The sport of cycling is very diverse and offers several ways to go beyond the Saturday bicycle ride. Whether you are an enthusiast, weekend warrior or have hopes of serious competition, on- and off-road forms of cycling offer plenty of opportunities to practice your sport. All of these types of cycling have organized competitive events, but they all can be engaged on an individual level or with non-competitive cycling groups.
Road and Race
The main competitive race component of cycling takes place on paved roads. In this part of the sport, large groups of riders race over varied terrain during single- or multi-day events. The bicycles used for road riding are extremely light, stiff and responsive. Because many events require both speed and endurance from riders, road bikes are equipped with thin, light tires, carbon fiber or aluminum frames and heavy gearing systems. These components allow for very little power loss when pedaling. Some riders prefer not to race and choose instead to use the techniques and equipment of road racing for personal fitness and leisure.
Mountain biking refers to off-road cycling that often includes difficult, obstacle-ridden terrain. This sport is relatively fast-paced, making it appealing to the weekend warrior or adventure seeker. The mountain machine is heavier than its road counterpart and often comes equipped with hydraulic suspension systems and disc-style brakes. Avoiding obstacles is key to mountain riding, although significant endurance and solid pedaling technique are required to navigate mountain terrain.
Cyclecross is a hybrid of road racing and mountain biking. The participants in a cyclecross race ride in groups over an off-road course. As with road riding, the goal of the race is speed, but the unpaved and sometimes obstacle-heavy courses slow down the overall pace and add new challenges. Flat, hard packed sections of turf frequent most courses, however, and allow riders a chance to push their machines to high speeds. A cyclecross bicycle looks very similar to a racing machine. The frame geometry is similarly light and stiff, and the tires are thin, though they generally have tread similar to mountain bike tires.