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  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Types of Bikes
    What types of bikes are used?  
    Understand, please, that this is only my opinion, and that I'm not trying to belittle anyone else's choice of mounts (if it feels good, ride it!):

If you have no plans to actually ride trails, I'd opt for a road bike of one sort or another. If long distance, relaxed riding is going to be your thing, then a touring model would be a very good choice. If you think you might like sprightlier performance, one of the sportier models (shorter wheelbase, quicker steering) with the "racing triple" drive trains would be worth looking into. If you're really confident in your fitness level, go for a roadie with a double chainring... but if you're truly a beginner to long rides, I'd probably avoid this option.

The big reason to avoid hybrids (for me) is the lack of options for hand placement. This becomes a really big issue on long rides.

A good road bike will also have a more efficient (if less forgiving) tire/wheel combination. You should be able to use tires that allow higher pressure for less rolling resistance.

I think a lot of folks buy mountain bikes or hybrids because they look more comfortable and less intimidating, but I really think the comfort will start to go away and the intimidating features (those scary-looking drop bars) will seem far more practical after about mile 20 on any significant ride. Also, the perceived advantage of being able to shift without taking your hands off the bars has all but been eliminated with the trickle-down of SIS and Ergo-Power technology in the last couple of years.

Now it's time for Curt to chime in and tell us why recumbents will save cycling...

I'll just put this in 'cause I've had a bit more experience with 'bents in the last couple of days: If you're a true beginner or are starting fresh from a long spell without riding, give a recumbent a try. I know that they're not right for me right now... my riding style just won't fit on an easy chair... but, if what they have to offer meets your needs, you should give them some thought.

Bike choice is extremely personal... I think the folks who truly "get it right the first time" are very lucky. It takes some time and patience and some honest answers about what kind of riding you're going to do, how often, and at what level of expertise. Above all, it takes some help in getting the fit right. If you don't do that, you won't like any type of bike you buy.

Scott Saulsbury

Scott makes some very good points. I have a hybrid and the truth is that I spent the first 1000 miles hating it. It is slowly evolving into a road bike. I have done everything to perk it up except put on drops. Hindsight is better than 20/20... I probably should have bought a touring bike. If you bought a bike like mine your experience could be completely different. I would caution you to really evaluate your riding style. I bought mine with CO in mind and was given a lot of support and reassurance that it would be well suited for the trip. I have a lot better understanding of frame geometry and proper bike fit today than I did two years ago. I love riding my bike this year...but romancing the bike through accessories and modifications has been costly....

Bob Johnson

Now, Scott - just because I happen to have found a new prejudice . . .

But, in all seriousness, Scott is right. "Bike choice is extremely personal."

A recent Bicycling Magazine issue had a series of reviews which were particularly well suited to the bike-buying decision process. Each review covered a specific class of bike -mountain, touring, hybrid or comfort bike, recumbent, etc. And, more importantly, each review started with a statement like "Choose this kind of bike if you . . .", followed by a short list of preferences, and a handful of bicycle examples, with pictures.

Make no mistake. I am a recent convert to recumbents. And, like other classes of convert, I have all the enthusiasm that you would expect one to possess. With apologies, I might tend to be a little OVER-enthusiastic - now and then.

This conversion process began during last year's STP when I suffered greatly from upper body pain and agony due to an admittedly unwise start (long story, best untold). Also, because of this pain, I was slower than my normal snail's pace, and was consistently passed by people older than me on recumbents. "Who said recumbents were slower on hills than an upright?" and most crushing of all they were OLDER (!)

Since 1992, I have ridden a very cushy touring bike, which I could literally ride for hours on end, year after year. I would guess that I put well over 16,000 miles on it in that period.

It was just time for a change, so I tried my wife's BikeE, and liked it, except for it's compact design. I rode a Tour Easy, and I had found the class of bike I would eventually settle on.

The Bicycling Magazine reviews are a good starting point. Then, you should take yourself and your helmet to every bike shop in town and ride every bike you have even the remotest interest in. Educate yourself, and, if you are into making pro and con lists go for it. Decide on your price boundary and make your move.

Curt Coleman

I used to ride a road bike many years ago, then got out of riding for a long time. I recently got back into it, and at my son's urging got a mountain bike. It's a nice bike, and for bopping around town and shorter rides it's great. I like riding upright and I like having the shifters right there all the time.

