ROAD VS MOUNTAIN VS HYBRID BICYCLE – BUYERS GUIDE

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A lot of us looking at getting a bicycle for ourselves are left confused with the myriad options available nowadays. Those simple machines that we rode in our childhood have not gone untouched with the technological advancements made by mankind over the past few decades. Not only has this exposed us to more quality options to choose from, but can also leave an aspiring biker with a daunting task when it comes to picking up a bicycle for themselves.

As a broad classification, bicycles come in three types – Road, Mountain, and Hybrid. Yes, there are sub-types for each of these, but for someone looking at picking up their first bike, sorting out which one of these three will be ideally suited for your kind of riding is the first step towards becoming a happy cyclist.

ROAD BIKES

Tires: Smooth and skinny – for speed
Handlebars: Dropbars for an aero position
Posture: Forward and low
Terrain: Best for road racing, touring, fitness riding, and commuting

As the name implies, road bikes are intended for speed. They’re distinguished by lightweight frames and skinny tires, designed to maximize speed and efficiency.

The bike’s geometry and dropped handlebars provide a more forward-leaning and aerodynamic riding position. These nimble and fast-handling bikes are generally best suited to more experienced cyclists seeking speed and riding long distances. However, many cyclists find road bikes more enjoyable than other bicycle types since they can be considerably faster than other bikes.

What kind of riders/riding is a road bike best suited for?

If you are the kind of rider who enjoys the idea of riding long distances on well-paved roads, conquering that steep hill on the outskirts of the city, aspiring to be a road bicycle racer at your local city bicycle races or attempting to pull off a few brevets at some point of time, the road bike is the ideal choice for you. These bikes are light in weight and contain features to make the rider faster and more aerodynamically efficient.

Is the road bike an ideal first bike for me? The posture on it looks very uncomfortable.

The most important aspect of buying a bike is making sure that it is the right frame size and fits you well. As long as those aspects are taken care of and you have an average level of fitness and flexibility, the road bike will not cause any discomfort to you. These are certain off-the-bike exercises one can do to improve their riding abilities on the road bike and take it to the next level of performance. In short, the right fitting bike is the crucial factor here. And as long as that is taken care of, you should not face any discomfort in this regard.

HYBRID AND FITNESS/COMMUTER BIKES

Tires: Thicker than a road bike for comfort and stability, thinner and lighter than a mountain bike
Handlebars: Flatbar
Posture: Upright for comfort
Terrain: Ideal for paved city roads and gravel/ light trails

A hybrid bike (sometimes called a commuter bike) offers the comfort of an upright riding position with flat handlebars and often a more comfortable ride. With a slightly heavier frame and tires that are wider and more robust than a road bike’s, hybrids handle with more confidence over rougher terrain and on less-than-perfect roads.

Hybrid bikes offer a wide gear range, which helps with climbing hills. They can be used for some light trail riding – anything more will require a more purposefully built MTB.

Credits – Bike Exchange

What kind of riders/riding are hybrid and fitness bikes suited for?

These bikes are ideal for

  • People looking at riding their bikes on a regular basis (say 3-5 days a week) for an hour or so per session, with the aim of keeping fit.
  • Riders looking at commuting to their workplace.
  • Those interested in the occasional leisure long distance ride on weekends coupled with one (or both) of the points above.

These bikes have a more relaxed geometry than road bikes and come with tire profiles ideal for city riding. Also, they may or may not come with a front suspension and are generally lighter than mountain bikes, making them ideal commuters and fitness bikes.

MOUNTAIN BIKES

Tires: Wide and thick for stability and traction
Handlebars: Wide Flatbars
Posture: Upright
Terrain: Gravel or dirt bike paths and off-road or unpaved terrain

For off-road use and over rugged terrain, a mountain bike is the best choice. Mountain bikes offer an upright riding position for better control, and have flat and wide handlebars for superior steering control. They are equipped with fat, knobby, shock-absorbing tires.

A typical mountain bike has shock-absorbing suspension to remove the jolt from bumpy terrain and a wide gear range for climbing steep hills. Mountain bikes are heavier than road bikes but more comfortable and fun to ride off-road.

What kind of riders/riding is a mountain bike best suited for?

If the idea of getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and going riding to your local dirt trail sounds like the perfect idea to you, or going on a Manali to Leh type of cycling expedition that involves riding in areas in the midst of nature where road connectivity is not present, the mountain bike is the most ideal bike for you. These bikes are characterized by knobby tires to provide that extra traction on loose rocks and gravel, flat handlebars and suspension to provide a smooth ride on the rocky terrain.


Mind still not made up? That’s alright. Now that you have an idea about what kind of bike is suitable for different types of riding you can head over to your local bike shop for a test ride. Try borrowing a friend’s bike for a longer test ride so that you are 100% sure about your decision.

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