Classifying Bikes

One of the things I do with my job is called classifying work.  You look at what people do, and attempt to group similar jobs together for pay and reporting purposes.

So it got me thinking about how to classify bikes.  Most folks have two types that they use as a frame of reference (racing and mountain), so I’ll start there.  (Feel free to add your own classifications as the Spirit may lead you.)

Racing Bike: In it’s simplist form, this is a road machine.  Usually recognized from it’s drop bars.  Add skinny tires, minimal weight, and clipless pedals; and you’ve pretty much captured it.  But wait!  We, in the know, know that there are several sub-classifications of the typical racing bike:

Time Trial: super low weight, aero bars and shifter set up, disc wheel(s), aero frame and bits.  Weird helmets and lots of lycra.

Tri Bike: Close to a time trial, but with smaller wheels (650c). 

Track Bike: Minimal everything.  Fixed.  Also really weird helmets.

So far so good, but now we start blurring the lines:

Cyclocross: This looks like a road bike, but has some moutain bike features, like knobby tires and those old style brakes with the cables.  Those guys sure are nuts.

Urban Assault: Now we’re completely lost.  This could be just about anything, but the theme is built for tough riding on rough pavement, with not a lot of stuff that would attract a bike thief.  Wider tires, usually some form of suspension, could be either a racing frame or a mountain frame.  Could be geared or fixed.

Fixie: This could also be just about any bike, but the main point is that the pedals turn when the rear wheel turns, with no coasting.  Most are also minimalist to keep down the weight, the riders are usually single with no dependents, and they drink far too much coffee.

Messenger Bike: A sub-grouping of fixies that look very similar to track bikes, but have been used for urban assault; thus they have lost their shine, as have the owners.

Touring Bike: Now we’re talkin.  These usually appear to be racing bikes, but rather than going fast, they are designed to go far.  Let’s break these down a tad:

Full Tourer: These are best recognized by the amount of stuff on the bike in the form of bags, racks, lights, and doo-dads.  These are the ones that go camping, go slow, have lots of reflective tape everywhere, and the owners, for the most part, are pretty interesting.  They love to stop and talk, usually need a shave, and also need to clean their wool socks because they wear them under sandals.

Fast Tourer: These are touring bikes that don’t have as much carried on them.  Usually they are outfitted for either a day ride or for “credit card” touring, which involves going from inn to inn or something like that.  To the uninitiated they also look like racing bikes, but there are subtle differences like the widish tires, lights, fenders, maybe a rack or two, along with a bag for carrying some clothes and food.  The owners are typically well groomed, but don’t have any interesting camping stories.  They are also obsessed with new gadgets.

Adventure Tourer:  Oh gosh.  This is a touring bike that has been outfitted for rough roads and trails.  It could very well have started as a mountain bike, but at the least, it has many mountain bike features like fat knobby tires and really strong brakes.  These are the humvees of the bike world.

OK, that’s a start.  At some point, we need to visit Townies, Commuters, Cruisers, Long Bikes, Gofers, and Brevet/Randos.  Then, we enter the world of mountain bikes, for which I’m really not qualified, but I know of 29ers and Downhills.  Oh, we can’t forget the good ol’ Cross Bike either.

Feel free to edit the above or fill in any gaps.  Finally…

Do Everything Bike:  Purely a myth propogated by those seeking either to add a new bike to the stable via false-justification; or those with a skewed sense of reality; not really knowing what doing everything entails.


4 responses to “Classifying Bikes

  1. You forgot one………..


  2. You know; that opens up a whole category that I hadn’t thought about: BMX, fastbacks, kids bikes, etc…

  3. for a comprehensive list, don’t forget trials competition bikes…
    stock and mod. I think he’s riding stock in the video

  4. Warning!!!
    Clipless pedals are very dangerous.
    I’ve been riding bicycles continuously since I was 5. Have even commuted to work year-round in suburb north of NYC, Had been using Shimno clipless pedals for about 10 years and had several occasions when I couldn’t release from the pedal and dumped over. The last time, at age 58, caused my right hip to fracture. I needed 2 surgeries and 6 months of rehab. After the accident I found out about two other cyclists who suffered hip fractures because they couldn’t release from their pedals.
    Needless to say I took them off my Trek and will never use them again.
    The Pain was not worth the gain.

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