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Bike Styles: What Type of Bike Are You Looking For?
Whether you want a bike that's stable and comfortable or one meant to turn you in to a blur as you fly down trails, bike shops have something that will fit the bill. See which ride is best for you.
A well-stocked bike shop can seem like a wonderland if you roll up as an avid cyclist or like a tangle of chrome, steel, and jargon if you walk in as a new rider. Though most retailers will gladly let you test-drive as many styles as you like, being able to make a few basic distinctions will help the sales staff point you toward the bike that best matches your lifestyle and penchant for handlebar streamers.
Cruiser: These bikes took off in the 1940s and ‘50s, and even new ones retain a vintage look: balloon tires, cushy seats, swooping frames, and handlebars that curve invitingly toward the rider. Sturdy, stable, and offering an upright riding position, they can appeal to older riders and anyone preferring a more laidback pace. They’re best suited to terrain that’s flat and even sandy—the wide tires and full-chain guard can handle beachside rides.
Mountain Bike: Though they’re ubiquitous in big-box stores, mountain bikes are really designed for those whose rides take them off the road. Wide, knobby tires and frames built to absorb shocks make these bikes the best choice for riding through sand, mud, or rocky areas. Most have at least 15 gears for uphill and downhill ease, but their weight means you won’t build up much speed.
Touring Bike: These bikes are ideal for longer road trips or commutes. Drop bars—handlebars whose ends curve down, away from the rider, and toward the wide-open road—offer a choice of riding positions to avoid achiness, and medium-width tires combine stability with swiftness. If they don’t already come tricked out with accessories, they’ll at least be made to attach front and rear racks, full fenders, and water-bottle cages.
Hybrid: With features of both mountain and touring bikes, this popular, relatively inexpensive category of bike also includes so-called comfort and fitness bikes. Their relaxed frame geometry and upright handlebars make them easy to mount and dismount for riders of all ages. Speed isn’t a primary concern with these friendly machines, but most models have enough gears to handle the hills riders encounter along bike trails or on quick trips around town.
Single-Speed: Almost any bike can be made with only one gear, but when most people talk about single-speeds they’re referring to a bike with a classic diamond-shaped, racing-style frame and slim tires. Though getting up big hills takes some work, people in flatter areas enjoy single-speeds for their easy, intuitive maintenance and potential for velocity—the lack of gears and derailleurs makes for a sleek ride that can still be customized with funky handlebars and bright color schemes.