What kind of Bike to buy
By Ashwath Rasquinha
Hybrid vs Road vs MTB vs Gravel
This has always been a nagging question every non- roadie cyclist has. Here's the low down:
Hybrids, also known as a City Bike or Commuter Bike, are nimble, easy to ride, and hence the preferred option for urban rides, that's riding within the city. You can steer the bike quickly (avoiding potholes, etc.) while maintaining good control.
The bike comes with flat handlebars, and you've just one way to grab them, unlike a road bike, which offers three.
The riding position is easy and comfortable. It's like a regular car among bikes, takes you where you want, moves you around with ease and decent comfort. Ideal for short commutes.
Hybrids with suspension are just a marketing gimmick and serve no purpose other than adding unnecessary weight to the bike, Never buy those!
A road bike is akin to a sports car, a more aerodynamic machine. The sitting position also greatly contributes to a faster pace. A well fit bike can be as, if not more comfortable than a hybrid.
It's best suited for longer rides, and generally not recommended where there's heavy traffic.
The drop bars offer three handlebar positions.
1. Hoods - You generally ride grabbing the hoods, where the sitting position is a little relaxed and has easy access to the shifters for brakes and gears.
2. Drops - offers a more aggressive and aerodynamic stance for a quick dash. You also use the drops while going downhill as it offers better control of the brakes.
3. The flat bars - the most comfortable position, used for climbing and long stretches, offers no access to the shifters, you've to reach for them.
Road bikes are generally lighter, and faster.
Buy a Race Geometry (aggressive) if you're going to train and participate in races. You've to be flexible and fit to ride these.
Get an Endurance Geometry (slightly relaxed) if you want to use it for recreation, casual rides, and long-distance rides like brevets and touring. This is the preferred choice for most riders who want to have a bit of fun while having the ability to go fast when required.
An MTB is like a 4-wheel drive. Don't buy one unless you're going off-road. It's lethargic on the road, while it shines on a non-paved surface.
They are heavy, owing to the suspension, frame build, and the wheels.
The suspension on entry-level bikes is next to useless!
As most MTB owners eventually say, 'I want to upgrade to a road bike'. Remember, they are separate disciplines of cycling. You don't upgrade or downgrade from one to the other, you're merely changing your discipline. So never say that! Ever!
A gravel is a do-it-all bike for the casual enthusiast. It's the bike most suited for touring, in other words, for the kind of hybrid rides WERC undertakes, where the surface is unknown and full of surprises!
With fatter tyres offering more grip on most surfaces, a strong and comfortable frame, good brakes, and generous mounting holes, A gravel makes a compelling case for itself!
Although still a road bike, its sitting position is slightly upright and is categorised under endurance geometry (frame design) for more comfortable long-distance rides.
Points to Ponder
If you ever plan to buy a new bike, always try to get one with Hydraulic Disk Brakes. These brakes are effortless, and the brake lever can be operated with just a finger while provided amazing braking power.
These are also perfectly suited for our weather conditions, especially monsoons, where V-brakes (rim brakes) can often fail to provide braking in wet and muddy conditions. Sand/mud also tends to stick to V-brake pads and it'll end up grinding the brake track (part of the rim where brake pads rub/hold) and eventually lead to thinning of the rim. Holes also might appear on the brake track.
In most instances, mechanical disk brakes perform poorly when compared to hydraulic or good quality V-brakes.
It's always the case that whoever purchases an MTB as their first bike will eventually buy a road bike. That's because the MTB is just sluggish on road, and no amount of pedalling makes it go any faster, it'll feel like you're dragging the bike, it can be frustrating!
To avoid this misery and financial loss, rent out a bike from your local bike shop first, ride it for a week, and then decide for yourself what kind of bike you would like. It's easy to figure out which one to buy, the one that makes you want to ride every single day :)