Recently a group has started forming due to a good friend of mine and this group’s mission is to ride bicycles. Some I am sure have already had a go at bikes before whether as kids or recently to get fit or consistently because they just love it. One thing is for sure, riding in a group can be more fun as you work off each other’s energy and get going together. In there it is inevitable that the skill of said rouser of people was much higher than expected and you also find members who maybe haven’t given it a go yet.
As a rule of thumb I generally shop at bike shops over major chain stores mainly because of the selection and specialisation in bikes in proper bike shops and also because you should try to patronise your local/prefered bike shop as they do much better work and sell great stuff. Also if you break something and you happen to make a friend in the bike shop people they would probably be happier to help you.
Having said that I thought it would be a great idea to write something about some of the different mountain bikes available starting with the most insane:
Mountain (Dual Suspension) : Downhill/Gravity
These bikes are the epitome of the MTB species with their heavy duty double crown forks, fat coilover rear suspension, over engineered frames and blocky tough components these bikes are built to bomb down unforgiving terrain fly over crevices and generally take massive amounts of abuse with a skilled pilot at the helm. Another proponent of the downhill bike is speed, terrifying jaw-dropping speed down very unforgiving terrain.
All that engineering comes at a cost though and that is weight. These bikes are so prohibitively heavy (due to their build but also because of stability) that climbing is not encouraged and hence the name “Downhill”. The geometry of the bike is very up angled so that the rider still feels relatively level while going down steep declines. Expect to pay anywhere north of $2500 (only recently thanks to Polygon Bikes) for one of these tough guys. In the past these kinds of race ready bikes used to go for $5000 and up.
Mountain (Dual Suspension) : Enduro/All Mountain
Enduro bikes are the best mix of a downhill bike and a lighter XC or cross country bike. Built to race in enduro events which are a mix of downhill, cross country climbing and trail riding these bikes are lighter than their downhill brethren but are still built tough to handle drops and rough terrain. They don’t carry the bombproof dual crown type fork but the ones they do run generally have heaps of travel or capability to absorb bigger hits are thicker and don’t have lockout functionality (shocks that can turn full stiff so they do not impede pedal performance). Expect performance, good middle weight and the ability to absorb serious hits with beefy suspension.
Mountain (Dual Suspension) : XC (Cross Country)
Lightness is key here as the dual suspension XC bike is designed to be ridden across a multitude of terrains and bring you far as it doesn’t weigh a tonne and still has the ability to soak up bumps that your legs usually would in a hardtail bike. XC bikes aren’t designed to be thrown at large drops or get hit with high speed but they are a godsend when it comes to pedal power. Climbing and generally just relying on your body to produce forward motion via the crank is assisted greatly by these bikes with their lockout suspension (making either or both front and rear go full solid) lighter frames and lightweight components. Expect good bump soaking capability tied to a light frame and components built to race.
Mountain (Hardtail) : XC (Cross Country)
These are the staple of the MTB species. Lightweight, dependable and uncomplicated the hardtail though sightly lower tech is the choice for most riders. As they don’t have rear suspension they require more out of seat action using your knees and ankles to absorb the bumps as they can do the offroad boogie just not as easily. Pedaling is direct and free of loss and you can pay a fair amount for one depending on the specifications. Some frames are made of carbon fibre over the standard aluminium making them extremely light and competitive. Expect race proven components on a bike that spawned all the other bikes here. Not used as much in XC competition these days as the dual suspension XC bike has been much more prevalent of late but that is the way of progression.
Mountain (Hardtail) : Dual Sport
Hardtail mountain bikes will always be the jack of all trades, swiss knife of the pedal powered world. By default they still come with knobbly tyres and shocks that are capable with a small amount of travel. Plenty are used on the street in an urban setting because if you can ride on some dirt it’s fine to ride on some asphalt right!? Some intelligent marketing person decided that Dual Sport segment for both road and dirt would be a good idea. Dual Sport bikes combine the comforts of the urban bike with the technical capability of the XC hard tail bike. Tyres are a hybrid of road in the middle with knobbly edges and sidewalls. This means the best of the road side with some off road capability (a friend of mine can attest to the lack of surety when riding dirt with a dual sport tyre). Also you can look forward to comfy grips, user friendly controls and the option to lockout the front shocks to make pedalling less dippy.
Ok so there are other bikes out there and maybe you want to talk about them so let’s mention them:
Urban : Mobility
These are practical comfortable bikes with smooth city tyres and utility. You can throw a pannier on and deliver items or put a basket on and grab some shopping. Great for the urbanite or casual rider. The geometry doesn’t encourage much out of seat action and the components are definitely not built to do much more than cruise the streets. If that is all you need it for then this is your steed.
Urban: Fixed Gear
No bike screams hipster more than a fancy fixed gear bike or “Fixie”. Fantastic if your commute involves nothing to do with hills as a fixie only has one speed and no derailleurs so components are minimal therefore the bike is light and very slick. Similar to a velodrome racer in that respect and a road racing bike except it uses flatbars in most cases to make riding around built up areas easy because of all the stop starts. I love the styling of these machines as they are generally very simple with solid colours killer rims and colourful tyres and grips. I would love to have one mostly to look at because I live in a hilly area and this would be torture to ride. Like a swiss army knife with just the knife attachment.
I won’t pretend to know much about road bikes as I don’t ride them though from what I hear they are amazing smooth and precise machines weighing nearly nothing. These are the Le Mans cars to the Dakar machines of MTB. Recently they have also started getting electronically actuated gearing making these bikes a very slick package. Some frames are aluminium however you want to go for exotic carbon fibre with carbon handlebars and seatposts. Beautiful to look at and rather uncomfortable looking to ride with very thin light seats, all the bits add up to more lightness and speed.
Well there you go I have put my 1 and a half cents of knowledge in the hat to give you a very brief overview on bikes you might find on the street and the track whether it’s in competition or a lazy Sunday afternoon ride. Whatever your mode of biking you choose, have fun, stay safe and get moving!