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Prepping for Pelotonia: Choosing A Bike

The Rider

Prepping for Pelotonia: Choosing A Bike

This is the first of a series to help you prepare for Pelotonia. Stay tuned as we’ve got a few more “Prepping for Pelotonia” guides coming soon.

There are so many different kinds of types of bikes: mountain bikes, hybrids, city cruisers, road bikes, recumbents, folding bikes, tri-cross and time-trial bikes, tandems, touring bikes and…

OK, you get the picture: Lots of bikes! Which raises the question: What should you ride in Pelotonia? We’re going to break it down, first by the different types of bikes, and then by the different Pelotonia distances.

Here are the most common types of bike we see at Pelotonia:

City cruisers: These bikes – often called fixies – have minimal gears or even one gear, are sturdy and designed for cruising around urban areas for fun or to run errands. It’s easy to attach a basket or rack and carry stuff.

Mountain bikes: As the name suggests, these bikes were designed to ride up and down mountains and on trails rather than on roads. They’re sturdy, heavy and have big, wide tires. Many have suspension systems to smooth out the bumps.

Road bikes: These bikes are light, have thin tires, ram’s horn handlebars – and are designed to go long and fast. These are the bikes the Tour de France riders ride, and they come in a wide variety of price points, from about $700 or $800 up to Way Too Expensive! This is the most common Pelotonia bike.

Hybrid bikes: These bikes combine some of the attributes of a mountain bike and a road bike, hence the name. Everything is in the medium range: the weight, sturdiness, tire width, etc. So, while you can ride them on hilly trails and on the roads for longer distances, they’re not perfect for either. They are a good compromise if you want – or can only afford – one bike and plan to use it on a variety of rides.

Recumbent bikes: Riders of these bikes sit in a reclining position, with back support. These bikes are great on the flats and down the hills. Uphill? Because they’re a bit heavy, they’re a little slower than a road bike.

Tandems: Ah, a bicycle built for two – they’re so romantic and kind of practical. Most tandems are similar in their materials, tires and gearing to a road bike.

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So, which bike works best for each of the Pelotonia distance? Here you go…

25-Mile Riders: You can get by with any of the above bikes, or any other type of bike you have or plan to acquire or borrow. Plenty of Pelotonia people have ridden city cruisers and mountain bikes on the 25-mile route. Sure, it’s a little harder, but it’s manageable over the shorter distances that don’t include a lot of climbs. If 25 miles seems like a really long distance to you, consider a hybrid or road bike to make it easier. A recumbent? It’s fine for any Pelotonia distance. So is a tandem.

50-Mile Riders: We’re getting to the distance of decision here. Yes, you can power your way through 50 miles on a mountain bike or cruiser – many people do. But, do you want to? If not, a hybrid works well, and a road bike even better.

100-, 130- and 180-Mile Riders: A road bike is the best bet for these longer distances. They’re lighter and more efficient, which means a little less effort per mile. This helps you stay fresh and peddling after 60, 70 and 80 miles. Plus, the longer routes have more climbing, and lighter road bikes are easier to climb hills on than heavier bikes. A recumbent or tandem will also work well on the longer routes.

So now that you’ve got the basics down, it may be time to hit the stores and find the perfect bike for you. Make sure to check out the Rider Perks page to learn about some deals and discounts many bike shops offer to Pelotonia Riders.

Steve Wartenberg ThumnailSteve Wartenberg is a journalist, cyclist and longtime Pelotonia Rider. Steve is one of just a handful who have pedalled every mile of every Pelotonia.  This year he is going above and beyond his fundraising efforts as a High Roller! steve.wartenberg@gmail.com