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Bike Types

Bicycle types vary enough that many new cyclists may become overwhelmed with the various styles available.

The type of bicycle a rider chooses is quite important, as a rider might feel one design completely uncomfortable, while another might be just the ticket.

The right bicycle to suit any particular individual is very much a matter of preference and riding style, yet, the extensive selection necessitates a basic guide to the various designs available. We hope this guide helps steer you to the bike that suits you best.


Basics:
The road bicycle is intended for speed on smooth paved surfaces, and features a foward-leaning riding position with drop handlebars for środynamics. Two distinct (yet, to the layman, visually similar) variants exist of the road bike design:

The 'racing' type (shown in photo), which, as its name implies, is used mainly for cycle racing, and features very steep frame angles for maximum performance.

The 'touring' design, a tamed version of its racing cousins, is set up for slightly more relaxed riding, with slacker frame angles, slightly larger tyres, a wider gear range, and in some cases, eyelets and braze-on mounts for pannier racks and mudguards. The most recent touring cycles now also feature raised handlebar stems for a slightly higher riding position and triple front chainwheels for a very extreme range of gearing.

All road bikes usually feature rather narrow pavement-oriented tyres (although the older 27X1-1/4" size can tackle rough roads with little problem) & large diameter wheels. Saddles are usually narrow foam padded or gel. The absolute best quality road or touring cycles usually come with leather saddles such as the Brooks Professional (shown in photo)

Frame design/construction:
Lugged steel or aluminum, race or touring geometry
Diamond-frame (men's, shown),
Mixte (women's)

Common road wheel sizes:
700C, 27" (630mm), 650C, 26X1-3/8" (EA3/590mm)

Best suited for:
Road: Road pavement, cycling competitions and/or races
Touring: Road pavement, commuting, cycle touring, paved cycle paths, cycling competitions

Not for:
Very leisurely riding (see "Cruiser" or "Hybrid" bikes)
Individuals with back problems (see "Roadster" bikes)
Folks who want both feet on the ground, regardless of saddle height (see "Cruiser" bikes)
Offroading (see "MTB" and "Hybrid" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1970 Schwinn Paramount P13-9 (road touring)


Basics:
Most fixed gears are generally a road bicycle (either pure road or road/touring - however, fixies have been made from MTBs as well) retrofitted with a singlespeed drivetrain that has no freewheeling action - while the rear wheel is moving, the pedals are moving; no exception. Some riders prefer otherwise, and use a typical racheting mechansim to allow for coasting. These variants are simply called "SS" or "singlespeeds."

True fixed-gears are technically track bicycles, with frames designed specifically for the singlespeed drivetrain. Track frames are not that common, however; most of the fixed gear bicycles that BDC comes across are conversions from road frames).

While many fixies and singlespeeds retain the same cockpit design as a roadbike, many use "bullhorn" handlebars to mimic the outstretched, forward-riding position that the hoods on roadbike brake levers provide.

Frame design/construction:
Lugged steel or aluminum, race or touring geometry
Diamond-frame (men's, shown),
Mixte (women's)

Common road wheel sizes:
700C, 27" (630mm), 650C, 26X1-3/8" (EA3/590mm), 559mm

Best suited for:
Road pavement, commuting, cycle touring, paved cycle paths, alleycats

Not for:
Very leisurely riding (see "Cruiser" or "Hybrid" bikes)
Individuals with back problems (see "Roadster" bikes)
Folks who want both feet on the ground, regardless of saddle height (see "Cruiser" bikes)
Offroading (see "MTB" and "Hybrid" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1987 Schwinn Sprint (fixed gear conversion)


Basics:
The roadster design is the very essence of the basic modern bicycle of the last 100 years, and as one would expect with a machine of such longevity, the most practical.

Most roadsters may resemble roadbikes in appearance, but roadsters are pretty much unique to themselves, and are quite different from road-touring bikes. Most roadsters, unlike a road-touring cycle, are fitted with all the essentials a commuter would be interested in, such as mudguards, a chainguard (some of the more European desings feature a full 'chaincase'), "North-Road"-bend upright handlebars, and a comfortable touring or 'mattress' saddle.

Roadster tyres are usually medium to high pressure, and can be ridden on rough pavement, grass and minor rough terrain if nessesary, although the roadster's usual home is the tarmac, or in some areas, dirt or gravel roads.

