Electric Folding Bicycles are Very Fast

Folding bicycles actually fold in half to make them very acceptable for riding on buses and trains. Here's a Folding bicycle that also doubles as a shopping cart. It has an extra small caster wheel that folds down below the large crank wheel in the middle when in cart mode to allow the bicycle to balance and carry many things. Check it out on this video.

Some folding bicycles require tools to disassemble, while others use levers and hinges that make them easier to collapse. Bikes that disassemble are generally stronger but can take up to 30 minutes to take apart.

Many folding bicycles have small wheels (sometimes only 12 inches tall) for storing, but their wheel size makes them less efficient than regular bicycles. Small wheels also provide less suspension and produce more friction, which can cause the rims to overheat. Folding bicycles with full-size wheel are available. While these offer better handling and more efficient pedalling. they don't fold as small.

Recumbent Bicycles

Recumbent Bicycle
Recumbent Bicycles are Relaxing

For bicycle commuters who might be uncomfortable riding upright, recumbent bicycles may be an option. Recumbent bicycles allow riders to pedal while lying back on a backrest (recumbent means lying down). Recumbent bicycles are typically foot powered, though certain designs use hand cranks instead of or in addition to foot pedals.

Electric Assist Bicycles

Electric Bicycle
Electric Bicycles Allow Exercise While Provding Extra Boost

These relatively new types of bicycles come in all the styles explained above. The electric motor is normally built in to the front or rear axle. The brushless motor is silent, adds power to your pedaling, and is powered by an attached rechargeablebatterythat has a range of 15 to 22 miles (24 to 35km).

Electric Bicycle Motor
Electric Bicycle Motor Integrated Into the Rear Wheel

An electric assist bike is great if your streets are hilly, your commute distance is long, or your summers very hot. The newestbatterytechnology is lithium ion. These advanced light weight batteries can recharge on your house plug and can be fully charged within three hours.

Electric Bicycle Battery
Electric Bicycle Lithium Batteries can Fully Charge in Less Than 3 Hours

Top speeds of an electric assist bicycle are up to 22 miles per hour (35 KPH). With a solar charger, this is one method that you can have powered transportation and be carbon free. Additional advantages over other motorized transportation is that you do not need a special drviers license, vehicle registration, or insurance. And you are almost totally not a target for police ticketing.

Cyclocross Bicycles

Cyclocross bicycles look like road bikes, but have some significant differences. A Cyclocross race is a obstacle course style race that presents a number of challenges to the contenders that include carrying the bike through areas that can not be ridden, riding through rough terrain, and even fence hopping. The cyclocross bicycle was designed for this special kind of race.

Cyclocross Bicycle Race
Carrying Your Bicycle is a Big Part of a Cyclocross Bicycle Race.

A cyclocross bike is essentially a road bike with some slight frame and component modifications for cross racing. It features the drop bars and 700c wheels of traditional road bikes, but has cantilever brakes for better stopping power and additional clearance for wide, knobby tires and any mud the tires pick up. The frame, too, needs widely spaced stays for mud-covered tires to spin freely without jamming. And the frame's bottom bracket (where the crankset is mounted) is higher for additional clearance over obstacles and for pedaling around corners.

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