Cycling, or competitive cycling, inspires crowds of people to switch to two wheels. Thanks to that, bikes have become part of everyday life in big cities, as well as in small villages. There are really many disciplines of cycling. How to know what is what? We are here to help! The following text is a pure condensation, which will bring beginners to amateurs of single-track cycling types.
Bicycles are a river subject. Full of complexities, so you have to accept the principle that it is much more than two wheels, frame and handlebars. Often a bike is a true passion, but also a profitable way of life, behind which stand serious money.
When discussing the types of cycling, the simplest distinction between “that on asphalt” and “that in the mountains” comes to mind first. However, the matter is much more complex and nowadays both disciplines have grown into further modified varieties. Classical cycling includes as many as 13 cycling disciplines, where the most popular ones are road cycling, track cycling, cross-country cycling and mountain biking.
Road cycling – speed on asphalt
This type of cycling is considered by many people to be the essence of cycling. Certainly road cycling is the oldest and most popular sport that involves racing down public roads on fast, lightweight bicycles. The road cyclist puts carbon frames, super-thin tires and aerodynamic attire on a pedestal. All this to stay ahead of the competition.
Mountain biking – for those who like challenges
MTB has the most varieties and is the second most popular discipline in cycling. It is ideal for those looking for a higher dose of adrenaline and dynamism. MTB consists mainly in riding difficult routes in mountainous terrain on a bike adapted for this purpose. The UCI took notice of mountain biking in 1990. Since then MTB has been on the official roster.
The forerunner of “mountain bikes” was a city bike modified by an American, Gary Fischer. Gary redesigned the frame of the bike and replaced the road wheels with smaller, 26-inch ones, and put retreaded tires on them. This allowed him to go beyond the asphalt. In the 1970s, still in its infancy, MTB was considered an extreme sport. Today that role is filled by gravity riding, i.e. DH, FH and the more casual Enduro. Nowadays mountain biking is much more common, thanks to which really anyone can ride a ‘mountain bike’!
“MTB bike” is a very broad term. Each discipline requires a slightly different design to make the ride comfortable and safe. These bikes come in so many variations that it can make your head spin.
The different faces of MTB:
- DH/Downhilll, or hard downhill riding. It’s a variation of gravity cycling, where riders ride special bikes with extra-long suspension forks with up to 200mm of travel. The race always leads sharply downhill, and specially marked routes are full of surprises. The descents are fast and dynamic, so you have to be agile and… fearles.
- FR/Freeride is actually a less formal version of DH, where the idea is to get from the top of the hill to the bottom, without a strictly defined route – hence the “freedom” in the name. It’s all about the style and difficulty of the chosen route. FR bikes have full suspension with large travel.
- DS and 4X, or Dual Slalom and Four Cross. This is a variation of parallel racing in which two or four riders compete. It happens simultaneously, and the race itself is very spectacular, as the course is short but full of obstacles that must be overcome. The most common bikes used here are front shock only, due to the slightly better handling.
- XC/Cross-country is the mountain equivalent of the road “classics”, where the participants race on a prepared route in the form of a loop, which must be overcome several times.
- Marathon. It is nothing else than a long race on a route set in a difficult and, usually, mountainous terrain. The length of such a race can be as long as 200 km, which with the changing surface and slope seriously tests the endurance of the participants.
- Enduro. Probably the most free and versatile MTB discipline. The rider chooses his own route and rides where it is the most interesting. Enduro is somewhere between FR and XC. It’s all about having fun and… admiring the views. Enduro also uses full suspension bikes.
- Dirt jumping. Dynamic rides on a special track, which is full of jumps and ramps, where you can present aerial stunts.
- Mountain biking or MTB is for everyone
Track cycling – speed above all
For those who don’t like the mud and stones of mountain tracks, or the noise of slicks on asphalt, there is the velodrome, or elliptical track, which resembles an athletics track. It is ridden on specially adapted bicycles with very flat wheels, light frames and… no braking. Track cyclists cannot slow down because of the lack of brakes. All that matters here is speed, which can often reach 70 km/h!
If that wasn’t enough, track cycling is divided into several other disciplines, which include races and competitions. At the Olympics, participants compete in numerous events. Their rules are quite complicated, but it is worth getting acquainted with them.
Track cycling in a more standard version is a points race, which consists in scoring as many points as possible, which are scored on the 10th lap, the so-called “flying lap”. During a championship event, the men complete 160 laps and the women 100, which is equivalent to 40 and 25 km.
Cross-country cycling – mud and adrenaline
Ideal for people who like to get tired according to the idea that “a good ride is an intense ride”. Cross-country, or CX, is one of the few cycling disciplines where the bike is as often on the rider’s back as it is with two wheels on the ground. Therefore, the bike needs to be light, but fast and durable. The design is similar to that of a road bike, so it has a stiff fork, a flexible handlebar and large wheels (size 700C). In general, the more minimalistic the better.
Cross-country cycling is very similar to mountain cross-country, because the race is based on riding in loops, and the CX race route is demanding and very varied. The CX race route is demanding and very varied. It is full of different obstacles that force you to get off the bike and ride with the bike under your arm. And all this with as few mistakes and as much speed as possible. CX is a very exciting discipline, which is also very spectacular.
Handbike, or handcycling
In sport nothing is impossible – all you need is self-denial, passion and a lot of work. You can take part in cycling races and run marathons with a damaged musculoskeletal system or problems with the spine.
“Handbikes” are specially designed hand bikes that will allow you to ride while lying down or kneeling. They usually have three wheels – two at the back and one at the front, on which a crank drive is based. The vehicle is set in motion by the muscle power of the hands, not the legs as in the case of a regular bicycle.