Many cycles of this design feature 3 speed Sturmey-Archer "AW" (English) or Shimano "333" or "3C" (Japanese) internally-geared hubs. The internally geared 3-speed hub is possibly the best gear system ever designed for commuting (not to mention riding in general), and when maintained and adjusted properly, can outlast most modern derailer systems. Singlespeed, 5-speed internally-geared, 5-speed derailer-geared and 10-speed derailer-geared roadsters also exist.

Frame design/construction:
Lugged or welded steel, touring geometry
Diamond-frame (men's, shown)
Step-through or mixte (women's)

Common roadster wheel sizes:
26X1-3/8", 27", 28X1-1/2"

Best suited for:
Paved bike trails, city commuting, light touring, leisure riding

Not for:
People who want to look real cool with t' attitude (see "MTB" and "Urban" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1971 Raleigh Sports


Basics:
The popular 'Beach Cruiser' design originates from the stylish Moderne and Art-Deco balloon-tyre bicycles of the 1940s and '50s, when sleek frame lines, twenty pounds of chrome, and big white whitwalls were all the rage.

Modern 'cruisers' may not have the same visual character as these '50s bikes, but in principle and mechanical design, these bicycles have remained virtually unchanged over the years.

These bikes are usually heavier in appearance then most other bikes, complete with large overflowing fenders (Note that some modern cruisers have gone for a fenderless look, and do not feature them), chrome 'steerhorn' handlebars, large foam padded or gel saddles, and fat, low-pressure balloon-tyres.

Most all balloon-tyre bikes came with singlespeed, coasterbrake rear hubs, geared for pedaling ease, not performance. Some modern balloon tire bikes now come with 5 to 7 speed derailer gearing systems for riders who love the cruiser 'look', but would like additional gearing once they've got up to speed.

Slightly sportier variants of the balloon-tyre bike appeared in the 1960s, called middleweights. These were essentially balloon-tyre bikes with slightly skinnier tyres and North-Road handlebars for better handling. While sufficiently different from balloon-tyre bikes, middleweights are commonly referred to as 'cruisers' as well, even though their performance and riding characteristics much more resemble the nimble Roadster design.

Middleweights have fallen out of favor since the 1970s, and few modern middleweights, if any, are being made today, although it is not uncommon for us here at Bike Doc Cycles to run into an old middleweight now and then. Balloon-tyre machines dominate the current market as the 'cruiser' design of today.

Frame design/construction:
Welded steel or aluminum (modern bikes only) flowing-frame designs
'Cantiliver', 'Double-top-tube' (men's)
Step-through (women's, shown)

Common cruiser wheel sizes:
26X2.125" ('heavyweight' or 'balloon-tyre'), 26X1.75" ('middleweight')

Best suited for:
Singlespeed coasterbrake: Short leisure or neighborhood rides
Geared variants: Medium-length leisure rides, paved bike trails
Middleweight geared: All of the above plus city commuting

Not for:
Folks who want to go fast (see "Road" > "Road-touring" bikes)
Folks who want to go faster then fast (see "Road" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1955 Murray Aeroline


Basics:
The American mountain-trail bike design is a relatively new design to the cycling world, the first production 'MTBs' cropping up around the 1970s. Since then, the mountain-trail bike design has become the latest fad in cycling, even to the point of spuring off a more polished, pavement-oriented variant of itself, the 'hybrid.'

The MTB bike is definitely not easy to describe in appearance, as possibly no other bike style has such wild variations to its own class. Generally though, MTBs feature flat handlebars for a slight foward-leaning position, derailer gearing with very wide gear ranges, narrow foam padded or gel saddles, extremely powerful 'cantiliver' or 'V-brakes', and large, knobby tires for offroad use.

Some variants of the MTB design have aquired suspension, to absorb the shock from the rough terrain. Suspension MTBs come in both a 'hardtail' form, with suspension in the front fork only, and dual-suspension, featuring full suspension throughout, with shock absorbers in both the front fork and a pivoting rear frame triangle.

MTBs are best on offroad terrain, where the wide ratios and knobby tyres work to your maximum advantage. Some individuals insist on using these type of bikes for commuting and paved bike trails, yet, they are the most cumbersome machine that could be used in such situations.

Frame:
Construction: Welded steel, aluminum
Design (men's): Diamond frame w/angled top tube (hardtails only), two-part modern Y frame or similar (full suspension only), two-part diamond frame (full suspension only)
Design (women's): Step-through (hardtails only), two-part frame with step-through design (full suspension only)

Common MTB wheel sizes:
26X1.75" through 26X3.0"

Best suited for:
No suspension: Reasonably rough bike trails
Hardtail, front-suspension: Rough bike trails, light-medium off-roading
Full-suspension (Department store): Same as hardtail w/front suspension
Full-suspension (Professional): All of the above plus serious off-roading.

