What are the Different Types of Bikes – Mountain Bikes vs Road Bike

by Ken Adams

Biking has grown over a long period of time. Ever since the invention of cycles when it was used to travel short distances with minimum efforts to cover maximum distances, things have seen constant modifications, thanks to the new avenues the cyclists found out & explored altogether. With the increased avenues of biking, now we have a lot of options in bikes available at hand which make it all the more confusing for the ones who are looking forward to step into biking with the hunger for fitness, environment’s sustainable benefit & adventure.

However, despite the wide range of bikes available, there are two most popular types of bikes which are popular among the mass & often on the lips of all to know what’s the difference between them – mountain bike & road bike.

Let’s find out about the various types of bikes & the difference between the two prime types of bikes.

History of Biking

The history of biking is enriching with a lot of revelations that will show us that bicycles came to us through a lot of modifications since the day Dandi Horse was invented in Germany by Karl Drais. He named it ‘laufmaschine’ when he invented it in the 1817. As surprising as it gets, Dandy Horse was actually paddle-less & used the riders feet for riding. The rider used to run while sitting & once the maschine had enough speed, pulled the leg up. The process needed to be repeated when the cycle slowed down. The idea dawned on him after eruption of Mt. Tambora & Napoleonic War where horses were lost due to the hunger of the natural calamity or in war or was killed & eaten by people due to unavailability of food.

This led him to think of something which wasn’t dependent on horses & could be used without any animal aid. Also, due to shortage of horses during war, he thought of making something which could carry the corpses as well as injured soldiers over short distances. Thus came laufmaschine. Drais patented his design in 1818 which made him the inventor of the first ever mobile machine in history to be run & stirred by human & was named Draisine in English.

It was Denis Johnson from England who promised a better design & came up with velocipede where the design was modified in such a way that the wheels became larger without raising the seat height. Things moved ahead with many modifications after that in the 19th century itself with a lot of varieties in bicycle designs making way for tricycles & quadracycles too. There were the French, the Scottish, the English who kept on modifying it.

High bicycles became a new trend owing to the large front wheel for more speed but due to safety issues & few reported accidents, it became a choice for the young who were more in the hunt for adventure. But, the real modification came in the 1880s when the chain &  paddle concept found its birth & thus the bicycle was formed. By 1900-1910, France had developed the derailleur concept which was adapted by the British for the racers only in 1930s. However, in the first derailleur, riders had to stop, take out the wheel, change the chain from one derailleur to the other (since derailleurs were two placed on both sides of the wheels.) & then refix the wheel. This sounds a tough process, but at that time, it decreased race times considerably.

Types of bikes

With a good background on the history of bikes, let us now open the doors to the next section on this topic today which is the main area of question – what are the various types of bikes?

The various types of bikes are as below:

  1. Road BikesSome have named it as racing bike while others call it a 10-speed (though there are 18 or more speed versions too!). These machines are made for speed. The tyres are narrow to allow faster rolling that allows them to go far on tarmacs. Recently, disc-brake versions are also becoming a basic feature of it. Due to the popularity of it, brands are marketing women’s-centric models too where there are different saddle, handlebars & crankarm length.
  2. Mountain BikesAs the name indicates, these are for riding on mountain trails where the road isn’t so easy & smooth. They are hence made durable for the tough narrow dirt trails. Featuring wide, flat handlebars for control, they have two-inch or wider tyres which further have knobby tread for traction so as to make them dig deep in the soil & hold the track. The drivetrains come in varieties of all sorts and they have hydraulic disc brakes so as to allow for maneuvering steep climbs & descents – a part & parcel of mountain biking. Wheels have diameters ranging between 27.5” & 29”. Women friendly models are here as well & have women-specific seats, smaller grips & narrower handlebars. The crankarms are also shorter.

