Riding my bike is one of my favorite outdoor activities. Zipping along paved dirt paths and racing my boyfriend up and down hills is always a good time. As an added benefit, riding your bike is really good for you — you can burn around 600 calories in a single hour. For people who are new to casual cycling it can be difficult to know where to start, so here’s a crash course in defining the difference between hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, and road bikes.
As the name suggests, hybrid bikes have features taken from mountain bikes and road bikes. Hybrids are one of the most practical styles and a perfect choice for someone new to cycling. Hybrids allow you to bike on most trails and even on easier off-road tracks. Hybrids are a great first bike because they allow you to bike a lot of different places, giving you a good feel of the sport.
Mountain bikes can handle off-road tracks and trails better than a hybrid, because they are designed for rugged mountain trails and riding on rock. There are many different types of mountain bikes, and cyclists have sharp opinions about which bikes are best. Assess the mountains and trails you want to climb before purchasing your bike. Ask cyclists who frequent your favorite trails their preference. They may be able to provide you with more insight on if you should invest in a bike with super-wide tires or go-anywhere dual suspension. You have many options, so shop smart and for the terrain you’re biking most. Mountain bikes can be ridden on paved roads, but they’re typically heavier than hybrids or road bikes and require a bit more effort, which is fine for short rides, but might not make them the best choice if you’re planning on a lot of miles along the road.
Cruiser bikes are classic and designed for comfort. They are the perfect cycle for someone who lives in a bikeable community and wants something easy to ride. Cruisers are typically best for short distances, and, if you choose one without gears, you might find it easiest to stay on relatively flat terrain — hills are tough when you can’t shift to an easier gear. Kids also love riding cruiser bikes because they are simple to operate. Cruiser bikes don’t do a lot, but they are easy and fun to ride.
If you plan to ride n smooth pavement and are interested in going fast, road bikes are for you. Road bikes are designed for speed and can usually be ridden on paved trails. Keep in mind, road bikes are not meant to carry a lot of weight. These are not great bikes if you plan to take them off-road —their thin wheels are designed to ride on smooth, paved surfaces. But as long as you don’t have to take any rough or rocky dirt roads, you can ride long and far.
Bikes are expensive. It’s only natural to be a bit apprehensive about buying a new bike if you’re new to the sport. If you’re still feeling lost on what bike to buy, check out your local cycling shop — you are bound to meet a cyclist who can offer greater insight and guidance. And if you’re interested in racing, consider joining a local cycling (or even triathlon) group so that you’ll have an easy time finding training partners!
Do you like to cycle? If so, what sort of bike do you ride? —Alex