Bicycles 101

bicycling by John Coughlin, Woodinville Ski & Bike
   There are three distinct types of bikes we see in our neighborhoods: the mountain bike, single speed (BMX), and cross bike (trainer).
   The mountain bike is a 21-speed bike ideal for trails and off-road use. Kids also use it for cutting across the back lots for a shortcut to school.
   Another common, user-friendly bike mostly seen on streets is a single speed (BMX). Smaller in height, it has a tire size of 20 inches and a sturdy frame.
   Today's most popular bike, and the style with which we are most familiar, is a bike that was developed in Marin County, California. Credit for the development of this bike has to go to a band of young people who wanted to ride the mountain trails and expanses of that state. These re-welded, modified cut-up 10-speed and three-speed bikes with added brakes became a true American product, the full fledged "Bike." Take off the knobby fat tires and presto, you have what most people call a cross bike or trainer. This bike is designed for riding back and forth to work or school or for exercise and recreation.
   Mountain bikes vary in price, starting at $189 and going all the way up to $3,000-plus. Like cars, the better bike costs more, lasts longer, and has a greater resale value.
   Sizes of adult bikes vary only in the size of the frame. Starting at 13.5 inches and going up to 22 inches, all standard bikes have a 26-inch tire, but the actual bike size (20, 21, 22 inches, etc.) is the measurement from the middle of the crank to the point from where the top of the cross bar of the bike meets the down tube.
   Sizing the right bike for the right anatomy is fairly simple. You simply straddle the seat, and if both feet can touch the ground and you're not sitting on the cross tube (a 1-inch minimum clearance), then you're close in size. Remember, you do not want to come off the seat quickly in an emergency stop and hit the bar.
   A bike frame is almost standard. What makes a comfortable bike fit is simply how you adjust the seat. It should slide forward and backward three to four inches, go up and down, and be available in all sizes to fit any shape or form.
   The same is true for the handle bars. They should be able to be moved up or down for long torsos. The goose neck that attaches the handle bars to the bike can also be shortened or lengthened.