There’s no doubt about it: RVing and cycling go together like milk and chocolate syrup. Many RVers see bicycles as another type of RV: the two-wheeled recreational vehicle.
When you’re considering buying a bike, there’s a dizzying array of choices. Again, much like RVs. I’m here to help you sort out those choices, and find the best bike for you. This is the first article in a multi-part series on types of bicycles. I’ll give advice at the end of each on whether each type is a good choice for RVers, and why or why not.
Bicycles today can be broken down into four general categories, based on the type of environment in which they’ll be ridden:
There are sub-categories within those, and other specialized types of bikes (like recumbents) that will be covered in future columns. I’m going to cover each of these in a separate column, providing a general overview of each, their pros and cons, and whether it might be a fit for you.
Also note that each of these has ebike versions. I’ll cover ebikes in a separate column (and many future ones). We’re going to start with road bikes. They’re the oldest type of bike, and they still remain popular.
Road bikes are meant to be ridden primarily on the road (duh!). This means they have certain characteristics that differentiate them. Let’s go over the primary differences.
- Lightweight. Road bikes don’t need heavy-duty components, since most paved roads aren’t hard on the frames. They generally go faster than the other types, and the lighter weight helps. This is good if you’re trying to keep in mind your RV’s weight.
- Narrow tires. Since road bikes typically don’t roll over rough surfaces like rocks, gravel, tree roots, etc., their tires are narrower than what you’d find on a mountain bike, for instance.
- Hunched-over riding position. Most road bikes have drop bars, which are the bars that curl under at the ends. One goal of road bikes is better aerodynamics, and being lower on the bike, i.e., more hunched over, means the wind doesn’t affect you as much. This also makes them faster than other types.
Road bike frames are usually made out of steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber. There are other materials used, but those are the primary ones. The cost can vary hugely, from $100 or so at Walmart to well over $12,000 for a top-end road bike with all the bells and whistles. Yikes! (Check this out for just one jaw-dropping example.)
As mentioned, these bikes are made for smooth roads. They can often do some light off-roading, for instance on a dirt path or trail with small gravel, but aren’t made for that type of riding. You can go further on a road bike since they’re light and fast.
Should RVers buy a road bike?
But how good are they for your RV lifestyle? The answer is pretty clear: not very good. They won’t be able to do much of the off-road riding that’s available in many locations favored by the RV community. You don’t want to take a road bike on a gnarly nature path or rough gravel road or trail full of potholes.
In addition, the more stretched-out, hunched-over position will be less comfortable on rides, especially all-day excursions. Not only can that position make your back ache, but the more hunched over you are, the more you have to lift your head to see the road, which can lead to neck pain.
If you frequently travel to areas with lots of good roads that aren’t busy with traffic, a road bike could be an option, and does offer more speed and the ability to see more of the countryside. That’s why it could be a good option for your home or apartment. But most folks will want to check out the alternatives when looking for something to carry in or on their RV.
Next week, I’ll take a look at mountain bikes. Until then, happy riding!
Read last week’s column from Keith
Keith Ward, a veteran journalist, writes about cycling, health, and the intersection of the two at thediabeticcyclist.substack.com. His newsletter is all about helping you improve your life through improved diet and exercise.
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