Not for:
City commuting (see "Roadster", "Urban" or "Hybrid" bikes)
Leisure riding (see "Roadster", "Cruiser" or "Hybrid" bikes)
Anyone susceptible to wrist cramps and/or palm pain (see "Roadster" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
Diamondback Topanga


Basics:
Following the boom of the trail bike in the 1980's, a tamed version of the new MTB design was invented, mainly for leisure riders who favored the new MTB 'look', yet wanted a more comfortable, urban design.

Hybrids are easily distinguished by their smooth road tyres, riser handlebar stems and comfort gel saddles. Most hybrids feature the same flat bars of the mountain-trail bike, and commonly sport "twist-grip" style shifters. Most hybrids feature an excessive array of gears, usually a triple up front, and a 7 cog cluster in the rear (A.K.A. "21 speeds").

Hybrids have been found to be extremely popular with leisure cyclists for bike path riding, and are sometimes used as light-errand bikes and often as rather posh commuting cycles (new hybrids are generally not cheap).

Frame:
Construction: Welded steel, aluminum
Design (men's): Diamond frame, commonly w/angled or 'humpback' top tube
Design (women's): Step-through

Common hybrid wheel sizes:
700C, 27", 26X1" through 26X2.0"

Best suited for:
Paved bike trails, city commuting, leisure riding

Not for:
Folks who want to go really fast (see "Road" bikes)
Riders who get wrist cramps (see "Roadster" bikes)
Banging over very rough bike trails (see "MTB" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1990's Univega Range Rover ES sporting an extensive array of upgraded, modern componentry



Basics:
The Urban design is a further twist on the mountain-trail bike, incorporating some details of the Hybrid in the process, but retaining the more agressive riding stance of the MTB.

Urban machines are commonly based around hardtail MTB frames or, in some cases, converted from older lugged or welded road frames, and usually feature high-pressure, slick road tires or semi-slick knobby tires. Riding posture is usually similar to the MTB, with an emphasis on flat handlebars and a foward lean to the upper body.

Urban machines are quite popular with fitness-oriented commuters and the occasional cycle messenger. The foward-stance riding posture and MTB appearance usually appeals to athletic riders who want a fast, commuter trail bike, and cycle messengers like the MTB-based handling for the bicycle's increased agility while in traffic.

Frame:
Construction: Welded or lugged steel, aluminum
Design (men's): Diamond frame road touring or hardtail MTB frame
Design (women's): Step-through

Common Urban wheel sizes:
700C, 27", 26X1" through 26X1.75"

Best suited for:
Bike trails, city commuting, agressive urban on/off-road riding

Not for:
Leisure riding (see "Roadster", "Cruiser" or "Hybrid" bikes)
Riders who get wrist cramps (see "Roadster" bikes)
Riders who want to go really fast (see "Road" bikes)
Banging over very rough offroad trails (see "MTB" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
Free Spirit Grand Peak frameset with highly upgraded componentry


Basics:
The "Beater" style was born to combat bike theft in dense, urban areas, where even less-desirable bikes are rabidly stolen by thieves. A beater generally consists of an older bike with faded paint, and in some cases, a cheap repaint or two, outfitted with cosmetically rusty components.

The beauty of the beaters are, while they appear to be horrid rustbuckets, every single one is a perfectly fully-functional bike, refurbished with mechanically sound components, and tuned up to perfection.

The rustbucket "look" is very succesful in detering potential bike theives from wasting their time on what appears to be a non-functioning bike.

We at Bike Doc Cycles feature our own version of these wonderfully unique bikes, which we call the "South Beach Beaters". A Bike Doc SoBe Beater can be based on absolutely any bike: MTB, Road, Roadster (shown above), cruiser - anything goes.

Likewise, South Beach Beaters may be singlespeed, 3 speed, 5 speed, 10 speed, 21 speed, or any other number of speeds. It all depends on what the bike had on it when we got it, and/or what we put on it from our parts box. Every beater is unique!

Frame:
Construction: Steel, and/or Rust
Design: Virtually anything

Common Beater wheel sizes:
Anything 24" and up

Best suited for:
Folks who are fed up with their bikes being stolen every week

Not for:
Anyone who owns a can of rust remover (see "all other" bikes)

Cycle shown in photo:
1970's Vista Esquire with wheels from an '80s Kent Nottingham, fenders from a '79 AMF Roadmaster, and god knows what else...