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Ride hard, stay fit: The Lounge guide to bicycles

If you're a cycling enthusiast and looking for an upgrade, or a newbie who can't decide, we have the ultimate guide for you

Ride hard, stay fit and have fun.
Ride hard, stay fit and have fun. (Unsplash)

One activity that became immensely popular during the pandemic was cycling. Now, over a year since pandemic lockdowns began, many of those who bought cycles are barely using their impulse purchase. A fair number of people, however, really took to life in the saddle, and now want to upgrade their bikes. After all, for many riders, budget and entry level bikes haven’t turned out to be as good as they once appeared. If you are one of those trying to make up your mind on what to buy but are confused with the numerous choices and options that are on offer, then you’re in luck. The Lounge guide to bicycles will help you pick a bike that’s best suited to your usage and goals.

As a rule, aluminum frame bikes in any category are usually the cheapest. Aluminum bikes with alloy or carbon forks are slightly more expensive. You pay more because both alloy and carbon forks absorb vibrations from the ride better than aluminum, making the ride smoother.

Also Read: How more and more Indians are cycling to stay fit

Then you have alloy bikes that are lighter and dampen the vibrations better than aluminum. The most expensive cycles out there are the carbon bikes. They are the lightest and offer the best ride quality. Almost all bikes used in competitions have a frame, fork, pedals, handle bars, wheels and even bottle cage made of carbon.

When it comes to brands, FireFox has started offering some decent bikes while Decathlon has a dependable and wide range of cycles including mountain, hybrid and road bikes. If you want to take it to the next level and have the budget for it, give Trek, Giant, Cannondale, Fuji, Scott, Specialized, and other similar brands, a shot. And if you are flush with funds then take a look at what Cervelo and Pinarello have to offer.

Also Read: How cycling kept Indians fit and calm through the pandemic

A mountain bike.
A mountain bike. (Wikimedia Commons)

Mountain Bikes

This is the most common first cycle that most people buy when they decide to give cycling a go. The reason for that is that mountain bikes look cool and come loaded with features such as shock absorbers and disc brakes (though not always) in eye-catching colours. Most importantly, these cycles are often the most affordable “cool” bikes on the market.

With a straight handle and a frame designed for convenience, the riding position is fairly upright and comfortable. Given the general condition of Indian roads, the mountain bike with its shock absorbers is ideal for a pleasant ride. However, the convenience comes at the cost of speed. Mountain bikes that you usually spot on the roads are generally on the heavier side. The extra weight, thicker tyres and shock absorbers mean you need to put in extra effort to get the bike to move.

Identifying features: Wider tyres with well defined treads, front shock absorbers, straight and wide handle bar, rear shock absorber on high end mountain bikes. The bikes are on the heavier side.

Ideal for: Anyone interested in fun rides that double up as a workout and time outdoors as well as those who want to go off road and ride on trails. This bike is well suited for first-time buyers because of its easy riding position and price point.

A single speed bike,
A single speed bike, (Wikimedia Commons)

Fixie/Single Speed Bikes

As the name suggests, it is a cycle with just one, fixed gear. People often mistakenly call this a bike with no gears. Most of the newspaper delivery boys and milkmen use the sturdy fixie with the angular handlebar. The stylish fixie comes with a bullhorn or short straight handle and is mostly used by cycling enthusiasts to commute within the city.

Identifying features: Single sprocket in front and back, no gear shifters, classic design, sturdy.

Ideal for: Those who intend to use the cycle for work or for commuting in cities that are largely flat.

Athletes riding road bikes.
Athletes riding road bikes. (Wikimedia Commons)

Road Bikes

What we, as kids, used to call a ‘racing cycle’, is actually a road bike. It has the sleekest and most aerodynamic frame with an aggressive riding position and dropdown bars. Everything on the road bike is designed for speed. Hence it is the lightest and has the thinnest tyres of all cycles discussed here. These are the bikes that athletes ride during the famous Tour de France. While these bikes have cutting edge technology and top-end components, most of us will probably only ride a stock road bike. With accessories such as aero bars and disc wheels, you can always set up the bike to be even more aerodynamic and, therefore, faster.

Identifying features: Thin tyres, sleek and aerodynamic frame, aggressive riding position, dropdown handlebar, light weight, expensive.

Ideal for: Serious cyclists who enjoy doing long rides. Those preparing for triathlons, road races, time trials and brevet are likely to get better results on a road bike.

A hybrid bike.
A hybrid bike. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hybrid Bikes

This is a city bike that was created by merging road and mountain bikes. It retains the comfortable riding position of the mountain bike but swaps the wider tyres for thinner ones. Its frame is a lot more streamlined to make it go faster. It may or may not have shock absorbers in front and could come with either a straight or a drop-down handlebar. It goes much faster than the mountain bike. A real workhorse.

Identifying features: Narrower tyres, a thinner frame, a comfortable riding position and no rear shock absorber.

Ideal for: Anyone who wants to travel longer distances but doesn’t feel ready for the road bike just yet, should get a hybrid. It is also a better first bike than a mountain bike if you are serious about taking up cycling.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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