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Trying to learn about bicycles. I have heard the term "road" bike a lot. What is the difference between a "road" bike and a regular bike?

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2 Answers 2

Yes, all bikes could ride on roads. However, a road bike is one that's optimized for riding on smooth pavement. It usually has skinny tires (no wider than 32mm, often much narrower) with a very light tread. (If they have any tread at all. Some road tires, such as the Kojac, are treadless or "bald", to cut down on rolling resistance.) Road bikes usually have handlebars that are designed to be comfortable for long stretches of time, sacrificing a little bit of fine control that you'd get with a wider flat bar or riser bar.

By way of contrast, mountain bikes come with wider tires that have more agressive tread ("knobby" tires) designed to grip gravel or dirt.

Road bikes can sometimes ride on packed dirt or gravel, but the ride will be very harsh. A bike optimized for off-road will be easier to control and can ride on surfaces that'd be problematic on a road bike, such as rocks, gravel, loose dirt, or pockets of sand. There are even bikes that will accept extra-wide tires (3 - 4"). People who ride on very bad roads that have had potholes and cracks installed copiously may prefer a mountain bike to a road bike, or may decide to get a hybrid bike, which is exactly what it sounds like.

In the end, road bikes can sometimes do a little bit of off-roading, and mountain bikes can ride on the pavement, but these kind of bikes have different strengths.

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What is the difference between a "road" bike and a regular bike?

There are at least three kinds of bike:

  • Road bike -- for racing on roads: lightweight, drop handlebars, narrow tires, no fenders or panniers.

  • Off-road bike -- for unpaved trails: wide, knobby tires, suspension (front and rear), expected to get dirty/muddy

  • Hybrid/urban -- for commuting and leisure rides: like a road bike but maybe with wider tires, more equipment (e.g. panniers and fenders, and disc brakes), straight (not dropped) handle bars, for riding in traffic in all weathers.

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I would add touring as another category. Looks like a road bike (though possibly with straight bars), still designed for relatively high speeds on smooth roads, but heavier built and designed for more comfort and stability. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 3 '11 at 4:59
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There are subdivisions amongst roadsters as well... As noted, touring bikes are set up for "loaded" touring and carrying heavy luggage. One might have a bike set up for sport/racing, including "aero" or time-trial machines, or ones set up for more casual riding with "slack" geometry.... –  M. Werner Aug 3 '11 at 20:05
    
Don't forget about "Mountain" bikes, who coined that term anyway? –  Moab Aug 4 '11 at 16:05
    
And stunt bikes and utility . . the categories sounds like something that would be in wikipedia . . . en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle#Types –  gaoithe May 30 at 9:46
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