 

  1. Gravel BikesYou might see them & find them twins of road bikes but you’ll be wrong. They come with a classic drop handlebar & looks like a road bike’s twin. But, there are differences like clearance for much larger, knobby tires for off-road use, additional mounts for accessories like bottle cages & frame bags. The most important part is the geometry which involves a design for a more upright & comfortable rider position & stable handling on unpaved surfaces. As the trend becomes a practice, all of these come with disc brakes & wide-range gearing for steep climbs. There are also front & rear suspension elements for rider comfort in some bikes.
  2. Urban BicyclesThese are any bike made with utility in mind instead of recreation. They come in styles which vary from purpose to purpose. With every variant of it, you can get exercise alongside your tasks getting done.
  3. Comfort BikesThese are something in between the road & mountain bike categories. One can find them in all categories ranging from flat-bar fitness bikes to beach cruisers. They are also called Fitness bikes.
  4. E-bikeThese are the newest addition to the biking fraternity & are hardly around 10-15 years old. As it is an e-bike, it features a small electric motor that acts as a catalyst to the rider’s pedaling. There are three classes: Class 1, Class 2 & Class 3. These bikes are also very stylish & come in various appealing designs.
  5. Fat BikesBikes with fat tyres designed to tread on soft soils or packed snow are called fat bikes. The tyres start from the width of  3.8 to up to 5 inches to enable more surface contact & hence better flotation & traction. The tyres aren’t also fully filled with air for the reason of traction.
  6. Triathalon BikesIt resembles a road bike & is built for higher aerodynamic efficiency. This is only for triathletes. The frame geometry & special handlebars do do the trick here as they allow the rider to maintain an aerodynamic posture which gets him an efficient ride. Frames and wheels are also designed in a way which is aerodynamically friendly. Disc brakes are becoming common here too. The tyres here go narrow to a maximum of 25mm.

Road Bikes – A Closer Study

Road bikes are undoubtedly a trend among the youth despite the various types of bikes. In fact, there are only few people who know about the types of bikes & it is indeed tough to keep in mind because each of the bikes mentioned above have their own sub-categories. Hence, people are only aware of two main types of bikes in prime while e-bike & urban bikes might be two more that they’re aware of.

Within road bikes, there are some sub-types which will help us not just in knowing about it but also in the way it differs from other bikes:

  • Aero
    The frames & wheels are wing-shaped & are made so to lessen & reduce the drag to a bare minimum. These ones are more focussed on racing or time-trialing & they feature more bent & aerodynamic position of the rider to help them with the speed & efficiency. Care is taken more for speed than rider comfort.
  • Ultralight
    Made for long climbs, these bikes strip weight by using the lightest materials, but may not be as good for all-around use.
  • Endurance
    The right pick for most riders, these models feature a more upright rider position for comfort, slightly wider tires and gearing ranges and, sometimes, vibration-absorbing technologies in the frame and/or fork.

When it comes to the purpose of road bikes, they are unbeatable for recreational rides as long as it is on the roads. You can go for solo as well as group rides

Price:
Quality road bikes with aluminum frames, 18-speed drivetrains & conventional rim brakes start around $ 800. The top class high-end models can go to up to $15,000 with exotic materials, 22-speed electronic drivetrains, hydraulic disc brakes & ultra low weights.

Mountain Bikes – A Closer Study

It isn’t just road bikes where there’s a catch. Mountain bikes too are a matter of understanding & study so as to put the best foot forward when buying one for yourself. The sub-types of mountain bikes are as follows:

  • HardtailAs the name suggests, the rear suspension is absent & it’s fixed. It is the front where suspension forks lie on the rigid frame. They are the most affordable type of mountain bikes. But not to forget, there are high-end models here as well for racing purpose.
  • XC Full-SuspensionThese have a shorter wheel-travel (110mm or less) rear suspension designed to prioritize low bike weight & efficiency under power, especially on climbs & have suspension up front too.
  • Trail Full-SuspensionThese feature mid wheel-travel (120-150mm) suspension that balances climbing efficiency & descending abilities. Tires are wider here with larger brake rotors for stopping power.
  • Enduro/Gravity Full-SuspensionWith 160mm or more of rear wheel travel, powerful brakes & aggressive tire treads, these bikes are intended for maximum control when descending, especially on steep, technical terrain.

