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Cycling for RVers: What bike should I buy? Part 1, Road bikes

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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:

  • Road
  • Mountain
  • Gravel
  • Hybrid

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.

Characteristics

  • 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.

##RVT1077

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Jim Langley
16 days ago

Road bikes are actually the best choice for RVing because most RVing is done on roads so you will be close to roads you can ride your road bike on. Also, road bikes are the lightest of all the bikes making them easier to lift and carry. Also, a good road bike has easily removed wheels in case you would like to keep it in inside your RV when not using it or inside a storage compartment if yours are large enough (some storage compartments you won’t need to remove the wheels even). Also, road bikes are ideal for anywhere there are Rails to Trails bike paths and other bikeways – lots of places. All the other types of bikes are fun, too, of course, but in order to enjoy trails on a mountain bike, you have to find the trails and get to them from your campsite. With a road bike, as long as you’re camped near the road you drove in on, you’ll be able to find roads to ride on. Even at most campgrounds just off freeways, you’ll usually find frontage roads that are reasonably safe to ride.

Joe
22 days ago

I’m not much of a fan for the E bikes. Don’t get me wrong they have gotten people out of the house and doing things they may never have done which is great and what the bikes are built for. My beef is when on trails and narrow bike/walking paths some E- bike riders tend to travel way too fast for a winding path. I have seen a few accidents between E-bikes and other bikes being hit from all sides and also pedestrians out for a stroll. Somewhere along the line people should be educated on common courtesy when riding them. As an example if on a pathway or an open road I will announce myself when overtaking another bike or pedestrians, a bell on my hybrid or by saying on your right or left and not riding two abreast. If on a pathway you’re not in a race, slow down and take in the scenery.

Keith
22 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Hi Joe,

I agree with your basic argument here. Ebike riders, especially those without much experience on regular bikes, should take lessons before riding, and learn the rules of the road, as well as how to stay safe and minimize hazards for others.

Dave Mckenna
23 days ago

I’m an experienced cyclist who has toured by bicycle from coast to coast in the US and Canada. When I travel in my RV I bring along a 1990’s Trek Multitrack. It has a steel frame with no fancy shock absorbers. It has plenty of gears, and 26″ wheels. The tires are Schwalbe Marathon Plus, which have great resistance to punctures. I can go anywhere on this bike, on or off road. It provides great utility and almost never has any mechanical problems. It has the added bonus that does not attract bicycle thieves when locked to my carrier.
When on roads I use a mirror, a bright flashing tail light, and a bright orange or yellow shirt for safety.

Carl
23 days ago

And, another consideration… riding on the road has become extremely hazardous. I love road riding but have pretty much given up on it due to what is going on with today’s drivers. Texting, playing with vehicle display screens, and generally not paying attention.

Keith
23 days ago
Reply to  Carl

Excellent point, Carl! I ride in an area with very little traffic, and at the time of day when cars are scarce. It’s all about avoiding interactions with cars.

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