What’s the Most Versatile Bicycle?

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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What’s the Most Versatile Bicycle?

Owning more than one bicycle is a problem for most cyclists. Whether it’s storage, expense, maintenance or switching parts, multiple bikes can turn into a hassle that ends up making your cycling life more complicated than necessary.

While simplifying can be challenging, it isn’t impossible — which begs the question: If you could only own one bike, what would it be?

After all, a road bike won’t necessarily work off-road, and you can bet a mountain bike will make it pretty hard to keep pace on a weekend group ride. But does that mean there isn’t a bike out there that can do it all?

To help you narrow down the selection and choose the best, most versatile bike for you, here are four types of bikes and their advantages and disadvantages depending on your individual cycling needs.

CYCLOCROSS

Best for: Cyclists who ride just as much off-road as they do on but rarely ride more than an hour or two.

The scoop: The original do-it-all bike, cyclocross bikes were built to ride on multiple surfaces: Mud, dirt, grass and pavement are all elements most cyclists deal with during a traditional cyclocross event. Because of this, it might seem like the perfect bridge between a traditional road bike and a mountain bike.

But, since cyclocross events are relatively short and fast, these bikes come with a downside: A racing geometry and limited gearing that can make these bikes uncomfortable on longer road rides and commuting when a more upright position and a wider variety of gearing options might be needed.

Advantages: The ability to ride on almost any surface, from road to rough trails.

Disadvantages: Aggressive geometry and gearing options can make longer endurance efforts or commuting more difficult.

ADVENTURE/GRAVEL

Best for: Distance cyclists who like to get off-road to more secluded areas.

The scoop: This new category of bikes takes the best of what a traditional cyclocross bike has to offer and minimizes some of its weaknesses. The ability to use a wider tire, disc brakes and a relaxed geometry are ideal for distance riding on the road or the occasional dirt track.

What makes these bikes incredibly versatile is the ability to switch wheels to a more traditional road tire if you’d like to complete the occasional century ride without bigger wheels slowing you down. While 1x gearing are a trend on some of the current models, you can still find adventure bikes with a wide range of gearing options to make them suitable for steep or long inclines.

Advantages: Ideal for endurance cycling and off-road riding on smooth dirt or gravel.

Disadvantages: Won’t be as fast as some road bikes and might not be able to handle rougher off-road trails.

HYBRID

Best for: Commuters and weekend cyclists who lean more toward fitness than endurance riding.

The scoop: As the name suggests, hybrid bikes feature a geometry somewhere between a road and mountain bike. They also have tires that can be ridden either on or off-road, and are made to be used with attachments for racks and fenders for commuting.

Though hybrid bikes might seem like the perfect solution, most of these models make sacrifices in the speed department. They’ll likely be too slow for a group ride and will hold you back if you decided to sign up for the occasional Gran Fondo.

Advantages: Can be ridden on or off road, and the relaxed geometry will be comfortable for any type of cycling.

Disadvantages: Can be too slow for long-distance rides with groups and cycling events.


READ MORE > 10 AWESOME ROAD BIKES OF 2018


AERO ROAD

Best for: Cyclists looking for a versatile race bike for the road.

The scoop: In the past few years the aero road bike is included in almost every major bike manufacturers’ lineup. They’re fast enough to race, can be ridden long distances comfortably and can even double as a time-trial bike with a set of clip-on aerobars.

While most 2018 models also come with disc brakes, which makes it easier to use wider tires, these bikes won’t be a go-to option when you want to head out on a gravel road or commute to work.

Advantages: Versatile enough for training, road racing and time-trialing on the road.

Disadvantages: Not good for commuting or off-road riding.

THE VERDICT

While there might not be one bike for everyone, chances are one of the bikes above fits your style of riding better than another. When choosing a bike, make sure you think about the type of cycling you do most often.

For instance, if you do a lot of commuting, an aero road bike is probably not your best choice. On the other hand, if you are interested in signing up for the occasional road cycling event or race, an aero road bike could be a better choice than a hybrid bike.

Choosing a bike you can use for most of your rides should be what you shoot for, and if you decide to branch out to more, don’t say we didn’t warn you — and welcome to the life of a cyclist.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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