An in-depth guide to the different forms of cycling and what each one entails
Cycling is an excellent method of keeping fit and losing weight, and an increasingly popular choice of both hobby and transport in the UK. Asides from the initial outlay, it can soon work out cheaper than an expensive monthly gym membership, as well as more environmentally friendly and cheaper than commuting. As a non load bearing sport, cycling does not have the same impact on your joints as running, and so can be an excellent gateway into fitness for newcomers. From road riding to mountain biking, there are many different forms of cycling, with each one offering a different experience – below we’ve outlined the equipment needed for each form, as well as information on the style of riding, as well as provided some information of locating the best deals.
Road riding, as the names suggests, involves cycling primarily on roads. This has several advantages over other forms of cycling; firstly it is a cleaner form of cycling for both your body and bicycle when compared to mountain biking. Many cyclists do not have regular access to bike washing facilities, and so road cycling is the perfect form of cycling for those with an aversion to washing or maintaining their bicycle! Typically a road bike will pick up less dirt than a mountain bike due to the terrain you are cycling on, and as a result there will be less wear and tear on the components. Your position on a road bike will be slightly different than on a mountain bike – for starters your seat post and saddle will be higher, so that your leg is very nearly straight at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This will result in more efficient pedaling, and will enable you to effectively apply more power to each pedal stroke. Typically you’ll find it easier to travel greater distances whilst cycling on the roads when compared to off road cycling, as there will be less rolling resistance and more even terrain. On the negative side, there will be more traffic, and so you will need to be a confident and proficient cyclist in order to safely share roads with traffic without risking injury. Furthermore, it is good practice to cycle in high visibility cycling clothing, as although they may not be the most fashionable of garments, it is good practice to stand out and be spotted by drivers. A road bike will typically feature narrow tyres which are inflated to a high pressure for less rolling resistance, together with the aforementioned high saddle position and narrow drop bars for aerodynamics. Clipless pedals will provide more efficiency when pedaling when compared to flat pedals, as this will give you the ability to pull upwards on the up stroke as well as pushing down with your leading leg.
Mountain Biking can also be used for both fun and fitness, and although may not be as accessible to those living in cities, it is a fun pastime for both beginners and experienced riders alike. This form of cycling offers a method of exploring the countryside in more depth and at a faster pace than walking. A slight negative side of mountain biking can be that here in Britain, trails are often muddy and waterlogged during the autumn and winter months – unfortunately we aren’t blessed with the same pristine dusty dry trails that cyclists from other countries enjoy. Mountain Bikes feature wider tyres with knobs added for grip in muddy conditions. Modern MTBs often feature disc brakes for more predictable and powerful braking, as well a suspension forks and rear shocks to take the edge off the off road terrain, and allow faster riding. With the exception of cross country riding, your saddle height will typically be slightly lower than that of a road bike, with many users opting for a dropper seat post such as the Rockshox Reverb, so they can change height whilst riding. Mountain bike components will generally be heavier than the road equivalent as they are designed to put up with more abuse, and so need more materials during construction. Handlebars will be wider, stems shorter and bottom brackets situated at a higher position from the ground to provide extra clearance. Riding angles will usually be more relaxed than on a road bike to help the rider negotiate obstacles without being thrown over the bar. Essentially mountain bikes are built to be stronger, heavier and more relaxed than road bicycles due to the demands of the riding, and with lower tyre pressures as well as heavier wheel sets, rolling resistance will far be higher when riding on the road when compared to an equivalently priced road bike.