However I'd have to agree with Scott's comments about longer hauls. I really miss being able to drop down into that better aerodynamic posture, and just leaning over on an upright gets to be a drag real quick. I am in the market for some sort of road bike. However I am finding the fit of various bikes to differ tremendously. I first test rode a Softride and absolutely hated it. I couldn't believe how far forward I was, and no matter where I had my hands it seemed like an enormous amount of weight was on them. I've since ridden a Trek 2100 and one of the Lemond bikes. I liked them much better than the Softride, and I can sure tell a difference from my mountain bike, but it is still taking some getting used to not being upright any more. So if you do opt for a road or touring bike, expect some adjustment and really try out several models.


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I'll say a few words in defense of hybrid bikes. I've been riding one for about five years, including two Cycle Oregons, and I am very happy with it. I don't do any real off-road riding, but I do occasionally get into some gravel on shoulders of paved roads, or short unpaved stretches. At those times, I really like the mid sized tires on my hybrid. (I currently have 700x35 tires that inflate up to about 75 lbs.) I've been on rides with folks on road bikes with narrow tires that stopped and carried their bikes over gravel stretches to avoid getting flats. I don't know if they were just paranoid, or if it was justified, but it's nice not having to worry about it.

Before I bought my bike, I rented and test road a mountain bike for 50 miles. That was enough to convince me that I didn't want to do any touring on "fat" tires. Too much road drag. While its true that a road bike would have even less rolling friction than my hybrid, I don't think the difference is as significant as that between a mountain bike and a hybrid. Of course, there are many tires styles to select from, for each style of bike, and that can make a huge difference, too.

I also prefer the upright riding position of my hybrid. I have long bar ends that go up and forward, rather than down like a road bike, and that gives my lots of options for hand placement. In the upright position, I find that I can breath better because my diaphragm isn't as compressed and I can look around and enjoy the scenery without bending my neck back at an uncomfortable angle.

I'll also repeat a recommendation that I've seen on this list several times already, to get a professional bike fit for whatever bike you choose. I didn't do that when I bought my bike, but "thought" I had a pretty good fit. For years, I had knee pain on any ride over about 30 miles, and figured that was normal, or I was just getting old. This year, Roxie got a fit done at The Bike Gallery and was so happy with it, she convinced me to go get one too. What a difference it made. My knees haven't hurt since, and I've put more miles on my bike already this year than at this time in any previous year (in spite of the weather). I also switched from toe-clips to clipless pedals at the same time, so that may have had something to do with it too, but I really think it was the fit that made the big difference. We all had our fits done by Aaron at the Westside Bike Gallery, so if any of you see him, tell him we said hi, and thanks again.

Bob Heath

A road bike with a triple was very popular - I rode a semi-vintage (15-yr old) set of wheels with a 52-39 on the front and made it, but "I'd'a mugged someone for their triple on Day 2 if I'd had the energy!" Some rode hybrids or mountain bikes with road tires. Lighter is gooder!


For sure, when it comes to opinions on long distance, multiple day, hilly bike rides wedged between camping days, this is the place to get them. And, usually, one opinion begets another begets another begets another . . .

While you will see all kinds of bikes - literally - like Igor says, the great majority are road bikes with triple chain rings and at least 7 cogs in the rear. Many opt for the more relaxed dimensions of a touring bike in contrast to a true racer. Keep in mind that Cycle Oregon really IS a tour - and - patently NOT A RACE, so a criterium bike with racing geometry is something of overkill. For those of us who are not professional bike racers, a bike like this can be very exhausting. Igor's comments about riding last year's day 2 on a two ring bike were common.

To be sure, you will see mountain bikes. However, they are usually pretty heavy to muscle up repeated 5 to 10 mile hills like the ones you will encounter in CO. Keep in mind that a mountain bike is a rugged machine, built to take the bumps of unpaved paths. Cycle Oregon strives to keep the route on paved roads. That additional mountain bike weight will remind you of its presence with every hill. I have neighbor friends (a father and teen age son) who rode CO XII on mountain bikes. Both are now convinced that it would have been much better to do the ride on a touring bike. They plan to do so this year.

Curt Coleman

Bob has done 3 CO's on his hybrid and I have done 2. The skinny tires help, although we got some with a little tread because of the possibility of wet roads. CO also does not always stick to wonderful, smooth pavement. Some of these little bitty roads that go through the most scenic areas can have scattered gravel and occasional potholes. It was nice not to worry about flats.

In the hybrid vs. touring vs. road bike debate - some people are comfortable bending over drop handlebars and some aren't. You need to ride a bike that you are comfortable on for an all-day ride. If your back, shoulders, knees, etc. bother you at the end of the day you may not be able to do multiple days of riding. Sometimes this means a new bike - more often it just means adjusting the one you are mostly comfortable with. Many of us have had "bike body fits" done at bike stores where they adjust your bike just to you. They put your bike up on a stand and start adjusting it from the feet up.

Rox Heath

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Types of Bikes  

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