The Best Bike for You

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Cycling, or biking, is one of the most popular leisure sports in the world. In the United States, only one in four cyclists is a woman. Annually, Americans spend $81 billion on biking, which includes retail bike sales, parts and accessories as well as bicycle tourism, events and programs.

Mountain bikes are designed for off-road use on trails or tracks and in dirt, sand and snow. They’re designed for the thrill seeker who doesn’t mind getting dirty. The bike is stout and has an upright frame. The tires on a mountain bike are wide and knobby to increase their grip on rocks and dirt. The suspension absorbs shocks from riding on bumpy grounds. Handle bars are flat and wide.

Types of Mountain Bikes
Cross-country bikes are the most popular, designed to ride trails for longer periods of time. Trail mountain bikes are for the rider who rides trails and tracks. Downhill mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain and challenging obstacles.

Mountain bikes can be purchased for around $800 at big box stores. They are generally weighty and made from cheap components. If you are seriously into the sport, a high-end, competitive mountain bike goes for around $16,000.

Bikes are the sum of their parts, and the price difference is in the materials used to make the bike. The best ones use high-quality parts and advanced technology. Low-end bikes are made of steel, which is strong and durable, but steel is heavy and rusts. The most popular material for mountain bikes is aluminum, light-weight, rust-proof and relatively strong. Aluminum will break over time when stressed. Carbon fiber is the next material upgrade, light-weight, rust-proof and very strong, but breakable. The best material is titanium, extremely light and exceedingly strong. It’s a great choice for heavy riders. Serious bikers opt for carbon fiber and titanium, but for casual hobbyists, steel or aluminum bikes can be a good choice.

Road bikes are made for paved roads and riding longer distances at higher speeds. They are lighter and require the rider to bend over the handle bars to improve aerodynamics and transfer more power to the pedals. The tires are slimmer than the fat, knobby mountain bike tires. The handlebars on road bikes are dropped and narrower. Most road bikes lack suspension to absorb road shocks, making the ride harder.

Types of Road Bikes
Racing bikes are designed to be aerodynamic. They are stripped down, light with stiffer frames and have large, thin tires. Gravel bikes or adventure bikes are for riding both off-road and on trails at a decent speed. Riders of these bikes often go bike packing or traveling. Touring bikes are for traveling long distances with a comfortable ride. The bike has strong frames and various points at which accessories such as fenders, racks, water bottles and lights can be added.

Hybrid bikes are popular in the U.S with about 24 percent of riders, just behind mountain bikes at 25 percent. Hybrids, or fitness bikes, are general-purpose bikes suitable for most terrains, making them popular for commuting. In general, hybrids retain the sleek frame and fast rolling wheels with a slightly wider tire than road bikes and incorporate the upright handle bars and suspension of mountain bikes.

E-bikes, or electric bikes, are increasingly popular as the price drops and the range of bikes increases. E-bikes amplify pedaling power and provide an extra boost for the rider. All come with an electric motor and a battery and are available in a wide range of types.

When you’re ready to ride, visit your local bike shop to pick their brains before making an investment. The best choice is the one that’s right for you and that you will enjoy riding.

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Better-Known Bike Brands
• Trek Bicycle Corporation was founded in 1976 with the idea of building mid-range to high–end bikes in the United States.
• Cannondale Bikes have been manufactured in the U.S. for nearly 40 years. A recent road bike innovation is rear-facing radar and integrated lights.
• Santa Cruz Bicycles, manufactured in California, started in 1994 with an innovative dual suspension mountain bike, the Tazmon. Their sister brand, Juliana, is the original women’s mountain bike.
• Specialized Bicycles, Morgan Hills, California, began in 1974. Their Stumpjumper was the first massed-produced mountain bike.
• Bianchi started manufacturing bikes around 1899. Their bikes come in a wide range of sizes and type. The bikes are easily recognizable for their turquoise Bianchi Celeste color.
• Scott began innovating bicycle components in 1989 and is a leading producer of all types of bikes today.
• Giant, founded in 1982, is the world’s largest bike manufacturer. Giant makes many different types of bikes and is a consistent winner in international competitions.