What Type of Bike to Use for City Riding

by Erica Leigh

As a city bicyclist, you may choose from many available models, including the casual beach cruiser, the tough but comfortable hybrid with front suspension, modified or unmodified mountain bikes, or a variety of road bikes. Your choice depends on your desired level of comfort, how important speed is to you, and the characteristics of your city streets.

Beach Cruisers

Cruisers, sometimes called beach cruisers, are designed to let you sit more or less straight up. They have sweeping handlebars that curve toward you and a seat positioned at a low-to-moderate height. Many models let you put your feet flat on the ground when you stop. Beach cruisers have wide, smooth tires for comfort and they easily roll on paved surfaces, but this also makes them slower than other city bikes. They usually have one to seven gears. Cruisers work best on level streets and paths. With an attached basket, they're ideal for short-distance recreational rides and trips to the grocery store, school or work.

Hybrid and Comfort Bikes

The hybrid bicycle combines the best features of road and mountain bikes, yielding a functional and comfortable ride on paved and well maintained unpaved bike paths and city streets. A hybrid has straight handlebars, a wide range of gears, stable tires with a width of about 1.5 inches, a seat height and frame geometry that allows an upright seating position similar to that of a mountain bike, and suspension to smooth out the ride. Comfort bikes are similar to hybrids, but they often have a more relaxed upright seating position like a beach cruiser and handlebars that curve toward the rider. Most manufacturer-labeled hybrids have 700c wheels, which are larger than the comfort bike's 26-inch wheels.

Road Bikes

Road bikes are a broad category, ranging from ultralight and aerodynamic racing bikes with no accessories and skinny tires to touring bikes. Touring bikes feature fenders and racks and can be configured to offer speed, support long hours in the saddle, and allow luggage carrying. Racing bikes are impractical for city riding, because they can't accommodate fenders or cargo racks and the horizontal body position makes watching for city traffic and obstacles more challenging. Choose a road bike designated for touring or commuting for the best results.

Mountain and BMX Bikes

Riders who prize comfort and durability over speed may like the standard mountain bike's sturdy frame, suspension and wide tires. Those who want speed combined with comfort will do better by either riding hybrids or installing tires like those on a comfort bike onto a mountain bike with no or partial suspension. BMX bikes are too small to let you pedal efficiently for transportation purposes. Your trips will be slow and you'll get winded sooner than you would on other types of bikes. The effort needed to pedal a BMX or mountain bike up a steep city street can cause you to weave back and forth which is dangerous in traffic.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.