|We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. - Herman Melville|
Bicycles. BMX Bikes, Dirt Bikes, Mountain Bikes, Racing Bikes
Started in the 1880s, bicycles became a way of transportation, recreation, entertainment, exercise, rehabilitation, work, and much more.
What do you normally think of when someone mentions a bike? Mountain bike, road bike, racing bike, dirt bike or perhaps a unicycle? The term bike has progressed, starting several centuries ago, into a wide variety of meanings.
Non-motorized bikes have many uses. They are limitless in terms of what they have done in the past and what people are using them for now.
BMX, short for Bicycle Motocross, is a stunt form of biking. The wheels are much smaller than a mountain or road bike, usually there is only one gear, and sometimes the bikes have coaster brakes, instead of hand brakes, meaning you pedal backwards to apply the brakes. This sport started in the 1970s in California. Many BMX competitions are held throughout the country, including races, where multiple bikers bike through courses with large dirt humps, jumps, berms, obstacles, and steep curves. Other competitions include freestyle biking: riding while doing tricks. Some tricks include wheelies (riding with the front tire in the air), endos (riding with back tire in the air), flipping 360 degrees in the air, jumping without hands attached to the handlebars, etc. New tricks are invented and named all the time!
On the other hand, road bikes have tires to produce as little friction as possible, which is why the tires are extremely skinny with no grooves in them. Road bikes have different gear configurations than mountain bikes. Since road bikers, sometimes called “roadies,” aren’t often ascending steep hills in short amounts of time, they don’t need as many low gears as a mountain bike. With different gear ratios, many different speed ranges can be obtained.
Bike racing is a very popular sport. Competitions range from going in small one mile circuits for a set amount of time to a long, multi-day trek across a designated road system lasting for weeks and almost 2000 miles!
Some bikes are designed just for speed. These bikes often have fewer surfaces exposed to the wind, which allow them to be much more aerodynamic, making them faster. The world record for fastest human powered vehicle is 68.7 miles per hour!
Mountain bikes have become a significant recreation. The development of different parts of a bike, including wheel suspension to bike gears have allowed almost every type of terrain to be explored via bike. Downhill bikes are used to descend amazingly steep hills because of how the frame is build. Their large shocks can run over rocks, fallen trees, or other obstacles that might otherwise cause tragedy on a bike not built for this kind of terrain.
The typical mountain bike usually has many gears which allow the biker to shift based on the grade of the terrain. More gears have become popular in recent years. Older mountain bikes only use to have 10 gears, however, 27 gears are now standard on most mountain bikes. There are 3 sprockets on the front and 9 on the back, which allow bikers to ride up very steep terrain with short, quick pedal strokes, as well as riding downhill peddling long, powerful strokes.
The tires of a mountain bike are designed with thick tread to allow travel through dirt and mud with more traction than a smooth tire, or “slick.”
Work bikes have also become more widely used. For example, police on bikes are more and more common in cities all over the US. In some instances, bikes are more practical than motorized vehicles because it allows the rider to travel to places that larger automobiles could not access.
In fact, history has used bikes more than you might think. Before cars were widespread in the early 1900s, bikes were faster and more reliable than cars. Even the military uses bikes to get around in some environments.
Bikes vs. Automobiles
Compared to automobiles in numbers, bikes have an astonishing lead. The total bike count is around 1.6 billion, whereas the car count is only in the millions. China leads the world in bike use, with statistics saying they use about 60% of the world’s bikes, choosing to bike over other forms of transportation about 50% of the time. Many other western European countries choose to ride bikes often, too. However, city dwellers in the US choose to ride their bikes not even 1% of the time.
Bikes have had a major impact on the world since their developments began centuries ago. It took many clever individuals to come up with more efficient bike designs, starting with the invention of the wheel thousands of years ago!
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