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Choosing the Best Bike for You

When selecting your next (or first) bicycle, it’s important to understand the different bike types. Here’s a few tips about the most basic categories.

Road bikes, also known as touring bikes, are generally built for speed and riding on smooth surfaces like pavement. Because of this they may include very narrow tires, drop handlebars (to put the rider in the most aerodynamic position), and multiple speeds (12-24 gear positions is common). Racing bikes follow the same basic layout, but with a very lightweight frame. Although road bikes and racers can be used for commuting, most commuters opt for comfort rather than speed.

Mountain bikes are built less for speed and more for durability and control. These bikes have much larger tires, raised handlebars that put the rider in a more upright position, and are generally (but not always) heavier. Since mountain bikes are intended to be used on trails and steep inclines, the gear ratios are generally lower than that of road bikes. Some mountain bikes have up to 36 gears, advanced suspension systems to handle bumpy terrain, and it is now common to find disc brakes on one or both wheels. These bikes are great for commuting, especially if some of that commute is over bumpy or gravel roads.

Hybrid bikes try to combine the best of road and mountain bikes, and are intended to handle most commuting situations. These bikes have narrower tires than mountain bikes, suspension systems for the occasional bumpy road, comfortable seats and handlebars, and often come with pre-fitted fenders and luggage racks. Some hybrids have gearing similar to road bikes, while others limit the number of gears to a minimum (5-7 speeds) or have the gears “sealed” in the rear hub (3-5 speeds). Hybrids are usually the best choice for most commuting situations, and are a great selection for casual riders.

Many other specialized types exist, from single speed cruisers to very specialized off-road “rock riders” and BMX racers. However, most cyclists will do well to start from the list above. Use this guide as a starting point, try out a few models of each type to see what’s ideal for you, and then start riding. You won’t regret it.

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