What Kind of Bike Is Best for Casual Rides?
Bikes come in a huge range of designs, from speedy time trial bikes to rugged mountain bikes to luxurious cruisers. Most styles are specialized for a specific use, like riding fast on smooth city pavement or tackling technical mountain paths. But if you’re looking for a casual, everyday bike, you may not need that kind of specialization.
The best bike for casual riding depends mostly on where you plan on riding the bike, what speed you prefer, and how you plan to use it. Here are a few suggestions based on what you need out of a bike.
Terrain: Well-paved roads only
Best uses: Fitness, commuting
Road bikes are best for commuting medium to long distances or casual rides for fitness. They feature narrow tires and drop handlebars, and they usually have lightweight frames. Road bikes are designed to keep you in a crouched position that makes you more aerodynamic and helps you efficiently transfer power from your legs to the bike. The drop handlebars allow for multiple riding positions–you can crouch for the best speed, or sit up for a more comfortable ride.
The benefits of a road bike are speed and efficiency, but there are a few tradeoffs. Road bikes are the most uncomfortable due to the narrow saddles and compact riding position. The frames are also completely rigid, which can make for a very bumpy ride if the pavement is not in perfect shape. The rigid frame also means the bike can be damaged easily. So, they are not fit for any terrain besides pavement, and are not the best choice for meandering cruises. However, if you’re looking for a speedy machine or a workout bike, this is the style for you.
Terrain: Dirt, gravel, and mud
Speed: Slow to medium
Best uses: Offroad, group rides
Mountain bikes are one of the most popular styles because they can handle any terrain. The beefy tires and rugged frame make them a poor choice for pavement because the added bulk will just slow you down, but they can’t be beat for off-road or mixed terrain. Mountain bikes also feature more robust braking systems, which could make them a good fit for families whose kids need to be able to stop on a dime.
This style of bike also has wider and more comfortable seats as well as effective suspension, making them more comfortable than road bikes. A mountain bike is a good choice for casual biking if you plan on taking it offroad regularly. It can also be a good choice if you plan on going for casual group rides on pavement, and more intense jaunts offroad. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with another style so you’re not wasting effort to push the extra weight and ruggedness forwards.
Terrain: Pavement or packed dirt/gravel
Speed: Medium to fast
Best use: Commuting, fitness, group rides, cruising
A hybrid bike, as its name suggests, is a mix between a mountain bike and a road bike. These bikes feature the aerodynamic and lightweight frame of a road bike, but balance it with the sturdiness and comfort of a mountain bike. Like a mountain bike, they also feature straight handlebars and wider saddles than road bikes. They are faster than mountain bikes and are often fitted with medium width tires at home on pavement or light offroad terrain such as packed dirt or gravel.
These are the best choice for everyday, all-purpose riding, especially if you are looking to use it to exercise on paved roads. They can keep pace with some road bikes, but, where a road bike keeps you crouched over the handlebars, hybrid bikes are designed for a more comfortable riding position. They offer a mix between speed and comfort that makes them ideal for casual riders who want a little more oomph out of their bike from time to time.
Another big benefit of hybrid bikes is that they can handle the sort of terrain that might pop up on casual rides or commutes. With a road bike you need to stick to the pavement, and with a mountain bike you want to avoid the pavement, but not so with a hybrid bike. Do you need to cut across the park? Hop on a trail for a mile or two? These little detours that would deter a road bike are no problem for a hybrid.
Terrain: Pavement, packed dirt, or sand
Best use: Group rides, cruising
Cruisers are built for just that: cruising. They feature an ergonomic design that keeps your body nearly in a normal seated position. The saddles are usually wide and soft, and they offer ample handlebars for unmatched control over the bike. One distinctive feature of a cruiser is the wide tires. These tires are supposed to provide extra stability and absorb shock. Cruisers are sometimes referred to as beach cruisers, and the wide tires also help stay on top of lightly sandy terrain as well.
Cruisers are not designed for speed, they are made to be brought along for casual journeys and short trips. They are best enjoyed ridden slowly, making them an excellent choice for low-speed group rides. Their comfort and control make them an excellent choice for casual riders. However, they are a poor choice for fitness because their plush design can be clunky and they are not made to handle the high speeds of a workout.
If you are looking for a bike for casual cycling, the best choice is a hybrid bike. Unless you want a bike for one of specialized uses of the other styles, you can’t go wrong with a hybrid. It’s narrow tires and lightweight frame make it a great commuting companion, while the wider saddle keeps it comfortable and the sturdy construction makes it offroad ready. On top of all of this, the straight handlebars and wide tires keep you in control for any off-pavement adventure.