Mountain biking isn’t something one can tie to a specific definition. It actually has variable dimensional meanings to lots of people. Depending on its type, a mountain bike can be used for everything from unpaved roads to steep singletracks. The need or more suspension arises when there are more technical trails.

Price:
A basic hardtail for light trail use will cost a bare $400. A top trail & enduro-style model would cost a fortune with pricing of around $10,000 with carbon fiber frames & wheelsets & sophisticated suspension.

Choosing Your Bike – Mountain Vs Road

It isn’t rocket science that we are talking about when we consider making a choice between mountain bike & road bikes. Since we have an idea on who’s what when it comes to biking, it is now time to know about making a choice for your bike. If it is mountain bike you should go with or just the road bike?

The various factor that will make you decide on the type of bike are as under:

1. Tarmac Road & Paved Areas

As is evident, road bikes are designed for the road. To reach somewhere quickly, the efficiency of road bike has no competition unless it’s with an actual racing bike. But, since the choice here is between comfort & speed & keeping in mind that local streets have points where there are issues with the road like potholes plus the rough tarmac, a racing bike would be hard to maintain. When it comes to a mountain bike, such areas can be ridden too but, one will have to compromise with speed since mountain bikes are heavy. Based on this, choose your bike wisely.

2. Canal & Foot Paths

Here, we come to the canal paths. These paths are flat with a mix of packed dirt & loose material. Of course a road bike can get you through but only if you’re an expert rider. Hybrid & cyclo-cross bikes are the best for these areas. The conditions also suit mountain bikes here. However, since the surface is flat, one would look for speed which will be available in a hybrid & not on a mountain bike.

3. Walking Trails

Walking trails feature a wide range. They can be flat & hard packed singletracks &  can also be rough, rooty, muddy, skinny trails marching ahead. Here, the need for cleats on tyres arises & hence mountain bike comes to the rescue. Also, since the grip will be important, abit of fat tyres will be needed which isn’t available on road bikes.

4. Trail Centres

These are a recent trend where private land-owners & government agencies make tracks of various types for the bikers. They have custom built biking routes ranging from easy trails for hybrid bike to hard ones for mountain bikes. They have color grading system like in skiing Green, blue, red & black are the colors based on the increasing order of difficulty. Each of these have their own requirement of the type of bikes where we can can run road, mountain, hybrid & fat bikes.

5. Mountain Tracks & Downhill Trails

Mountain tracks are tough but are great fun on a good bike because they feature a mix of experiences ranging from terrains & steep ascents to technical sections & crazy drops.

Conclusion

The characteristics that make mountain bikes much more comfortable off road also translate to pavement & bike paths. Thus, they are a popular choice for casual riders. It’ll definitely never go as fast as a road bike, but, the comfort in the riding position & shock absorption make traversing paths with potholes & curbs easier. Road bikes are the best choice to ride exclusively on pavement & definitely a need for faster bike, as they’ll make pedaling & climbs easier. The light-weight also makes it easy to control them at higher speeds.

A road bike is designed to be lightweight & responsive. These bikes have thin wheels & thin tyres, which minuses the rolling resistance & adds up to speed. Racing road bikes are tailor made for performance to cut the seconds off a rider’s time. Road bikes feature an aggressive forward-leaning position that is beneficial from aerodynamics perspective & ensures proper power transfer to the pedals. Since there’s a need for a light & rigid frame, strong materials like carbon fiber & titanium are in the regular books at the competitive level.

Mountain bikes conquer off-road terrain like dirt, mud, snow & gravel. These bikes are built like a superhero to be tough & strong. Featuring thick tires & strong wheels, damage resistance from impact of irregular paths can be seen. The frames here are also made from aluminum, carbon fiber, steel & titanium to withstand a great deal of ruggedness. Suspension system also plays a major part as it allows the wheels to absorb the vibrations from tough roads. With flat handlebars, mountain bikes place the rider in an upright position for better balance & control instead of focussing on aerodynamics since it’s control & balance which is of importance here & not speed.

So, if you’re looking to buy a bike, we hope that with the differences made clear, you can now make a good choice. Happy Biking!

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